Day trip to Zakopane

So, you’re on your dream city break in Kraków and considering whether to dedicate just one day to a trip to Zakopane, with its world-famous attractions—windy Kasprowy Wierch, charming Morskie Oko Lake, bustling Krupówki Street, and scenic Gubałówka Hill. This single-day getaway offers a blend of natural beauty and local charm. This chapter will set the stage for a detailed discussion on the feasibility and benefits of a one-day excursion to Zakopane.


In this post, I introduce seven essential considerations for organising a day trip from Kraków to Zakopane, the heart of the Tatra Mountains. Consider this your indispensable ‘checklist.’ Although primarily aimed at one-day visits, these tips are equally valuable for longer stays

#1 Exploring Beyond Krupówki: Time Needed for Kasprowy Wierch and Morskie Oko

First and foremost, the Zakopane area extends beyond just a city; it encompasses a rather vast national park. Within Zakopane itself, you’ll encounter Krupówki Street, which, in my view, isn’t particularly worth the journey on its own, and Gubałówka Hill, which offers an outstanding viewpoint of the Tatra Mountains in favourable weather. But it also can be considered a tourist trap. You might also explore some museums or indulge in some delectable food.

However, the true essence of visiting Zakopane, lies in experiencing the Tatra Mountains, which demands a bit more effort. The drive from Zakopane to the beginning of the trail at Morskie Oko takes about one hour each way, plus a minimum of four hours (though, more realistically, closer to six) for hiking there and back. For more details, refer to this post. A trip to Kasprowy Wierch takes at least three hours, assuming you’ve purchased your tickets ahead of time online.

#2 Days are short in winter

Secondly, consider the length of daylight. In winter, the day starts at approximately 7:30 a.m. and concludes around 3:45 p.m. In contrast, during June, sunrise occurs around 4:30 a.m., with sunset not until around 9 p.m. This means that if you visit Zakopane in the winter, your exploration of the Tatra Mountains will need to conclude shortly after midday. It’s important to note that the Tatra National Park is closed from dusk until dawn.

#3 Winter = snow and ice = avalanche risk and closed trails

Thirdly, in the context of day length, it’s essential to consider the season. From late autumn through to spring, the Tatras are blanketed in snow. It makes the trails potentially difficult to navigate or even closed due to the risk of avalanches. Even a straightforward walk to Morskie Oko can become more challenging due to icy paths. It’s also worth noting that certain high-altitude trails are categorically closed as part of conservation efforts.

#4 Weather is unpredictable

Fourthly, weather plays a crucial role in your experience. And the vistas of the Tatra peaks are a fundamental aspect of your journey. The weather in the Tatras can be unpredictable, with cloudy days particularly frequent from autumn through spring. It’s important to remember that, even with climate change considerations, the Tatras receive the highest amount of precipitation in Poland. Opting for a day trip to Zakopane might mean missing out on spectacular views!

#5 Two hours minimum from Kraków to Zakopane

Fifthly, consider the travel time from Kraków to Zakopane. The situation has significantly improved in recent years with the completion of more sections of the two-lane expressway. Although the shortest bus journey time remains around two hours, the inconveniences during peak travel days and snowfall are diminishing. The railway renovation is complete as well, with the fastest train making the trip in just over 2.5 hours. Regardless of the mode of public transport you choose, you should allocate at least two hours for travel in each direction. Be mindful that snowfall is a possibility during winter. You might also like to read our blog post covering this topic for more detailed information.

#6 High season is a nightmare for a day trip to Zakopane

Sixthly, consider the tourist season. If possible, avoid visiting Zakopane, particularly for day trips, during the peak season. This includes July to August and the Christmas to New Year’s Eve period. The city becomes exceptionally congested during these times. Additionally, the mountains themselves are overcrowded in the summer.

#7 The best views are high in the mountains

Lastly, but certainly not least, the Tatras are breathtakingly beautiful. The most captivating vistas await beyond the reach of a single day’s journey.

So, is it worth visiting for just a day? I hesitate to provide a definitive answer, as it truly “depends”. Generally speaking, I am not in favour of one-day excursions to the Tatras. If possible, consider a longer stay in Zakopane, ideally during the off-peak season. This approach allows you to explore everything at a leisurely pace and enhances your chances of experiencing favourable weather.

However, if a one-day trip is your only option, please refer to our tips on how to plan your day efficiently.

And if you’re searching for an amazing, informative mobile guide to the Tatras and Zakopane, don’t miss our app “Awesome Zakopane”… along with our five outstanding audioguides.

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