High Tatras – A Tradition of Hiking
When you wake up on a clear morning and see the snowy peaks of the High Tatras it quickly becomes clear why the Slovaks worship them and love to identify with their mountains. Just as the Slovenians are with Triglav, the Slovaks are fascinated with these peaks and it seems that the Tatras are both geographically and symbolically watching over Slovakia and its people. The Krivan Peak (2,495m) is to Slovaks what Triglav is to Slovenians, which is why most of the High Tatras have been protected as a National Park since 1948.[/vc_column_text]
The High Tatras are a part of the Carpathian Mountain range, which extends in a large, north-easterly arc from Bratislava to Orsova. The 15-25km wide and 26km long granite ridge stretches from west to east, is open to the north and to the south is peppered with reefs. The mountains are also the main feature between the East and Black Sea. The Poprad river originates in the Mengusovská valley and flows into Vyslo, from where it continues on to the Baltic Sea. The Vah River, which originates as the White Vah beneath Krivan mountain (2,496 m), flows into the Danube and from there on to the Black Sea. The Lomnický štít peak, with its pyramidal shape and at 2,632m the second highest mountain of the High Tatras, offers a very special vista over the wonderfully high mountains. You may be surprised on your first contact with the Tatras by the consequences of a 2004 natural disaster, when hurricane winds of up to 170km/h destroyed almost all of the spruce forests at their foot. The damage evaluation showed that approximately 3 million m3 of wood was felled and whilst the forest is slowly re-establishing itself the scrap wood still testifies to the very delicate balance of nature.
The dramatic landscape that is largely protected in the national parks has always attracted mountaineers because of its marvellous views. The surrounding beauty is something you just can’t get enough of, with its attractiveness stretching over more than 25 peaks at a height of more than 2,600 metres. As it is a protected area you are only allowed to walk along marked trails in Tatras, so the best option is to hire a local registered guide. The Slovakian mountain trails are excellently furnished with road signs and markings, as well as with numerous guides, and hiking is actually amongst the most developed of its tourist activities. We strongly recommend that you include a truly memorable experience of the only European Sherpas in your visit to the High Tatras, who day by day supply the more than 12 Tatras mountain huts that all offer their own genuine mountain hospitality.
Slovenes and Slovaks are similar in their skiing habits and both love to conquer mountain peaks. The largest ski resorts in the High Tatras are Strbske Pleso, Starý Smokovec, Tatranská Lomnica in Slovakia and Zakopane in Poland. All of the equipment on the ski slopes are modern and if necessary the ski channels can be artificially snowed. The resorts are connected by electrical rail, allowing easy and sustainable travel between some of the major tourist destinations. The season runs until the end of April, but the equipment also operates in summer time, to shorten the tourist route to the heart of the Tatras. The ski offer can also be adapted for a variety of incentive programmes that covers everything from zorbing to night sledding and snowshoeing.
The very diverse tourist offers demonstrates that this is a well-developed tourist region. In addition to the ski resort offer, the locals are especially proud of the Aqua City Poprad, built by entrepreneur and visionary Jan Telensky. It is an impeccably sustainable project, nicely integrated into the natural environment and offering 10 swimming pools and numerous wellness programmes. The hotel has created a kind of hybrid, suitable also for large conference groups. The latest acquisition, popular among media planners, is the Hurricane Factory Tatralandia. It is the first aerodynamic tunnel in Slovakia, where they can create the feeling you feel when jumping out of an airplane (if you happen to know that already!). Whether in summer or winter a range of activities on the ski slopes can be organised. For winter activities they also use the landing spot of spectacular 120-metre ski jump in Štrbské Pleso, which in the 90s was the venue for the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup.
You can find some of the best Slovakian restaurants offering excellent cuisine in the High Tatras and for less formal occasions there is also the type of catering facilities where you can try traditional local dishes. For gourmets a visit to the Culinarium restaurant is near obligatory. An innovative restaurant menu includes seasonal organic food and specialties prepared in a modern way by celebrity chef Gabriel Kočak, but fear not, for you can also try the Slovak national dish of “bryndzové halušky”, dumplings made of potato dough and coated with a mixture of sheep’s ricotta and cream and dressed with crackling.
The High Tatras are full of small, craggy, steep peaks with deep cut valleys and wild romantic cliffs lying between the ridges. The weathered granite gives the mountains a dark brown colour and the numerous lakes, thought to be about a hundred in number, are of glacial origin. The ensemble is very complete and is easily comparable with the most popular tourist vistas in the heart of the Alps. It also is rich in cultural and historic heritage, with castles and an authentic mountain culture.