Poland is the humble European kid who continues to flourish, thrive, and doesn’t fancy much of human intervention either. Yet it stretches its arms to greet every curious traveler. When we were in Poland at the beginning of this year we felt the same. Through this write-up, we will tell you why Tatra National Park in Poland makes for a noticeable attraction and what makes it an immiscible part of every Eurotrip. Lucky you are if you manage to get to this part of Eastern Europe and locate the riches that lay in its embrace.
Poland is known for its architectural wonders from the renaissance times and artistic masterpieces dedicated to the Holocaust & World War-II, but it’s the stunning outdoors encompassing the best of Tatra National Park that needs special mention here.
Morskie Oko Lake hidden in the vast Tatras is a veiled beauty that fewer people know of. Located in the Rybi Potok Valley about 25 km from Zakopane city, Morskie Oko Lake Trek is the quintessential adventure in the Polish Mountains. Soon after you reach here you would reckon that this place justifies all the hype around it.
Yes, Morskie Oko is adorned with stunning views of the green mountains, snow-swept outdoors, and some centuries old mountain cottages (Poland is known for its age-old structures) buried under tons of snow – peeping from a quaint corner and smiling at every passerby. Presenting you the details of the gorgeous day trek – a prominent thing to do in Zakopane!
About Morskie Oko Lake
A major highlight in the South Poland, Morskie Oko is the largest and 4th deepest lake in the Tatra Mountains, which is a result of the melting of glacier. It is spread over 35 hectares and is almost 51 meters deep. The emerald color lake turns into a bewitching beauty in summer when it is all enveloped by the green mountains & pine. At an elevation of 1400 meters above sea level, Morskie Oko, surrounded by the mountains from all sided, cuts the picture of a crater and hence popularly referred as the Eye of the Sea.
The lake is home to some of the exotic fish varieties like Brook trout & Brown trout, which can be spotted when you are by the lakeside during summer.
Best time to reach Morskie Oko Lake
Priorities! We would say the entire year is ideal to visit Morskie Oko. If you want to catch the stunning beauty of this place all shrouded under a massive sheet of ice, winter is the perfect time to get there. The entire surroundings look like a dreamy setup.
With snow everywhere and the temperature dropping down to as low as -10 to -20 degrees, this could be the ultimate challenge you can push yourself for.
On the contrary, if you want to make it a soothing experience & catch the beauty of pristine emerald water while sipping on the crisp mountain air accompanied by mild sun rays, then summer is the time to be there.
How to reach Morskie Oko Lake
Zakopane can be reached from Krakow main bus station. Buses operate from here every 5-10 minutes. A bus ride from Krakow to Zakopane takes almost 2.5 hours. From the city bus stop, you can travel to Palenica Białczańska which is around 25 km. It can be easily reached in a car or a minibus.
The last 8 km from Palenica Białczańska to Morskie Oko Lake must be covered on foot or by horse-drawn carriages (sleighs in winter).
Expert advice: Finding a parking space in Palenica is a serious concern which is because of the traffic jam on the access road, which could be as long as one kilometer. Therefore, it is recommended to get into one of the private buses running from the bus stop/train station.
Charges: We paid 10 zł during winter season, not really sure if it’s the same during summer
Last bus timings: 3:30 pm (winter)
Morskie Oko Lake Trek map
Morskie Oko Lake Trek – detailed information
Trek entry fee: 5 Zloty for adults, 2.5 Zloty for students
Trek length: 8 km (one side)
Time taken: 2.5 hours (up), 2 hours (down)
Reality check! How many of you actually know what does a winter wonderland look like? Well, we can proudly proclaim that we were there walking in a similar place when everything around looked fudgy white, snowflakes cascaded from the towering pines, & we completed the 20 km long Morskie Oko Lake Trek in Tatras.
Unlike the Himalayan trails that are treacherous, unpredictable, and quite daunting, this trek, for most of its stretch, has a broad trail which easily leads trekkers to the final destination. The path is good enough for house driven sleigh to run on it with ease. And the views around would send across a sense of accomplishment about the journey taken!
The early morning of 29 December, 2017 showed us a glimpse of the wonderful day that it was turning out to be. Our adorable hosts at Ulisa offered us a ride and ensured that we made it comfortably to the bus stop in Chramcowki. At the bus stop, they keep shouting Morskie Oko, hence spotting the right bus shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Be informed that parking is an issue at Palencia Bialczanska, therefore public buses make for a better option.
We were bound for Roztoka Valley in the Tatra Mountains where lies Morskie Oko Lake. A scenic trail into the national park region takes the travelers to this hidden wonder. This is an easy trek which can be covered in 5 hours perfectly (both sides), unless you plan to stay at the lake overnight or more.
[We will discuss the stay options later.] The entire trail has handful of eatery shops and cafes that help travelers rejuvenate at regular intervals. There are even shorter routes into the dense forest diverging from the main trail. They look spectacular but there are high chances that you might get greeted by a grizzly bear or a wolf, yes this place is a natural habitat of these fierce predators.
They look amazing on TV and pictures, but we believe you won’t like to encounter them here, in the middle of the trek. Still, we went for one detour which was comparatively safer (there was no danger signboard) and the views were more than what we could have probably asked for.
Almost 1 hour into the way there lies Mickiewicz’s Water Streams (Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza), which makes for another vantage point on the trek route. The 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and alpine around look nothing less than a healer. The stream’s refreshing sound can be heard from a distance. It is from here that a green trail goes to the picturesque hostel in the Roztoka Valley that stands on the banks of Morskie Oko.
Soon as you reach the Morskie Oko Lake, you would spot Hostel PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut – the hostel which happens to be an old shelter building for every traveler taking this trek. This wooden cabin has been standing here since 1891 and is believed to be the oldest mountain shelter in the Tatras.
And there in front of the cottage lay Morskie Oko – the sea of white that dramatically changes its color to emerald blue in summer. But this one was grand, glorious, and absolutely spellbinding. The eye shaped lake lies there like a baby in a cradle, nestled amidst gigantic mountains decorated with pine. And the views in the offering are heavenly.
While in winter the lake is frozen turf which is almost the size of a football ground, in summer the water is so transparent with visibility reaching as deep as 12 meters.
And here’s another one…
Don’t miss the sight of frozen streams and mini-waterfalls enroute, they make for the perfect backdrop to click some amazing pictures.
Stays at Morskie Oko Lake
Travelers from across the world come to Morskie Oko to trek and camp. While reaching here is not difficult campers have to be mindful of the surroundings. Predators walking the national park area and avalanche situation in winter are highly probable. Morskie Oko is a level 3 avalanche zone which means that while camping here in winter you must be aware of the weather forecast.
Talking about the lone cottage by the lake – Hostel PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut, you can actually book a stay here in advance. The cottage currently has 77 beds altogether for upto 16 people. The hostel orreres a wide range of refreshing food and beverage for the travelers. If you are planning to go for Morskie Oko Lake Trek in summer, the accommodation must be booked in advance; people book a stay here as much as 1 year in advance. Seriously!! For bookings & further details visit the website of Hostel PTTK Morskie Oko. This could be the dreamiest stay you’ve ever stayed at!
Morskie Oko Lake trek – dos & don’ts
- Be well clothed when trekking to this place in winter. Locals are used to of the conditions but if you are new to the Tatras, don’t underestimate the climate.
- Carry proper trekking equipments like spike shoes and trekking poles (for winter trek). It will help you walk comfortably without hurting your bums. It hurts when you fall flat on your back 😦
- Don’t start the trek until you are completely assured of the climate.
- Try to walk on the fresh snow, the makes it difficult to walk on.
- Make way for the horse sleigh. There guys run quite fast and if you are caught unaware they might run into you.
- Carry juice, water and munchies that would keep you going during the trek.
- Make 3:30 pm as your deadline time to get back to the city (for winter), it get dark after that and you won’t have too many options to commute.
Let us know if you are traveling to Europe anytime soon! We have handful of reason why you should not miss this magical land in South Poland.