Not too long ago we undertook a Winter trip that simply exceeded all the expectations we had for a mountain vacation in Europe. We knew that we were headed to a fairly unknown section of the continent for outsiders and what a treasure we found in this fantastic part of the world. In Southern Poland and Northern Slovakia we found restaurants, first class hotels, great ski opportunities and historical cities. This is a great itinerary for anyone who is looking for an undisturbed look at nature, abundant leisure time and skipping the crowds.
Where we began: Krakow: this is an impressive city and certainly one of the most beautiful ones of Europe. A place with so much history, amazing architecture and many things to do.Be sure and see Wawel Castle, the cathedral, the old Jewish ghetto, the old Town with the magnificent squares and the dozens of churches whose beauty is hard to describe.
Driving from Krakow to Zakopane: we rented a car and by highway it was only an hour and a half. The rental was very easy to get and we enjoyed a beautiful panorama the whole way. Driving makes sense here because it is very affordable and one can stop along the way to enjoy some of the great restaurants serving local delicacies or to appreciate ancient villages or some of the old wooden churches.
Zakopane: this probably the most elite nature destination in Poland. There are many hotels for all kinds of budgets. Several ski centers and infinite pathways for hikers too. The beauty of the mountains is majestic. The town is cozy and it offers all kinds of services and facilities. The impression Zakopane gives is a resort town that feels like home. There are as well many affordable apartments for those wishing to stay longer and maybe doing some cooking. We found that the locals are tremendously helpful and friendly.
Driving to High Tatras in Slovakia: It takes just a half hour from Zakopane to access the High Tatras mountains. There are many places, villages or middle sized towns where one can go. There are as well ski facilities for all kinds of levels and budgets. We strongly suggests Štrbské Pleso, here the Gran Hotel Kempinski is like being inside a palace. The guests will enjoy in this hotel impressive service in an idyllic location, with one of the best spas of Europe and views like no other place has to offer.