photo of Tatranska Lomnica

Mountain views in Tatranska Lomnica, Slovakia. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Tatranska Lomnica

The Tatras National Park, the mountainous countryside stretching along eastern Slovakia, has all the hallmarks of a fairytale forest: towering fir trees, rushing mountain streams, cascading waterfalls and rocky summits with top-of-the-world views. Even your most hard-to-please teen, the one with the blasé, done-that attitude, is likely to break into smiles on the trail.

Established in 1949, the Tatras National Park ranks as the oldest national park in the Slovak Republic (also known as Slovakia). Part of Europe's Carpathian range, the Tatras stretch across the Slovak-Poland border, with about 20 percent of the peaks being located in Poland and the remaining 80 percent situated in Slovakia within the national park. The Tatras fall into three regions— Západné Tatry (the Western Tatras), Nízke Tatry (the Low Tatras) and Vysoké Tatry (the High Tatras).

Tatranská Lomnica, a mountain town, serves as a base for exploring the dramatic High Tatras. For a relatively easy walk, begin on the Green trail at the cable car station and continue on the Blue trail to the meadows. For a challenging trek, head uphill along a switchback trail to the peak of Lomnický štít, at 8,635 feet the second highest mountain in the park. En route through the deep green woods, pass Studenovodské vodopády, a scenic waterfall spilling over granite rocks. About five miles from the start, a mountain hut serves lunch—lentil soup and goulash with thick brown bread. If you thought your hike was difficult, watch the locals come up the trail carrying heavy palettes of food supplies for the hut strapped to their backs.

From the hut, it's two miles of even steeper terrain on a rocky path. The narrow, winding trail reaches above the tree line, affording a sweeping, magical view of the Tatras' snow-covered peaks glistening in the sun. At the top, take a well-earned ride down on the cable car. The trek is worth the trouble, but if you don't want to hike, board gondolas and cable cars to the top.

Spišsky hrad (Spiš Castle), the ruins of one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe, sits on a hilltop in Spišske Podhradie, about an hour drive from Tatranská Lomnica. The castle dates to the 11th century, with much of what remains built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Ramparts, archways, interior courtyards, and towers convey a sense of the castle's former grandeur. Below the castle, the valley blooms quilt-like into neat squares of green and yellow fields. Groves of peach and cherry trees, and rows upon rows of huckleberry bushes and grape vines lace the rolling hills.

Tip: Time your hike to reach the cable car at the summit before it stops running in the late afternoon. If you miss the cable car, it's a long walk down or a night stranded on the mountain.

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