The Zakopane summer is high time for hiking in the Tatra Mountains and enjoying the national park that’s right on the doorstep of this southern hill town. It sure is a busy time of the year to come, but we love it. The weather’s usually balmy and sunny, the walking trails are at their finest, and there’s a good vibe about the town.
This guide will run through everything you need to know about planning a trip to Zakopane in the summer. It’s got information on what the weather’s like between June and August, the lowdown on the top things to do in the warmer months, and even suggestions on where’s best to stay and the reasons why. Let’s begin…
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This guide to Zakopane in the summer is just one part of our complete guide to Zakopane – read that for even more inspiration!
What’s in this guide to the Zakopane summer?
What’s the weather like during the Zakopane summer?
The summer in Zakopane is likely to be noticeably cooler than it is in Krakow. The town is much higher up though, and it’s set in a bowl in the Tatra Mountains, which brings that added layer of uncertainty to the climate.
Generally speaking, you’re looking at thermometer levels of between 14C (57F) and 21C (70F) for the bulk of the season. It can get hotter than that, with max peaks in the 30s (86F+) but it rarely is. The upshot? All that’s great news for hikers, who shouldn’t have to plan early departures to dodge scorching midday heat like they do in the Alps or Pyrenees.
In terms of rain and sun, the Zakopane summer can be quite wet indeed. Rainfall actually peaks in the summer months to just over 191mm in July. June, August, and September aren’t quite as wet as that, but they still see a lot of the downpours. On the flip side, most of the precipitation in Zakopane in the summer is limited to short, sharp thunderstorms that will usually come through in the late afternoon. It’s a good idea to plan to have your hiking done by that point – injuries from lightning strikes in the mountains are not unheard of!
How to get to Zakopane in the summer
We’ve got a complete guide that outlines all the ways you can get to Zakopane from Krakow. You’ll see that the best way, in both summer and winter, is probably by train. It’s comfy and means you get to dodge the traffic jams on the roads – and there WILL be traffic in the summer months, especially during the peak school holidays.
Driving is a good choice. Just remember that you will need to contend with that aforementioned traffic. We’d recommend skirting around to the eastern side of the town via Białka Tatrzańska and entering that way – it can sometimes be faster. The upside to having your own car is that you’ll be able to drive to more trailheads for walking and exploring the national park.
The top things to do during the Zakopane summer
Zakopane summer visits are often high-energy affairs. This is the main hiking and trekking time in the Tatras, you see, and you’ll notice ramblers of all levels on the trails of the national park. Of course, there are other things to fill the itinerary with, from thermal spas to relaxing day trips down idyllic river gorges.
Summer is probably the peak time to get on the trails of the Tatra National Park, which is the reserve that encompasses the soaring mountains to the south of Zakopane itself. We’re not alone in thinking that this is the home if the best hiking in Poland as a whole. The area hosts the tallest peak in the country, Rysy, along with a whole range of other mountains and mountain lakes that add up to some seriously gorgeous rambling terrain.
In all, there’s something like 275km of marked trails ranging from easy beginner walks to gnarlier summit pushes in these parts. We’ve got a MUCH more in-depth guide to hiking in Zakopane if all that’s taken your fancy. However, just to give you an idea of the sort of variety you can look forward to, here’s a taster of some of the top hiking options:
- Morskie Oko – The easy path to Morskie Oko takes you to one of the most-photographed mountain lakes in Poland. It’s an incredible place that’s easy to reach for most walkers of good fitness. Just wait until you see the soaring peaks reflected in the mirror-like water!
- Kasprowy Wierch – There’s a cable car that you can ride to the top of Kasprowy from the base station in Kuznice, about 10 minutes’ by bus from the main station in Zakopane. We prefer the hike up. It’s an all-dayer and quite challenging, leaving via one wooded valley and then descending through another. The views at the top will be over both Poland and Slovakia. Cool, eh?
- Sarnia Skała – A moderate-level hike that we regularly do because it can be finished in just a few hours. A lovely variation is the walk through Dolina Strążyska with Giewont up ahead and then over the densely forested ridge to Czerwona Przełęcz.
Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car
If you’re not feeling a six-hour roundtrip hike, then there’s still one sure fire way to enjoy what the mountains around Zakopane have to offer: Take the cable car. It leaves from the village of Kuznice on the south side of the town. Frequent buses will take you there from the train station, costing around 5 PLN ($1) a pop. A regular fare for the cable car itself is 79 PLN ($15) for a return ride for an adult aged 27-64. There are reductions for OAPs and students.
The ride takes under 10 minutes but it’s a journey of breathtaking proportions. You’ll be lofted more than 1,900 meters above sea level to the top station of Kasprowy itself. As you go, vistas of the various wooded valleys of the Tatra National Park will unfold on both sides. They look positively stunning in the height of the Zakopane summer, what with emerald pine and fir forests cascading down sunbaked ridges.
This is also a trip on a piece of history. The cable car here was first built in the 1930s and is now a veritable piece of local heritage. There’s an observatory and restaurant-gift shop complex to be found at the top, not to mention ridiculously awesome panoramas over into neighboring Slovakia.
Gubałówka is not quite a mountain at just 1,100 meters up, but it does guarantee some fo the finest 180-degree views of the High Tatra peaks in the summer months. That’s because it sits plum across the valley from the larger summits, facing directly south to give vistas galore. It’s also super easy to access from the main center of the town, so is a top way to experience the majesty of the Zakopane region without having to trek too much.
There’s a path up that weaves through pockets of pine woods. Most people will take the vintage Gubałówka Funicular, though. It’s been a mainstay of the town since the 1930s and still whisks crowds of tourists up to the lookout points on high. The station is at the bottom end of Krupowki Street.
Rafting on the Dunajec River
The Dunajec River weaves all the way through the heart of southern Poland from the town of Tarnow to the high peaks of the Tatras. For some reason, rafting up one section of its length has become a very popular summertime activity here. We’re not arguing – it sure is a lovely way to spend a clear, dry day.
Participants will be transported from their hotel in Zakopane in the morning to the town of Sromowce Niżne a little to the east – the drive is just over an hour in all. That’s where you’ll board your raft, with a dedicated punt driver dressed in traditional Polish costume. What follows is 30 minutes of seriously stunning landscapes, a montage of low limestone peaks clad in clusters of forest. There’s even a dramatic castle along the way to cap it all off.
You’ll hear us mention Krupowki Street A LOT in all our guides to Zakopane. That’s because it’s the main hub of the whole town. It runs right through the middle of the place for just shy of a whole kilometer. During the summer – and the winter, spring, and fall for that matter – it’s a veritable hubbub of life. Bars, eateries, taverns, and cafés are in abundance here. It’s the place where the hikers go for their post-walk piwo (that’s beer!) after hitting the trails of the Tatras and the place where those not walking will often hang out.
Krupowki is also worth knowing about in the summer months because it’s the main shopping strip here. It’s riddled with outdoors shops that stock everything from hiking boots to walking poles. Drop in if you need to grab some gear for your expeditions. You can also buy detailed walking maps of the national park, which we think are a must if you want to do some serious summertime rambling in Zako.
The best hotels for summer trips to Zakopane
We don’t want to simply throw out lists of hotel suggestions. Instead, we’ve tried to think about what places really lend themselves to summer visits to Zakopane. That’s why we’ve gone for options that are close to the entrance to the national park for walkers and places that have excellent outdoor spaces to let you make the most of that good weather.
Grand Hotel Stamary
A real favorite of ours, the Grand Hotel Stamary is conveniently plonked just a few steps away from the main bus station. That makes it an awesome option for hikers, who can access Kuznice for hiking in the main national park but also the trailhead to Morskie Oko with ease via local bus in the morning. The hotel itself has an indoor spa facility that’s one of the best around, but it opens neatly into a lovely garden space with deckchairs in the summer months. They also do prosecco at breakfast – shh!
We like the Gold Hotel as a summer option if you’re coming with your own car. Why? It’s easy to get to on the ring road that loops the town and also has on-site parking. Plus, it’s right there next to the main mountains, so you can be hiking just moments after leaving your room in the morning. It’s great choice for both couples – check out that lovely spa with its big hot tub – and families – there’s a games room and TV room for the little ones.
One of the hottest new boutique hotels on the Zakopane scene, Biała Owca is a fantastic choice for summer. We love it for the sprawling balconies that come off some of the suites – they offer sweeping views of Giewont and Kasprowy in the Tatras. The style is gorgeous, all minimalist white and greys with a touch of the local charm to it. Be sure to plump for one of the rooms with a mountain view.