What is the best time to visit Polish and Slovak mountain areas? What should you take under consideration choosing the time of your trip?
- weather conditions typical for each region and the time of the year,
- purpose of your trip (sightseeing, hiking, skiing, spa, partying, etc.)
- your personal preferences (you prefer peace and quiet or you don't mind crowds of tourists, etc.).
The weather in spring is unpredictable (it is unpredictable in the mountains in general;). You may be positively surprised or disappointed.
SKIING: If you come for downhill skiing the snow conditions can let you down a bit. Slopes placed in the higher parts of the mountains may be still well prepared because of the low temperature and usage of the ski guns. Those are ski resorts in the Tatra Mountains (especially in Slovakia) and around and in the Low Tatras. The other areas are rather closed at that time.
On the other hand spring may be the best time for alpine skiing lovers. If the winter was snowy enough there may still lie great amounts of good snow. The best areas for alpine skiing are the Polish Tatra Mountains (in Slovakia only few areas are available for skiers). The trails are open to skiers until the special regulation is issued by the Tatra National Park.
HIKING: Early spring in the lower mountains may be hard for hikers because of the melting snow. In the higher mountains you can still encounter winter conditions. Hiking in the Tatra Mountains, Low Tatras, Velka and Mala Fatra, Babia Góra – remeber about avalanche risk! The most amazing thing about spring is nature waking up to life! Only in that time of the year you will see meadows covered with violet carpets of crocuses – wonderful! Other typical for mountain valleys flowers are yellow kingcups (marsh marigolds).
CULTURAL EVENTS: Spring time is not rich in cultural events, especially early spring. The most important holiday is Easter. Religion is still vivid among Poles and thanks to this you may see and take part in all celebrations. The best option is to spend Easter with local family i.e. at one of the farm stays.
NOTICE: 1st-3rd May is a so called „long weekend” in Poland according to national holiday. Therefore in all tourist destinations (especially in the Tatra Mountains) are crowds of people. If you have possibility try to plan your trip to Poland at another time.
Summer in Poland and Slovakia is variable. It is often rainy in July, in August the weather is more stable. That is why many people choose the end of summer for spending holidays in the mountains.
HIKING: Summer is a perfect time for hiking in any mountains in Poland and Slovakia. The only thing you have to be aware are thunderstorms and heat waves – better plan your route taking into account the weather forecast. The same is with cycling tips.
CULTURAL EVENTS: Summer abound in cultural events like festivals, concerts. All tourists resorts prepare some attractions for visitors. Even in small villages you may take part in some interesting festivities. In Poland many of them concern the traditions of mountain dwellers. You may find information about current events at local tourist information offices. The one festival I would like to mention is International Festival of Highland Folklore in Zakopane – it gathers artists-highlanders from all over the world (official website).
NOTICE: Summer time is a vacation time what means that some popular tourist destinations may be overcrowded. For example in Zakopane and Polish Tatras you will meet lots of people while at the same time in Slovak Tatras tourist traffic will be reasonable. The same is with parts of the Pieniny Mountains or Bieszczady. It does not mean that you should not come to Poland and Slovakia in summer – you just have to choose the places carefully reading about them or asking local people. I.e. villages of Beskid Niski, Eastern Bieszczady are still a refuge of peace and quiet.
I suggest to avoid visiting popular tourist destinations in Poland on 15th August (religious holiday and “long weekend”). It is also hard to find attractive accommodation at that time if you don’t book in advance! Also in Slovakia in the middle of August people organize “Národný výstup na Kriváň” = “National ascending the Mountain Kriváň” in the High Tatras – imagine hundreds of people climbing one mountain… ;)
Fall is also a capricious season of the year. Generally the beginning of autumn may be beautiful – it is still not so cold and the weather is sunny. But as time goes by the weather becomes more unpredictable. Sometimes is dry and sunny, leaves on the trees turn yellow and the mountain landscape is amazing. But it may also be cold and rainy…
HIKING: Autumn is my favorite season for hiking trips in Poland and Slovakia :) Only then you can see the amazing views in the morning, when the mists remain in the bottoms of valleys and mountain peaks protrude above them. Only then you walk through colorful forest with yellow, orange, red and green around you. The Bieszczady Mountains in Poland is one of the favorite destination for hiking lovers - these mountains are famous for their beautiful autumn scenery. In Slovakia the same is with Velka Fatra (Greater Fatra). Also Pieniny in Poland and Slovak Paradise in Slovakia are beautiful at that time – colors of autumn look wonderful among white limestone rocks!
In the Tatra Mountains you may already meet winter conditions with snow in higher parts of the mountains. Such a conditions are often very difficult and dangerous for hikers – you can easily slip on a rock and fall down the wall. Special equipment like crampons and ice ax may be useful. Hiking trails in the Slovak Tatra Mountains are not accessible to public between 1 November and 15 June.
If you plan several-days trekkings with sleeping in a tent – remember that the temperature may fall below zero!
CULTURAL EVENTS: There are still some interesting cultural events in the beginning of autumn but later you can attend some events only in bigger tourist resorts.
Sometimes it begins in November, sometimes in January ;) It is not certain that Christmas will be white and frosty in towns and villages but in the mountains probably yes.
SKIING: Skiers may be almost 100% certain that slopes will be covered with snow due to artificial snowmaking. More about skiing areas in Poland you can read here and here. Alpine skiing and backcountry skiing depends on the depth of snow. Last 2 years were perfect for this kind of activity. Remember – before going higher in the mountains check avalanche risk level!
HIKING: Special equipment like crampons and ice ax may be useful in the Tatra Mountains. In lower mountain ranges hiking poles and snowshoes (optionally) are enough. Remember about taking avalanche kit while hiking in the Tatra Mountains, Low Tatras, Greater and Lower Fatra, Bieszczady, Babia Gora.
CULTURAL EVENTS: Winter is a high season that is why it is full of any cultural events.
NOTICE: Famous ski resorts may be a bit overcrowded - many people love spending winter vacations in the mountains :)