I’ve already taken you with me to my summer polish trips in my previous articles. Me and my small traveling group started off in Wieliczka, details described in Quick trip to Salt Mine Wieliczka in Poland. The next stop was Auschwitz concentration camp and the dilemma of selfies and we ended up in Night in Krakow and sleeping on a boat. After such an interesting day we continued to the south of Poland to a small town called Zakopane. From there on we experienced the most interesting hike to the beautiful sight of the Eye of the Sea or Morskie Oko in polish language, and Slovak as well.
We got up on horses. Let me tell you more about it.
As I mentioned we hit it off from Krakow and it took like 2 hours by car to get to Zakopane. The road got really tricky as most of the time we rode the country roads in between the most beautiful cottages placed in breathtaking surroundings. We were pretty late on our way because of the prolonged breakfast we had on a boat at Krakow so it was noon when we arrived in Zakopane. Our plan was to park our car at the biggest parking lot right next to the entrance to the national park. The reality was different. By the time we arrived our dream spot was already full and we were directed to the next one like 2.5 km away which was also almost full.
So the first recommendation – get in early.
There were guys in neon vests all along the way so it was easy to find the right place and they even navigated us to our parking spot. Few meters away from the parking lot were parked busses and the drivers were enthusiastically encouraging us to get in. It was the bus to the parking lot we originally planned to go.
We were all like: “Phew we can walk that far“.
But the driver reminded us that it’s a 2,5km and then a 9,5km long hike up to the eye of the sea. A strong point to be fair so for like 3zlotych per person we hopped on the minibus and drove to the official entrance to the national park of High Tatras.
By the entrance I mean the gate you have to go through and pay like 5zlotych per person.
When we were planning this trip we found out that there is an option to get through this hike by horse carriage. Never have I ever tried something like this and I was super excited to try it now.
The horses were “parked” right at the beginning of the road. The coachmen were all dressed in polish folk costumes and the carriages were big enough to take like 15 people. It was always carried by 2 horses. You literally can not miss it.
There were like 2 carriages prepared to ride so we stepped up to one and asked for a price. For 50zlothych per person, we hopped in. Five of us, one family with 4 very loud small children and some other group of people. I was sitting right at the top of the carriage, right behind the coachman. Horses were so close I could touch them. Direct view for me. If they would poop I would be right behind. Luckily that didn’t happen for the duration of our road.
Later on, we realized how this ride was the best investment we ever did.
It was like an hour and a half long ride. By horses. That’s obviously much quicker than walking uphill and after all of the walking, we did the day before we surely enjoyed our ride. Plus on a sunny day, it must have been hell to walk that far up.
To be fair, I felt kinda bad for the horses as they were visibly struggling with the load they were carrying up the hills. I was also so fascinated by them. The whole hike is on an asphalted road that’s wide enough for two-horse carriages to meet going from both sides. All the coachman had to do was told the horses to move left/right and they did so we wouldn’t crash with the other carriage. Such majestic creatures.
There was one scary moment though when one of the horses slipped on a poodle but held it together. Nothing happened to us but we got kind of freaked out.
The whole hike is 9,5 km with an easy uphill trajectory but the horses don’t go all the way up. Last 2 km to the Morskie Oko you have to walk yourself anyway. All along the way, we were enjoying the spectacular view of high Tatras and sweaty tourists on their walk and their dirty jealous looks our way.
The carriages were super comfortable.
There was a deck in front of you where you can put your feet on and it had some sort of rooftop so we were not even in direct sun. The speed was differing depending on the ascent. The most interesting part was going super fast downhills and feeling the wind in your hair in the middle of the tallest trees ever. Indescribable.
The whole experience would be so back in the days if our coachman wasn’t checking his phone most of the time and making phone calls at the places he knows has a signal. But the horse ride to the Eye of the sea was still something I will never forget.
To my surprise, we met a great number of little children, so if they can do it you can do it too. This whole hike is considered very easy as the ascent is very gentle most of the time and you’re walking on an asphalted road. There is an option to take a shortcut through the woods that are also marked. It’s full of quite slippery stones placed in form of stairs so for strollers and kids it’s easier to take the longer but safer asphalt road.
During the summer season, the place is crowded.
We met so many people, most of them ready for the tour in proper clothes but some ladies were even wearing dresses so that says a lot about how difficult this tour really is. You always know if there is some sight worth seeing because a bunch of people would be already gathered there.
Like in front of this beautiful waterfall you literally had to wait for your turn to get a closer look. Once you did you didn’t want to leave your spot and stop looking at that beauty. Or we met this group of people looking into the forest so naturally we were curious and stopped by. There was the most beautiful deer ever just chilling. Not really bothered by 50 tourists taking pictures of him. So did I and I’m still starstruck by how incredible photos I managed to take during this trip.
No filter needed.
Even though we rode most of the way up the reminding 2km was still tough for us considering we walked 15km the day before. We were reminding ourselves we must be close because people coming the other way were carrying half-empty beer cups. And we were right.
Once we got to the Eye of the sea we were stuck by the number of people there. Crowded is not enough to describe it. Never have I expected so many people in the middle of the mountains. All of the photographs you can see on Instagram are pretty empty ones with just beautiful nature and one person in.
But there is the difference between Instagram and reality as I captured it on these photos here:
Instagram vs. Reality
To find an empty rock to stand on and take aesthetically pleasing photographs was a real challenge. I stood there waiting for one couple to finish up with their photos to take their great spot. Worth it. Most of the people there were just relaxing and enjoying the potential peace of the Eye of the sea. Everyone was protecting their newfound place.
Once again – come in early.
By the time we arrived, it was 2 o’clock. It’s peaceful when you look straight ahead and not behind you on the crowds. Or beneath your feet cuz with so many people, it’s obvious there’s gonna be garbage all over cuz people are people and people are gross. I get that there were not many garbage disposer along the way. Obviously cuz you’re in the forest. That doesn’t mean you can’t take your garbage with you and dispose of it properly later on.
Along the way, there were several cottages that sell foods and drinks. I was expecting higher prices, you know, mountain tax. But I was pleasingly surprised that the prices were pretty much the same as any other place. We got some beer and ice-cream on our way down.
An interesting feature of Eye of the sea beer is that they add raspberry syrup to the beer. In my opinion, it still tastes like normal beer but costs more.
We were lucky that the weather was just right for the tour. Not hot- not cold. Just right.
Also, toyi-toyi toilets were on 3 different stops along that 9 km so you don’t need to worry about that either.
It’s a pretty easy and modern hike.
The noise was the most noticeable. Everyone chatting and laughing basically just having a good time. Kinda odd in the middle of the woods.
On one hand, I’m glad so many people are discovering the natural beauty of Hight Tatras. On the other hand, some of them could learn to behave.
The eye of the sea is incredibly large and it’s possible to walk all around it but we did not do it. There were people everywhere an eye could see. Once we found our spot we just chilled like the rest of the people and prepared for our way down. This time on our own without horses.
The sight was breathtaking. Makes you feel so small yet part of something huge.
Not even the most beautiful photos I could take would do justice to the actual sight I’ve witnessed in Zakopane. I’m sure the amount of tourist is a great reflection of how really worth it this hike is.
Our walk down was much easier once we got into the rhythm of it. We took the shortcuts I mentioned before. I myself had to be extra careful as I’m super clumsy on a flat surface, not to mention slippery stone steps with a steeper trajectory. Thank God and of the administration of the park for the railing on the sides.
Funny enough we were walking along the border between Slovakia and Poland. We had one country on the right site and the other on the left.
Took us like 2 hours in pretty quick peace to get down to the big parking lot. We couldn’t take another 2 km so we hopped on the bus again to take us to our car. We had some zlotych left so we bought some souvenirs from Zakopane to remember this trip. Not like we ever gonna forget but still.
Another surprise on our way down was that we still met people starting their tour and going up the hills. It was around 4oclock, which we found pretty late to start a 9km long tour and by walking and not horse carriage. Unless they were planning to stay the night somewhere and most of them looked the part as they were carrying many bags.
It’s a well-known fact that high Tatras are beautiful. I personally never visited from the other side of the hills and hike to the Eye of the sea is quicker and easier from the Polish side of High Tatras. It’s a fairly easy tour with rewarding sight at the end. Even if you’re not an experienced tourist you can still manage this one fair and square. Horses carriage are gonna make it even easier and more memorable for you.
Totally recommend. xo