The Cicerone Guide Walking in the High Tatras is an excellent guide to walking and trekking the stunning landscapes of Polish and Slovakian Tatras, with maps and route descriptions outlining hikes for all abilities, plus details of accommodation, facilities, logistics and other useful information to help plan a trip.
It covers the 600+ kilometres of well-maintained, waymarked hiking trails straddling the border between the two countries, with routes ranging from short, easy ambles to strenuous mountain hikes and multi-day routes. Like most Cicerone guides, it is packed with useful information for the walker, including an introduction to the history, geography, culture and wildlife of the country, and is available as both printed volume and e-book.
Also of potential use is the Lonely Planet guide to Poland. Although having just a small section on the hiking opportunities in the Tatras, it is helpful if you intend to combine hiking the Tatras with a wider exploration of the country. Available as both printed volume and e-book.
As far as hiking maps go, map and travel book specialists Stanfords has a comprehensive choice, with maps covering many of the main hiking destinations at varying scales suitable for walking. Of the many options available, one of the best for the Tatras is the 1:25,000 scale Tatra National Park map, which has quite detailed mapping showing trails coloured by their waymarking colour and graded with estimated hiking times between points, plus tourist information and a town plan of Zakopane.
The maps are of decent quality on good paper, and although differently detailed to the Ordnance Survey mapping we are used to using in the UK, they are perfectly acceptable and at least the equivalent of much Alpine mapping. They show hiking trails, campsites, mountain huts, potable springs, cable cars, etc, with information on flora and fauna, climate and geology also included in English.
If you know where you are heading, the best plan may be to order them in advance and use them in conjunction with one of the hiking guide books available in the UK (see above) to do some outline planning beforehand, but in our experience, they are easily found in-country if you choose to buy on arrival.
Travel Writings & Literature
Compared to some of destinations in the region, Poland seems to be somewhat underrepresented when it comes to travel writings, and quite why this should be remains something of a mystery to us.
But despite the relatively small number of references, the volumes in which Poland is featured are amongst the classics of the genre. In our opinion, they give a good insight into the history, landscapes and culture of what is a fascinating country, and provide some interesting background reading in preparation for a trip.
In ’Clear Waters Rising’, his epic account of walking the European watershed from north-west Spain to Istanbul, Nicholas Crane recounts the highs and lows of his not-entirely trouble-free passage through Poland, and his recollections of Zakopane remind us very much of our own early visits.
In ‘On Foot to the Golden Horn’, his account of his 6-month pan-European hike from the Baltic to the Bosphorus, Jason Goodwin crosses the length of Poland in the wake of the fall of communism in the early 1990s. From Gdansk and the flat lands of the north to the mountains of Zakopane, often sleeping rough and wild camping along the way, his journey reveals much about the beauty and tragedy of a region rediscovering itself amongst confusing times.
Another book that features Poland is Isabel Fonseca’s book ‘Bury Me Standing’ a work looking at the history and condition of European Gypsies. Although not specifically focusing on hiking or landscapes, it does give an insight into a group of people that have featured in Polish history for centuries.