The ‘town’ of Vysoké Tatry isn’t really a town but an amalgamation of three main settlements (Stary Smokovek, Strbske Pleso and Tatranska Lomnica) which form the main tourist resorts in the Slovak portion of the High Tatra Mountain Range. The three villages (and multiple smaller villages) are connected by a convenient (if you don’t plan on renting a car) mountain railway which, despite only being about 30km from end to end, runs at just over an hour from Tatranska Lomnica to Strbske Pleso with a brief train change at Stary Smokovek. The rail link makes exploring the entire area easy and cheap (an unlimited day pass costs only EUR 4). It also means that you can hike from area to area with an easy way to get back to the village you’re staying in without a round-trip hike.
Vysoké Tatry Top Tips
The closest airport to Vysoké Tatry is Poprad-Tatry which is a mere 14km away. Your best option is to get a taxi from the airport to Vysoke Tatry (assuming you aren’t renting a car). There is a taxi rank at the airport (although you may be best to pre-book in the summer due to the scarcity of incoming flights). Taxis should cost around EUR 15 and can be pre-booked through VK Taxi (for the risk adverse). If you have a little more time on your hands and don’t have big bags with you then you can hop on the Tatra Electric Railway (TEZ) from the airport. If you want to find out more about the TEZ route and timetable then check out the website here.
If you don’t have a rental car but intend to skip from village to village then the best advice I can give you is to use TEZ. Day passes cost as little as EUR 4 and trains run in hourly intervals (You can find a full timetable here). Make sure you validate any tickets that you but when you board the train (there are ticket machines by each train door). It’s worth noting that whilst the railway is convenient, scenic, and makes exploring the area easier it is INCREDIBLY slow. On some stretches I swear people walking alongside the track overtook us. If money is no object and time is of the essence you might be better opting for taxis.
Depending on the current prices and inclusions you may want to look at buying a Tatry Card. In addition to free rail passes it also provides reduced price access to a number of other activities and mountain insurance. It can be downloaded onto your phone which is also a benefit as you won’t have to deal with soggy train tickets after a day of skiing. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to buy the ticket prior to arrival (which means that you can’t use it on the TEZ line from the airport upon arrival. Instead you have to buy it when you arrive from a whole host of hotels and apartments in the Vysoké Tatry area.
Accommodation can be found in each of Vysoké Tatry’s 3 major villages. Strbske Pleso is more ‘touristy’ with the larger and more expensive hotels (such as the Kempinski). Cheaper Pensions, apartments and lodges can be found in Stary Smokovek and Tatranska Lomnica. I personally think I made the right choice in basing my stay in Tatranska Lomnica – it is less touristy than Strbske Pleso but seemed to have more facilities and ski lifts options than Stary Smokovek. We rented an apartment for the week (which had ski storage facilities) which was half way between the ski lifts and the bar; perfect. If you’re planning on longer hikes out in the wilderness you’ll probably also want to consider looking at some of the mountain hut accommodation that’s available here.
Food is generally cheap with a number of low-cost (main courses costing EUR 5 and a glass of wine costs EUR 1 at the time of writing) restaurants and ‘pubs’. If you’re staying in an apartment then all 3 villages have supermarkets where you can stock up for evening meals and/or hiking provisions. Restaurant menus typically offer up similar fare (potato dumplings, fried cheese, and a wide variety of pasta dishes all containing sheep cheese and bacon). You may also enjoy rating the pierogis available in every restaurant, bar and snack-shack – it’s a good excuse to eat potato, cheese, bacon and sour-cream for every single meal!
If maintaining your ability to see and walk in a straight line isn’t a ‘must’ then try the innumerable variations (I think I counted 11) of local herbal-based liquor, Tatratea ranging from the 22% proof Coconut to the 72% ‘Outlaw’. It’s amazing how drunk you can get in Vysoké Tatry with just a few Euros in your pocket!
Vysoké Tatry Activities
Hiking and Nordic Walking: The High Tatras area contains over 600km of hiking trails so you shouldn’t struggle to find something that suits your style and fitness level. Many of routes take in tarns (lakes) and waterfalls. Day hiking routes are plentiful and well-marked (although they provide highly dubious walking time guidance) and the more adventurous can plan multi-day hikes that overnight in the many mountain chalets available along the various routes. If you don’t have a head for heights you may want to seek advice from one of the info-centers before heading out on a particular route; I did encounter one route up the side of a waterfall that had me clinging to the rocks like a newborn to its mother. More detailed information and route maps can be found here.
Hiking trails start and end at all three of the major settlements. Easy morning / afternoon hikes are available between Stary Smokovek and Tatranska Lomnica (although given the path quality it can sometimes feel a little more like bouldering than hiking) and round-trip day hikes are plentiful in Strbske Pleso.
If you want to start a hike from a higher elevation or just want to enjoy the fantastic views across the Vysoké Tatry region then you can take one of the ski lifts starting in Tatranska Lomnica, which also remain open in the Summer, to transport visitors up to Skalnate Pleso and the highest point of Lomnicky Stit (the latter being served by a fairly scary looking 20-odd person cable car that doesn’t look like it’s been updated since it opened in the 1940s). The lifts are somewhat more expensive than you would expect to pay during prime ski season (to put that statement in to context I had to pick between a one-way lift pass or 17 glasses of cheap local wine), but the admission price is worth it for the fantastic views and photo opportunities. From the ski lift drop off point at Skalnate Pleso it’s also an easy 2.5-hour hike to Hrebienok where you have the option of riding the funicular (which, as we kept getting reminded by local literature, was also ridden by the Queen in 2008 – not Freddy Mercury’s Queen as my wife originally thought) down into the town of Stary Smokovek or continuing the walk down to the town. Lift tickets are available at ‘cash points’ at the bottom of the lifts and you will need to pay an additional EUR 2 refundable deposit for the plastic card they come on.
Winter Sports: The Vysoké Tatry area comes alive in the winter and is one of the most popular spots for skiing in Slovakia. Tatranská Lomnica offers the highest altitude skiing in the country and also happens to offer the steepest slopes. Its upper trails are for confident and advanced skiers only, but the lower slopes offer about 6km of beginner trails suitable for children and families (particularly the Starý Smokovec portion). Regardless of which portion you ski, you’re pretty much guaranteed great views of the mountains and the valley below. Tatranská Lomnica’s eight ski lifts provide access to the slopes, with the newest cable car whisking guests up 597 meters in seven minutes. The second option is Štrbské Pleso which also has incredible views and 9km of easy to medium marked slopes. Night skiing and sledding are also available here. The resort is also home to 26.5km of cross country ski trails. You can find ski maps of these two main centers here.
Cycling: Like hiking, cycling is well catered for as a summer tourist activity with over 300km of well-marked cycle routes. Some of the recommended routes can be found on the Vysoke Taty website.
Strbske Pleso: The Pleso (lake or tarn) is a big draw for tourists and so it can be difficult to avoid day-trippers posing for selfies. However, boating on the lake has remained a popular activity in the summer season after the lake reopened to rental boats in 2008. With Mt. Solisko as the backdrop the lake also provides a fantastic spot for coffee, photography, people-watching, or a sundowner in the area surrounding the Kempinski High Tatras Hotel.
Museums: If all of that active adventure leaves you feeling drained then you might want to spend some time chilling out in one of the Vysoké Tatry area’s extremely kitsch museums. If nothing else these museums are worth visiting just to have a good old laugh at some of the 1960’s mannequins and taxidermy. Two of these museums, the Ski Museum and the National Park Museum are located in Tatranská Lomnica. The National Park Museum is probably the more interesting of the two and provides ethnographic and historic information on the national park; including displays highlighting the flora and fauna of the area. In Starý Smokovec you’ll also find the Cinematography and Photography Museum. In addition to the relatively interesting portion of the museum devoted to regional film and photography the museum itself is housed in a rather attractive wooden chalet.
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Tatry Card Website: https://regiontatry.sk/en/accommodation/what-is-the-tatry-card/
Vysoké Tatry Ski Website: https://www.vt.sk/en/
High Tatras Tourist Website: http://regiontatry.sk/en/
Tatry Info Center: http://www.tatry.sk/en/
Slovakia Tourist Information: http://www.slovakiasite.com/
Ski Museum Website: https://www.skimuseum.eu/
Cinematography and Photography Museum Website: https://muzeumtatry.sk/