Finally after detouring from Prague to Berlin, then Krakow and Auschwitz, we are back on track inhaling the crisp mountain air in the High Tatras, Slovakia. All of the cities we visited were spectacular, especially our unexpected tour through the vibrant city of Krakow. Nonetheless cities are cities and we are always bound to get very weary of the hustle and bustle…making the High Tatras Mountains the perfect next stop on our journey.
Zdiar in the Bela Tatras
While staying at “Poet’s Corner” in Olomouc, Czech Republic, we heard about “The Ginger Monkey” hostel situated in a little village called Zdiar in the Bela Tatras. Upon further investigation, we discovered the Bela Tatras are a smaller mountain range close to the Polish/Slovakian border, directly next to the High Tatras. We had read about some small villages in the High Tatras, such as ….., however they appeared to be extremely touristy. Away from it all, Zdiar sounded like the perfect location to relax our minds and bodies for the next couple days. And…it helped that the Ginger Monkey had the most rave reviews.
Upon taking a bus over the Polish/Slovakian border, we arrived in the cutest little town of Zdiar. We felt like we were in the storybook “Hansel and Gretel”, with the towns colorful Goral homes surrounded by picturesque mountain scenery. Zdiar is a typical Goral (folk) community, where there is still a thriving community of simple folks. Families still live in traditional Slovak Goral timber homes. From just about anywhere in Zdiar we could see the beautiful colorful folk homes lining the foot of the mountainside.
Ginger Monkey Hostel
What made Zdiar even more spectacular was Ginger Monkey Hostel and the amazing people that work and stay there. The hostel is small and accommodates up to 20 travelers in mostly dorm style rooms and a few doubles. We actually stayed in a private room next door with their Slovak neighbors in another traditional Goral home. Besides sleeping and showering, we spent most of our time at Ginger Monkey, hanging out in their cozy living room, kitchen or porch. The managers, Dan & Dan, were the nicest guys and couldn’t have made us feel more at home during our stay. They create such a warming family feel at the hostel by organizing daily activities and nightly dinners with everyone. It’s definitely a place that makes you want to stay longer and many people we met do just that by extending their time to weeks or even months.
After a day of relaxation in the fresh mountain air, we were perfectly refreshed to tackle the hiking trails of the High Tatras. Consulting with the Dan’s, we found a hiking trail starting at the base of the Tatras in Biela Voda. Rain was in the forecast but we were optimistic we could avoid the showers. Kendelyn, an American woman we met at the hostel, decided to come along on our journey. The three of us set out on a short 10km ride on the local bus to our starting point.
Hiking the High Tatra Mountain Trails
The beginning of the hike was a steady incline on the yellow trail along a beautiful flowing water stream, with several little rock falls. The cool breeze from the water, provided us with relief from the muggy air. We hiked for almost 2.5 hours, passing back and forth over small bridges and stopping several times to absorb the stunning mountain scenery. Just as we got close to our mid-point destination near Zelene pleso (Green Lake) and the Chalet (Chata pri Zelenom plese), the sky turned dark and showers fell from the sky. Although we were getting a little wet, we couldn’t help but stop to digest the amazing sparkling green lake or the jaw-dropping snow-capped Tatra mountains surrounding the chalet. We were standing 1551 meters above sea level while looking up at the surrounding Tatra Mountains. Peaks in the Tatras can reach 2500 meters above sea level. The High Tatras seriously might be one of the most spectacular hidden paradises we’ve ever seen. Even in person the scenery looks like something out of a painting or perfectly photoshopped postcard.
Thankfully, we reached the lunch chalet precisely when the sky turned dark and the rain storm rolled in. Chata pri Zelenom plese (Green Lake Mountain Chalet) was the perfect spot to sit back and watch the rain storm while feasting on a well-deserved lunch of perogies and Slovak beer. The chalet was packed with hikers from all the different trails trying to stay dry from the rain.
The Chalet was a place we could stay for awhile, but we still had to hike another 2.5 hours back down the mountain. We decided to make a go for it in hopes the rain would stop soon. We set out on what we thought was the red trail that would take us to the village next to Zdiar. As we scurried through rocks and trekked through puddles of water, we came to what we thought was the second lake on our route. Soaked Brett stopped to take it all in and cherish the rain storm. The rain was coming down hard and something about the direction we were headed just didn’t seem right so we unanimously decided to turn around and return to the warm chalet. And rightly so, as it was a different route headed in the wrong direction. We immediately ordered hot tea and took off some of our wet clothes. Christie bought a few rain ponchos and we waited for the rain to subside.
Finally there was a break so we made a run for the hills. This time down the correct red path. After 30 minutes we arrived at the second lake called “Biele Pleso” (Big White Mountain Lake). The sun was making an appearance, and the scenery by the lake had begun to change. “Biele Pleso Lake” was equally as special as “Zelene Pleso Lake”, enhanced by a quiet and peaceful feeling. There were two routes to take back from the lake. The original route we planned on the green trail would take 3.5 hours while the blue trail would take 2 hours. Given the late hour, we opted to take the blue trail back down the mountain, which would lead us back to our starting point at Biele Voda.
After a grueling 2 hours down steep wet rocks we made it close to the beginning of our initial yellow trail. The hike down was mostly on slippery rocks. Brett slipped at one point and is now ailing with a broken/fractured finger. We were happy to finally spot the main road. As we saw our bus pass by we ran down the path and across the street, just making it in time. Our day hiking the High Tatras was a once in a lifetime experience with some of the most breathtaking views one can imagine. We just need to remember next time to take the weather forecast more seriously and pack warmer rain gear. Basically be prepared for anything when venturing on a long hike where the climate can change drastically at any moment.
Happily warm and cozy back in Zdiar, we enjoyed our last two nights just chilling out with new friends at Ginger Monkey. Our last night Dan took us out to a special dinner at the other end of the village where we ate traditional Slovak food and watched a traditional folk band play both traditional folk music, as well as songs like “Sex Bomb” and “Titanic”. It was the perfect ending to our marvelous time in Zdiar and the High Tatras.
See our Photo Album:
The High Tatras