Have you ever visited the High Tatras in Slovakia? They are the highest mountain range within the Carpathians with 25 peaks over 2500 meter above sea level. Cold and grandiose, heaven-touching and serene – and with their challenging hikes and splendid views, they are a great alternative to any mountain range in the world.
These mountains are full of breathtaking mountain lakes. Every mountain lake in the High Tatras is called “pleso”. Pleso is a tarn created either by the melted glacier or by the rain water. In Slovakia, plesá (pl. from pleso) are located mostly in the High Tatras and they are characterized by their circle shape.
The legend says the lakes were created by a powerful man called Dunajec who wanted to help his friend, The Fairy Queen of the High Tatras, who was captured by the cruel ruler of the North Sea. The ruler of the North Sea was lonely and sought a wife which he found in the Tatras. He promised his future wife, the Fairy Queen, that once they’d get married, they would visit her beloved old home every year. But after the marriage, he locked her up in his castle in the North Sea. The old friend, Dunajec, showed up and created the mountain lakes – Plesa, so the Fairy Queen could see her old home through them.
In the High Tatras there are more than 80 tarns, 32 are located on the Slovak side of the mountains (the rest of them are in Poland). All of them are worth to pay a visit. To pick 5 of the most beautiful tarns is a really difficult task, simply because all of them are breathtaking.
1. Popradské pleso tarn
Popradské pleso is a popular tourist spot thanks to its accessibility. You can get there by foot, bike or car (for a car you need a permit.). It’s a perfect spot for a family trip. Besides the unforgettable view, you can get a nice lunch at the cottage hotel that’s located by the lake. You must try the Tatran Soup! It is also possible to rent a room over there. Popradske pleso lies right on the path of Tatranska magistrála and it is a 60 minutes walk from the tarn of Štrbské pleso. Near to the Popradske pleso there is a symbolic cemetery as a memorial devoted to people who worked and tragically died in the High Tatras.
2. Štrbské Pleso tarn
Štrbské pleso is known by many as the symbol of the High Tatras. I consider this tarn to be one the busiest spot in the mountains. The tarn is surrounded by a walking path which doesn’t require much physical stamina and every square centimeter of the path is accompanied by the beautiful lake view. Štrbské Pleso village is also a popular ski resort. You will find many hotels there, cute little folk restaurants, a trolley and rack railway and lots of space to park.
3. Skalnaté pleso tarn
Formerly called Lomnicke pleso tarn is my personal favourite mountain lake in the Tatras. It is situated in Skalnata dolina (Rocky Valley) under the southern slopes of the Lomnický štít peak. If you decide to walk there, be prepared for a pretty rough hike. However, you can also get up there with a cable car which continues up to the Lomnický štít peak (that’s as close as you can get to heaven in Slovakia). The local climate as well as the human activity (mainly by building activities) eroded its banks and caused the slow process of its disappearance. So you better hurry up if you want to see it.
4. Veľké Hincovo pleso tarn
Velke Hincovo pleso is the biggest and deepest glacial mountain lake in the High Tatras. The maximum depth is 53 metres (174 ft). Its surface remains frozen for around 270 days of the year. It is named after a shepherd who was the first to enter the valley where the lake is located. What makes this lake so unique is that the water is so crystal clear that you can see almost 12 meters deep.
A spectacular video of the frozen lake of Veľké Hincovo pleso which ice is like a clear sheet of glass, allowing for a perfect view of the bottom, has recently gone viral.
5. Zelené pleso tarn
Zelené pleso is a tarn in the High Tatras mountains located in the glacier basin at Kačacia dolina (Duck valley) in Slovakia. It is accessible by foot or bike (during the winter you can get there also on cross-country skis). It’s also a popular tourist spot where you can get a view + dinner combo package. The tarn has an emerald green color but to enjoy it you must see it in the summer. During winters, it’s frozen and covered with snow.
Help keep the lakes clean
Walking around the Tatra tarns we can see groups of people smiling to the animals coming for their portion of bread. Such a lovely moment, isn’t it? For those who answered “Yes, why not?”, the following words can be a true surprise. As water in tarns does not flow, it has to deal with everything that comes in – including hundreds of kilograms of baker’s goods each year. Similarly to an aquarium such foreign matters cause strong degradation of water. This process has already resulted in spontaneous change of fish species in the most visited Štrbské pleso tarn and negatively affected the rare whitefish.
It doesn’t matter if fish and ducks eat the bread or not, if it passes through their digestive tract or it simply sinks. It will end in the lake anyway. Fish and ducks may enjoy feeding as much as we do, but only we – humans are here to understand and avoid the effects. The tarns have been here for around 10 000 years. Let’s preserve them in a great condition for future generations by considering these notes written in red on each educative board nearby Štrbské pleso tarn.
All the High Tatras plesa (tarns) will make you want to stop for a while and enjoy being alive. Peace, glory and the breathtaking beauty of the mountains will boost you up with energy. The images of the Tatra’s landscapes will get stuck in your head, and just like in the Fairy Queen tale, you will remember them forever and you will want to come back. I am 100% positive about that
All the mountain lakes in the Tatras are located in the national park and they are protected by law. It is important to have that in mind when you decide to visit them. Please enjoy the beauty and preserve it also for the future generations. Belong to those who care. Healthy nature will thank you.
Accommodation in High Tatras
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area of High Tatras. If you would like to be as close to the mountain lakes as possible, the best places to stay overnight in High Tatras are the villages of Štrbské Pleso, Starý Smokovec and Tatranská Lomnica. We recommend to book your stay in following hotels:
If you are looking for a reasonably priced accommodation right in the heart of High Tatras, there is a mountain hotel under the Tatras peaks called Horsky Hotel Popradske Pleso. Perfect location, low prices and authentic accommodation on the bank of the Popradske Pleso lake. Similar but more expensive accommodation is located at the Velicke Pleso Lake.
Would you like to visit the High Tatras in Slovakia? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we prepare a trip according to your wishes and preferences.