Hiking to Tiger’s Nest

Hiking to Tiger’s Nest

The clouds were hanging low over the valley, and considering the heavy rainfall during the night, I was not quite sure how the hike to Tiger’s Nest would be.

As I have grown up with the saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, we dressed accordingly, and brought extra clothes in waterproof bags.

Stepping out of the car at the starting point of the hike to Tiger’s Nest (or Paro Taktsang, as it is officially called), it was quite obvious that this is the main attraction in Bhutan. We were quite overwhelmed by the amount of other tourists. Not that it was that many, as the tourism in Bhutan is limited and it never felt crowded, but it was for sure a lot more than we were used to. Then again, the other days we had only met a few every now and then…

It was still early morning, and the few souvenir sellers that were already there, had not yet finished unpacking their goods. Even the sad-looking horses had not started their tough day carrying lazy tourists to the cafe with the viewpoint. Needless to say, we depended on our own feet…

Passing the three houses with prayer wheels rotated by the running stream, the assent started for real. I could feel the height making it harder to breathe and my feet felt heavier, so we went nice and slow. The rain had luckily stayed away, but the clouds and mist were blocking most of the view.

Three houses with prayer wheels rotated by the running stream.

Three houses with prayer wheels rotated by the running stream.

As the cafe about half way up is the only place along the route with a bathroom, we went the short detour there before continuing the last part. The grey wall of clouds was right in front of me, but all of a sudden the wind swept by making a hole in it, letting us sneak a peak of the Tiger’s Nest high up on the steep cliff.

A sneak peak of Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

A sneak peak of Tiger’s Nest.

While waiting for the grey clouds to go away, a colorful bird suddenly appeared. Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

While waiting for the grey clouds to go away, a colorful bird suddenly appeared.

The magical moment was short, and as fast as it appeared, it was concealed by the clouds again. Back on the track again, the peace and quiet was interrupted by some other tourists playing music from the loudspeakers on the phone. They had passed us earlier riding the horses, but luckily, we were faster than them by feet and quickly passed them. Soon we could hear the calming sounds of the breeze in the trees and the billowing prayer flags again. And my pounding heart and short breath…

His Holiness Je Khenpo named Gendün Rinchen was born here.

His Holiness Je Khenpo named Gendün Rinchen was born here.

Reaching the highest point right opposite the Tiger’s Nest, the grey wall we had become quite aquatint with was still there. We had a short break and some sips of water, and just as we were about to give up and continue, the grey was yet again swept away. The view was absolutely breathtaking (ok, I might have already been out of breath…) and after standing motionless for a little while, I got my camera out.

The grey wall of cloud hiding the Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

The grey wall of cloud hiding the Tiger’s Nest.

Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

A lot of photos later (I would not risk it to disappear behind the big grey curtain again), we started descending the steep stairs. Going down again?? – you might ask. Yes, we had to go down the gorge to cross the bridge with the waterfall backdrop to get back up at the other side. And mark my words – this is the steepest part of the track, and you have to get back the same way.

Waterfall and the Lion's Cave at Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

Entering the temple, you have to leave your phones and cameras at the gate, as it is strictly forbidden to take any photos. It also allows you to have full focus of actually being present at this fascinating place, not worrying how to make the best pictures.

Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, the one that introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, flew from Tibet to the cliff high up in the mountain on the back of a tigeress in the 8th Century. Once he arrived, he sat down in a cave meditating for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. Many centuries later, in 1692, the first part of the Tiger’s nest was built around this cave. The complex has been built in several stages, including the rebuilding after the devastating fire in 1998, and now consist of nine temples.

Walking around the temple caves, we climbed the rocky stairs and listened to the stories about the temples, statues and the paintings. As this was at the end of our tour in Bhutan, we had learned plenty about the Buddhism from our knowledgeable guide, and could recognize quite a few of the Buddha’s, paintings and other symbols. It kind of felt like a final exam, but in a good way, making many of the pieces of the puzzle of what we had learned along our journey fall into place.

I must admit – I had pictured myself experiencing the Tiger’s Nest in sunshine under the bright blue sky. And I was a bit disappointed that the only grey day we had, was the day of what I thought would be the highlight of the trip. In hindsight, I was actually happy it ended that way. Not only did the clouds protect us from the burning sun, but the clouds also made the scenery look even more dramatic.

Prayer flags in the wind. Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

Long rows of prayer flags all along the track to Tiger's Nest. Paro Taktsang. Bhutan.

Long rows of prayer flags all along the track to Tiger’s Nest.

 

Sunrise hike at Batur volcano

There is a reason why I have seen far more sunsets than sunrises, but that makes them even more special. Hearing about the Sunrise hike to Batur volcano, I decided I could sleep when I got back home, and signed up for the tour.

At 02.02 in the morning, just a couple minutes late, I was ready outside the hotel to be picked up. The intense heat I had experienced the day before was definitely not present, and I was almost shivering. It was probably a combination of absence of sun and lack of sleep, giving a coldness from the inside that cannot immediately get warmer by putting on more clothes. As it was pitch black and not much to see outside, I had a power nap in the car. After about an hour drive we stopped for a quick breakfast; banana pancakes and hot drinks. I must admit that the warm tea helped a little bit getting my temperature up.

The drive continued in the dark, and I dozed off several times. Arriving at the parking lot at the foot of the volcano, we teamed up with the guide. After a short briefing we were, in a friendly but firm tone, ordered to visit the bathroom before we got started.

With our headlights on, we strolled through the fields before the ascent. The hike went zigzagging upwards and upwards in the pale lights from the headlights, while hearing encouraging voices from the dark. The gravel made the trail slippery, and it sometimes felt we slipped back two steps for every one we made forward. Still we suddenly arrived at the first stop for some rest.

The cold draft quickly cooled down the sweat, so after a short break and some sips of water, we were back at our feet. About two hours after we started the hike, we arrived at the top of Batur, 1717 meters above sea level. It was about to get lighter, but the sun was still nowhere to be seen.

Sitting down with our second breakfast, we were gazing at the horizon but at the same time constantly keeping an eye out for the monkeys that took every chance they got to steel from the ones that were not paying attention.

The damp weather and the steam from the volcano made our clothes quite moist. Fortunately, I had brought enough clothes to keep warm, but the sarong I lent to one of the others felt wetter than after a day at the beach. Luckily, it did not take long before the sun broke through the clouds, and we could see the outline of the volcanic mountain in the horizon on the orange backdrop.

Sunrise at Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Watching the sunrise at Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

While multiple sunrise photos were taken, the guides made us eggs cooked on the steam from the volcano. It is strange how food cooked outdoors always taste a little better. A rain shower creating a rainbow as a cupola over the crater, brought our cameras back out.

Egg cooked by volcano steam. Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Rainbow over Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

Making our way back down, we walked around the lush green crater. Even though we could now see the surface better, it was easy to underestimate the cruelty and speed of the sliding pebbles… Controlling the speed on the other hand, was fun.

View from Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia. Green crater of Batur Volcano. Bali, Indonesia.

Batur Volcano. You can clearly see the traces of the lava streams along the side of the volcano. The past 200 years, Batur has erupted 26 times. Bali, Indonesia.

You can clearly see the traces of the lava streams along the side of the volcano. The past 200 years, Batur has erupted 26 times; the most devastating was in 1926.

Back at the car we decided to go straight back to Ubud, skipping the visit at the coffee plantation that was included in the tour. The drive went fast through the lush green landscape, and I made it back at the hotel just in time for the third breakfast that morning. Climbing a volcano sure made me hungry…

 

What to bring: A small backpack with more clothes and a bottle of water. Make sure to bring something warm and dry that you can change to at the top. It can also be wise to keep your clothes in a waterproof bag, to avoid the moist.

Hiking to Machu Picchu

Hiking to Machu Picchu had been on the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. As the trip to Peru was decided only two weeks before, unfortunately I was way too late to hike the Inca Trail. Both in regards of limited access, but definitely also lack of training.

As a compromise, I decided to at least walk from Aquas Calientes to Machu Picchu instead of taking the bus.

Waking up to the sound of rain was not the perfect start of the day, but I was determined. From Panorama B&B, it was 20 min quite fast walk along the river, before crossing the bridge and start climbing. The stone steps goes straight up, occasionally crossing the road bends on its right turns. It is a quite steep path, but in the beginning I thought that “this was not that hard!”. I soon realized I was mistaken. My legs started to get heavier, and my breath shorter. But I was determined to finish what I started! That was before the really heavy rain came pouring down. The ponds were everywhere, including inside my shoes. About half way up, I came to what I called “the point of no return”, meaning where my path would no longer cross the road, and the buses were out of reach….

I left all my principles behind, admitted defeat, and gave up. The problem was, I soon figured that was no option… The first bus I tried to stop, drove passed. I thought maybe he did not think I had a ticket, so I found my ticket and waved it when the next bus came. No luck. “Ok, maybe it was full”, I thought and decided to try once more before continuing my hike. No luck there either. While trying this, I lost 10-15 minutes. Or got the same amount of minutes rest, depending how you see if. For me it definitely felt more like loss of time, and I had to walk faster the last part.

Along the way I did not meet a single person, until I was almost at the top, where I met two Peruvians resting in a small hut, seeking shelter from the rain.

I reached the top only 1 minute after 7.00, more or less exactly one hour after I started the climb. My face was all wet. From the heavy rain, although it might as well have been tears of happiness…

Would I do it again? I don’t think so. If I would recommend others to do it? Honestly, I am not sure. If you are fit and used to walking steep terrain it is no problem. I consider myself quite normal fit, but I was not able to enjoy the hike, as I constantly was thinking I would be late to meet for my hike to Huayna Picchu. I remembered just a little too late that the entrance was valid between 7-8, not 7 sharp… But as long as you plan a little extra time, you will be fine.

To be able to hike to Huayna Picchu, you have to book the tickets in advance, as only 400 persons are allowed to hike during the day.

Hike the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu. Peru Easy start on the hike Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu. Peru

Up we go! Hike the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu. Peru

Up I go!

Am I there yet Hiking the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu. Peru

Am I there yet?…

Enjoying the beautiful view as I catch my breath while hiking the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu. Peru

Enjoying the beautiful view as I catch my breath while hiking the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu.

I made it up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Continuing to go to Huayna Picchu at the other side.

I made it up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Continuing to go to Huayna Picchu at the other side.

Daytrip from Dublin to Bray and Greystone

Dublin is for many synonymous with bar, Guinness and whiskey. But both the city and the surrounding area has more to offer. We took a break from beer and did the cliff walk along the Irish Sea on the coastal path between Bray and Greystone.

The bus meanders through the streets, with traditional brick house on both sides. Every minute there is a new bus stop, and although it’s exciting to experience a bit of daily life and the great scenery, we concluded that it would probably be a better plan to take the train…

When we finally get off the bus in Bray, we strolled towards the seaside. The streets were mostly deserted, but when we got down to the beach, we understood that this is where it all happens. The restaurants are situated slightly in the rear, people and dogs wandering around, and brave child tests the water temperatures at the beach. (Un)fortunately we are not here to swim, and head towards the coastal path along the cliffs between Bray and Greystone.
Bray beach, the start of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

Despite my enthusiasm for views, we refrained from going up to the huge cross that looms on the mound at the start of the walk. The view of the beach and ocean is great from the trail as well. Besides, we were looking for something completely different; Europe’s first geocache. It was also my very first. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

Found Europes first cache along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

We found Europe’s first cache!

The excitement escalated when the GPS was signalizing we were approaching the goal. The number of meters to the target sank asynchronously with our crawl up the hill. We moved rocks, looked around a little more, and finally realized where it was. Under a small pile of rocks, we found the camouflaged box. The feeling of triumph by finding the “treasure” rushed through me, but what I liked the most about the idea is that you can learn so much about the history and the place you visit if those who place the cache has submitted this information. This is naturally highly variable from person to person. We logged in the book and at the app, and buried the cache again.

Back to the more obvious treasure; the nature surrounding us. Spring was coming on strong, the bushes and the grass was bright green and the yellow and pink flowers competed to be the brightest colored. Who wins is hard to determine. From time to time we heard the train that passed below us. Otherwise it was mostly quiet, except for the small talk between people who passed us. Even the wind held its breath.
Flowers and an old stone house along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland The cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Bright colors along the path of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, IrelandEnjoying the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Nice view of the beach in Greystone from the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The trail has a comfortable steady ascent until the equally pleasant downhill at the point the long sandy beach at Greystone appears. The last stretch was frankly a bit boring and we dream of a glass of ice-cold white wine. The search for a suitable place in the sun started. We hit jackpot with “Summerville’s of Greystone”, a cozy cafe in a yellow house along the road, with white and flowered wallpaper and old-fashioned wooden table and chairs. A very cozy place, with lunch, cake and ice cream on the menu. There is also a colorful backyard with wrought iron tables and flowers hanging along the wall. But everything else than sitting out in the sun was out of the question, so we sat in the front and fried.
Summerville in Greystone. Perfect for lunch and white wine after the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The small coastal village, however, has more to offer. Just a stone’s throw away, on the little bridge over the railway line, big wine barrels function as tables outside of small wine bar. Heat rises in the sun, and cooled wine is certainly appropriate.

The heat was rising in front of the ticket machine at the station as well, as the seconds were ticking and the train approaching. There is a saying there is always a train. But not necessarily when you need it. The moral is to be early for ticket purchase. When the hunger also arise again, it is best to be on the safe side.

Since we were on a day trip, we thought we could exploit it to the fullest. The best seafood is found along the coast, so we went to the small coastal town of Howth for dinner. The train went directly from Greystone to Howth via Dublin. The village itself seemed relatively calm and quiet, but I envision the bustling life outside the bars and restaurants along the harbor when the heat sets in. Now however, it was only us as stubborn Norwegians, and a few locals, who insisted on having a cold beer outside, while the rays of the sun decreased in strength.

Our wine day continued during the seafood dinner at King Sitric. We ordered a little of everything and shared it all. Absolutely perfect!
King Sitric restaurant in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth.

The gorgeous day was about to end as we strolled relaxed along the water back toward the train station. The sun was setting in the sea and colored the sky pink behind the many boats in the harbor. For many of them this was soon beginning of a new day of fishing, while for us was yet another great memory of a beautiful day.
Sun is setting in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in the harbor in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

Three shades of the Pulpit Rock; sunset, sunrise and noon!

The iconic Pulpit Rock is growing in popularity, and more and more people are finding their way up the stone stairs. Positively, highly welcome wooden planks along the way occasionally replace them, as you will definitely feel the sensation of the rocks in your legs. But it’s definitely worth it!

The increasing popularity has its price, but also creates new thoughts. Sunrise Tours are also possible, either with a guide or on your own. I had not thought of that possibility until I heard about the trip to Outdoor Life Norway a while ago. Strangely enough, considering my fascination for sunrise and sunsets. Since I had walked to the Pulpit Rock earlier, I decided we could easily do it on our own this time as well. Since the weather was so lovely we brought sleeping bags and slept under the stars (or not really, as it never got properly dark). The idyll was impeccable with magical views over Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord, with sunset colors lighting the sky. National Romanticism bubbled in my heart, to put it mildly.

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock.

I had prepared myself for almost everything. Dry change of clothes to the top as well as warmer clothes. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toilet paper and a bag to bring the trash down again, wet wipes, and a little bit of wine to celebrate when we reached the top. But the mosquitoes took me off guard. Unfortunately, mosquitoes love me, while I hate them! Luckily, my extra warm clothes included both a hat and a cloth to cover my neck, so I managed to slightly reduce the damage. Yet they succeeded sneaking in between, leaving approximately 30 mosquito bites only in my face, leaving me to look like a pimply teenager. Makes my appearance younger then, at least! Every cloud has a silver lining. Or something like that … I can only hope that development stops and do not bring me back to the year 1349…

Let’s get back to the beautiful. Our camp site for the night was slightly higher than the Pulpit Rock, a little away from the other peers who stayed outdoors. Since we are approaching midsummer, it was not ever really dark, it went gradually from sunset to sunrise. The latter colored the mountainside and trees golden, and the rays of the sun warmed both the morning dew and the early birds.

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock.

Down at the Pulpit Rock plateau, I felt the fearing sensation when I peeked over the edge. 604 meters down, the azure Lysefjord looked dead calm. I sat down and enjoyed the view. And the silence. Even the hum of mosquitoes around my ears had subsided. A magical moment!
The Pulpit Rock is glowing! Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy! Great view from the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy!

Sensation of freedom at the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

The walk down was easier. Since we chose to go to the little hill to the right of the Pulpit Rock to get the view, we went a different way than the fine trail, but I think it’s a nice combination.

The sun was shining and the birds twittering. A wave of happiness washes through my body, and outshines the feeling of soreness in my legs.

Down at Preikestolshytten, you can buy the breakfast buffet, but since time began to run out, we went for the packed lunch offer instead, and packed a real Norwegian lunch including liver pate. Nice to enjoy in the sun before our next adventure started.

Rødne offers fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, so of course we had to try that as well. Since we were already at the “Pulpit Rock side” we chose to be picked up at Lysefjordsenteret by Oanes.

The boat ride through the narrow fjord has a nice balance of informative guiding and silence to enjoy nature. And performances of music by the Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Nocturne” by Secret Garden. It was a bit strange to see Pulpit Rock loom high above us, and think that I myself had sat up there, swinging my legs over the edge just hours earlier. Although the water was relatively flat, the national romantic waves came continuously.

The only thing missing was a Kvikk Lunch chocolate, but fortunately, they had a kiosk on board…

Hengjanefossen waterfall in Lysefjorden

Hengjanefossen waterfall .

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there. Preikestolen, Norway

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there.

Facts:
Take the ferry over from Fiskepiren in Stavanger to Tau. From here, both Tide Reiser and Boreal offer bus up to Preikestolshytten, which is the starting point for the hike. Buy either single or return ticket. We stayed overnight outdoor up by the Pulpit Rock, but it is also accommodation at Preikestolshytten, in various price ranges.

The hike takes about 2 hours each way, and naturally depends on physical fitness.

If you wish to do the sunrise hike to the Pulpit Rock followed by a fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, Pelles reiser drive a minibus from Preikestolshytten to Oanes ferry quay. From there it is only a few minutes walk to Lysefjordsenteret, where it is possible to be picked up. Fjord cruise on the Lysefjord concludes in Stavanger.

Ski. Hike. Eat. In Zakopane

Zakopane is known for skiing and hiking. And cheese. Before I came, I thought the first would play the most important role. It turned out to be a combination of the three. And maybe mostly the cheese…

Arriving winter wonderland in the early afternoon, I dumped my bag at Helios Hotel, and headed for the funicular to Gubalowka. On the way we passed through a local market, selling traditional handcraft, clothes, slippers and food. This was my first (but certainly not the last, as you might have already guessed) meeting with the local cheese. The small oval shaped pieces of patterned sheep cheese were quickly grilled, and served hot with cranberry jam. Mmmm, delicious! I had barely finished the first when I spotted a second stall, and we decided to have one more. I was officially addicted.
Traditional sheep milk cheese in Zakopane, Poland
The Gubalowka Funicular ran through an alley of evergreens, taking us up to 1120 masl for magnificent views of Zakopane and the Tetra mountains.
The funicular to Gubalowka. Zakopane, Poland The view from Gubalowka. Zakopane, Poland View from Gubalowka. Zakopane, Poland
There are several restaurants on top for some food and drinks to accompany the view. Since I love to try the local food when I travel, we went for traditional Kwaśnica soup with meat and potato and potato cake with mushroom, cheese and bacon. For drinks we had warm beer(!) with ginger. Well, I had never tried that, so of course I had to! To be honest, it was not my favorite, but still.

For dinner later in the evening, we went along the walking street looking for a restaurant. Just after the end, we found a place that looked cozy, and even brewed their own beer. Watra looked very small from the outside, but when we entered we found an enormous hall in the next room, with massive wooden benches and tables, a dance floor, and a live band! We decided to go all in and joined the locals. A thing to keep in mind, food portions are HUGE. The five of us shared mixed meat for three persons and a cheese plate as starter, and it was still lots of food left when we were more than stuffed!

It was time to get moving and check out the nightlife. The nightclub at Aries Hotel, Le Scandale Cocktail Room & Music Loft, is supposed to be the best in town, so we decided to give it a try. It sure was stylish and the bathroom amazing, but personally I am more a bar kind of girl.

Waking up to rain, we decided to go to Polana Szymoszkowa, just a few minutes away by bus. There were several places to rent skies, but we went for the first we saw, offering 4 hours for 20 zł. Perfect that we did not have to rent for a full day!

Choosing what type of lift card on the other hand, can be a challenge. Unlike the ski rental, it was no lift card by the hour, only full day, half-day and point card. As we were not sure about the conditions and the weather was not so good, we decided to go for the point card. We could always refill it if we wanted more. It turned out to be a great decision. The top of the slope was slushy. To put it mildly. It turned out to be more a workout turning in the heavy wet snow, than being fun. The last part of the run was better condition wise, but for me it was a little too flat.

Skiing in Polana Szymoszkowa. Zakopane, Poland
Seeking shelter from the rain, we went for a break with something hot to drink. As the rain only picked up, it turned into lunch. Including grilled cheese… And as the waiter so correctly put it; this weather is most suitable for sitting in a bar. We agreed, and ordered a hot beer with honey, cinnamon and cloves.

The last few runs felt a little bit easier, but it was probably just because there were almost no other people, so we did not need to worry about navigating between them and could concentrate on looking more professional when turning…

Luckily, the workout worked up an appetite again (Even though I swore I would never be hungry again after the dinner the night before…), and the mixed dish to share at Kolibecka restaurant looked tempting. Let’s just say we could not finish this time either…

It seemed that there are hardly any bars in Zakopane, just lots of restaurants, but finally we found Cafe Piano. Yes, they do have a piano, but it does not look like it is used often. It is a small cozy bar with wooden interior, giving a nice and welcoming feeling!

Overnight, winter wonderland turned to spring (In fairness, with a rather rainy day in between), so we decided to go for a hike. Taking the bus for about 10 min to Dolina Koscieliska, we paid the 5 zł ticket for Tatry National Park, and got going. We soon realized that the rain the day before had made the road quite icy and slippery, but we figured we could handle it. That was not the case for the woman planning to do the hike in high-heeled shoes… Quite frankly it was an easy hike, so it would be possible during the summer, but still… We did not see them again.
Hiking scenery from Dolina Koscieliska in Tatry National Park 2. Zakopane, Poland Hiking scenery from Dolina Koscieliska in Tatry National Park 1. Zakopane, Poland Hiking scenery from Dolina Koscieliska in Tatry National Park. Zakopane, Poland
Hiking along the gravel road, a couple of horses with carriages carrying local tourists passed us. I must admit I wished I was in one of them a few times while sliding on the ice like Bambi. However, the road between the evergreens and steep mountains steadily lead us to Hala Ornak following along the lively river. Our reward; sitting outside in the heating sun, looking up towards the snowcapped Błyszcz mountain with an ice cold beer in our hand. And nibbling grilled highland cheese with cranberries. For dessert, we enjoyed the local apple cake, with the same view and beer. Apparently, there is a competition between the chalets in the mountains to have the best apple cake. As I have only tasted one of them, this took first place. Judging by the taste of the grilled cheese (that I have tried a lot of!), I would say it was medium+.
Hiking scenery from Dolina Koscieliska in Tatry National Park 3. Zakopane, Poland Hiking scenery from Dolina Koscieliska in Tatry National Park 4. Zakopane, Poland
On the way back, an incredible amount of snow and ice had already melted, so it will probably only be a few days until the track is bare.

Back in town I was keen on some winter again, so we went straight to the Kasprowy wierch cable car to go to the top. Sadly we had not done our homework and did not realize that the cable car had its last run to the top at 15.00. To my defense, the ski slopes at the other places were to my surprise open until 20.00, so I did not even think this would close early. Anyway we learned our lesson, and pre-booked the ticket for the next day…

Due to the popularity of the Kasprowy wierch cable car, you have to choose the exact time when to go up, and return two hours after. At the top there are a few slopes with chair lifts on both sides. As I was craving to do some more skiing, I rented equipment at the top (2 hours for 20 zł) and got going. Bear in mind that the selection at the top is very limited, so I would advise to rent the skies downtown. That way you don’t waste the short time you have for skiing either. Also, there is a special ticket combining the cable car and the chair lifts. Buying them separate will cost you 20 zł per run with the chair lift. You do the math…
Skiing at Kasprowy wierch 3. Zakopane, Poland Skiing at Kasprowy wierch 1. Zakopane, Poland Skiing at Kasprowy wierch 2. Zakopane, Poland Skiing at Kasprowy wierch 4. Zakopane, Poland View from the Kasprowy wierch cable car. Zakopane, Poland
In general, I was quite surprised of the structure of the skiing in Zakopane. They did not have one big ski resort, but many smaller ones, most of them with just one lift and one slope. I also learned that many of the small private hotels had put up their own small lifts as well. For me this was a very strange, being used to larger areas with several ski lifts and many slopes to choose from at the same place. There are luckily a few larger areas a bit out of town. Or, you can easily do a day trip to Slovakia.

Getting to Zakopane:
Flying in to Krakow, I got on the train to the main train station, right next to the bus station. It was cheap and convenient, taking only 15 minutes. There are several bus companies going to Zakopane, but I found Polskibus very convenient, and booking the ticket online in advance was nice and easy.

Experienced in February.

 

Skip Sigiriya Rock, hike Pidurangala Rock instead!

Enjoy the spectacular views from Pidurangala Rock almost all by yourself instead of queuing up like ants climbing Sigiriya Rock. Not only will you get the same grand view, but it also include the Lion Rock.

Beautiful view including Sigiriya Rock seen from Pidurangala Rock.

Beautiful view including Sigiriya Rock seen from Pidurangala Rock.

The stone stairs start from Pidurangala Temple, giving you a 20 minutes upward hike to a giant reclining Buddha. Here the path end, but continue onward through some bushes, and you will be right on track. The last part is only about five minutes, including a little bit of rock climbing. Nevertheless, it is absolutely worth the amazing sight of almost everlasting green, only framed by the mountains in the far distance. And off course the massive Sigiriya Rock rising a few kilometers away.

Stone steps leadig to the top of Pidurangala Rock.

Stone steps leadig to the top of Pidurangala Rock.

Reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha.

Yes, you are going up there.

Yes, you are going up there.

Green, green view seen from Pidurangala Rock Great view including Sigiriya Rock seen from Pidurangala Rock
Beautiful view including Sigiriya Rock seen from Pidurangala Rock 2

Sigiriya Rock, also called Lion Rock.

Sigiriya Rock, also called Lion Rock.

As a bonus, to climb Pidurangala Rock you only have to pay 300LKR as a contribution to the temple by the same name, opposed to almost 4000 for Sigiriya Rock!

Experienced in January 2015.