Hut To Hut Trekking In The Slovakian High Tatras
During our summer European adventure, we decided that we would leave the cities behind us for just over a week and trek through the Slovakian High Tatras. The best way to really get into the mountains and explore the most of them is by trekking hut to hut. There are lots of tours that offer pre-arranged and organised guided and self-guided tours but we decided that we could do it ourselves. After a few hours research and mapping of some Slovakian maps, which I had purchased online, we felt confident that we could navigate through this part of the Carpathian mountain range and spend the week staying in huts up in the mountains.
We loved the High Tatras; during the whole week we only heard two groups of English speaking people (two Australians and one American) and although some areas are busy, once you get higher into the mountains you can go a long time without seeing anyone. As the High Tatras are much higher than anything in the UK, they are more easily compared to a quieter, less visited Alps.
Chata Pri Zelenom Plese Review
This was the first High Tatra Mountain Hut that we stayed in and we absolutely loved it. Some people walk up to this as part of a day trip so when we arrived not long after lunch, there were a fair few people enjoying the traditional Slovakian food and plentiful beer available. However, after about 4pm, everyone started making their return journey and it was just the hut’s guests that were staying and the high mountain valley became very still, peaceful and ever so quiet.
As you can see by the sign, at Chata Pri Zelenom Plese, you can get something to eat, drink or a nights stay, or – as we did – all three! The booking process is conducted entirely by email or telephone. They lovely people that work at the hut have a pretty good understanding of English but are not very well practised, as not many English people head for the High Tatras. This does make booking a little bit complicated as trying to send deposits and arrange things via email is a bit more confusing but I guess that’s just half of the adventure.
They have a mix of shared dorms and small private rooms with one bunk bed inside. I don’t know how but we were lucky enough to get one of these small rooms. There was no option for private rooms when I booked and I hadn’t even known they existed. We arrived fairly early so that might have helped?
Chata Pri Zelenom Plese is beautifully located at the top of a mountain valley and surrounded by peaks on three sides. It sits next to a small mountain lake which seems to shimmer with a stunning aqua-marine colour when the light catches it just right.
After we had explored the area around it, there are some great, short walks about. We had ventured up directly in front of the hut to find a waterfall. We returned to the hut to have dinner. This was our first experience of mountain hut food and although Slovakian and Polish cuisine is a little different from what we would normally eat, we were enjoying it. There is a lot of bread and meat involved in their hearty meals!
The half board stay’s dinner was started with a very filling, meaty soup. It had massive chunks of sausage (a staple food of the next week!). The main course was a sort of stew/curry with lots and lots of rice. In these mountain huts, they know you’re going to be doing a lot of walking and they feed you accordingly! We were never even close to getting hungry.
As we sat in the dining area, we gazed out of the window onto the most special of views. The mountain lake got only more beautiful as the sun set and the scenery in the dark became even more exciting.
There was a brilliant atmostphere amongst the walker and climbers in the hut. After dinner, they ask you to leave the kitchen area (so they can clean up) and you retire downstairs to a bar area. Here a huge Slovakian man (think the mountain from Game of Thrones) serves chunky-glass-stein-fulls of beer while he plays hits by Metallica, Guns n’ Roses and Iron Maiden.
A communication problem meant that I ended up with more beer than I had intended to purchase but I wasn’t going to argue with the possible ‘World’s Strongest Man’ and too much beer is always better than not enough beer. Vicky and I had found a copy of the board game Labyrinth, and despite the instructions being entirely in Slovakian, we had managed to work out the rules. This board game is awesome and we played it several times over while we finished off my over-ordered beers.
The night’s sleep was incredible; the showers in the morning were hot! We had an interestingly Slovakian breakfast before we left which consisted of most of the things you don’t choose from a hotel breakfast buffet, some even more unusual things and some sort of herbal tea that I think could be used as an organic treatment for dog fleas.
Saying all that, I absolutely loved the stay here and I’ve never stayed anywhere indoors that felt so much like you were on an adventure. The staff were lovely, the food was exciting and unusual and the scenery, location and accommodation is the stuff of an outdoors-man or woman’s dreams.
Zamkovského Chata Review
Zamkovského Chata is another really special mountain hut in the High Tatras. This is because of it’s setting right amongst the trees in an area of forest. Its setting is about as picturesque as can be, nestled in this beautiful scenery.
This hut was even more remote and was only accessible on foot. This meant that we regularly saw sherpas trekking the food, drink and supplies up to the hut. Despite this, the food, drink and lodging are very reasonably priced. We were lucky enough to have bagged another private room. Again, I wasn’t sure how this had happened as Zamkovského Chata is even smaller than Chata Pri Zelenom Plese. The room was again very cosy and snug but we really enjoyed it being so cute and after a long day walking, you are grateful for a bed – no matter what the size.
After we had thrown our stuff down on our beds, we headed back downstairs and ordered some food. We chose something that looked a little like pizza in the picture and some stew and dumplings (if you come to Slovakia, ensure you like stew and dumplings as well as sausage).
When the pizza-looking thing arrived, we discovered it was actually bread, with lard spread over it. The lard had then been sprinkled with onion and what looked like little pieces of pork crackling. Although it may not sound appetising, this was actually pretty good, especially after a long day walking. The stew and dumplings were also very good, the Slovak dumplings tend to be a bit more bready and lighter than English dumplings but they were still delicious.
Zamkovského Chata has a nice outside area with picnic tables so we sat out here and enjoyed a couple beers and the scenery. A little while later a lady from the hut asked us if we could go and close our room’s window. She said it was because of helicopters? We had had a communication problem when we arrived as the girl who showed us to our room had asked if we wanted ‘fresh sheeps’ after a rather confusing moment, we realised that she was talking about sheets! So, when the lady spoke about helicopters, we thought that might be some strange confusion with midges or mosquitoes.
However, about 15 minutes later, we heard a huge roar coming up the mountain pass towards us and looked up to see a chopper carrying a massive cargo net; we realised that she really did mean ‘helicopter’! So what was in this heavily laden cargo net? Beer! Lots and lots of kegs of beer. The helicopter hovered directly outside the hut and lowered down a net. Everyone from the hut then rushed to empty the kegs out of the cargo net before filling it with empties and rubbish. This happened four times! Each net was mainly filled with beer, a small amount of food, but mainly beer!
A beer in this hut that had been flown in especially was under £2.50! I couldn’t get over it. I was staggered to see sherpas carrying up food and drink, but to see a helicopter unloading kegs and kegs was really awesome. It also gave me a new aspiration in life – beer pilot!
Breakfast in this hut was a little better than Chata Pri Zelenom Plese and featured sliced ham and cheese. Plenty of protein and good fuel for the rest of the day.
I think Zamkovskeho Chata Hut is a fantastic place to stop during an adventure and it felt really special. When we walked around the hut during the night time you did feel as if you might stumble across a bear! Brown bears are in the High Tatras but you’d have to be very lucky to see one.
Popradské Pleso Horský Hotel Review
The view in the photo above was the first glimpse we had of Popradské Pleso Horský Hut! We had been climbing through the mountains all day and when we got to the top of this summit, we peered down and saw this incredible mountain hut and the area surrounding it. It then took an hour of steep zig-zagging to descend down to the lakeside hut – we were very high up!
So, after an hour of going down, we arrived at Popradské Pleso Horský Hut which sits at 1494 metres above sea level. That’s a place to eat, drink and sleep which is higher than any summit in the UK!
Popradské Pleso Horský is a considerably bigger building than the other two mountain huts I’ve written about. With the larger size it does loose some of its charms, but it also gains in creature comforts. The rooms in Zamkovského Chata and Chata Pri Zelenom Plese didn’t even have a plug socket in them. This room had a bathroom, plug sockets and even a TV. To be honest, we weren’t really fussed about the mod cons because what we had really come for was the…
VIEW. Check that out! We had two big windows and both of them looked out onto the mountain lake. Straight out of our window we could watch the sunrise and sunset every day. Incredible!
Like I said, the place is larger than the other huts we visited and it didn’t have such an intimate feel and character because of it. There was a better range of food and drink available and we were happy to choose from a couple of extra options. Although they still did have the usual, sausage, stew and dumplings!
They served this really nice dish on the left which was most comparable with macaroni cheese. We ate a fair amount of this over our stay at this hut!
A great thing about Popradské Pleso Horský is the mountain lake it sits on. It’s a fair sized lake that is choc-full of little trout and there is a nice well-trodden walk around the perimeter. Each day after returning from the summit of some mountain, we would go shower, relax and then go for a gentle stroll around the lake. It was a great way to digest the day and soak up all the incredible views.
Despite the food at Popradské Pleso Horský lacking the lovely ‘grandma’s home-cooked traditional meals’ vibes of the other smaller huts, they did serve up the biggest and best breakfast. A nice big meal with eggs, sausage, bacon, bread and vegetables. They also had coffee and fruit – both of which we had been pining for.
Popradské Pleso Horský makes an excellent base-camp for summiting the mountains around it. There is an awesome hike up to Rysy (the highest peak in Poland), a brilliant trek to the highest mountain lake in Slovakia and Koprovsky Stit which sits about 1000m higher than Ben Nevis and commands some amazing views. I’ll cover all these walks in another post one day.
To sum it all up – The High Tatras are an amazing area to hike and climb in. If you want to go and spend time in this beautiful part of the Carpathian range, then hut to hut trekking is the way to do it!