Before heading to Europe on my trip around the world, I had NO clue where Slovakia even was. I’d heard of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, from the movies, Eurotrip and Hostel, but sadly, both of these movies painted the country in a poor light.
So, when I was in Vienna in October and realized that Bratislava was super close, I decided to go to experience it for a weekend! I quickly fell in love with Bratislava and I decided I hadn’t seen enough of Slovakia. Next thing you know, I found myself traveling from Budapest to Kosice and then to the High Tatra mountain range of Slovakia.
I went to Bratislava in autumn and then the High Tatra mountain range at the beginning of winter and I LOVED IT (November-March is their winter). I’m sure the High Tatras are amazing in the summer too, but winter had its own special charm.
Here are my 10 reasons to visit the High Tatras in Slovakia during the winter:
1. There are barely any tourists!
Slovakia, in general, doesn’t have a ton of tourism, but this is rapidly changing as people are starting to discover it. You’ll pretty much have the entire High Tatras to yourself. I barely ever saw another human except the people staying in my same hostel! The entire area was so majestic that I was surprised it wasn’t swarmed with people trying to hit the slopes. It’s a perfect place if you want to get away for a bit.
2. You’ll see mountains covered in snow, like THIS!
I mean…seriously…I had NO clue I would be stumbling on mountains as beautiful as this while on my way to the High Tatras, but I did and the mountain ranges are jaw-dropping.
3. You’ll find beautiful lived-in cabins and abandoned cabins like these!
Scattered across the mountain town of Zdiar are quite a few amazing cabins with incredible backdrops. Some are abandoned and some are so cozy you just want to go knock on the door and go inside. I was surprised that there weren’t more cabins or condos, but again, it’s not a very well-known area, so people haven’t come to build it up yet. It’s still one of those hidden gems!
4. You can go skiing or snowboarding!
There are about 7 ski resorts in the High Tatras and it’s much cheaper to spend a day at these ski resorts than most of the others in Europe. While I didn’t go skiing while I was there, I was told that the skiing is arguably just as good and just as beautiful as Slovakia’s Austrian and French cousins. I stayed in the tiny town of Zdiar and there happened to be a ski resort right there.
5. It’s snowy, but you can still hike!
This depends on what time in the winter you go, but when I was there in November we could still hike in the snow. We did the Green Lake Hike and it was incredible. If you are there in the summer it’s probably just as pretty, but in the winter, it was frozen over and there’s a little resort at the top where you can stop for a beer and food to warm up. This was one of the highlights of my entire trip to the High Tatras. Here’s a blog post that talks about the hike. They do it in the summer, but it will give you a bit of a comparison.
6. Prices are low.
Slovakia, in general, is pretty cheap compared to other countries in Europe. The food, booze, transportation, and accommodation are all really affordable (especially great while traveling on a budget) and they are especially inexpensive in the winter.
7. Alcohol is great…and strong!
Hello, TatraTea! Try this famous/infamous drink while in Slovakia! There are a bunch of different flavors and each version has a higher and higher alcohol percentage. Be careful because it’s soooo strong, but it’s definitely a must-try in the High Tatras (where it all began)! Also, be sure to try some of the different Slovak beers..these people know how to drink!
8. Food is even better!
While in Zdiar, you must go to the “Goulash Man”! Okay, so the restaurant isn’t actually called that, but the man that runs it has the nickname of “The Goulash Man”. The restaurant is in the photo below, and if you don’t go anywhere else, go here. This man sits in his house/restaurant all day waiting for people to come eat there and it’s such an authentic experience that I went back like 3x. He will make you fresh goulash and sausages and you can eat it in the back of his hut. He serves beer too and it’s just so perfect.
The food at the end of the Green Lake hike is also amazing, but the food in Slovakia, in general, is really good and cheap, so try it all! Check out this post that I was featured in to see the must-try Slovak foods.
9. You’ll meet the local dogs of the High Tatras.
There are surprisingly lots of dogs hanging out up here and I did not hate it!
10. You can warm up and stay at the cutest and maybe best hostel in the world!
I stayed at the Ginger Monkey hostel in Zdiar and LOVED IT! It’s set up almost like a cabin and just as cozy as a cabin. They have the best breakfast, organize great outings, have these awesome onesies we are wearing in the pics above, and have a really chill hostel vibe — you’ll feel like you’re staying in a cabin in the woods. Plus, you’ll get to meet Wally the hostel dog and can take him on a walk around the town. You might fall in love with him like I did.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE HIGH TATRAS:
GINGER MONKEY HOSTEL: I stayed in this hostel in Zdiar and it was one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in. It took a bit of public transportation to get there and find it, but it was very much worth it.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Like mentioned above, I stayed in the small town of Zdiar and took public transportation to get there. I made my way from Budapest, Hungary by SLOVAK LINES bus to Kosice, Slovakia.
The best way to get there is from Kosice, Slovakia or from Poland. I stayed the night in Kosice at The Happy Bull hostel which I don’t recommend, but it might be the only hostel option in Kosice. I then took the bus to Poprad and waited for an hour for a smaller bus to transfer me to Zdiar and the Ginger Monkey stop.
If you do take public trans, make sure to tell your bus driver that you are going to Ginger Monkey and they will know where that is and tell you to get off. I tried getting off 3x at the wrong spot, but luckily had told the bus driver where I was going so he helped me out a ton.
Would you go to the High Tatras in Slovakia?