These are walks that can be undertaken in winter and summer, and are pretty much flat and easy, unless stated otherwise.
So, sorry Polish people, I am going to be really controversial to start with - don't bother with going to Morskie Oko.
The only area of peace on the way to Morskie Oko - I do respect the lack of engines to disturb wildlife and escape the human hordes!
It is a plod to Morskie Oko, on an asphalt road, with zero views, for 2 hours to a hut and lake with 10,000 other people!! Okay, the lake and view are nice at the end, but really, there are better, more peaceful places to go. I do respect that for a lot of people it is a pilgrimage, but if it is mountain peace and atmosphere you want, just don't go there in the summer. Try going outwith the main tourist season instead.
Upper lake at Morskie Oko
Trail around the lake at Morskie Oko
Morskie Oko Lake
Koscielisko Dolina and the Chochołowska DolinaAnother two favourites for the visiting Poles are the Koscielisko Dolina and the Chochołowska (pronounced hohohwovska). They are lovely walks into big valleys in the Western Tatras. Mostly they follow rushing rivers with views to rolling meadows and interesting rock formations.
There are great side routes off them, and they have superb cave systems - notably the Mrozna cave (surprisingly good!).
However, they once again involve yomping for about 2 hours up asphalt roads to a hut at the end, with a lot of other people! Fair enough, in winter it is much quieter, especially the Chochołowska. These valleys do however offer for less able, less fit people, or people with wheelchairs or prams, a wonderful opportunity to amble into the mountains. One of the good things about the Chochołowska is you can pick up bikes at stations positioned along the valley. In fact, these are really useful if you have opted to climb one of the many peaks the Chochołowska accesses, are knackered, and can't be arsed with the sore feet walk out. Just simply grab a bike, pay 20zl and free wheel back to the minibuses at the roadhead. Very exciting in a thunderstorm! If it is solitude you seek - probs not the best option for a valley hike.
However, these valleys are essential access for higher peaks for the adventurous. Stay tuned for blurb on these.
Koscielisko DolinaFor those truly seeking mountain atmosphere, peace, tranquility, wildlife, inspiring views there are great alternatives.
Chochołowska Dolina - avalanche damage
I am two minds about recommending this valley as it really is a piece of true, peaceful paradise. Being selfish, I would hate to see this destroyed. On the other hand, it would be wrong to allow visitors to the Tatras not to truly experience how totally beautiful this mountain area is.
So, guys, this is THE valley to go to. It is actually in Slovakia, but pretty much runs parallel with the Polish border.
To access it is very easy. Just jump on one of the twenty million Morskie Oko minibuses that depart from outside the main train station in Zakopane, but ask to be dropped off at Łysa Polana. This is the old Polish/Slovakian border crossing, but is now unmanned. (pronounced Lisa Polana)
Jump off the minibus, cross the river, and then follow the blue trail dirt track immediately on your right after the bridge. Be aware, Slovakia closes its valleys to tourists from November to early June to allow peace for the wildlife. However, you can still walk to an excellent meadow viewpoint (the Bielovodská Poľana) all year round in this valley. In summer, keep walking and absorb true soul inspiring tranquility by gushing, crystal clear rivers and views of dark, menacing mountains. Oh yes, bears are active here and if you don't see one, you will see their poo!
Gushing crystal clear mountain rivers, Bielovodská dolina
This is another hidden gem of a valley. It is very peaceful, affords wonderful views and once again, is not on the travel itinerary of most visitors to Zakopane.
Again, it is actually just across the border in Slovakia. To reach it in summer, the Strama bus company from Zakopane run a service to Poprad that stops in Javorina village at the end of the valley. There are early buses allowing to enjoy a lovely long day in this mountain paradise (one at 6am and another at 7am). These are big coaches and you can pay the driver on embarking. There are many places it stops in the town, including the main bus station. Check out this link for up-to-date timetables. http://strama.eu/ Word of advice though, Javorina is actually pronounced Yavorina. The driver looked at me as if I had just vomited in his face when I pronounced it with a J! Alternatively, the valley can be accessed all year by jumping on one of the myriad of Morskie Oko buses and get off at Łysa Polana. The big drawback with this is you then have to walk into Slovakia to Javorina along the edge of the main road. It takes about 20 minutes of hoofing it.
Again, the valley closes from November to early June to protect the wildlife, however, you can walk to Na Poľane pod Muráňom meadow all year round. This link provides some very useful information about the area. http://www.vysoketatry.com/ciele/jdolina/en.html
The name Javorina actually means the Maple Valley. To access it, there are green and blue trails which fork on reaching Na Poľane pod Muráňom.
The blue trail leads through a very impressive gorge (with educational boards telling you all about the valley formation and wildlife around you), up into grassy, untouched, beautiful alpine meadows teaming with butterflies, blueberries and wild strawberries. Drink in the wonderful views to the surrounding peaks. If you are particularly fit, you can yomp onwards to the col, and either keep on the blue trail all the way to just outside Tatranska Lomnica, or connect to the red trail which eventually takes you to Stary Smokovec. From both of these places, you can catch the Strama coach back to Zakopane However, these two options would be a mega walk! Much better just to amble to the meadows and absorb the scenery whilst you enjoy a picnic. Beware though, the last time I walked in this valley, just at the point of entering the gorge, I encountered a brown bear at close quarters, up on its hind legs rummaging in the branches of a tree. It was a truly amazing sight, and what a beautiful animal! However, I would be lying if I said I didn't actually shit myself! Luckily, Mr Bear was more scared of me and charged off at full speed!
Alternatively, at Na Poľane pod Muráňom, take the green trail. This affords more dramatic views, as it leads you into much higher mountains. You can follow it all the way to Tatranska Lomnica, but once again, this would be a mega walk. For me, a better option is to take the trail as far as the meadow marked with Zadná Javorová dolina on your map. Again, a lovely place to enjoy the peace, crystal clear, gushing mountain rivers and mountain views.
This valley is very easy to get to and doesn't offer a long walk, however, it is scenic and interesting in an industrial history sense. The name comes from the Polish word Jawor which means sycamore. To access it, once again it involves the 3zl minibus journey to Kuznice. A good starting point would be to amble amongst the preserved buildings of Kuznice village, absorbing the information boards. An iron foundry once flourished here and the ore was mined in the Dolina Jaworzynka. Lumberjacks chopped down local trees to feed the furnaces. Looking at the area today, it is very hard to imagine such industrial activity could ever have existed here.
Additionally though, the valley has some other hidden points of interest. The meadows were primarily used for sheep grazing and the wooden shepherds huts still exist today. More interestingly though, the limestone rock of this area hides a maze of underground caves, rivers and tunnels. Indeed, Zakopane's main water supply bursts out of the ground in this very valley. The largest cave is the Magurska Cave in which the bones of bears dating back to the last ice age have been unearthed. Unfortunately though, the general public are not admitted to this.
A good time to enjoy the tranquility of the valley is in springtime when the meadows are carpeted with purple crocuses.