THE UNSUNG HIGH TATRAS
While backpacking through Eastern Europe, I also stopped by Bratislava, the capitol city of Slovakia. My plans were to head to nearby Vienna after a couple of days in Bratislava. However, as so often when travelling, I decided to go in the opposite direction. A tiny hostel high up the Slovakian mountains was being advertised in my Bratislava hostel, and I have to say, it looked stunning. Having seen lots of cities and lots of clubs from the inside the last couple of weeks, the idea of wild nature immediately appealed to me. It did not take me long to decide I was going to cancel my train ticket to Vienna and head to the High Tatras in stead.
AN AMAZING TRAIN RIDE IS PART OF THE DEAL
From Bratislava, I took a 5,5 hour train to Poprad station, deep into countryside Slovakia. It’s quite a trip, but the train is fairly comfortable and fitted with WiFi that’s actually working pretty well! On the way to Poprad, you get a couple of sneak previews of what is waiting for you at the end of the trip. Crystal-clear lakes, forests and, the further you get, snow-covered mountain peaks everywhere. Around the High Tatras, as the mountain area is called, there are not an awful lot of hostels around. One hostel that is located in the High Tatras however, is definately worth the visit. From Poprad, you take a 30 minute bus to the town of Ždiar. In Ždiar, you will find the Ginger Monkey hostel located on the base of a small hill.
COMING ‘HOME’ AFTER AN EXCITING HIKE
The Ginger Monkey isn’t really a hostel. It’s more like a shared home, including a pet dog and cat (the dog’s great, the cat’s got an attitude) and home-like kitchen and living room. From the Australian/English-owned hostel, you can easily reach multiple paths to go out hiking. The good part is that there is treks for both the experienced hiker and the beginner who would rather go for a stroll with an astonishing view.
“The hostel is more like a shared home, including a pet dog and cat (the dog’s great, the cat’s got an attitude).”
If you’re planning on a going for a long hike, snacks and water can be bought at the local (tiny) supermarker. The first day I was there I opted for an 8-hour hike up to one of the higher peaks of the area. The hike is challenging, but do-able for anyone that is healthy and exercises every once in a while. Make sure you check the weather before heading out though, as conditions can be harsh during autumn and winter.
THE HIGH TATRAS ARE A MUST-SEE IN SLOVAKIA
Whether you go for the more advanced hikes or a forest walk, you won’t be dissapointed. Although the High Tatras are not even close as famous as the Alps or Pyrenees, they can definately compete with the two. The views are amazing on both sides, the paths are well-maintained and importantly, not crowded or touristy! I found the area truely inspiring.
After all the cities, parties and crowded areas, it was good to breathe in the clean, cold air, hike for a little bit and reflect on my trips and life. At the same time, I met some amazing people while staying at the Ginger Monkey. While you’re there, make sure you try some delicious Tatra tea. Don’t let the name deceive you however, as the alcohol percentage of this liquor starts at 22% and can be as high as 72%.
EASY-TO-REACH EUROPEAN CITIES FROM THE TATRAS
From Ždiar, it is easy to head back to Poprad and from here either head to Krakow (5 hour bus + train), Budapest (5 hour train) or back to Bratislava (5,5 hour train). I decided to go to Budapest, and once again was not dissapointed. Read all about my and tips for Budapest here.
Train from Bratislava to Poprad (High Tatras): € 14 – € 17, additional fee for bus to Ždiar: few euros
From Ždiar to Krakow: € 10 – € 15 (bus to Zakopane, train to Krakow) Note: the bus to Zakopane does not run during winter.
From Poprad (High Tatras) to Budapest: € 20 – € 25, via Košice, Slovakia
Ginger Monkey Hostel Ždiar: € 13 per night (5-bed dorm)