Zakopane is the gateway to the Tatra Mountains. The most important place to visit while staying there is Morskie Oko – the famous lake located deep within the mountain range.
But how do you get from Zakopane to Morskie Oko? There are several options to consider.
The easiest option is joining a guided tour. You’ll be part of a group and after paying your ticket, you won’t really have to worry about how to get to Morskie Oko or how to get back again.
Most tours depart from Krakow, but some depart from Zakopane as well. The driver will pick you up at your hotel, usually in a mini bus, and take you to the entry of the Tatra National Park. From here, some guided tours continue by hiking, while others continue by horse carriage. You will have to look up the specific details before you make your booking, in order to get the kind of tour you’re interested in.
Tours to Morskie Oko can be reserved on sites such as Viator and Get Your Guide. It’s highly likely that your hotel in Zakopane can arrange it for you as well.
Set the entire day aside for your Morskie Oko tour. The trip will take several hours and it can be quite exhausting – so it’s better not to make additional plans on the same day.
Bus from Zakopane to Morskie Oko
If you prefer arranging things yourself, you can take the bus from Zakopane to Morskie Oko.
There are several buses that cover this route, particularly in the summer.
The easiest one to take is the Trans Bus Express. It’s a somewhat small bus that goes from Zakopane to Morskie Oko several times daily.
Find this bus, or one of the other buses to Morskie Oko, by going down to the bus terminal in Zakopane. The buses going to Morskie Oko will have a large sign in the window. Again, I recommend taking the Trans Bus since it’s a comfy ride and the bus is easy to spot.
The price is usually 15 PLN each way – so 30 PLN in total. In these buses, you pay at the end of the trip when you exit the bus – not when you get in.
The bus will drop you off at the entry gate to the Tatra National Park. From there, you still have a way to go if you want to reach the lake itself.
Taxi or Uber to Morskie Oko
From the center of Zakopane, you can also decide to take a taxi or an Uber to get to the mountains. It’s slightly pricier but even private transportation in Poland is fairly cheap overall. Most drivers will charge a little over 100 PLN for the ride.
But just like the bus, the taxi driver cannot actually enter the Tatra National Park. So he will drop you off at the gate, and from there you still have some distance to cover.
Arriving at the Tatra National Park
You have to pay a small fee (it was 5 PLN last time I was there) to enter the Tatra National Park.
After you have entered, you are free to explore the park. Obviously, most visitors want to go to Morskie Oko, the beautiful lake, but there are some other trails as well.
You can walk up to Morskie Oko which takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes if you walk non-stop. Expect it to take 3-4 hours if you stop for breaks and photos along the way. It’s not a particularly difficult hike – but it does take time. If you also want to walk down again, it takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes without breaks.
The other option is the horse carriage. It’s a service provided by those who work at the Tatra National Park. Talk to one of the coachmen after entering the Tatra National Park. They stand there waiting right as you enter the park.
The price to go up to Morskie Oko is 90 PLN. And it costs 50 PLN to go down again. Bring cash!
It’s much faster to go up and down by horse than it is to walk. So if you’re not into hiking, and you just want to see the lake, the money is well-spent. But if you like hiking, obviously it’s a great experience to go all the way on foot. Just make sure you’re wearing the proper clothes and shoes since it’s a long walk.
Things to consider
There are a lot of tourists going to Morskie Oko in the summer. If you want to avoid the crowds, go in spring or autumn. Winter is a beautiful time to go, but it can be cold – so be prepared for that. Many people do visit Zakopane and Morskie Oko in winter, though mostly due to the skiing options in the vicinity.
Try to go as early as you can. The earlier you go, the faster you reach the lake. It’s nice to be there before the crowds get there. Additionally, you want to leave the Tatra National Park before sunset. At some point, the horse carriages stop going down, so make sure you leave while there’s still some form of transportation service. Most buses going back from Morskie Oko to Zakopane also stop driving when it gets dark – since that’s obviously when almost everyone leaves. The park is full of wildlife and has many wild animals – including bears that tend to hunt at night. If you end up being at the Tatra National Park during the dark hours, stick to the main paths and don’t wander into the deeper forests.
Bring some cash for your journey. Although card is now accepted by coachmen and restaurants in the park, cash is just way easier there and they seem to prefer it. You should probably bring at least 300 PLN for the journey to Morskie Oko – possibly even more. Transportation will set you back a bit, then there’s the entry fee, and if you want to buy something to eat or drink while being there (which most visitors do) it will also cost a bit.
Aside from that, enjoy your trip to Morskie Oko! It’s one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and the journey there is beautiful as well.