Travel exposes stupidity. And rarely is my foolishness more apparent than when I attempt ill-fated minimalist travel adventures in towns and regions I can barely pronounce.
Of all the travel planning blunders in my time, my misjudgement and misplanning in the wilderness of Southern Poland rank near to top of my personal (and growing) list of epic travel fails, falling somewhere between camping on Krk Island in Croatia in summer and regularly forgetting to pack socks.
If there’s ever been an example of what NOT to do while planning a trip to Zakopane and the High Tatras, this is it. Don’t make the same mistakes I did—avoid these silly travel gaffes and don’t miss out on Poland’s most spectacular natural region:
Give yourself limited time
Why give yourself more than a couple days to see the region? Some of the best hiking trails in Poland, dense forests, and wildlife surround you. The air is crisp and clean, the vistas awe-inspiring. But you’re quick on your feet; you’ll fit it all in. And besides, everything always goes according to plan.
Don’t pay attention to the weather
It’s always sunny in Zakopane: Throw in a couple morally-questionable Polish bartenders and it could be a hit on Telewizja Polska. But is it true?
Don’t bother looking. Torrential rain never happens here. Or dense fog. Or any inclement weather for that matter. Especially with so many visitors around. It’s best to just assume that every day will be perfect and plan accordingly. (See point above.)
Always travel during high season
Shoulder season is cheaper and less crowded, but wouldn’t you rather share the region with hundreds or thousands of other visitors? Then high season is your best bet.
Accommodation is harder to find. Transportation fills up quicker leaving less chance for your day plans to work out. Also, wilderness is best experienced in large groups: Less silence in nature the better.
Never carry an umbrella
Any rumour you’ve ever heard of the weather instantly changing for the worse on the road to Morskie Oko or in the Polish High Tatras isn’t true. And even if it was, how could a trickle of rain ruin the day?
It’s not as if you would ever get so soaked to need to backtrack several kilometres for shelter and never actually get to see Poland’s most famous glacial lake or hike those amazing mountain trails. That would be unthinkable.
Always take the path of least resistance
Hiking trails pop out at every turn, but why bother wandering off when you can just follow the crowd? They too realize that extra elbow room makes hiking a tad too enjoyable and wisely decide to stick together.
Serenity is overrated. And you’ll never get lost on the path of least resistance.
Stay in an international backpackers’ hostel
With all of the vintage wooden cottages and cheap private rooms in owner’s homes around Zakopane, it only makes sense to save a couple bucks and stay in a cramped, musty, and uncomfortable dorm room.
Don’t bother considering any local accommodation offers at the bus station—eating delicious home-cooked Polish meals and immersing yourself in Polish family life just isn’t worth the extra few złoty.