The charming town of Stary Smokovec is right at the foot of the High Tatra mountain range. Our base for the week is in Hriebienok, a picturesque location in the hills above the main town at 1285m. It has been one of the main attractions for visitors to the High Tatras for the last 100 years and is a traditional starting point for many High Tatras walks.
Today is a great introduction to the area, exploring the hills around our pension. Our first stop is at the Reinerova Chata, the oldest high mountain tourist hut in the Tatras; it was saved and reconstructed in 1983. We then visit the beautiful waterfalls of Studeny Potok, where the white foamed water descends 20m between two large rocks. These waterfalls are among the most frequently visited in the Tatras and form a complex system of multi-terraced cascades. From here we climb past the Zamkovskeho Chata and on to the highest permanently occupied mountain hut in the Tatras; the Teryho Chata (2015m) which looks like a stone castle from a distance. After a rewarding drink we return all the way back down to our pension.
Short transfer to Tatranska Kotlina where we begin our walk through the forested Dolina Siedmich (Seven Springs). Eventually we will leave the forest behind, passing on through mountain pines and lakes to our goal of Chata pri Zelenom (1551m). This is one of the most beautiful mountain chalets in the Tatras. It was to this valley that the first recorded tourist to the area came, Countess Bea Laska in 1565. It is named after the impressive Zelene Pleso Lake, known for the green tinge to its waters. Once refreshed, we will begin our descent through the Zelene Pleso Valley and on through the Kezmarskej Bielej vody.
We take the Tatranska Magistrala hiking path heading north to the Skalnate Pleso Lake. On the route we will pass Skalnata Chata. Originally, it was a mountain hut built of stone, and was made famous for its history of mountain carriers. These traditional porters still carry huge loads up and down the mountains in order to stock the many high altitude mountain huts. The national nature reserve of Skalnata Dolina Valley (with Skalnate Pleso Lake) belongs to the smallest of the Tatra Valleys, but as far as beauty is concerned it can compete with any of them. Its principal assets are the incomparable peaks of Lomnicky Stit and Kezmarsky Peak. The destinations above the Skalnate Lake are protected and are not accessible to hikers. From here we can enjoy excellent views of these peaks towering above. At the same time we have the opportunity to visit the observatory of the Institute of Astronomy that is situated just few minutes walk from the lake. From this point there is the option to gradually continue walking on rocky path to peak Velka Svistovka 2037m. providing magnificent views over the Belianske Tatras looking down at mountain lodge Zelene Pleso that we visit the previous day. This area is also very popular because of the unique Tatra chamois that inhabit this part of the mountains. We complete the walk by returning to Hrebienok.
For most of today we will walk through the valley of Velka Studena Dolina, often crossing Velky Studeny Potok Stream. The walk takes us through forested areas of mountain pine and rocky areas providing pleasant viewpoints. Our destination for today is Zbojnicka Chata open all year around. There are also another three mountain lakes that we will pass today. The Hungarian Forest Association built this small gamekeepers` cottage in 1907. The name 'Zbojnicka' means 'forest robbers', and hails back to the owner's family history of illegally hunting animals. The most recent reconstruction of the cottage increased its lodging and catering capacity. We complete the walk by returning to Hrebienok.
We aim to end on a high point, as today our goal is the summit of Slavkovsky Stit (2452m). It is one of the most interesting all day trips from Hrebienok and its typical round top is a permanent feature of the mountain scenery around the Smokovec community. This is technically a relatively straightforward walk, but the climb of nearly 1200m makes it an excellent physical challenge and ideal for the final days walk. It will be a full day in the high mountains with approximately 7-8 hours of walking, but with spectacular views that make the effort more than worthwhile. After an initially steady climb past Pat Pramenov (five springs), the path leaves the forest below Slavkovska Vyhliadka. This plateau offers a lovely view of the Velka Studena Valley. From here the path ascends via a serpentine route to the top of Slavkovsky Stit. This majestic peak was one of the first to be conquered in the region. After enjoying the summit, we return steadily back to Hrebieniok by the same trail.
In the morning we transfer back across the border into Poland, to Krakow. The ancient city of Krakow has a magnificent mediaeval centre, with a huge market square - the biggest in Eastern Europe - and several Gothic churches. We take a short tour on foot of the main sights of the old city, including the Mariacki church, Old Market, the Jewish quarter and of course the Royal Castle of Wawel, renowned as the best example of renaissance style on the north side of the Alps. The afternoon is free for further exploration and to soak up the unique atmosphere of Krakow, Poland's finest city.
Fly to London.