Tatra National Park is divided beetwen Poland and Slovakia. In Poland we say TPN (Tatrzanski Park Narodowy) and Slovaks call it TANAP (Tatranský národný park).
Regardless the country, Tatra mountains are equally amazing, they're the most beautiful mountains in Eastern Europe. Also, they're the only mountains of alpine characteristics in this part of the continent. Unique flora and fauna and valuable ecosystem make Tatra mountains a national heritage which is officially protected as National Park.
You'll find fantastic hiking trails there - some of them suitable for quick one-day hike, some for family walk and the other perfect for backpacking. There are also nice ski resorts which can compete even with Western ski resorts!
However, there's a few differences between Polish TPN and Slovak TANAP.
1. Slovak mountains are higher
The highest peak in Poland is Rysy - 2499 metres, whereas Slovak highest mount is Gerlachovský štít which reaches 2654 metres. As if it weren't enough, Rysy peak is also divided between these two countries, and the higher part (2503 metres) belongs to Slovakia
Not surprisingly, the majority of the highest range of Tatra mountains (High Tatra) lies in Slovakia. Here's a short list of the highest Tatra mounts:
- Gerlachovský štít (2654 m)
- Lomnický štít (2634 m)
- Ľadový štít (2627 m)
- Pyšný štít (2623 m)
- Vysoká (2547 m)
- Kežmarský štít (2558 m)
- Končistá (2538 m)
- Baranie Rohy (2536 m)
As we can see, the highest Polish summit isn't even in the first eight most elevated peaks.
2. Slovaks have more mountains than Poles
It's antoher thing which makes us Poles envious of our southern neighbours - Slovaks have definitely more Tatra mountains than we do. Total area of Tatra mountains is 785 square kilometres, 610 km of which belongs to Slovakia. That's a lot!
3. Slovak trails are longer
TANAP mountains are bigger, so the trails are longer. From my own experience, I noticed it's difficult for me to plan circular hike in Slovakia, so that I don't have to get back the same way I got up. Circular route would very often take a dozen-hour hike which is rather too long for us, office couch potatoes
I say Polish trails are shorter but more densely distributed - you can see one trail from another which doesn't happen often in Slovakia.
Also, when you get to mountain hut in Poland you've got many trails to choose from, so planning your hiking trip can be more flexible and spontaneous.
4. Slovak trails are less crowded
Maybe because there's definitely less people living in Slovakia (only 5.4 million compared to 38 million of Poles) and the majority of Polish tourists prefer Polish part of Tatra mountains. In addition, there are the factors mentioned above - Slovakia has bigger area and longer trails which smoothes out the traffic.
I'd also say that mountains in general became very popular holiday destination, especially Tatra mountains got kind of more fashionable for holiday makers in recent years. Polish Morskie Oko lake or Kasprowy peak are examples of very crowded spots - I have never seen so many people in the mountains as in those places.
5. There's less advertisements cluttering the landscape in Slovakia
This may seem a bit weird but I swear when I drive in mountain regions in Poland I see more banner ads than in Slovakia. Is it because of less potential consumers travelling to Slovak Tatra mountains? Or is it simply the fact that Slovaks just don't want to spoil the landscape with Auchan buy-two-get-third-for-free promotions or plastic surgery propaganda?
6. There's more aquaparks in Slovakia
If you're thermal pools aficionado (I love them!) or travelling with kids who love aquaparks, then Slovakia is better option. No that there's no water parks in Polish mountains, not at all, but simply there's more of them in Slovak part of Tatra mountains. Also, Slovak aquaparks are generally bigger and, most importantly, have more waterslides Here's a quick comparison:
|Number of aquaparks||
|Total number of slides||12||25|
|Total number of pools||42||69|
|Total number of thermal pools||9||21|
7. Life saving in Slovakia can be very costly
In Slovak Tatra mountains rescue operations are done by HZS (Horska Zachranna Słuzba). Like Polish TOPR (Tatrzanskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe), HZS will help every hiker who's in trouble. But there's a difference in financing such actions - HZS will charge the "customer" who called for help, whereas TOPR is funded by Polish government and money coming from the tickets.
In Poland you need to pay admission fee when entering Tatra National Park but rescue actions are for free, and in Slovakia it's the other way round.
So, it's necessary to buy travel insurance before visiting Slovak Tatra mountains. It's worth to pay a bit more for the insurance as it has to cover rescue operations (helicopter can cost up to dozen thousand Euros). Also, let's not save money on insurance even if you only plan to hike in the valleys - you can get bitten by adder and need immediate assistance.
All in all, I love Tatra mountains, regardless which country they belong to! But I need to admit that, even though I live in Poland, I very often choose to hike in Slovak Tatra mountains.
How about you? Have you ever visited Tatra mountains?