Żywiec in southern Poland is an alpine paradise for every mountain lover. Come autumn, Żywiec will stimulate you with a refreshing gush of crisp mountain air, hush you with soothing alpine vistas, and leave you enchanted.
After spending almost a week in the southern Polish Mountains, I am ready to present before you Żywiec, Babia Góra, Zar, and the unparalleled charm of Beskidy. Southern, southwestern, and southeastern Poland is adorned with crazy mountain views. Starting from the Sudetes in the southwest to the Tatry & Carpathians in the south and southeast, there is everything that a mountain lover would fancy.
After a prolonged run in the Sudetes (basically, I can call it my home now!) and some fun hiking in the Tatry, I zeroed on Beskidy – the high mountain range in the south that starts from the Czech Republic into Polish territory.
Żywiec – General information
Tucked in the vastness of the Beskidy Mountains, Żywiec, a Polish city in the south, encircles the massive Żywiec Lake and dotted with the lush green of Beskid and pretty mountain cabins from all sides. Żywiec is an ideal location for everyone looking to make the best of the trip to the Polish mountains.
The enormous Żywiec Lake goes around contouring Żywiec and its suburbs Bielsko-Biała. Upon zooming out the map on Mapa Turystyczna, this region pops up in the vicinity of Babia Gora. Or let’s say that it is a major town in the vicinity of Babia Gora, the highest peak in the Western Beskid mountains.
Babia Góra, or Witches’ Mountain, the tallest and most obscure peak in the region, is a massif located on the Polish and Slovak border in the Western Beskid. We started with a hike plan to Babia Góra and ended up finding Żywiec some 65 km from Babia. This entire region forms an attractive spot in the Silesian Voivodeship map.
How to reach Żywiec
Żywiec is 264 km from Wrocław, roughly 4 hours drive from here if you choose to travel from Wrocław by train. To give you an idea, it takes 2 hours from Wrocław to Katowice, and 2 hours from Katowice to Żywiec, plus the waiting time at Katowice, if at all.
The local transport connection in Żywiec is tricky even though it has a public bus network bridging all the important city spots and outskirts. There is a good chance that the bus timings can mess with your plan. The remote you travel, the trickier it gets. Add to that the unforeseeable weather in the Beskidy Mountains, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to rely solely on the local bus network. Especially given a hike as crucial as Babia Góra!
Even more, the buses aren’t frequent, and tourists don’t have the luxury of taxi services like Uber and Bolt on the go. Though some local taxi operators ply in the region. Hence my recommendation, rent a car or travel in your vehicle. You will be at peace!
Top things to do in Żywiec
1. Babia Góra Hike
Do daunting trails tempt you? Babia Góra peak is the coveted trail that has lured several alpinists so far. The charm of the entire Zwoja region and the challenges posed by the trail itself makes Babia Góra hike a tempting proportion.
The bus ride in the region, for example from Żywiec Rynek to Góra Żar, stretching 35-40-min, is studded with terrific Beskidy mountain views.
Babia Góra hike is doable from Żywiec keeping the connections in mind. The journey from Żywiec to Babia traverses Sucha Beskidzka and Zawoja. These mountain towns in the Silesian region in south Poland are totally unlike what most of you know Poland for.
Sweeping nature views, houses with barn, orchard dripping with apples, plums, and berries, satisfying views of mountain huts sitting on the contours of Beskid ensure that even a lazy holiday here is totally worth it. But you can’t just leave mountains un-hiked. Can you?
So the closest you can get to Babia Góra peak on public transport is Zawoja, Policzne. From Policzne, Babia Góra is an 8 km hike that takes roughly 4 hours. Eventually, you can get back to the starting point in Policzne or make your trail combination on Mapa Turystyczna.
If you aren’t travelling in your own or rented vehicle, make sure to check the bus connections from Policzne and reach the stop in time. Also, keep a day or two reserved because the weather in the Beskid Mountains is highly unpredictable.
2. Funicular ride or hike to Góra Żar
Żar is a major tourist attraction in Żywiec, and one of the most sought after things to do in the Beskidy mountains. Local buses ply from Żywiec to Żar, a 30-35 min scenic ride studded with immaculate alpine views. Upon reaching the Żar top, head to the ticket machine, and you can get one-way or two-way tickets as you want. Funiculars are scheduled to depart every half an hour.
That 5-minute funicular ride through the lush alpine foliage with the seamless views of scattered wooden cabins by the lake and adjoining mountains make it such a pleasant sight. Even better, take a walk. There is a marked trail which is barely a 30-min hike.
Such are the views that can even put Austrian and Swiss alpine landscapes to shame any day. That is the fervent charm of lesser-explored southern Poland! Don’t miss it!!
3. Góra Żar – Chata Turystyczna Hrobacza Łąka Hike
When it gets warm and sunny in the Beskid Mountains, put your hiking boots on and hit the slopes for a pleasant walk. One such hike begins from the top of Żar to Chata Turystyczna Hrobacza Łąka.
The red and subsequently yellow trails make for the entire trail length of 8.5 km. It is one of the most scenic journeys in the Beskidy, bending through the picturesque Międzybrodzie region.
The hike is all nice and easy until you cross over Soła lake bridge. The little stretch of yellow running along the main road is kinda scary because you have to be extremely careful negotiating the speeding cars heading towards Żywiec. Once you leave the main road, it gets exciting & gruelling at the same time. Chata Turystyczna Hrobacza Łąka is barely 45 minutes from the main road detour.
The forest on the way can be found all-peppered with mushrooms and berries during the summer-autumn months. Be extra careful, and only touch the mushrooms you’re certain about. There are plenty of poisonous mushrooms in the mountains that look pretty but can be extremely dangerous. This experience of hiking in Polish mountains will present you with unparalleled natural views around.
3. Gliding & paragliding from Góra Żar
Żywiec town offers enormous possibilities for every tourist, and there’s a bunch of unmissable fun things to do in the Beskid Mountains in Żywiec. Paragliding is one such activity that lures everyone and can be a great option to try. From the top of the Żar mountains, you can glide down straight into the overlooking valley, soaring above the perfect alpine setting below. With żywiec lake and sweeping mountain chain views in front, it’s an extraordinary way to experience the untouched Beskid in Poland.
The toggling weather keeps you guessing, and the piercing wind at the Żar top is enough to give you a bone-chilling experience from time to time. But wait for the time window when an all-decked blue sky with scattered clouds opens up to offer breathtaking panoramic views of the tempting nature around. Paragliding in Żywiec allows you to soar among the clouds and experience the best of southern Polish mountains. The price of a tandem paragliding experience in Żar costs 300 pln per person. Duration of the flight ranges up to 20 min. A lot depends here on the weather condition.
Booking a ride in a glider plane from the top of Żar is another experience to try. I must add that it isn’t a cheap and viable option for a student or someone visiting Żywiec just for hiking, but it can be worth checking if budget isn’t a constraint.
4. Water activities in Żywiec Lake
A very well maintained reservoir, Żywiec Lake on the Soła river in southern Poland, prettifies the town of Żywiec and nearby places. The lake is spread over 10 square kilometres and measures 310 metres in length. Żywiec Lake in Poland is a major tourist attraction owing to its beauty and strategic location. Today, people on a trip to Poland or Europe travel to Żywiec Lake to indulge in various water activities like boating, canoeing, SUP, kayaking, ferry riding, and several other fun water activities.
Additionally, the lake plays a crucial role in the water regulation in the region and protects the area from flooding.
5. Walking around Park Zamkowy, and other attractions in the town centre
Take a lazy stroll in one of the most fascinating parks overlooking the majestic Beskid Mountains in South Poland. Located 15-minute walk from the main railway station, Park Zamkowy is a major tourist attraction in Żywiec town centre.
For history and art lovers, there are a few attractions in and around the colossal park that makes an essential tourist attraction in Żywiec thus making it an interesting place to visit in Poland. Even while standing in the Żywiec Rynek, you can spot the magnificent mountain views looming large on the entire town surroundings. The town centre is small but plenty of eateries and nice cafes around.
Popular tourist attractions in Żywiec town centre: Park Zamkowy, Mini Zoo, Żywiec Old Castle, Żywiec Brewery Museum, Żywiec Town Museum, Park Krajobrazowy Beskidu Małego
6. Mountain biking – you can rent it at Gora Zar
Once in the Beskidy mountains in Poland, mountain biking sounds like a perfect thrill activity for every outdoor person. There are marked biking trails in the entire region. With such fascinating views and challenging trails, it sounds about right to carry your bike in the bus to the mountains and then sway down the trail through the thick foliage of the Babia Góra National Park.
The gallant views and challenging bike trails will keep you intrigued. It’s worth a try for everyone looking for a thrilling experience of mountain biking in Poland. Even if you don’t carry your bike, don’t worry, there are plenty of outdoor tours operating companies in popular touristic points where you can rent a bike.
I found some outlets of Albatross – an outdoor sports company in Żywiec. It provides a multitude of outdoor activities and rents the stuff required for your adventurous pursuits.
7. Scenic Mountain cottages and facades
If you are on vacation in Żywiec, you wouldn’t want to keep running around places doing activities. Sometimes, it is nice to pause for a bit and enjoy the enchanting landscapes all around. Another terrific thing about Żywiec is the cute mountain cottages and cabins nearby. You can find plenty of charming murals and graffiti, sometimes cuddled by layers of a cloud and encompassing gardens and plantations.
Walking around Żywiec and Żar, you can spot several such photogenic houses with spiralling grapevines and berry plantations, sometimes covered under fog, sometimes shining under the sparkling sun. That’s the beauty of the place!
Take a break from the mainstream Polish cities and major tourist attractions in Poland, and head to these untouched nature escapes for experiences to quench your wanderlust as you savour the lesser-explored Poland.
Should you have any queries related to the hike, or you want to arrange a guided tour here, please write to me on @whistlinghound (Insta/Facebook) or through my blog www.whistlinghound.com.