Day 1/5: TatraVelo Goulash
Steep asphalt ascents, lazy flat cycleway, careful balancing down an unpaved road, pedalling uphill along a main road; open areas and thick forests, wide panoramas, narrow valley, impressive lake views, etc… It’s mostly different kinds of cycling today, from Podhale, through Orava to Liptov. But there are some cultural places as well: wooden architecture in Chochołów (UNESCO) and Zuberec skansen, hidden water mills in Kvačanská or ancient Celtic fortress. Plus soothing Bešeňová thermal baths at the end, if you wish…
We leave Zakopane with a demanding ascent of Gubałówka (alternative: take the funicular, cut 300 m of uphill and still close the whole loop), then descent to Chochołów and continue by Tatra Cycleway and local roads to Oravice where the two forest ascents and consequent downhils await you. After the second one, behind Zuberec, we enter Liptov and through a long, sometimes steep and technical descent we ride down through beautiful Kvačanská Valley and soon after we arrive at Liptov Lake. Great views. From there we are close to today’s destination - Bešeňová.
- Chochołów - one of the finest examples of wooden architecture on the whole route. UNESCO
- Former Trstená - Nowy Targ railway - the ex-cross-border railway with a history, today a great cycleway.
- Oravice and Zuberec uphills - green forest sections that will test your persistence. But once you climb up, there is a downhill ahead!
- Kvačanská Valley + the Mills - narrow, green valley, and a hidden gem of Oblazy Mills (detour). Technical cycling section.
- Liptov Lake - whether you start or finish here, it’s a perfect place to stop and think it all over.
Day 2/5: The Sunny Side
Liptov - the sunny side of the Tatras. Well, total ascent for today might not seem that innocent - 1190 m up, but look at the elevation profile. Believe us, the views will make you forget you’re even cycling up. Fields, secondary roads, lake views… magnificent views for all the mountains around. It’s also time to learn some history of Slovakia today. If you’re a history fan, you’ll have more to discover: an ancient fortress, open air museum at Pribylina, Liptovský Mikuláš historical centre and impressive Okolične church.
At the beginning we pass by the Liptov Lake - it’s a different place in the morning. Then some scenic local roads cycling through the fields before arriving at Mikuláš. Afterwards, you’ll have to focus while riding some unpaved roads along Váh River Valley, through Liptovský Jan, Podtureň and Liptovský Hradok. The last part (a half, actually!) of the route is a 40 km, 800m ascent. But don’t think it’s boring. Ever changing 360º panoramas before immersing in thick forest and ending up above it, by Štrbské Lake, 1350 m above sea level is a great experience.
- Liptov Lake - it will be the dominant of all the views in the first stage of the route.
- Liptovský Mikuláš - a charming town, a place to learn what Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary have in common… or don’t have. Local Robin Hood stories and, of course, … Santa Claus!
- Liptovský Ján - and what about… getting off your bike to rest your legs in a free, outdoor thermal pool, just by the road? They’ve been doing it for ages here!
- Views, views, views! Liptovská Kokava - a looong ascent… but once you reach the end, you regret it’s not longer!
- Śtrbské Pleso - you’d better grab some warm clothes, you’re up in the mountains. And grab your camera, too. You’re at an Alpine lake. Take your time to contemplate.
Day 3/5: The Land of 7 Cultures
It’s going to be an enjoyable day in Spiš region. Great downhills and gentle uphills (only 590m up today!). Until 1945 it was a true melting pot: Saxon-Germans, Slovaks, Hungarian, Gypsies, Jews and Poles; a mix of cultures, languages, religions, mentalities. Nowadays, sadly, it’s not what it used to be however the rich heritage remained - Poprad and Kežmarok are undoubtedly the most interesting towns of the whole route. We will go far from Tatras, taste amazing and diverse views, but will end up by their feet again.
Yesterday it was an uphill day, so today you get your reward - a long downhill and… some uphill at the end of the day :). Again lots of views, first following Freedom Road, above the forest zone limit, then a spectacular downhill till you reach River Poprad banks that lead you to Poprad city - “five towns in one”. Out of Poprad some great views from Low Tatras foothills and another amazing scenic cycleway until arriving in Kežmarok. The day ends with a green ascent up to Tatranská Lomnica and we’re back right by the Tatras, again.
- Freedom Road (Cesta Slobody) - cycling over the forest zone limit. Prime views and a great downhill afterwards.
- Poprad River Cycleway - lazy cycling with great views around.
- Poprad and Kežmarok towns - undoubtedly the most interesting historic towns on the whole route. Take your time to get to know their charm and monuments.
- Poprad To Kežmarok part - prime cycling through the fields, hills and old villages with the mountains looming on the horizon.
Day 4/5: Through the Depths of the Valleys
Today you will see different kinds of mountains there are in Tatra regions. We will stay in Spiš (partly Slovakia, partly Poland) but the landscapes will change dramatically during the day. It’s mostly you, the road and the nature today. Some interesting wooden villages - Ždiar and Osturňa (a Rusinian enclave) with an… Orthodox church! Further, already in Polish Spisz, an intriguing story of Incas at Niedzica Castle and Lake (detour), a story of a flying monk of Červený Kláštor Monastery and the jewel in the crown - Dunajec River Gorge.
By the Freedom Road (Cesta Slobody) we arrive at Kotlina, where a 350m high ascent begins, through a deep and narrow valley. It takes us up to 1150m, with a unique view of the Belanské Tatry. Then, one of the best descents down a thick forest, along a stream takes us to “end-of-the-world” village of Osturňa and to Poland. Niedzica Lake - you can pick the Castle detour here. We continue to Sromowce. It could end here (55km), but Dunajec River Gorge, Lesnica and Haligovce are ahead. If you’re tired, take a break, leave your staff in Sromowce, but don’t miss Dunajec Gorge… it’s one of the jewels in the crown.
Freedom Road (Cesta Slobody) - great views from above the forests.
- Osturňa Valley - a perfect downhill, followed by a lost in time Rusinian village. Check the local bar to try some Czechoslovakia atmosphere.
- Sromowce Lake (and Niedzica Castle detour) - Inca secrets by a beautiful lake in Pieniny.
- Dunajec River Gorge - the best river section on TatraVelo route plus an uphill and a nice scenic downhill to end the day the best we can.
Day 5/5: Back and up to Zakopane
All things come to an end… but before that, we make sure you sweat it well :-). We will keep away from the main roads to see there is a lot to discover - a village at the top of a mountain (Dursztyn), UNESCO wooden church of Dębno, a surprisingly charming cycling by Velo Dunajec River section… we’ll jump in the middle of THE city, as the locals call Nowy Targ, but afterwards, through a purgatory of Ludźmierz Shrine and a looong ascent we will clean our minds well. Wide panoramas today, to make you forget your fatigued muscles.
Up the valley we arrive in Dursztyn, where we enjoy the views and the new cycleway. Scenic local roads take us back to Dunajec River and Czorsztyńskie Lake. Velo Dunajec cycleway brings us, following up the river, to Nowy Targ, the capital city of Podhale with some tasty ice cream. After refreshing at Ludźmierz Shrine well, we start the last, 22 km long, ever facing Tatra, rugged ascent. It will be a great challenge at some sections, let the views ease your pain. Remember, once you make it up to Gubałówka, you’ve done it!
- Tatra Cycleway Dursztyn Section - a dedicated cycleway in the middle of a rural scenic landscapes.
- Velo Dunajec Section - technical, green, through some authentic Podhale villages.
- Nowy Targ local ice cream - we cycle, so we need sugar. A perfect excuse for one more scoop.
- Maruszyna - Gubałówka - the ultimate ascent and the reward: crazy downhill to Zakopane.