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Krakow, Tatra and Pieniny Mountains Itinerary

Day 1

You will arrive at Krakow in the late afternoon and will be transferred to the hotel, our home for the next three nights.  A lovely meal will await us in the evening.


Day 2

We will spend the whole day sightseeing in the Old Town and visit some of the most impressive sites in the city, including the Royal Wawel and cathedral.  From there we will undertake a walk through Kanoniczna Street (see opposite page for details) to the Grand Square to view Sukiennice and Kosciol Mariacki.  A local guide will accompany us throughout the day.


Day 3

In the morning, we will undertake an hour’s drive to Auschwitz.  This is a museum made on the premises of the Nazi concentration camp and the strongest symbol of the holocaust.  Here, about one million men, women and children of many nations perished between 1941 and 1945.  A two and a half hour tour around the camp will allow us to reflect on the worse example of the futility of war.  For those who would rather avoid this experience, an alternative activity can be arranged.

Later in the day, we will explore the neighbouring Upper WisÅ‚a River Valley, where numerous fish ponds, created by monks in the Middle Ages, are home to a variety of waterbirds.  The more interesting species include Bittern, Little Bittern, Corncrake, Water Rail, Spotted and Little Crakes, Penduline Tit, Bluethroat and Scarlet Rosefinch.  The ponds hold the largest breeding colonies of Whiskered Terns (200 pairs) and Night Herons (300 pairs) in Poland.  Four species of grebes also breed here, with Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes being common breeders.  Warblers such as Reed, Great Reed, Savi's, Sedge, River and Grasshopper are also abundant.  In the neighbouring wet meadows, several species of ducks and waders also breed.


Day 4

We will leave Krakow in the morning and head south to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  This used to be one of the world's biggest and most profitable industrial establishments, which worked for over 900 years.  Today, it is a subterranean world of labyrinthine passages, giant caverns, underground lakes and chapels with sculptures in crystalline salt and rich ornamentation carved in the rock salt.  Also, the world's biggest museum of mining is located here, with unique centuries-old equipment among its exhibits.  We will undertake an underground tour of this impressive site.

After lunch, we will continue our journey south to reach the Pieninski National Park. 

In the afternoon, we will take a raft journey down the Dunajec River, through a spectacular rocky canyon, the Pieniny Gorge.  The wooden raft (made up of narrow boats fastened together) takes 10 passengers and is steered by two local raftsmen.  The slow and silent run (no rapids here!) lasts 2.5 hours and reveals spectacular views of the Pieniny Mountains and offers close encounters with Black Stork and, if we are lucky,  birds of prey, including Hobby, Peregrine, Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle and a visitor from Slovakia – the Imperial Eagle. 

Species such as Ring Ouzel, Nutcracker, Crossbill, Firecrest, Woodcock and Dipper might enrich our bird list by the end of the day.  Pygmy, Ural and Eagle Owls inhabit the park, but we will be lucky to encunter them during the day. 

We will spend the night in what used to be a traditional regional crofter's house, transferred now into a stylish guest house.  Its tasteful interior reflects the tradition and cultural heritage of the region.


Day 5

We will continue exploring the Pieninski National Park in the morning. You will be struck by the beauty and variety of landscapes here, ranging from mixed forests, sharp limestone rock pillars several hundred metres high, colourful meadows filled with flowers and buzzing insects to the more gentile terrains with spectacular castles.  We will spend some time exploring the area and looking for interesting plants and insects, of which the Apollo Butterfly should be most prominent.  We will not see all 20 species of orchids that are present here, but we might come across some endemic plants such as Erismum pieninicum and Taraxacum pieninicum.

By late afternoon, we will be ready to head off for the Tatra Mountains, which are only a half hour drive from here.  Our guest house, where we will spend the next three nights, is located close to Zakopane, a small town of pretty, wooden, alpine-style houses at the foot of the Tatra Mountains.  Here, the Gorale/Highlanders, in their colourful traditional folk outfits are present everywhere and add greatly to the charm of the place.


Day 6

In the morning, we will take a cable car to reach the top of Kasprowy Wierch (1987 m), where a spectacular view stretches over the highest range of the Tatra Mountains.  Here, we will undertake a short walk in search of birds and alpine plants.  Beautiful Edelweiss should be seen here along with the Alpine Accentor.  If we are lucky, we might get a glimpse of Chamois and Marmot, which both inhabit this area.

In the western limestone part of the Tatra Mountains, there are picturesque valleys with unusual rock formations, deep gorges, caves and fast running mountain streams.  We shall spend some time here too, where we will be on a look out for Ring Ouzel, Wallcreeper and an illusive Hazel Hen.  There should also be an opportunity to observe some attractive amphibians: Fire Salamander and, hopefully, at least some species of four newts, including the endemic Teriturus montadoni.

The visit to this spectacular region will not be fulfilled without tasting the Tatras’ local snack “oscypek”.  This is smoked sheep cheese, which, as with many other unusual local delicacies, you will either love or hate!

We will conclude our stay in the Tatra Mountains, and indeed in Poland, by attending a feast in a highlander inn with local life folk music.


Day 7

After breakfast, we will depart for Krakow (an hour’s drive).  If time allows, we shall stop for a light snack before heading for the airport.

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Sukinnice in Krakow

Wawel in Krakow

playing in Krakow

friut and veg

Wieliczka

Polish landscape

Zakopane

Pieniny Dunajec

Dunajec Gorge in Pininy

Dunajec Gorge in Pininy

Fox

Zakopane