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Szlak pieszy: Wędrówka po Polskim Spiszu

Hiking trail: Wandering through the Polish Spiš region

Jasny, murowany niewysoki kościół, pokryty gontowym dachem z sygnaturką. Od lewej wysokie drzewo i kwadratowa wieża z sygnaturką. Dalej nawa z wysokim wąskim oknem z łukiem oraz dobudowanym niskim wejściem z drzwiami, W prezbiterium wysokie, wąskie okno. Budynek kościoła podparty kilkoma szerokimi podporami. Wokół ścieżka, na której stoi wysoki drewniany krzyż ubrany we wstążki i za kościołem murowane ogrodzenie. Za ogrodzeniem widać budynki. Niebo z kłębiastymi chmurami.
Łapsze Niżne Tourist region: Pieniny i Spisz
The Polish Spiš region is an option for lovers of peace and quiet. If you aren’t intimidated by solitary hikes far from human settlements, this region is the ideal destination for you! Along the way, you’ll meet beautiful panoramas of the Tatras, Pieniny and Gorce, the mysterious sypańce in Kacwin and rest by Lake Czorsztyn. As far as we’re concerned, we’re already packing our backpacks, because Polish Spiš is a perfect travel idea!

Practical information


Starting place pictogram Łapsze Niżne

Directions pictogram Take road no. 49 from Nowy Targ in the direction of Jurgów, from which you should turn left in Groń in the direction of Nowa Biała and then follow the signs to Niedzica. Having reached Łapsze Niżne, we turn off the main road to the right towards a church visible in the distance.

Parking pictogram You can leave your car in the car park at the church.

Transition time pictogram 7 hours 15 minutes

Pictogram easy route Easy; the section from Kacwin to Łapsze, in the middle part, is difficult in terms of finding your way.

Pictogram with information about the route map

Polish Spiš, although located near the ‘Zakopianka’ road and the route connecting Nowy Targ with Krościenko nad Dunajcem, is still little known. If we come here, it’s mainly to see the Dunajec Castle in Niedzica and dispassionately pass by the local churches, which are pearls of Spiš Baroque, or wooden architecture. The hiking route proposed below coincides with the description of the car route around the Polish Spiš in three places. It’s an interesting idea to use the tips included in it to reach Łapsze Niżne, the starting point of the hiking trail, after walking the suggested route, to stay overnight in one of the surrounding villages, e.g. Niedzica, and to continue on the Spiš trip on the second day with a short excursion across Lake Czorsztyn to the ‘Polish’ side to Wronin Castle in Czorsztyn.

Three stages

The hike can easily be divided into 3 stages: it takes roughly 2 hours 4 minutes each to complete the first two and just under two hours for the third. There’s a considerable distance to cover, but only on the first stage are there several ascents, generally not very demanding. The effort will be rewarded by a beautiful panorama of the Tatras from the Łapszanka Pass, considered by many to be the most beautiful, and an interesting look from the Kacwin area to Trzy Korony, seen from the west. Some may find the section from Kacwin to Łapsze quite difficult as concerns finding one’s way. Let’s add the interesting historical sites in Kacwin. So, there are many attractions ahead, and it’s time to hit the road.

From Łapsze towards the Tatras

We start our trip at the church in Łapsze Niżne, the only temple in Poland dedicated to St Quirinus. We move west, turn left behind the yellow trail signs and, after a while, cross the stream over a wooden bridge. We soon pass a plaque on one of the houses informing visitors that Blessed Father Józef Stanek was born there. The direction of the walk is well-indicated by signs: after two left turns, we leave the village and begin the ascent to the ridge stretching above the village. We reach it about half an hour after leaving the car park, and a part of the Slovak Tatras with Havran in the foreground appears before our eyes.

The rest of the hike continues making short ascents and descents. We’re surrounded by vast pastures then the forest; the sound of bells hung from the necks of cows and sheep grazing in the distance can often be heard.

After a little over an hour of marching out of Łapsze Niżne, we briefly enter a gravel road but immediately turn left. After a quarter of an hour, there are two more serious climbs, fortunately short, and after a while, another much longer and more demanding one begins. Here you can already feel that you’re in the mountains, and the highest point you’ll reach rises to just over 1,000 metres amsl. When we enter the ‘forest highway’, or wide track, it’ll be a sign that the worst is over.

After a few minutes of walking, turn left onto a minor road and quietly gain a few more metres of altitude until you come out into a clearing where you turn left. To the right, the Tatras appear between the trees; after a while, their peaks can also be seen in front of you. When you reach the wall of the forest, turn right (less than 2.5 hours from the start of the trail), and after about 5 minutes, you reach the highest point on the route, from where you have a view of the entire Tatras (if the weather conditions allow, of course).

After saturating the eyes with the beauty of the panorama, we start the descent to the Przełęcz nad Łapszanką pass. Soon, at a place called Pod Hołowcem (Kopylcem), we’ll meet the blue trail, which we’ll use to hike to Kacwin, but we’re still heading towards the pass, which is about a 10-minute walk away. Entering between the houses, we turn left, and soon we’re at the chapel on the Przełęcz nad Łapszanką pass, from where we can admire the already mentioned beautiful panorama of the Tatra Mountains: the closest (slightly to the left) is Havran, to the right is Lodowy Szczyt, and further on, there are the Polish peaks, including Rysy and Kasprowy Wierch. Reading the panorama is made easier by a photo with a description, and thanks to a telescope standing here, you can literally look into the gullies of the Slovak mountains.

On the pass, there’s a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Częstochowa, which contains a bell used to warn of storms and scare off lightning. It was also believed that the sound of the bell would frighten the płanetniks (who were said to be suicides and drowned people after their deaths) who bring clouds.

Let’s discover the sypańce in Kacwin

From the pass, we follow the yellow and blue signs back to the familiar Pod Hołowcem bifurcation, where we definitely say goodbye to the yellow trail and join the blue one. Before entering the forest, it’s worth turning around and looking at the Tatras once again. If the visibility is good, we should see the distinctive peak of Giewont to the right of the main massif.

The further hike will provide a bit of excitement: the road becomes increasingly narrow and eventually turns into a path disappearing into the grass, which, at one point, turns unexpectedly to the left and, after a steep ascent of several dozen metres, brings us to a ridge, which we’ll continue on. It’s rather difficult to get lost here, as there are many signs, and it’s easy to read which way to go. Soon, for a brief moment, we’ll go along posts indicating the course of the border with Slovakia, and after a few minutes, we reach a clearing (about 50 minutes from the pass), where we turn right and descend quite steeply into the valley.

And again, the road turns into a path, and the path disappears for a moment, only to reappear a bit later. Walk in a fairly straight line, looking out for signs spaced at regular intervals. This is also true when we cross a wide gravel road and, after a while, a crossroads that is quite overgrown. Towards the end of this section, it gets very steep indeed, and we almost slide down to the road we crossed above. We turn left and hike for less than a quarter of an hour along a path that also deserves the name ‘forest highway’.

At the point where there’s a yard for wood storage on the left, we turn right. Visible from the road, the ascent looks very menacing, but this is not the case. Around the bend, it’s much gentler, and then the route simply traverses the slope. Short ascents are again interspersed with depressions, and about 2 hours after setting off from the pass, we turn left, already starting the descent towards Kacwin. We soon come out onto another clearing, from which a beautiful panorama unfolds: in front of us is Lubań with its viewing tower (if the weather is good, and a little to the left, in the depths, you can see, over Rabka, the Luboń Wielki massif with its TV transmitter), and on the right, the characteristic peaks of Trzy Korony. Behind them, the hills of Beskid Sądecki. Going down a little bit behind Trzy Korony, we’ll see Małe Pieniny with Wysoka, the highest peak of the whole Pieniny.

Approximately 2 hours 45 minutes after setting off from the Przełęcz nad Łapszanką pass, we reach Kacwin. In the cemetery we passed by, there’s one of the many chapels in this place. It’s dedicated to St Catherine and was built in 1768 in a cemetery dedicated exclusively to poor peasants. The wealthier ones were buried in the church cemetery, which doesn’t exist today. The chapel was originally dedicated to the Holy Cross. This changed in 1909 when it was renovated with funds donated by Katarzyna Jakubek, owner of many vineyards in Hungary, and the chapel’s patron saint was changed to Catherine of Alexandria.

At the crossroads, we meet red signs that will take us to the starting point, but before heading towards it, we turn right towards the centre of Kacwin to see its monuments: the All Saints Church and the Christ the King chapel standing right next to it. The stone block from which the statue was carved was originally intended as a monument to Marshal Józef Piłsudski, whose daughter visited the Kacwin parish in the early 1930s. When the stone arrived in Kacwin, the then parish priest, Father Józef Świstek, informed the village that a statue of Christ the King would be erected as a sign of the new cult and feast introduced in the Church in 1925.

The biggest attractions of the village, however, are sypańce, which years ago stood along the road running through the village and were used to store grain. Only a few have survived to the present day and are now collected in the Spiš Open Air Museum. It’s approximately 200 metres from the church. Follow the main road into the valley, following the red trail signs. Admission is free, and if you want to take a look at the cottage, you can call the guide, whose telephone number is given at the entrance to the open-air museum.

Tracker skills welcome

After visiting the sights of Kacwin, we return to the familiar cemetery and continue following the red signs. After about 15 minutes of strenuous climbing, we reach another chapel – dating from around 1750 – dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, founded by the Mularczyk family, involved in masonry for several generations. Since 1970, thanks to a privilege issued by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, Kraków Archbishop Metropolitan (later Pope John Paul II), the chapel has had the status of a Mass chapel, with the right to celebrate the full liturgy.

We continue along the tarmac road for another 500 metres and then turn right at the rest area on the cycling route Around Tatras. It’s worth stopping here for a while, resting and feasting your eyes on the familiar view of Trzy Korony and Lubań. A little further along on the left, we’ll see... Native American tepees. In the Native American village in Kacwin, you can play the instruments of real Native Americans, learn archery, throw a javelin and visit the museum of Native American culture. The route of our hike unfortunately doesn’t lead to this remarkable place. Signs soon direct us to the right, towards a stream in the valley, where a difficult section begins where it’s easy to get lost. We walk through pastures along a slowly disappearing road, several times having to cross wire fences.

Officially, the trail runs by the stream itself from a certain point, but as there’s no path beside it, you can walk along the pasture, looking out for rivulets by the stream. Just beyond it (about 45 minutes from leaving Kacwin), descend to the stream, cross it (note: it’s wet here after heavy rainfall) and head west, about an equal distance from the stream and the forest boundary.

After passing two signs indicating the trail, you have to go outside the fence and walk up the slope above the stream. After a while, we cross the stream, and immediately afterwards, we meet a clear sign telling us to go left. The path is barely visible, and the important thing is to move along the edge of the clearing, circling it until there’s a clear path to the right in a clearing of trees. We turn into it, cross the stream once again and, after reaching the other bank, turn left and, along the edge of another meadow, reach a tarmac road. Follow it to the right, and after a few moments, turn left into the forest. The ascent is quite steep, but fortunately short, and after a few minutes, we emerge into the next meadow. Keep heading straight ahead, passing a copse where a fairly clear path appears by the fence of another pasture leading towards a power line visible in the distance. Just before it, we reach another tarmac road. This is where the troubles with finding the way end.

From here, it’s still about a 25-minute walk to the car park by the church: after 10 minutes, you’ll reach the main road running through the village, from which you have to turn left after a while. If you walk through the village, you’ll notice buildings reminiscent of typical Spiš architecture, whose characteristic feature is the position of the houses perpendicular to the road. The street will lead us directly to the car park by the church where we started our trek this morning.

As we mentioned in the introduction, this one-day excursion can be an introduction to getting to know the Polish Spiš region. After an overnight stay in one of the surrounding villages, you can set off on the previously mentioned car route and explore the sights of Niedzica and Trybsz.

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