The Tatra Mountains are Poland,s vacationland, no matter what the time of the year. In the winter, natural
snow provides for excellent skiing, and, in the summer, hikers are lured by high glacial valleys, waterfalls,
and mountain lakes, the most beautiful of which is the glistening Morskie Oko.
The mountains are home to diverse and unique flora and fauna. In the spring, purple and yellow crocuses
bloom in the valleys. If you are lucky, you will hear the whistle of a marmot, a small mammal living on the rocky slopes.
Along the hiking trails are many inns which provide efficiency lodging for the night. They often contain dining rooms or even a
restaurant. Here, tired hikers can relax by the fire and drink mulled wine at the end of the day.
At the foot of the Tatras sits Zakopane, Poland's unofficial winter capital. Its excellent ski trails and modern lifts attract skiers from
around the world. A cable car runs up the most popular mountain, Kasprowy Wierch,
which is ideal for alpine skiing.
Despite its status as tourist destination, the town itself has managed to retain its prewar charm. It has always been a
magnet for artists, many of whose works are displayed in local galleries. Wladyslaw Hasior's gallery is famous for his
controversial modern artwork.
Many of the town's houses were built from wood in a style unique to the area. The traditional
lifestyle is observed by many here, with old fashioned clothing, folk dancing, and handmade
crafts still highly valued.Many weddings follow centuries-old rituals, with the participants wearing regional costumes.
The nearby Pieniny Mountains are best visited by raft through the spectacular Dunajec River gorge.
The trip is made unforgettable by the rafters in traditional dress who steer past walls of limestone hundreds of
feet high, while the river churns around you. On opposite cliffs are the castles at Czorsztyn, now a ruin, and Niedzica.