Zakopane district is considered the most attractive tourist region in Poland. The Tatras, the mountains surrounding Podhale as well as the town itself, are ideal places for winter activities for all ages, genders, sizes, nationalities.. you get the idea.
The ‘Polish Winter Capital’ is a quaint little town which offers a collection of small resorts, such as Kasprowy Wierch, Polana Szymoszkowa and Nosal, where you can meet snow ploughing thrill-seekers, straight lining, out of control at breakneck speed. Put that to one side, if you like it old school, don’t mind a walk for your powder, or are a complete beginner, then Zakopane’s just great!
Cheap with a pioneering feel. Kasprowy Wierch is easily the standout area. It is not often that you get to ski on slopes that have received a papal blessing, but that is one of the pluses of a winter holiday here. You can get a cablecar ride to the top, where you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the entire ridge. The late Pope John Paul II hailed from these parts and during his years at the helm of the Catholic church in Krakow, he liked to retreat to the nearby Tatras and carve up the slopes with the best of them.
SKI AND SNOWBOARD
Zakopane is still known as the number one ski and snowboard destination in Poland and is widely regarded as one of the best resorts in Europe. It offers some of the best slopes, apres ski activities as well as a range of events during the winter season that many find impossible to resist. As Poland maintained their own currency, prices in the region are very competitive and spending your winter season here is an absolute bargain. The most popular ski destination in the region is Kasprowy Wierch. Frequented by millions annually, it offers breathtaking views and is recommended by the most experienced of riders as the place to check out. The peak can be reached by cablecar and there are alternatives available, such as the Goryczkowa chairlift. Surrounding the Tatra mountains are several skiing resorts which have quickly established themselves among less experienced skiers or those simply looking for a fun, family day out. They include the Harenda ski complex, Polana Szymoszkowa which is situated by the Mercure Hotel and offers a fantastic alternative to the once popular Gubalowka slope and the legendary Butorowy Wierch, as well as a host of other options further out of town such as Witow, Male Ciche and much smaller, beginner slopes, perfect for small children, such as Antalowka or the popular ‘Gigant’ situated at the foot of the Wielka Krokiew ski jump.
The ice skating rink at the COS Sports Centre in Zakopane, is the highest located and the fastest speed skating track in Poland. Located at an altitude of 932m above seal level, with a length of 400 metres and 13 metres wide, it meets the criteria set by the World Speed Skating Federation. Mechanically frozen and well lit, it operates throughout the winter season and offers the perfect outdoor training location for, among others, the Polish Speed Skating team which regularly holds training camps at the facility in preparation for international competitions, such as the Winter Olympics and World Championships. Construction of the track began in the mid 1950s and the iceway was naturally frozen until 2008, when an 18.6 million zloty project to reconstruct the track was finalised and provided the city with a much needed, modernised stage for events such as Polish and World Junior Championships. Since its opening, there have been ongoing plans to turn the track into an indoor arena, capable of hosting high profile competitions like Senior World Championships. Following the exploits of the Polish national team at the Sochi Olympics, the rink has become a destination of pilgrimage for many a skating fan. With the advent of the lavish indoor arena comes a certain mythology behind the outdoor versions, and people all over the world flock to them to enjoy an open-air skate as the popularity of the sport continues to grow in the region.
WIELKA KROKIEW SKI JUMP
Now, even if you’re not a profesional ski jumper, or even if you’re not a fan of the sport, chances are you will at some point pass by the world famous Wielka Krokiew ski jump (Great Krokiew, named after the hill it is built on). The area has recently established itself as a serious competitor to the much over-crowded Krupowki high street and provides all the neccessary ingredients for a great day out. There are several regional eateries on hand to please those hungry bellies as well as stalls offering regional cuisine, drinks and memorabilia. The Bronislaw Czech street running through the complex is, of course, synonymous with the COS Sports Centre, home to Poland’s sporting elite and the most famous and well-loved training ground for the country’s olympic champions and up-and-coming talent. The ski jump HS134 attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors throughout the year and, in particular, during the summer and winter ski jumping World Cup events, when no less than 50,000 spectators watch the best of the best battle it out on the hill.
Known as ‘Kulig’ in the region, a sleigh party is one of the favourite ways to pass time for many people visiting Zakopane. You have several pick up points, or can book an entire party for your group, get the opportunity to see the best places in the city from the comfort of your own horse-driven sleigh as well as enjoy the region’s famous bonfire or grill parties where you will be treated to some hearty meats, drinks and entertainment. Programmes vary depending on providers and it’s well worth having a look around for the best deal. Most travel agents will offer such excursions but be sure to dress warm, be ready to join in a sing song and drink some, and then some more if you are an adult. Prices for an evening ride are typically around 100 PLN, with an option to rent out exclusive, smaller sleighs for an additional cost. ‘Kulig’ is extremely popular in Zakopane and surrounding villages so make sure you book your place well in advance to enjoy the scenic ride and great company.
A great activity for families visiting the city and one that is sure to please all the members. Riding down a 210m tube on a rubber dinghy at the feet of the most famous ski jump in Poland? Why not!