Often called the "Small Alps", the High Tatras are part of the bigger Carpathian mountain range and home to the Tatranská Magistrála trek.
The outward journey
Officially the trail lasts 4 days, starts in the village of Podbanské, and runs 42km ending at the lake of Vel’ké Biely pleso.
Many variants to this trail exist with several optional paths.
I landed in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital. As soon as I arrived I took a train to reach my starting point : the village of Ždiar.
Out of all the options, I chose to walk the trail from Ždiar to Štrbské pleso by making a detour through Téryho chata. Three days and two nights.
I visited the village for a few hours before having a good night sleep in preparation for the trek on the next day.
First day: Chata pri Zelenom Plese (10,8km)
I woke up before dawn and walked to reach the ski station of Strednica (1,020m) next to the village where the trail starts.
The goal of the day was to get to the mountain refuge of Zelenom plese (1,548m) It is a rough path going up for several kilometers with a height difference of 1,100 metres in total.
There are two steps, the climb (obviously!) to Vyšné Kopské sedlo (1,933m) and then the way down to the refuge.
From the ski station the trail goes through the woods before to radically climb up for a few kilometers, which felt endless. I thought I was going to hack a lung...
Once I reached Vyšné Kopské sedlo I had the first clear view over the High Tatras and I knew this trek would be unforgettable.
Then comes the more-than-welcome way down!
The path weaves cheerfully between the meadow via Veľké Biele pleso (the official finish line of the Tatranská Magistrála) and Trojhoré pleso. The latter is an easy 1,7km further to reach the refuge.
By now you might have understood that "pleso" means "lake"!
Concerning the refuge, it has all the facilities you need : dormitories, with or without bed, showers, toilets and restaurant.
Oh and don't forget your sleeping bag!
Second day: Zamkovského chata and Téryho chata round trip (14,9km)
I woke up before dawn, again, just to watch the sunrise covering the mountains, surrounding the refuge, with its warm soft tones.
The still waters of the lake are creating a perfect mirror image of the scenery.
Now, two routes are possible depending where you want to sleep next: Zamkovského chata or Téryho chata.
For the first one, the one I did, it will take you through Veľká Svišťovka's peak (2,037m) and then going down to Skalnaté pleso. The climbing is demanding but not that hard and the path is usually visible.
From Skalnaté the trail can be tricky, and a bit technical in some parts but doable with some common sense, and will lead you to Zamkovského chata (1,475m). The whole trail is about 8,7km.
There are some parts of the trail that are not well-marked, so be careful what you set your foot on, rolling stones are not rare and when it's foggy you should really pay attention.
Regarding the second path, well I don't know I didn't do it, but judging by the map, the path is going up through the mountains for 3,8km before to reach Téryho chata (2,012m).
I did a mix of these two, which is a third option. I've been first to Zamkovského chata, dropped my bag, then did the round trip to Téryho chata.
It mostly goes up after a short part walking in the peaceful valley where rivers flow.
On your way you might meet some of the last European Sherpas carrying a backpack that can weight up to 100kg containing the supplies for the mountain refuges. You cannot pass them without feeling a deep respect at the sight of their tensed muscles and their will of iron for the hard work they are doing...
The reward matches the efforts you have made!
Téryho chata lies next to three different lakes surrounded by breathtaking jagged mountains. The place is absolutely beautiful, quiet, cold and windy with some remaining snow here and there even in summer. It is the perfect place to take a break, sit, and figure out everything...
On the other side of the mountain range, a dozen of kilometers ahead, the Republic of Poland starts.
After a couple of hours I came back down to Earth AND Zamkovského chata where I would be spending the night.
Third day: Štrbské Pleso (23,8km)
The longest, yet easiest, day on the trail.
As usual I woke up pretty early to be on the path mostly during the coolest hours of the day.
The walk is going up and down, up and down, and up and down without any difficulties and despite the fact that the trail can be busy, you will have most of it to yourself except around the few hotels that punctuate the way.
Mother nature still had surprise in store for me and rewarded me with some fabulous landscapes and lakes along the trail.
The icing on the cake is undoubtedly the breathtaking view on the valley once you reach Ostrva's peak (1,984m). In the distance you can spot the Horsky hotel/restaurant on the shore of the lake Popradské, the penultimate step of my journey.
To reach the hotel, it is a tiring way down along a windy road which will put your knees to the test!
Congratulations, you are now just a few kilometers away from Štrbské Pleso, the end point of the trek, where you can take a bus or a train to reach the bigger city of Poprad.
Conclusion: three days of happy walking 49,5km on the Tatranská Magistrála in the High Tatras.
I am becoming more aware that you don't have to go too far to discover beautiful things. Slovakia holds such beautiful treasures and the best part is that they are still very unknown to most travelers. I only met Polish and Slovak people during my trip, which makes the experience even more unique.