Photography credits: Tommy Rhyan
Zakopane, a resort town known for its location right beneath the majestic Tatra Mountains, is the ski destination, often known as the “winter capital of Poland.” It is also a place of rich highlander culture and history that continues to thrive today.
During our time in Poland, after a few days in Kraków, we ventured down south to this area. The first stop on our adventure was visiting the Niedzica Castle, a stronghold built in 1325 seated along the Dunajec River and within the Pieniny Mountains. It is known for its Incan treasure legends and ghost stories, and it holds ancient artifacts that transport you back into time.
If you are touring this castle, you must take a short trip down to the Dunajec River itself, as there are rafting rides that are perfect for the entire family. This activity is one of the most popular things to do in Pieniny National Park, and we highly recommend it. The journey takes you through the limestone mountains, which tower above you in all their glory. Knowledgable guides teach you about the region and the highland culture–and you might even be lucky enough to hear them perform a song as you traverse through the Dunajec waters!
Zakopane is truly the go-to for your nature fix. Along with rafting, you can go hiking in Dolina Strążyska, a valley that provides an easy but beautiful trek through the Tatra National Park. You might just run into the Strążyska Clearing or catch a glimpse of Giewont Peak, also known as “The Sleeping Knight,” which is paired with a highland legend that makes it an iconic symbol of the area.
If you are looking for something a bit more action-packed, Szkoła Quadów provides quad tours through the hills and over rivers. We found this to be the perfect activity for teens to participate in. In the winter, they also provide snowmobile expeditions! We utilized HERO9 GoPros to catch some of the coolest shots…It was a perfect way to capture some of the crazy and unforgettable moments on this wild ride.
For the best views in the entire region, you must venture up to Kasprowy Wierch, a peak in the Western Tatras. The cable car ride that we took to get up to the very top was an experience in itself. Watching the greenery of mountain forests rushing past, feeling the rock of the car as it made its way up and up and up…The area was filled with locals and tourists, coming to soak in the one-of-a-kind scenery and get in touch with the natural grandeur of Poland.
We ended our incredible trip with some traditional highlander music and dance at a restaurant called Restauracja Regionalna Nosalowy Dwór. You will find important symbols of the highland culture adorning the walls and decor. Here is where we enjoyed the one and only pierogi!
When planning your next trip to Europe, remember Poland as a gem of Central Europe. It is not only filled with history and culture, but a natural landscape that will leave you speechless!
Read the prior article in this series: “Dień Dobry From Kraków!”
We would like to provide our sincere thanks to both LOT Airlines, for the safe and smooth flight to and from Poland, and to the Polish Tourism Organization, for their guidance, accommodation, and warm hospitality!
COMING SOON: You can watch this accompanying Poland episode of “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” on PBS, the PBS Anywhere app, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.
A WLS AM 890 Chicago radio podcast about Southern Poland can be found at https://www.wlsam.com/round-trip-with-colleen-kelly/.