Tatra Mountains: The Affordable Alternative to the Swiss Alps

Much less popular than the famous Swiss Alps is the Tatra Mountain range that sits in between Poland and Slovakia. On the southern edge of Poland is a quaint town called Zakopane. Eastern Europe has much of the same beauty without breaking the bank.

Getting there:

Zakopane is easily accessible especially in the summer months. You can buy a bus ticket at the Krakow central bus station day of, from there it will take about 2 hours. Once you arrive, you will need to take a taxi to get into the town, there is also a bus that runs throughout the town and even takes people to various hiking spots. Unless you speak Polish, make sure you have a picture or can pronounce where you are trying to go.

Morskie Oko, which translates to "eye of the sea," is by the far the biggest tourist attraction in Zakopane. And for good reason, so be sure not to miss it! Once you arrive, you will pay a small fee to enter. There you can explore the nature or take a lunch break at the cafe. If you are hoping for something more remote and challenging, there are many other hikes accessible by bus. The hostel I stayed at had a map of the available hikes, so I grabbed one and set out for a day of adventure! I was there in May and it was extremely snowy in the mountains still, so pack accordingly and make sure to research the weather beforehand to avoid being stuck in a snowstorm.

If you are not into hiking but still like the feel of a mountain town, exploring the city itself is great and they have many budget shops if you are looking to buy gear or hiking clothes. I was not really prepared for all the snow still there in May, so I purchased hiking pants and a warm sweater for only 30 USD total. 

If you are looking for some authentic food, look for this sign above, with the knife and fork, and follow the trail around the corner. There, you will be able to enjoy some homemade pierogies. The owner even asked me how I found the place because they rarely get tourist in there!