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Nestled between the towns of Nowy Targ and Zakopane, sits the small mountain village of Poronin in southern Poland. With an approximate population around 4,000 people, Poronin is mainly used as a base for those that are looking to explore the Tatra Mountains, but at a fraction of the price that it would cost within a touristy place like Zakopane.
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I based myself in Poronin for two days towards the tail end of my Poland journey and had no expectations of doing anything other than relaxing, trying local beers, indulging at the small bakeries and enjoying the mountain views, which could be seen from all corners of the village…and that is exactly what I did.
Poronin is known for celebrating traditional village life and religious traditions, which makes it feel more special when visiting. While I was in Poronin, I witnessed a funeral and the family all came out of the church with six pallbearers carrying the casket down the street to the cemetery located just a few metres away. Everyone stopped walking on the street and some even made a cross on their body to show respect to the dead as a devote Catholic. In the village, there is a community board near the church with posters of recently deceased people posted for the town to see. This tradition is known within my family’s small village in Croatia as well. During my visit, the streets of Poronin were also filled with vendors selling flower arrangements and religious lamps for November 1st, which is All Saints Day. This day is considered the most religious and important day of the year to Catholics and is a day where people adorn the graves of their loved ones with colourful flower arrangements and lamps.
I also learned a wee bit of important WWI history while I was in Poronin.
Despite the small village and agricultural atmosphere, Poronin became an vacation escape for many of the Polish intellectual elites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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At the beginning of WWI, Vladimir Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, were staying in Poronin and they were arrested on suspicion of being Russian spies, but released soon after. Lenin was known for frequently visiting Poronin after falling in love with the village, which provided mountain views, cute traditional wooden houses, as well as a relaxed ambiance. After WWII, Poronin even created a museum dedicated to his residency in Poronin during that time.
Poronin may not be well not within the tourism sector, but I found this quaint mountain village to be serene, inviting and picturesque, which made it the perfect escape for a few days of solid relaxation. English wasn’t spoken in any of the restaurants, stores, or bakeries, but most of the locals were warm, friendly and patient with me trying to communicate. Although there is a population of about 4,000 people, during my time there, I probably saw less than 100 people in total!
During the last half of my visit in Poland, none of the restaurants were offering dining in, including Poronin, so I had to manage to communicate a food order for takeaway, which wasn’t an issue, but a lot of the chalets I wanted to try ended up just closing until further notice, rather than just opening for takeaway, which I could tell, wasn’t too popular within the small village with only locals around. I even ended up walking to a restaurant out of the centre two kilometres away, in the rain, to walk into a dark restaurant and I ended up being shooed away by the owner after I had asked if they were doing takeaway. It was a strange encounter and she was extremely rude, but I didn’t take it personally and just left. I couldn’t help but laugh. 😛 I had a select few places that I frequented during my visit, as well as a fully stocked grocery store at my disposal, where I was able to get all of the necessities for two days.
Poronin was the perfect place to relax for two full days and literally kick up my feet on my chalet balcony with an ice cold Tatra beer and enjoy the mountain views in the distance, wrapped in a big blanket, while horse drawn wagons driven by farmers made their way down the quiet village street. Sometimes village life, is the best life. I know it’s definitely what I needed before heading back north towards the big cities in the next few days.
If you plan on visiting the Tatras, why not base yourself in Poronin? Here are some key tips on what to do and how to spend your time in this quaint little mountain village.
How To Get To Poronin
The village of Poronin can be reached via car, train and bus from all over Poland. During my visit I had planned on arriving in Poronin via train and arriving at the station of Poronin Główna, which is a very tiny rail station with unmanned booths at the time of my visit, but there was rail construction that it caused the trains on that line to turn to bus routes instead. I was arriving by bus from Nowy Targ, which is approximately six kilometres away and by bus, train and car that takes under ten minutes to get to. Even if you want to visit from Kraków, you can easily reach Poronin in a couple hours, since it only sits about 80 kilometres south of the big city. If you are planning to visit Poronin from Zakopane, or vice versa, the distance is the exact same (six kilometres) and can be reached in the same amount of time. It’s actually so close that you can even walk there in under two hours if you’re feeling really ambitious. 😉 When the bus dropped me off at at my stop, I jumped off and was literally on the side of a highway. 😀 To get to the station and the main street I had, I had to carefully cross the road, then cross the railway tracks (!!!) and walk along a long, yet tiny and narrow concrete walkway, until I reached the main parking lot area of the train station. Haha I’m not even sure it was legal, but I saw a local old woman doing it, so I assumed it was normal. LOL Just be prepared if arriving by bus, is all I’m saying! 🙂
Getting Around Poronin
Poronin is small by North American standards and is a village that you can walk end to end in a couple hours, give or take. The main centre of Poronin has everything one needs to live a happy and stress free life. Grocery stores, traditional restaurants and bars tucked into beautiful chalets, a church for the religious folks, green spaces, close proximity to the mountains and a small tight knit community. From the centre to the next village of Biały Dunajec, the walk was so close (about 10 minutes) that I didn’t even realize I had walked to the next village until I saw the sign. Walking and driving are the main methods that most villagers use to get around, but there are also local mini buses that are placed along the main street of Ulica Józefa Piłsudskiego that you can grab easily and cheaply if you have mobility issues, or are looking to go into other villages in the area.
Get Outside And Enjoy The Scenery
If you’re spending any time within the Tatra Region, you are most definitely a nature lover. Poronin is filled with mountainous views that span along the horizon and the best place to catch a great view of the Tatras is by climbing up one of the steep side streets within the village. I made it my mission to get as high as I could ( 😉 ) within Poronin to snag some incredible views of the mountains in the distance. I think I did okay and definitely put my legs to work by making my way up many steep streets! The weather changes constantly within the mountains and since Poronin is close to the Tatras, you could have sunny blue skies one minute, then snow and cloudy grey skies the next.
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Admire The Architecture
Poronin is home to some of the most unique and charming wooden and stone houses and structures that I’ve come across throughout my travels in the Tatra Region. Make sure to take some time and walk up the side streets to catch a glimpse into village life within Poronin. Some historic buildings have been preserved in the village and also some 19th century houses and farms. There are also extremely adorable highland-style dog kennels (yes, doggy houses) next to many houses. I saw a few on the side of people’s homes and they were the cutest little doggy chalets! In the centre of Poronin, there is also a beautiful white parish church named St. Mary Magdalene, or Kościół św. Marii Magdaleny w Poroninie in Polish. The original wooden church that stood here, burned down in 1915, and the present church, designed by Franciszek Mączyński, was erected between the years 1917–1926.
Take A Day Trip To Zakopane Or Nowy Targ
Due to Poronin’s close proximity to both Zakopane and Nowy Targ, why not take a day trip into either of these towns. Zakopane (south of Poronin) and Nowy Targ (north of Poronin) can be reached via train, bus and car in under ten minutes. If you’re looking for a more town like atmosphere with less tourists and a great nature reserve, then Nowy Targ is for you. If you are more into larger hikes and want to get right into the Tatras, then head to Zakopane. Yes, Zakopane will have more tourists, but it is absolutely stunning and there is more to see and do for visitors.
Where To Eat
Poronin is a small village, so don’t expect to see bustling large chain restaurants around filled with tourists. Karczmas, or inns, are a popular choice for local folks and visitors to eat at, as it includes accommodations above as well. Most of the Karczmas I tried to visit were closed, so I stuck to visiting the local restaurant near my chalet, as well as some local bakeries and the small grocery store. If it’s beer and liquor you’re searching for, Poronin has a surprisingly large amount of teeny tiny local liquor stores where you can grab a cold drink at a very cheap price. Here are the places that I frequently visited during my stay in Poronin.
Vivaldi Pizzeria: Located in the shopping plaza on Ulica Józefa Piłsudskiego, Vivaldi Pizzeria was my go to place for some food. The first day I was in Poronin, I grabbed a spectacular kotlet schabowy, which was absolutely delicious and on my second day, I snagged an awesome pizza, which I ended up eating for two meals. If you’re in a rut for somewhere to eat, I definitely can recommend Vivaldi for some great eats!
Kabanos Sklep Firmowy: Mostly known in town as a place to get fresh butchered meats, this tiny grocery store in Poronin saved me on a rainy night when everything was closed. I bought some soup, a drink for supper and some snacks to bring with me on walks. I even bought some yogurt for the next day’s breakfast at a ridiculously cheap cost. You can’t go wrong at a local grocery store!
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Where To Stay
Poronin is filled with traditional Tatra chalet style accommodations. I stayed at the stunning Willa U GAŁÓW, located right on Ulica Józefa Piłsudskiego. The magnificent chalet is located just a ten minute walk from the train station and is decorated in a traditional way with wooden carved accents and rooms with warm wooden walls that give you a sense of being in the mountains. My room had a large balcony facing the Tatras, which was best enjoyed wrapped in a blanket with a cold beer in hand. The owner of the chalet, Renata, was an absolute gem. As she greeted me, she thanked me for still coming despite the situation affecting tourism in Poland. She was so kind and welcoming towards me. I was the only one scheduled to stay there for weeks, so she apologized when she mentioned that my two breakfasts that were included in the cost, could not be made, since she couldn’t justify making a large meal for just one person. She offered me my money for the breakfasts back, but I told her I completely understood the hard times and told her to keep the money. I wound up going to the grocery store, buying food and making it in the fully stocked kitchen with zero worries. I can highly recommend Willa U GAŁÓW as a place to stay within Poronin. In the summer months, you can even sit outside in the covered wooden gazebo and enjoy a barbecue outdoors.
Poronin may be small and not have much to see in regards of tourism standards, but if you’re looking to get into nature, be surrounded by a quiet atmosphere and immerse yourself in local Polish life, then Poronin may be the place you want to check out. Have you guys ever heard of this tiny village in the Tatras? Is it someplace you’d consider visiting? Let me know in the comments below. xo