Wednesday, 8 August 2012 10:40 AM
Europe is home to some truly amazing destinations for walking tours and, although much of the west of the continent is well travelled, there are some stunning locations in eastern Europe that are still well off the beaten track - like the High Tatras Mountains.
The peaks cross the border between Slovakia and Poland and contain the highest summits in the Carpathian range that runs from Slovakia to Romania, cutting through Poland, Hungary and Ukraine along the way. Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1992, the whole region covers some 123,566 hectares between the two countries.
If you book the Trekking in the High Tatras trip with Explore Worldwide, which starts from £709 without flights, you'll have the opportunity to discover both the Slovakian and Polish parts of the reserve.
Highlights in Slovakia
On the Slovakian side of the border you'll have the opportunity to scale one of the 2,000 m-plus peaks, as well as walk among extensive areas of forest and past some of the stunning alpine lakes the region is home to. The ascent up Koprovsky Stit, which stands 2,367 m high, is bound to be one of the highlights, as the views from the summit are incredible. You'll be able to see across three valleys, as well as make out many of the other peaks in the High Tatras range from this vantage point.
The mountains are also home to over 100 alpine lakes and you can enjoy a wonderful panorama over Strbske Pleso if you follow the track that leads to the top of Predne Solisko. It's also possible to take a trail from Strbske Pleso that will lead you past one of the highest waterfalls in the region - Skok Waterfall. As well as the beautiful scenery, you should keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife, as creatures including marmots, bears, wolves and chamois - an endangered type of goat-antelope - inhabit the mountains.
Highlights in Poland
During your time in Poland, you'll not only get to explore the alpine landscapes, but also inject some culture into your trip with a visit to Krakow. If you want to spend a day trying a new activity, you can take a wooden rafting trip down the Dunajec River. The waterway is flanked by immense limestone cliffs that are covered with forest, which is home to a variety of creatures, including 14 species of bats, wolves, stags and lynx. It's situated in the Pieninski National Park, a relatively small protected area in the south of the country.
Round off your active holiday by spending a day sightseeing in the former Polish capital Krakow. The centre of the city has UNESCO World Heritage Site status, with much of its medieval architecture in excellent condition. The Royal Wawal Castle sits on a hill overlooking the city and is the focal point around which the rest of the settlement was constructed. Next to the castle is Wawal Cathedral, which houses the tombs of many kings, famous poets and national heroes.
Another must-visit attraction in Krakow is the Main Market Square, which is the largest medieval square in Europe. The space is surrounded by historical buildings, including the Town Hall, St Mary's Church and the Cloth Hall, which was originally utilised by the cloth trade but has been altered significantly over the years.