What’s Doing in the High Tatras Mountains
The High Tatras Mountains, which run along the border of northern Slovakia and southern Poland, are filled with breathtaking beauty, raw nature, and exceptional character. Spanning an area of 154 square miles (399 square kilometers), the mountain range has the tallest mountains in the Slovak republic and the range’s 17 tallest peaks (which are all on the Slovakian side) are as high as 8,200 feet (2,500 meters).
One of the most picturesque parts of the High Tatras is Štrbské pleso, a mountain lake that is the second largest glacial lake on the Slovak side of the High Tatras. Surrounding the lake is a village, Štrbské Pleso (with an upper-case “p” in Slovakian), which is home to 200 inhabitants.
The High Tatras environment was formed about two million years ago after sweeping glacial activity carved ridges and left numerous deep lakes behind. The snow-peaked mountains attract adventurers and mountaineers as well as lovers of winter sports.
About 5,000 people occupy the High Tatras region as full-time residents, although the area brings in several hundred thousand tourists each year. Numerous villages dot the range, each with historic monuments and tourist attractions. Lakes fill the valleys and offer opportunities for swimming and boating during warmer seasons or provide a platform to walk or ski on in the winter when they freeze.
WHAT TO DO
If you take a nature walk, keep an eye out for the many rare species of plants and animals that have found a home in the mountains. The Chamois, a rare and critically endangered species of goat-antelope, is native to the area. Tatra scurvy-grass, a flowery plant in the Cochlearia family, is also endemic to High Tatras. Other rare plants that inhabit the mountainous region include Yellow Mountain Saxifrage, Net-leaved willow, Norway spruce, Swiss Pine, and European larch.
Štrbské pleso is great for boating and it’s easy to rent a rowboat for a few hours of enjoying the glacial lake. One rental shop is immediately behind the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras.
To get a flavor of what the High Tatras Mountains have to offer, start with a trip up Predné Solisko. At 1,840 meters (6,036 feet), Predné Solisko is one of the lowest and most easily accessible peaks in the region. It provides an excellent view of the mountains as well as of Štrbské pleso in the distance. For experienced hikers, it’s easily accessible and a 90-minute hike from the lake. The high-speed chair lift only takes ten minutes to ascend to the peak. Chata Pod Soliskom (Solisko Chalet), originally a hut for skiers, is open 24 hours a day, serving warm and cold drinks and meals. The terrace (no charge for entry) provides a front-row viewing point.