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Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, this post is for you!
A visit to Zakopane is not complete without feasting your eyes on Morskie Oko. Morskie Oko, or Eye of the Sea in English, is the largest and 4th deepest lake in the Tatra Mountains, in southern Poland. Morskie Oko is located deep within the Tatra National Park in the Rybi Potok Valley, of the High Tatra mountain range at the base of the Mięguszowiecki Summit.
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Morskie Oko is by far, the most popular destination for visitors to Zakopane and to the incredible Tatra Mountains in Poland and due to its popularity, I suggest you get up bright and early to beat the crowds that fill the trails.
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No photo on the internet can quite prepare you for the sheer beauty of Morskie Oko and the scenery surrounding it upon arriving. From my time there, I could see why it is considered one of the most jaw-dropping areas of Poland.
For those of you heading to Poland, I cannot stress enough just how breathtaking the views are during the hike to Morskie Oko and the hike around the lake as well. You’ll be blown away by the serenity as you take in the views while breathing in that crisp, fresh mountain air. Morskie Oko is one of the cleanest lakes in the Tatra Mountains as well due to the fact that boats are not allowed and as tempting as the clear water may be on a hot summer’s day, neither is swimming.
So if you are itching to explore some of Poland’s finest scenery, look no further! I’ve prepared the ultimate guide to hiking to Morskie Oko to make sure you’re prepared for your time in the beautiful Tatra Mountains.
Note: I did visit during “the Rona” and the trails and restaurant weren’t nearly as busy as I had seen in photos of previous years, but there was still quite an impressive amount of people when I reached Morskie Oko, but not nearly as busy as it usually is.
Getting To Morskie Oko
The trip to Morskie Oko is very straightforward and easy. If staying in Zakopane, which is typically the starting point for many travellers, you will more than likely be taking a small public mini bus to the parking lot at the beginning of the trail. To take a mini bus to Morskie Oko, simply head to the bus station, Dworzec Autobusowy, which is across the street in the train station’s parking lot. There are a bunch of buses that leave from this location every ten minutes, or so and have a sign in the window that says “Morskie Oko.” The bus ride is approximately 30 minutes and you’ll pay the bus driver 10 Zloty (approximately $3 CAD) as you exit the bus when you arrive.
Start Of The Morskie Oko Hike
Before entering the Tatra National Park from the parking lot, you will pay the attendant at the cash booth 6 zloty (approximately $2 CAD) to enter. When it comes to bargains to enter a national park, it doesn’t get any better of a price than that! Once you’ve paid your way in, you can start the long hike to Morskie Oko. The trail to Morskie Oko is paved the entire way, so trucks, cars and other delivery vehicles can make their way to the cabin and restaurant at the lake. Don’t let the asphalt fool you. This hike is nine kilometres uphill one way and it can be tiring, especially if you’re walking at a decent pace like I was, but that being said, it is a very easy hike and people of all ages and fitness levels were making their way up trail. If you are unable to make the nine kilometre trek, or don’t feel like walking, there are horse drawn buggies that can take you to the top, but just note that they don’t take you right to the lake, so you’ll still need to walk a couple hundred metres to arrive at Morskie Oko. The hike should take approximately two hours, but if you hike fast and don’t take many breaks, you can get to Morskie Oko in less than 1.5 hours.
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During The Hike to Morskie Oko
The hike to Morskie Oko is nothing short of extraordinary. The air is fresh with the scent of European cedar pine trees that surround the area and you’re treated with subtle views of the distant mountain peaks during your walk. As you make your way up the trail, you’ll come across small waterfalls that flow into a river and walls of green flora that seem to be plastered onto the sides of the trail. Keep in mind that you are walking through the dense forested area of the Tatra Mountains and you may come across some sort of wildlife. Some wildlife that have been seen other than birds are marmots, deer and even brown bears, so just make sure to be vigilant during your walk. The trail is usually busy throughout the day, so animals tend to seek refuge in the dense forest. If you find yourself looking for a toilet, there are many Porta-Potties situated along the trail, so make sure to bring some tissue and hand sanitizer in your bag just in case. Also, if you need a break, there are many picnic tables made of logs along the trail so you are able to rest your legs and hydrate with an epic view of the mountains in the distance. If you get thirsty, there is a wonderful cold water runoff from the mountains that has cold and fresh water for you to refill your water bottles with. On a long walk, this was a godsend to come across! Keep in mind that there are no garbage cans along the trail to Morskie Oko, so please remember to take your trash with you. It was a little disheartening to see some face masks along the trail in some spots. Ugh. Such a nuisance. Please use the “take in, take out” rule when visiting.
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Arriving At Morskie Oko
As you make your way through the final stretch of the trail, you’ll come out of the dense forest and into an opening where your breath will be taken away. The grandiose Tatra Mountains come into full view and as you approach the lookout, you’ll be greeted by the sparkling water of Morskie Oko. Depending on the weather and time of day you arrive, Morskie Oko takes on many different colours. I couldn’t help myself from taking a bunch of photos, but made sure I took the time to just stop and enjoy the view as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve seen so many photos of Morskie Oko during my trip planning, but to see it in real life…seemed like a dream come true. One of my favourite quotes to describe the moment is, “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, this is what it is to be happy.” – Sylvia Plath
If you find yourself feeling a bit peckish, head into the PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut and enjoy some of the food and drinks they have available in the restaurant. You can dine inside, or sit on the massive patio outside. They only take cash payments, so make sure you have some zloty with you. Here’s a little background on the most coveted mountain accommodations in the Tatra Mountains if you’re wondering if it’s possible to stay here. The PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut is in such high demand, that you must book a year (yes, you read that correctly) in advance. The hut does provide emergency accommodation (sleeping on the floor) in accordance to the PTTK (Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society) in case you absolutely need to seek refuge while out hiking in the Tatras.
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Hike Around Morskie Oko
After a snack and a refreshing drink, make your way outside to the trail and hike around Morskie Oko. You can access the trail at the base of the lake and can go counter clockwise, or clockwise around the lake. The trail is made up of rocks and boulders of all sizes, but with the right pair of shoes, or boots, you’ll be fine. The trail will take you approximately and hour, but if you’re like me and stop to take many photos and breaks to soak in all the views, then you’ll probably take about 1.5 hours. The views surrounding the lake are phenomenal and during the hike, the scenery reminded me of many of Ansel Adams’ famous scenic mountain landscape photographs. As you get closer to the mountains, you’ll be astonished with the sheer size of them as you look up. The lake was calm and still, which gave off some really epic reflections. The colour of the scenery changes throughout the day; from warm tones in the morning hours, to cool blue tones in the afternoon as the sun dips behind the Tatras. Morskie Oko took on a different look from the minute I arrived, to the moment I left. Make sure to take a few moments to step off the trail and perch yourself on a rock to enjoy the serene views and just to take it all in. If you have enough time and the weather permits, you can hike further up the mountain to the famous Rysy peak, which is the highest peak in Poland at 2499 metres high. At 1583 metres, you’ll be greeted by the stunning Czarny Staw pod Rysami, which is a mountain lake on the Polish side of Mount Rysy in the Tatra Mountains. The lake overlooks the nearby Morskie Oko and a walking path circumnavigates the lake that will lead up to Mount Rysy, or down to Morskie Oko.
Practical Info About Hiking In The Tatra Mountains
Like any place you visit, make sure to follow the simple rules to make sure you are treating the park and others around you with respect to ensure that you, as well as everyone else, is able to fully enjoy their experience in nature. Here is an extensive list of some practical and useful information if you’re planning to spend some time in the Tatra Mountains:
- Only hike on marked trails to avoid trampling any flora and from getting lost.
- You’re not allowed to camp in Tatra National Park, but there are some mountain huts that can offer accommodation.
- There are no garbage cans in the park, so take out whatever you take in to keep the park clean and tidy.
- Treat others on the trail with respect and walk on the right side of the trail if you see others coming.
- All Tatra National Park trails are closed from dusk until dawn, so make sure you plan your hiking time accordingly.
- All of the trails within the park are colour marked, but they do not determine the difficulty of the trail and is just used to mark them.
- Tatra National Park Tourist Info website is full of useful tips for visitors.
- Emergency numbers that handy to have: (+48) 601 100 300 or 985.
- Whether you’re hiking alone, or with a group, there is an app for your phone in case you need help while in the mountains.
- Weather in Tatras is unpredictable and can change at the drop of a hat. Check live weather updates at Morskie Oko and surrounding areas here.
- You must pay to enter the Tatra National Park. Adult ticket costs 6 PLN. Children below 7 years old are allowed to enter free of charge.
- PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut – Visit the website for all information about the hut, how to stay and what they have to offer visitors.
- Download the online map with trails and approximate hiking times to help plan your adventures: https://mapa-turystyczna.pl/.
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What To Pack For Your Hike To Morskie Oko
Any trip into the mountains should be accompanied by a day pack, or a few items in your purse to make sure you’re prepared for anything and everything. Here are a few of my essentials that you’ll want to pack for a day trip to Morskie Oko:
Water: There will be water for sale once you reach Morskie Oko, but bringing a full water bottle with you is essential during a long walk to stay hydrated. There are mountain water runoffs during the hike, so rather than paying for water at Morskie Oko, you can just fill up for free from nature’s own water cooler.
Lunch & Snacks: There is food for sale once you get to the Morskie Oko Mountain Hut and there is even a food stand once you get a bit closer to the lake, but I always recommend packing some snacks to tide you over while you’re hiking up to give you some energy and calories during your walk. Just remember to only take what you can carry in and carry out because there are no trash bins along the walk up to Morskie Oko.
Hand Sanitizer & Tissue: Along the walk, there are numerous Porta-Potties, but some may have no toilet paper, or hand wash stations, so I always like to pack a small pack of tissue and a hand sanitizer to wash up after using a public toilet.
Comfortable Shoes Or Boots & Appropriate Clothing: The hike to Morskie Oko is quite long (approximately 4 hours round trip without walking around the lake), so making sure your feet are comfortable and your ankles are well supported is crucial. Loose fitting clothing, or tights and a sweatshirt that are easy to walk in are recommended, but of course you want to dress for the weather as well, so bringing a jacket along with you during the cooler months would be a smart idea.
Cash: The price to get into the park is 6 Zloty, but if you plan on getting something to eat and drink at the PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut, you’ll want to bring more cash, since they don’t take cards as payment.
Whistle: It may not seem like an essential thing to pack, but anytime I am hiking anywhere, I like to bring a whistle just in case I were to get lost, or if an animal (a bear, perhaps) were to come out onto the trail and I could use it to scare it off, or warn others about it.
A day trip to Morskie Oko is a definite must while visiting Zakopane and the surrounding Tatra region of Poland. Once you see Morskie Oko with your own eyes, you’ll understand why it is considered one of Poland’s most stunning natural gems.
Have you guys ever heard of, or have been to Morskie Oko? Would you make the long hike up to see it? Did you guys know that Poland had this kind of scenery? Let me know in the comments below! xo