Date updated: 04/04/2023
Tatra National Park
Tatra National Park (Tatranský národný park) or TANAP (TANAP) is one of nine protected areas in Slovakia. It is located in the northernmost part of the country, right on the border with Poland. The park covers 738 square kilometres. It is literally interspersed with hiking and cycling trails, which attracts many tourists.
The magnificent nature also draws them in. TANAP National Park is home to Gerlachovský Štít, the highest mountain in Slovakia. It rises to a height of 2655 metres above sea level. There are also dozens of caves, waterfalls and lakes in the park. Finally, the Tatras have preserved a unique ecosystem. There are several hundred different plants and as many species of animals, including birds and fish.
History of the Tatra Park
The area where the Tatra National Park is located today was formed as far back as 300 million years ago, during the so-called Paleozoic period. And there were a lot of dinosaurs roaming this land at one time or another. And, moreover, of different species - both herbivores and carnivores. Numerous archaeological finds bear witness to this. And according to scientists, the ancient dinosaurs inhabited the territory of Slovakia until their mass extinction during the Ice Age.
In the Middle Ages, when modern Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, the area was an extensive hunting ground. Many members of the nobility, even royalty, used to come here to shoot some kind of beast or bird. For example, a bear, a deer or a grouse.
The idea to create a national park with special rules of nature protection in this area dates back to the middle of the XIX century. They tried to do it in the 1940s. However, the plans were put into practice only after the end of the Second World War. The Tatra National Park was founded on 1 January 1949. This makes it the oldest of its kind in Slovakia.
In 1993, the Tatras Park was included in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme, which is dedicated to nature conservation and the preservation of unique ecosystems. And in 2003 the boundaries of the national park were finally settled and defined. As we have already mentioned, the area is 738 square kilometres. "The Tatras are divided into two parts - the western part is located in the Žilina district and the eastern part in the Prešov district. A special buffer zone of another 307 square kilometres has also been established. All these are areas where extensive construction is prohibited, as well as hunting and logging on an industrial scale.
TANAP National Park has been part of the Natura 2000 network since 2004. These are huge areas in the EU countries that are on the verge of extinction or are of particular interest from a biological point of view. Altogether more than 27 thousand such areas have been identified in the EU, covering almost 800 square kilometres of the territory of Europe (18% of the total area).
Climate in the Tatra Park
Slovakia is a country with a continental climate that clearly distinguishes all four seasons. Thus, not the most pleasant time for tourists is autumn. More precisely, its two months of October and November. The rainy season begins, which is certainly not conducive to long walks and nature watching. It is, however, the time when the forests are coloured in autumnal colours and it looks enchanting.
September is more like an extension of summer. The maximum temperature during the peak season is +23 . +25 degrees. This is very comfortable weather for long walks in the TANAP National Park.
But many tourists come here in spring as soon as the ski season ends in Slovakia. The temperature quickly warms up to +15 degrees. And such weather is even more conducive to walks. But keep in mind that spring evenings are cool enough, so you could use some warm clothes.
Finally, winter in the Tatras, as well as in the whole of Slovakia, is fairly mild. There are no severe frosts even at the peak. And the temperature during the day drops to a maximum of -5 degrees. At night, of course, it is cooler. But in general, such weather again does not hinder long walks on snow-covered trails. You only need to dress accordingly.
The national park has over 600 kilometres of hiking trails that are designed for hiking. They run along both the lowlands and the highlands. The latter, however, are closed from November to June for safety reasons. There is a variety of routes. There are some that are suitable for leisurely walks for elderly tourists or families with children. There are also more extreme trails that require some physical preparation.
There are also 16 cycling routes in the area. You can hire two-wheelers in all localities where tourists stay. Finally, the most curious tourists can go for a walk on wild paths. But this is only allowed if accompanied by a local guide, who will be armed. Just in case, as it is easy to run into wild beasts in the Tatras.
For safety reasons, the hiking trails in the High Tatras National Park are closed from 01.11. to 15.06.
There are more than 300 different gorges and caves in the park. But only one of them, the Belianska Cave (Belianska jaskyňa), is open to tourists. The entrance is on the northern slope of Kobylieho vrchu. It is thought to have been used as a dwelling place since prehistoric times. But for a long time it remained lost. And only in XIX century gold diggers stumbled upon it. The Belianska Cave (Belianska jaskyňa) was the first cave in the world to be illuminated by artificial lights. Tourists are now allowed to go almost 1.5 km into the cave. You have to climb about a thousand stairs to get there. The main thing is to dress warmly, it's only 5 to 6 degrees above zero inside.
Natural attractions also include lakes:
Veľké Hincovo pleso
Veľké Hincovo pleso is the biggest and deepest karst lake in the Slovak part of the High Tatras, up to 53 metres deep. It is situated on the border with Poland. It has a length of 740 metres and a width of about 370 metres.
But the most striking thing about Veľké Hincovo pleso is its clear blue colour and crystal clear water. Thanks to it, you can see up to 12 metres into the water. A beautiful panorama with steep rock faces, beautiful nature and fresh mountain air surrounds the lake.
To reach Veľké Hincovo pleso you must take the difficult path of roughly 8.5 km. A marked hiking trail begins near Štrbské Pleso.
The surface stream does not flow into the lake; the Hincov Stream flows out of the lake, which after joining with the Krupá River (Krupá) becomes the Poprad River.
Štrbské Pleso is the most popular lake in Slovakia, but it should not be confused with the spa, also called Štrbské Pleso. It is situated not far from Veľké Hincovo Pleso at an altitude of 1350 metres. The water body is amazingly beautiful, easily accessible and open to tourists. It is the only place where guests are allowed to float on wooden boats and enjoy the panoramic view. From here you can also see Skok waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Tatras. The tradition of boating on the lake has lasted for more than 130 years.
The highest lake of the High Tatras is Lake Modré Pleso or Blue Lake. It is situated at an altitude of 2192 metres above sea level. The blue lake owes its name to its dark blue colour, but actually the colour of the lake depends on the light and the reflection of the surrounding nature and the rocks. It is 73 metres long and 73 metres wide and 4.5 metres deep.
Modré pleso is covered in ice and snow until summer. Trekking to it is possible only from June 16 to October 31, as during the rest of the year the mountains are covered with snow.
One of the most popular lakes in the High Tatras is Popradské Pleso. The lake is situated at an altitude of 1494.3 m above sea level and has a surface area of 6.88 ha. The depth of the lake is 17 metres. It is often visited by excursions, as there is a memorial nearby. It is a symbolic cemetery of all those who died in the High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry). It is mostly about the mountaineers and speleologists.
There are also a number of waterfalls in the national park:
With a height of 25 metres, the waterfall is the fourth highest among all waterfalls in the High Tatras, but it is by far the highest. It is one of the few waterfalls in the region that can be visited all year round.
You can reach the waterfall at an elevation of 1789 metres in the Mlynická dolina and you can follow the walking trail from Štrbské Pleso, but you can also take a diversion through the Furkotská dolina and along the Bystrá lávka. The Štrbské Pleso route is popular even in winter, as the section leading to the waterfall is not closed in winter.
The main source of water for the Skok waterfall is the Pleso nad Skokom pond - located above the waterfall itself at an elevation of 1801 metres above sea level.
The biggest waterfall in the High Tatras is Obrovský vodopád (Giant Waterfall). The waterfall is approximately 20 metres high. It is located at the mouth of the Malého Studeného potok valley near Zamkovského chateau and is accessible on footpaths from Tatranská Lesná, Tatranská Lomnica, Starý Smokovec, or Hrebienok. The gigantic waterfall was formed by the Cold Stream and is thus called the Cold Stream Falls. However, due to its unique shape, size and location (it is located farther away from the other waterfalls in the group), it is usually presented separately. The waterfall is situated at an altitude of 1330 m above sea level.
Waterfalls of Studen's Creek
The waterfalls of Studeného potoka (students' stream) - an impressive multi-level cascading waterfall (especially noticeable during spring snowmelt and after heavy rainfall), are one of the most popular attractions of the Old Smokovec and Tatranská Lomnica mountains.
Of the 1.5-kilometre waterfalls, the highest cascade is the Malý waterfall (1,276 metres above sea level), below that is the Skrytý waterfall (1,247 metres above sea level) with a water rushing down from a height of 5 metres, further down is the Veľký waterfall (1,226 metres above sea level) with the highest cascade and the last waterfall is the Dlhý waterfall (1,153 metres above sea level).
The Tatra National Park is a real natural treasure, which will not leave anyone untouched. You can spend a few days hiking, mountaineering, skiing, cycling or just go for a walk and enjoy the views.
Despite the fact that the Tatras are one of the most popular destinations in Slovakia, the park still retains its wild and untouched nature. It's a place where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. So if you are looking for a place to relax in nature, the Tatras are an ideal choice.
A visit to the Tatra National Park will also help you realize how important it is to preserve and protect nature. The park is actively working to protect the ecosystem and you can contribute to this process by visiting the park and respecting its rules and guidelines.