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Szlak pieszy: Z Polski na Węgry, czyli z Czorsztyna do Niedzicy

Hiking trail: From Poland to Hungary, or from Czorsztyn to Niedzica

widok na Jezioro Czorsztyńskie, w tle Pieniny i plaża z turystami
There won’t be many real mountain hikes on this tour, but a shiver will run up your spine more than once! The main attractions will be a visit to two castles guarding the Dunajec River crossing centuries ago and a cruise across Lake Czorsztyn by boat or gondola. The aura of mystery will be enhanced by the legends associated with the fortresses we’ll visit. Did you know that they are still inhabited by ghosts? If you like visiting places known from films, be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as you’ll certainly recognise scenes you know from the classic works of Polish cinema.

Practical information


Pictogram with the starting point of the trail Czorsztyn

Pictogram with access to the starting point of the trail  Provincial road no. 969 on the section Nowy Targ – Krościenko nad Dunajcem. Driving from Nowy Targ, we turn right after the village of Kluszkowce. Coming from Krościenko, in Krośnica, we turn left according to the signs to Niedzica and Sromowce, and after 2 kilometres, we turn in the direction of Czorsztyn. The two roads meet on the outskirts of Czorsztyn at the white-painted cottage chapel of Saint Florian, from where we head towards the centre of the village (to the right when driving from Nowy Targ, straight ahead when coming from Krościenko). After about 300 metres, turn right into a small car park at Krótka Street. Should there be no free spaces here, you need to retreat 100 metres past the aforementioned chapel to a large car park on the outskirts of the village.

The hike can be combined with the Around Gorce car tour or the Polish Spiš route. In the second case, the expedition starts by sailing from Niedzica to Czorsztyn across Lake Czorsztyn and visiting the local castle.

Pictogram with the trail timeAbout 4 hours 15 minutes (you need to add about half an hour to the time shown on the map to walk from Czorsztyn Lake to the centre of Czorsztyn).

Pictogram with information about an easy trail Easy

Pictogram with information about the route map 


Few people realise that centuries ago the Polish lands reached much further south than they do today. Subsequently, more and more territories passed into Hungarian hands, and by the time of Casimir I the Great, a situation had developed for several hundred years where Dunajec was a border river, separating Poland from Hungary. The current course of our country’s southern border in this area was determined after the World War I by the Conference of Ambassadors. Thus, we actually don’t have to cross the border to visit Niedzica Castle. Enjoy a hike through the central part of Pieniny and the northern slice of Spiš.

Note: The sheep rule here!

Whichever car park you leave your car in, you’re 200 metres away from the entrance to the trail. Parking on the outskirts of Czorsztyn, we head along Zamkowa Street towards its centre and turn left when we meet the blue signs. Walking from Krótka Street, we follow the direction from which we came and, having met the blue trail, turn right.

After a few minutes’ walk, we’ll pass an information pavilion of the Pieniny National Park then a shepherd’s hut, and after a while, we’ll enter Hala Majerz. It’ll take us nearly half an hour to get through it. There’s sheep grazing on the pasture, so it’s necessary to keep a close eye underfoot to avoid stepping into the proves of their presence and to pay attention to the behaviour of the shepherd dogs.

A stop at a tree standing by the trail is a must on the hike. We turn around to admire the view from here: on the right Gorce, opposite Lake Czorsztyn and the Czorsztyn Castle, and on the left Spiš and Niedzica Castle.

After passing through Hala Majerz, we cross the road connecting Krośnica and Sromowce Wyżne on the Osice Pass, and after a few steps, following the blue signs, we turn right onto a comfortable forest road. After a quarter of an hour, we’ll reach a place where we can see the village of Hałuszowa below and the Gorce Mountains. A number of benches have been set up here for you to rest on, as a fairly steep ascent soon awaits. It takes about 15 minutes to pass it. We spend the next quarter of an hour walking on undulating terrain. On the exposed sections, we’ll be accompanied by views of Spiš and Magura Spiska (right), as well as Gorce and Beskid Sądecki (left).

Soon we reach the Trzy Kopce Pass (less than 1.5 hours from leaving Czorsztyn), where we leave the blue trail going further towards Trzy Korony and Szczawnica, and from now on, we’ll follow the red signs.

Along the Dunajec River

The descent to the rafting harbour in Sromowce Wyżne is steep and quite slippery after rain. According to the signs in the field, it takes 45 minutes, and this is a realistic time, although the map attached to this description says the walking time is about 30 minutes.

At one point, we’ll come out into an open area where there are several routes to choose from. Choose the one furthest to the left, running in a small hollow. The signage here isn’t perfect, and it’s easy to lose the trail. Should this happen, there’s no need to panic. You should consequently descend into the valley of the Dunajec River, and when you reach the road, head to the right towards the rafting marina. It’s here that the rafting trip begins through the Dunajec Gorge, which creates 7 picturesque bends in the river, over which rock walls several hundred metres high rise.

From now on, we’ll hike along the Dunajec River all the time. The trail goes along the road connecting Sromowce with Krośnica, but due to the heavy traffic and the associated inconveniences and dangers, we suggest turning left into a local road just after the rafting harbour. It’ll be safer, we’ll avoid the ascent, and the hiking will be nicer due to the proximity to the river.

Orientation is facilitated by a board indicating the distance (2 km) from the Regional Chamber in Sromowce Wyżne, run by the local Village Housewives’ Association, where exhibits related to flax and wool processing, farm work and cooking are displayed.

When you reach the chamber, keep to the right-hand side of the street, and after a while, you’ll come to the Church of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr, which, in its present form, was built on the site of a temple erected in the 19th century. It’s interesting that although for years the village formally belonged to the parish in Krościenko nad Dunajcem and later in Maniowy, there was a separate priest who ministered there. An independent parish was established in Sromowce Wyżne in 1943.

At the church, we’ll meet the red trail again and continue to follow its signs. They lead between the buildings to the west towards the lower dam on the Dunajec River, which forms the Sromowieckie Lake. We reach it after 5 minutes and walk along the dam crest to the other side of the river. On the right, we can see Niedzica Castle and the main dam, about half an hour’s walk away.

On the Hungarian side

We’re now hiking on the side of the Dunajec River that was part of Hungary for centuries, and today, there’s a road to the border crossing with Slovakia in Łysa nad Dunajcem. On this section of the route, pedestrians share the footpath with cyclists; care should be taken not to cross the line separating the parts intended for each of these two groups.

After about 20 minutes, we’ll reach a roundabout where we cross the road and head straight towards the Chapel of St Michael, which for two centuries housed an image of its patron saint fighting Satan. The trail doesn’t reach it, but soon after passing the car park, it turns right and heads towards the castle. You can either stick to the signs and hike according to this description or cut diagonally across the car park and ascend the crown of the dam by steps. If you choose the first option, you’ll pass near the miniature parks, where models of castles and Marian shrines are displayed. Deciding upon the second proposal will make you fully aware of how high the dam is (it’s 56 metres) and what a challenge it was to build it.

A walk along the crest of the dam is a must-see in Niedzica. The facility was built to provide flood protection for the Dunajec Valley. Lake Czorsztyn, which was created as a result, also serves as a reservoir for practising water sports, and there are also cruise ships operating on it. On the crest of the dam, the 3D painting Power of the Elements is worth noting. Standing at the indicated spot, we’ll see whirlpools, waterfalls and a river.

It’s approximately 300 metres from the Dunajec Castle. During the summer season, especially on sunny weekends, it’s quite difficult to cover this distance due to the large number of shopping stands and the crowds of tourists that gather around them. However, we’re consistently heading for the stronghold, which has featured in several films, including Zemsta and Janosik. The legend of the golden treasure of the Incas hidden in the area is still alive. The information was reportedly recorded in a document in knotted quipu script, which was found at the castle in a secret compartment in 1946.

Opposite the entrance to the castle stands a granary that used to be part of the granary belonging to the stronghold, the only building of its kind in the Podtatrze region standing in its original location.

A pictogram informing about a curiosity The last owners of the castle were the Salomons, who still maintained serfdom on their estates after World War I, although this was abolished under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1848. As these territories were granted to Poland after the end of the fighting, steps were taken almost immediately to liquidate this feudal relic. It took as long as 11 years to collect the files and prepare the legislation. Serfdom was finally abolished in the Spiš region by a special parliamentary act in 1931.

Let’s go back to Poland

After visiting the castle, we go to the marina located about 200 metres away, from where small ships and gondolas sail to Czorsztyn, which lies on the other shore (the former can also be used for a cruise on the lake taking a few dozen minutes). The crossing takes about 10 minutes.

Pictogram with important information In Czorsztyn, the vessels moor in two bays. Taking the gondola, we have to walk along the shore to the one where the ships end their cruise.

We set off from the marina without any signs inland, and after a while, we shall see an arrow pointing to a path leading to the castle. The ascent to the fortress takes about 10 minutes. Wronin Castle in Czorsztyn guarded the Polish side of the border. In the 18th century, it was destroyed during the conflict for the Polish throne and was never rebuilt again. The preserved ruins are now a tourist attraction with a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area, and you can see almost the entire route we covered during the hike.

From the castle, follow the green signs towards the centre of the village. They’re not very visible, but it’s difficult to get lost. You simply have to walk all the way along Zamkowa Street. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the car park, unfortunately all the way uphill.

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