Starý Smokovec and the High Tatras

At the end of June, Chad and I spent three wonderful days hiking in the High Tatras mountains. We planned the stop based on seeing that Slovakia is between Poland and Hungary, doing a little research on best of Slovakia, and wanting to get some time away from cities knowing we’d be spending the rest of the summer in Budapest, and having a city-heavy tour throughout June.

Krakow city walls

We really enjoyed our time in the mountains – it was exactly what we needed to be refreshed to start our long stay in Budapest. But, it was not easy to get there. From Poland, I only found one bus going to the area we wanted to stay in, a mini-bus operated by Leo Express with one departure out of Krakow at around noon. I didn’t want to risk missing it, so we spent the night in Krakow before heading into the mountains.

We actually really enjoyed Krakow with its charming old town, remains of the city walls and castle. We had one of our best meals there, at a restaurant called Gościnna Chata. Honestly, though, we ended up spending quite a lot of time in our hotel room because we were a bit tired of beautiful old European cities (I know, hard to believe) and we really just wanted to relax and watch the World Cup. Luckily, we made a good choice on the hotel, which was right across the street from the train and bus station where we arrived and departed the city, so really convenient (if oddly spelled). My review is below.

When we arrived in Starý Smokovec (that’s the name of the town we stayed near), it  was raining and we experienced that usual disorienting feeling of having to figure out how to get our luggage to our hotel two kilometers away, going back to the euro from over week using Polish złoty (and I literally only had 7 euro cash left from Berlin). We took shelter in a taxi stand and decided if we could get a taxi, that’d be easiest. Happily one pulled up right away, and while we almost would have had enough to pay the driver, we were smart and had him take us to an ATM prior to the hotel, which then allowed us to give him a decent tip. His timing was perfect, but I don’t think an accident, since he asked if we came in from Krakow.

The road from our hotel in Stary Smokovec

We’d been following the forecast for the past week and seeing lots of rain predicted, but after checking into our hotel, located between two neighboring towns, Sibir and Novy Smokovec, the weather was good enough that we were able to walk around our area and visit the market. Our hotel was a big studio room with kitchenette and lovely deck, so we knew we’d be able to get back to home cooking. However, the market in our little town was pretty sparse, basically a single big room with most stuff located behind a large corner-counter (kind of like in the Old West!) so we decided to go ahead and eat out for our first night at Restaurant Pizzeria Sibíranka where I tried to get the hang of the Slovakian word for thank you, Ďakujem (I butchered it). But for our other two nights I was able to concoct a decent chicken noodle soup (perfect for our cold, rainy weather there) from supplies from our little market, the butcher next door, and the (only slightly larger) grocery store in Starý Smokovec. Hotel review below.

During our days there we got in a fair bit of work and a lot of great hiking. The area is served by the Tatra Electric Railroad (or Tatranská elektrická železnica), with rides under 2 kilometers costing just a half-euro, and longer rides a 1.5 euros. We were an easy uphill walk to the Sibir stop, so we used that to get to various bases for our hikes, which were fabulous. Lots of photos in the gallery here that you can see full-size if you click on the thumbnail.

To get to Budapest from Starý Smokovec required another overnight stay, this time in the Slovakian town of Kosice, which we reached taking two trains. The Flixbus from Kosice to Budapest departs daily at 8 a.m. so this time there was no way to avoid staying the night before. We found Kosice to be quite charming and enjoyed wandering the town a bit before enjoying another great traditional meal out, this time at Republika Východu, and then watching the World Cup in our hotel room (which was functional if a little strange; review below).

All in all, it was well worth the time, effort and travel to spend a few days in the mountains. I’m pretty sure we were the only Americans in the region of Starý Smokovec at the time, and we never even heard anyone else speaking English except to us, but that made it all the more special. I highly recommend checking out that part of Slovakia.

Sleep Innn – Great hotel right next to the train/bus station
The staff at this hotel were very kind and the room was extremely clean and comfortable. We only stayed one night, but our small room with kitchenette was comfortable enough that it would have worked great for several. Right across the street from the train and bus station, and an easy 15 minute walk to the old town of Krakow. Although the bed in our room was a pullout sofa, it was very comfortable. We really liked the style of the furnishings and were impressed with the kitchenette.

Apartmanovy dom Familia Smokovec – Wonderful summer hotel for hiking in the High Tatras
Our room was wonderful – large with a kitchenette and a nice patio where we ate breakfast and lunch. The location is fantastic and it is an easy uphill walk to two restaurants, a mini-market, butcher and the Sibir stop of the Tatry Electric Railway (you can buy tickets at Villa Siesta or the mini-market). The wifi was not as fast as we would have liked. It was functional but not great for streaming. Stary Smokevec proper was just 1.5k away, which had a slightly larger grocery store (only slightly). Easy access to amazing hikes by taking the train. It was a great stay.

Hotel Gloria PalacGood for a one-night stay
The room, while large, was a bit odd (especially the furniture), but very comfortable for a one-night stay. It is a little run-down and it would have been really nice to have a kettle in the room. Hotel is walking distance from train/bus station and right across from the mall, and easy walk to the center of town.

All three hotels were booked via Booking.com for at great prices. If you want a great hotel deal and you’ve never used that site, I’d love it if you’d use my referral code and you and I will each earn $20! https://www.booking.com/s/34_6/12d8419f.

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