Tatrzański National Park
Tatrzański National Park
This is one of the largest parks in Poland and encompasses the Polish Tatras and sections of the Podhale. Tatrzański National Park was created in 1955 but the first calls for its safeguarding came at the end of the 19th century, just after the establishment of the very first national park in Yellowstone in the United States. The snowy mountains, as the Tatras were called centuries ago, is the only alpine mountain range in Poland. They inspire awe and command respect. On the one hand, the landscape consists of sharp ridges, jagged peaks, chimneys and postglacial corries continuously capped with snow and hidden among billowing clouds. On the other hand, the Tatras are framed by the scenic valleys of streams and vast glades dotted blissfully with continuously grazing sheep. In terms of natural resources, the Tatras are one of the most precious areas in Poland. Hence, the park has been included in the Natura 2000 network and has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve (jointly with the Slovakian Tatranským národným parkom), which proves its uniqueness on the world scale.
Flora and Fauna
The park includes all the characteristic vegetation zones linked to the changing altitudinal climatic conditions. The lower subalpine zone consists of both mixed forests and coniferous woods whose undergrowth blooms with thousands of flowers in the spring. The upper subalpine zone is a kingdom of spruce joined on the north side by Swiss stone pine trees, distinctive for their dome-rounded tops. The dwarf pine belt is framed by a clump of bushes, which in higher altitudes give way to the meadows of the alpine zone, also known as mountain pastures. The latter is home to edelweiss that arrived from Asia and became a characteristic feature of the park and its floral symbol. The highest peaks of the mountains delineate one more altitudinal level, called the subnival or peak zone, which is covered with low-lying grass tufts. This vegetation zone has evolved only in the High Tatras.
The best of the Polish Tatras
Highest waterfall Siklawa (c. 70 m)
Largest lake Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea) (34.9 ha)
Deepest lake Wielki Staw Polski (Great Polish Tarn) (79 m)
Largest cave Wielka Śnieżna (Great Snowy Cave) (22 km-long network of corridors)
Longest Valley Suchej Wody Gąsienicowej (Dry Water Valley) (13 km)
Highest peak Rysy (2499 m asl)
In the vicinity of the pastures and mountain peaks live many wildlife species found nowhere else in Poland. The endemic fauna includes the chamois, the only European antelope species. In the spring, with some sharp-eyed vigilance, you may spot the marmot which is another species characteristic of the Tatras region and is being increasingly habituated to tourists. Golden eagles, gliding over the pastures and peaks, fly to the Polish side from Slovakia but do not nest in the park. However, the mountains are home to other life, such as the many large predatory mammals like the bear, wolf and lynx. The bears venture to the high mountain passes but - attracted to the more expansive Slovakian side of the Tatras - do not permanently live in the park.
Tatrzański National Park, trail admission fee: 16th Apr-14th Sep, 1-day pass: PLN 4.40, concessions: PLN 2.20, 7-day pass: PLN 18, concessions: PLN 9, 15th Sep-15th July, 1-day pass: PLN 3.20, concessions: PLN 1.60, 7-day pass: PLN 13, concessions: PLN 6.50, free admission for children under 7 years old, www.tpn.pl.
Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea) and Czarny Staw (Black Tarn), the most beautiful lakes of the Tatras, can be accessed from the Strążyska Valley via one of the most popular and easiest trails that also leads towards the Chochołowska and Kościeliska Valleys as well as the Siklawica waterfall and Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza (Mickiewicz Waterfall).
Jaskinia Mroźna (Frost Cave) can be accessed from the Kościeliska Valley and is open to visitors (May-Oct). The glades of Chochołowska, pod Kuźnicami, Rusinowa and Kopieniec are used for the traditional grazing of sheep. In the shepherds’ huts you can purchase fresh “oscypek” or “bundz” (sheep’s milk cheeses) or “zyntyca” (sheep’s milk whey).
In Zakopane, the winter capital of Poland with spectacular wooden buildings in the Zakopne style, it is worth strolling along the famous Krupówki promenade, or visiting the Tatra Museum (ul. Kropówki 10) which, apart from its natural collection, also displays national costumes and glass paintings. You can also ascend mount Kasprowy Wierch or Gubałówka in a cable car, get wet in the aqua park, or dip into the village of Bukowina Tatrzańska where the largest thermal pools in Poland can be found.
Chochołów is a wooden village known for its traditional highland cottages. Particularly popular in the region is the ‘cottage from one fir,’ the front wall of which is made from a single fir tree.