Giewont is one of the most prominent mountain peaks overlooking the town of Zakopane. It’s famed for its uniquely shaped summit, which is topped by a large metal cross thats visible from all over the surrounding valley. These days Giewont is a popular hiking spot and a veritable landmark of the Podhale region, not to mention one of the main things to see when you visit the peaks south of Krakow.
This guide runs through everything you need to know about Giewont. It will pay special attention to the epic hike to the top of the peak and the various routes you can take to get there, but also outline some history and practical info about the mountain itself. Let’s dig in…
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This is just one part of our ultimate guide to Zakopane
What’s in this guide to Giewont?
Where is Giewont?
Giewont is a peak in the first row of mountains in the Polish Tatras. It rises just to the south of Zakopane town center – just look up and you should be able to see its dramatic summit (it’s the one with the cross on top!). More generally speaking, Giewont is a part of the greater Carpathians that pass through southern Poland’s Podhale region. It’s around two hours by car from Krakow within the boundaries of the Tatra National Park.
The legend of Giewont mountain
Giewont is steeped in myth and legend. There are oodles of Polish folklore tales that talk about various monsters and spirits that live on its slopes and in the surrounding Tatras as a whole. However, the most famous story about this peak is that of the sleeping soldier…
The story goes that the whole mountain of Giewont is actually a sleeping knight that will awaken when Poland is in its hour of need. It’s easy to see what inspired the tale. Simply look at the massif from the north (the best view is from the top of the Gubalowka funicular). You’ll be able to see the outline of a laying human, with the central summit of Giewont forming the face. Perhaps there is an armored giant in there somewhere ready to arise when needed?
The Giewont hike
It might not look it when you gaze up from below but Giewont is actually one of the easier hikes in the Zakopane valley. You don’t have to delve too deep into the Tatra National Park to reach the summit and the whole thing can be completed in about five hours if you don’t stop too often. There are actually a couple of ways to reach the top but we think the best route goes via the Schronisko PTTK Hala Kondratowa station out of Kuznice. Here’s a step-by-step look at that:
- Start in Kuznice. This is where the cable car to the top of Kasprowy goes from. You can either walk from downtown Zakopane (it’s about 20-30 minutes) or catch a local bus (5-10 minutes/$1 per person) from the main bus station. At Kuznice, buy your day’s entry pass for the Tatra park and then take the southwest fork road towards the Kondratowa Valley.
- After about 30 minutes’ walking, you’ll pass the strange Hotel Górski PTTK Kalatówki. This is one of the few stays actually located within the Tatra National Park. Skirt the hotel and enjoy the views of the meadow to the west. Then push on through the ascending path in the forest to the south.
- The track will soon bend westward before entering the Niebieski Szlak area. This is where the trees part and you can see the outline of Giewont high above. The final refuge is at the Schronisko PTTK Hala Kondratowa, where you can grab a coffee and get your bearings.
- From here, the route gets steeper, faster. Make sure you take the western path that goes to Kondracka Pass. It skirts the base of the Giewont massif on its south side, crisscrossing over streams and clusters of rocks. There aren’t any steep parts but it can be hard going in the sun.
- Around an hour in you should reach the pass. This is also the saddle to the peak of Kondracka Kopa, which rises to the south. You don’t want to go that way because Giewont is only a short detour to the north from here.
- The final ascent is up the approachable south slope of Wielki Giewont. There’s one last section that involves a little bit of scrabbling and use of chains.
- The return can either be the same route down via the Schronisko PTTK Hala Kondratowa hut or continuing on westwards from Kondracka Pass to Strążyska, which eventually brigns you back into central Zakopane
That’s just one way to get to the top of Giewont. There are also other routes and extensions that you can do, not least of all the all-day ridge walk over from Kasprowy Wierch, to have arguably the most comprehensive walk in all of Zakopane. We recommend bagging a walking map for the region to plan your route properly.
Is the hike up Giewont hard?
Not really. The hike to the top of Giewont is actually one of the more accessible in the whole of the Tatra National Park. That said, we would recommend taking plenty of water and good shoes – we often see people attempting it in trainers and the terrain at the top is just too difficult for that. Flip flops are also a NO GO! We recommend good trail runners for warmer months and ankle-high boots for the spring and fall.
Hiking Giewont in the winter is a WHOLE different beast. The peak is often shrouded in snow and ice and the rocky nature of the final ascent adds some serious challenges. You’ll probably need full crampons and ice picks in tow, along with proper thermal gear. We also wouldn’t recommend doing it unless you have previous experience of winter climbing.
How high is Giewont?
Giewont is 1,895 meters (6,217 feet) above sea level. That’s the main, highest summit of the whole massif, known as Great Giewont. You’ll be able to pick that one out because it’s got the cross on top (and it’s where you complete the hike outlined above). There are also sub peaks, such as Small Giewont (1,728 meters) and Szczerba (1,823 meters). Hiking those might warrant a different route and even technical gear, since not all of this long mountain is accessible by trail.