After exploring several cities in Europe, Michelle and I decided to skip Bratislava during our time in Slovakia and to explore the High Tatras Mountain range in the north central part of the country. We were able to take a RegioJet train from Prague for roughly $12/person which seemed like a steal considering it was a full day of travel. That said, public transportation upon arriving in Poprad was less than what we were accustomed to in Europe. Poprad is a small city that acts as a gateway to the mountainside resorts frequented by much of the region, but trains and buses only come every hour or so - less in the offseason. Since we were just ready to get to our room, we sprung the 15 Euros for a taxi. Please note that English speaking tourists are pretty rare here so you may be forced to invoke every bit of your non-verbal communication to acquire or convey the necessary information in a given transaction.
Even when you arrive at your residence, the mountain range may still be several kilometers away. While this provides great views, work remains to get to the best trails. There are, however, several shorter and flatter paths that act as cross country skiing trails in the winter. The aforementioned buses and trollies will take you up to the mountain for only 1-2 Euros, but having your own vehicle is definitely worthwhile if you’re on a particular schedule.
It’s recommended to pre-plan your route by examining one of the range maps available at information centers as few treks originate from the same place. There are three main hubs on the mountain where lifts will take passengers up to enjoy views and higher elevation trails. Strbske Pleso is both the furthest west and the furthest from Poprad. A variety of lifts and hiking paths originate here. To the east, smaller lifts and a couple trails are available in Stary Smokovec. Furthest east and north lies the main hub of Tatranska Lomnica, with shops, multiple lifts of varying size, and a variety of trails beginning at different elevations.
We each paid 1 Euro from our accommodations nearby to take the tram into Tatranska Lomnika. From there, we hiked northeast a few kilometers along Hwy 537 before linking up with the Dolina Kezmarskej Bielej Vody trail off-shoot near some condos. Another alternative would have been to take a bus up to the Biela Voda stop and begin from there (we returned this way). The trail we took provides more open views but is not as wooded as it follows a much smaller river. Once we linked up with the main trail, we gained much more elevation and saw more hikers as we enjoyed the sounds of the river. The trail ends at a lake nearly 2.5 hours up. Since we hiked so far along the road, we turned around about 30 minutes from the lake.
Once at the bus stop, we misread the sign and waited for a bus that would not come for another two hours because it was off season (no English on the sign). After 45 minutes, we asked the nice man collecting parking fees and he called us a cab which cost us 15 Euros for the 10 minute trip home. We were not pleased with the price quoted but didn’t not negotiate as I wish we would have. While the trail was nice and the river very beautiful, the views and overlooks were nearly nonexistent. It was still a nice way to experience the park but we’d likely seek out a trail with better lookouts next time.