If you love traveling, you need to visit Poland!
Why would I visit Poland? - may you ask.
The location of Poland in Eastern Europe was a source of troubles in the past - our poor country was oppressed for many years by its neighbors. We had a tough time and gained freedom only in 1989 (communism also finished that year).
Fortunately, now Poland is developing quickly and offers great opportunities both for its residents and tourists looking for great spots.
You’ll find here great food, vast cultural heritage, many interesting tourist attractions, amazing cities and breathtaking landscapes. We have it all – mountains, sea, lakes, vibrant cities and picturesque villages.
What gives us an advantage over Western European countries is our low prices – Polish zloty is ridiculously cheap. For example, basic lunchtime meal with a drink in Berlin or Paris will cost about €16. In Polish cities you'll get such meal for half the price (or even less, depending on the city's size).
What I also need to mention here is that Poland is also safe – there’s no terrorist attacks at all. These days it's very important factor in Europe.
Shortly speaking, there are many factors which make Poland an excellent travel destination, but I'll focus here mainly on our natural wonders - stunning mountain ranges in the south of the country.
If you’re hiking aficionado, Poland needs to be on your bucket list! You’ll find here tons of fantastic trails, both in the mountains and lowlands - we have 23 National Parks situated all over Polish land.
So, let's have a look at the best Polish mountain ranges – they are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and real eye candy. Those mountains will make you wish you lived in Poland!
Tatras are the highest mountains in Poland, located in the very south of the country, right on the border with Slovakia. Polish part is definitely smaller than Slovak, but we have have a fair amount of great hiking trails too. The highest peak in Polish Tatra mountains is Rysy - it reaches 2499 metres.
Those beautiful mountains resemble Alps - their flora and fauna and climate are of Alpine characteristics. This makes Tatra mountains unique in this part of the continent. Because of their awesomeness, those mountains are protected as Tatra National Park.
Tourists like to walk in the valleys, the most popular of which are Koscieliska, Chocholowska or Five Lakes Valley. More experienced hikers also have many interesting trails to choose from - lower peaks in Western Tatras and much higher ones in High Tatra mountains.
The most popular mounts are Kasprowy Wierch (1987 metres), Giewont (1895 metres), Rysy (2499 metres) and Czerwone Wierchy (four summits: Ciemniak, Krzesanica, Malolaczniak, Kopa Kondracka, all about 2000 metres high).
Bieszczady are picturesque mountains situated on the borderline of Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. They're part of Eastern Carpathian mountains which stretch out to Romania. In Poland we have Western part of Bieszczady with the highest peak Tarnica - 1346 metres.
Before World Wars, Bieszczady region was inhabited by many different ethnic groups. Poles, Jews and Lemkos lived together peacefully. Unfortunately, during postwar purges the majority of villages were depopulated.
Bieszczady mountains are considered to be one of the most secluded ranges in Poland with little of tourists on the trails and untouched nature. However, these days is more of a myth - there's loads of hikers exploring Bieszczady trails. Truth - tourist infrastructure is less developed than in other mountain regions in Poland, but nevertheless Bieszczady are very popular among tourists.
The most popular paths lead to Tarnica peak and Winnie the Pooh hut.
Karkonosze are the highest range in Sudetes mountains. They're located in the southwest Poland and are natural borderline with Czechia. The highest peak is Sniezka - 1603 metres. Easily accessible, with famous meteorological observatory at the top, this mount is number one in Karkonosze.
The main tourist resorts in this area is Karpacz and Szklarska Poreba. Besides Sniezka, outdoors lovers very often hike to Szrenica (1362 metres) - nice wide trail attracts all kind of hikers, including families with children.
Karkonosze are very interesting mountains - waterfalls, amphitheatres and other peculiar rock formations make this region valuable landscape park.
In 1933 part of Karkonosze started to be protected as biosphere reserve and then, in 1959 Polish government created Karkonoski National Park. Because people haven't interfered in Karkonosze ecosystem for a long time, the nature of those mountains is almost intact which makes it an unique ground for scientific institutions.
Lots of easy hiking trails, great landscapes and well-developed tourist infrastructure make Karkonosze the second most popular mountain range in Poland (Tatras are definitely Polish number one).
When in the area, it's also worth to visit Chojnik castle. This medieval monument is located on the hill, hiking there takes about 20 minutes. Panoramic view from the upper tower is amazing!
Pieniny are the smallest mountain range in Poland. But don't let the size mislead you - Pieniny are considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains in Poland. Some think they're even more amazing than Tatra mountains!
Pieniny are located close to Tatra mountains, right on the Slovak border. Actually, Slovaks have bigger area of those mountains, but nevermind, Poles have nice trails and great castles there too!
The highest peak of Pieniny is Trzy Korony (shown on the above photo) - it reaches only 982 metres, but the landscape from the view platform on this peak is breathtaking.
In 1921, to protect the precious nature in Pieniny mountains, Polish government created Pieninski National Park. It was a very good decision taking into consideration the number of tourists who visit those mountains every year. Well-marked and easy trails, lots of bike paths, good tourist infrastructure, acid mineral waters used in nearby health resorts - it all attracts all kinds of people with different needs.
Besides hiking in Pieniny National Park's, the main attractions of the region are:
→ Rafting on Dunajec river - fear not, it's very peaceful river and the majority of people on the rafts are children and pensioners. The trip lasts about 2 hours, but the views are unforgettable! If you like some more thrill, go for kayaks or pontoons.
→ Exploring Homole gorge - located in Jaworki village, this scenic trail is about 1 kilometre long, perfect for families with youngsters.
→ Dunajec castle in Niedzica and Czorsztyn castle - the beginnings of those castles reach 14th century! Great treat for history lovers, but also amazing spot for taking photos - the surrounding of those castles will make your shoots look like a dream.
→ Cerveny Klastor museum - the most popular sacral building in Pieniny area. They say this monastery was built by a guy from Hungary as an atonement for his murders. He must have killed a lot of people!
→ Pump room in Szczawnica village - you get to try many different kinds of healing mineral water there.
→ "ABlandia" ropes course in Kroscienko - fun place both for children and adults seeking a bit of thrill.
→ "PKL Palenica" chairlift and gravity slide - if you don't like hiking, but appreciate a good landscape, take a ride on "PKL Palenica" chairlift. Like speed? Go for a nearby slide.
Another picturesque National Park located close to Pieniny mountains.
Symbol of this park is fire salamander, however there aren't a lot of those peculiar creatures left - they're endangered species under strict protection. I've heard some people believe that fire salamanders bring bad luck and they kill those poor little animals (one would think we have 21st century, but no. It doesn't seem so when I hear such stories).
The highest and most popular peak is Turbacz - it reaches 1310 metres. Nice and easy trail leading to this mount attracts the majority of hikers who visit Gorce. However, there are less tourists than in Pieniny or Karkonosze, so Gorce are great mountains for quiet seekers.
There are 14 hiking trails which total length is 63 kilometres. I know it's not a lot, but there's also many bike trails, horse riding paths, ski pistes and educational trails. Actually, you'll get to see lots of mountain bikers in Gorce - nice and wide trails are a treat for two-wheels fans.
There's also one more thing which makes me like Gorce so much - when the weather's sunny, you get to see majestic panorama of Tatra mountains. And one doesn't need to hike a lot - 1200 metres is enough to admire amazing mountain landscapes.
There are many Beskid ranges in southern Poland - Little, Island, Silesian, Small Beskids - you name it! But Beskid Zywiecki is the highest and most picturesque of them all. It's the second highest mountain range in Poland, with Babia mountain reaching 1725 metres. Obviously, there's National Park to protect those beautiful but vulnerable lands.
Zywiec Beskid is widely available for tourists - lots of hiking, biking and horse trails make this region a true paradise for outdoor addicts. Interestingly, in Sopotnia village there's the biggest waterfall in Beskidy mountains. In winter, the most popular ski resort is Pilsko mountain (1557 metres). The specific location of the pistes provides good skiing conditions even if in other mountains snow is already melting.
In general, Zywiec Beskid is very welcoming for all kinds of tourists - in nearby villages there's lots of hotels and restaurants, and also there's many mountain huts along hiking trails.
Beskid Slaski (Silesian Beskid) isn't the highest or the most breathtaking mountain range in Poland. But I love it!
The tallest peak is Skrzyczne - 1257 metres (I have a feeling the name of that mountain is unpronounceable for foreigners ).
However, one of the most interesting trails leads to Barania mountain (1220 metres). This region was oppressed by people in the past and now is being recultivated. Nature is slowly regenerating (it always does, if people don't disturb it), but one can still see damages caused by people who made bad decisions.
In Silesian Beskid starts Main Beskid Trail - the longest path in Poland which has 496 kilometres.
→ chair lifts are basically everywhere.
→ in Wisla village there's a ski jump where famous Polish ski jumper Adam Malysz used to practice.
→ Beskid museum in Wisla village.
→ Zoo in Ustron village.
Polish mountains are beautiful and, most importantly, safe to hike. Trails are well-marked, there are tons of guideposts and many mountain huts, so that you don't need to worry you'll end up sleeping under a tree, or die of thirst and hunger.
Also, Polish mountains aren't secluded - you can be sure there will always be someone to give you a hand. There aren't many dangerous wild animals - they prefer to stay away from people.
The best website to plan your hiking trip is mapa.turystyczna.pl. There are not only all Polish mountains - you can plan your routes in Slovak and Czechia mountains as well. This online map gives you time of walking, height difference and shows photos of the locations you choose.
So what now? Are you going to visit Polish mountains?