Chochołów is one of the most charming and traditional villages in the region of Zakopane. Filled with log-built cabins and evocative churches, it’s a picture of old-school Poland all set in the shadow of the jagged Tatra Mountains. If you’ve got a few hours to spare during your time in the Polish mountains, then we’d 100% recommend traveling over here. You can launch a visit from Krakow – the drive is about two hours – or come as part of a trip to Zakopane – the so-called winter capital is only 25 minutes’ driving to the southeast.
There’s oodles to see and do, from thermal bath complexes with views of the snow-capped peaks to hikes in flower-studded meadows. This ultimate guide is the perfect companion to planning a trip to Chochołów and its surrounding valley, with details on everything from the right season to come to the best hotels to stay at. Let’s get started…
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This is just one part of our ultimate guide to Zakopane
What’s in this guide to Chocholow?
What is Chocholow?
Chochołów is a village. In fact, it’s a really small village – the population here is a mere 1,135 people in all! Founded back in the 1500s, it’s an old place that now draws a steady steam of travelers thanks to its traditional architecture and access to hikes in the High Tatra mountains that string along the Poland-Slovak border nearby. We think Chochołów is a fantastic family day outing from Zakopane, which is only 20-30 minutes’ drive away. But you can also book a hotel nearer the village itself to be immersed in the national park and get a taste of real Polish country life.
Where is Chocholow?
Chocholow is right on the Poland-Slovakian border to the west of Zakopane. Most travelers come out of Zakopane itself by driving the 958 country road going west of the center, though there’s also a windier road over the hills that takes about the same time and has some great views along the way. The drive is around 20-30 minutes in total. Coming from Krakow will take longer since the Polish City of Kings is around 48 miles to the north. The drive from there takes about 1.5-2 hours in all, depending on traffic. Or you can catch public transport into Zakopane and get a taxi or a tour to Chochołów from there.
What is there to see in Chocholow?
Good question! Why make the effort to ditch the cozy taverns of Krupowki Street and the famous ski slopes of Zakopane for a day in this small village on the Slovakian border? Well…mainly because it’s such a charming little place. Chochołów is famed across Poland for its abundance of wooden cottages and buildings. We’ll dig a little into them here, but also highlight the range of other attractions that await in this corner of the mountains…
Traditional Highland architecture
Chochołów is known across Poland as one of the main places to come and see classic Highlander architecture, a style known locally as góralskie chaty. It’s a way of building that’s downright lovely to look at. Get ready to encounter charming wood-log cabins with steep roofs and whittled porches. They showcase a look that’s been prominent in the Tatra mountains for centuries. Chochołów is actually unique in that it’s thought that every single building in the town is built in this style, apart from the striking Saint Hyacinth Church, which you should also be sure to go any take a look at!
The Chochołowska Uprising Museum
One of the traditional homes in central Chochołow has now been transformed into a museum that chronicles arguably the most remarkable moment in the history of this amazing little village. It’s called the Chochołow Uprising Museum and it’s 100% dedicated to telling the tale of an brave and daring armed military opposition against the Austrian empire that was led by the highlander folks of Chochołow and the surrounding region. It’s not your run-off-the-mill sorta museum and very interesting indeed.
More recently, the arrival of the acclaimed Chochołowska Bath complex has helped put this little village on the map. We rate it as one of the best spa complexes in the area, which is saying something because there are quite a lot. Dive in to find 3,000 square meters worth of water spread across a whopping 30 individual pools. There are sections for the little ones – just check out those corkscrew slides. And there are areas for the adults – think areas riddled with saunas and heated outdoor pools with eye-watering views of the Tatras in the distance.
Hiking in Chocholow
Chocholow is also a doozy of a place to base yourself for hiking trips to Zakopane and the Tatra National Park. Basically, the village is isolated out at the western end of the mountain chain. That puts it neatly away from the busiest hikes in the region, places like Morskie Oko and Giewont, for example.
The real pull for hikers in Chocholow is access to the Chocholow Valley (known here as the Dolina Chochołowska). It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous cleft in the Tatras that begins with wildflower meadows at its northern end and finishes with the peak of Volovec and Łopata at its southern end.
There are a handful of great hikes on the menu here, with easy-going options but also more hardcore day romps that take in major peaks on the Tatra chain. Here’s a little look at our favorites…
- Kończysty Wierch – Kończysty Wierch is the main peak that crowns the southwestern end of the Dolina Chochołowska. It’s just a smidgen over 2,000 meters above sea level and stands smack dab on the Slovakian border. The hike to the top starts at the base of the valley and takes you through a low-lying forest before shooting upwards on an exposed ridge. The final reward is a 180-degree panorama overlooking Slovakia’s Low Tatras in the distance.
- Valley hike – There’s a lovely circular hike that you can do in the base of the valley outside of Chocholowska that takes 2-2.5 hours and transforms into a Nordic ski track come the winter months. The trail should be easy to follow – start on the western side of the river and then switch to the eastern side for the return when the path forks off up to Volovec.
Dolina Chochołowska wildflowers
There’s one moment of the year when the Dolina Chochołowska valley really comes into its own: Spring. Yep, the early weeks of April just after the snows melt usher in the bloom of the highland crocuses. It’s a very famous moment for the Tatras, and this particular valley is known to have some of the richest wildflower displays.
Some of the best viewing points are at the mid-altitude Polana Chochołowska meadow and on the steeper ascents up to Volovec peaks. Be sure to book your hotel early if you want to visit the area during the crocus bloom and on a weekend – lots of domestic Polish travelers tend to come!
When to visit Chocholow?
There’s never really a bad time to drop by Chocholow. The winter can be real wonderland stuff, while the summer is high time for hiking. Every time of year has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from each season and what the main activities are at different times of the year…
- Winter – It’s very cold in Chocholow during the winter. You’ll usually find a huge snowpack in the main valley and many of the more challenging ridge walks will be closed. However, cross-country skiers and those looking to see the traditional Highland architecture under a blanket of the white stuff. Our tip? Visit the steaming baths of the local spa to soak in 40-degree water as the snow falls.
- Spring – Chocholow actually has a mini boom in the spring thanks to the famous wildflower blooms of its namesake valley. April is the peak for that and, because the crocuses retreat by May, things tend to ease up a little later in the season. Book early if you want to come at this time!
- Summer – The main time to visit Chocholow for both history and hiking. Overall, we’d rate this as the top time to come. Expect plenty of sunny days and lots of high temperatures in the 20s C. Thunderstorms in the afternoon can be commonplace in August.
- Autumn – Again, autumn is a gorgeous time to visit Chocholow. September especially tends to be nice and dry, which means the hiking paths can really shine. What’s more, the tourist crowds dip away a little so you can visit the uprising museum without so many other people around.