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Szlak samochodowy: Przez Orawę i Podhale z widokiem na Tatry

Car trail: Through Orawa and Podhale with a view of the Tatras

Wnętrze drewnianego kościoła. Na wprost ołtarze boczne i ołtarz główny zasłonięte ciemnymi płótnami z malowidłami. Po lewej stronie bogato zdobiony prospekt organowy. Na suficie i ścianach malowane obrazy. Strop kasetonowy. Na dole dwa rzędy drewnianych ławek i pomiędzy nimi długi dywan.
Orawka Tourist region: Tatry i Podhale
Who said you always have to travel on the famous 'Zakopianka' when visiting Zakopane? What if you deviated a bit from the main road and drove through the beautiful areas of Orawa and Podhale? Stop at typical highlander buildings, investigate historic churches, or take photos of the Tatra's beautiful and vast panoramas. You can have all this in the following trip! Interested? Let's go!

Piktogram z informacją o długości trasy  68 kilometres.

Piktogram z miejscem startu parking lot next to the church in Orawka.

Piktogram z dojazdem do miejsca startowego szlaku  national road no. 7 on the Rabka - Chyżne section.

Piktogram z mapą 


Travelling alongside roads through Orawa and Podhale is an option for reaching the winter capital of Poland in a different way to the ever-crowded national road no. 7. The proposed route will allow you to get to know the charms of Orawa. This region is out of the way and underestimated. Let's change that!

A brief history of Orawa

The valleys under Mt Babia (from the south) were covered with forest for many centuries. People ventured into these areas seasonally, leading a hunter-gatherer economy. An area several dozen kilometres wide separated the areas where Hungarian settlements (from the south) and Polish settlements (the Skawa Valley and the Raba Valley) were located. Later, settlement waves from the areas of today's Slovakia (from the south) and Poland (from the north), as well as Wallachian, Ruthenian, and German settlements mixed here. It is known that in the 13th century, there was a salt mine in Twardoszyn. In the 14th century, in Jabłonka, a salt guard made sure that salt from Wieliczka and Bochnia exported to Hungary was not sold in Polish territories.

At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, as many as eleven villages were established in the area of today's Polish Orawa, and religious fights broke out between Protestants and Catholics, ending in 1659, with the latter filing a lawsuit concerning persecution by the Roman Catholic Church.

After the first partition of Poland, Górna Orawa was incorporated into Hungary, Hungarian was the language in education and administration, and Slovak dominated the church.

The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries awakened Polish national consciousness, and the National Committee for the Defence of Spisz and Orawa was established. The fate of Orawa was to be decided during a referendum, but due to the complicated political situation (Soviet aggression against Poland), it was cancelled. The Council of Ambassadors decided to transfer 14 Orawa villages to Poland. Then, Lipnica Wielka was exchanged for Głodówka and Sucha Góra, which were on the Slovak side.

W drodze pod Tatry

The wooden Church of St. John the Baptist in Orawka dates back to 1659, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows added to it dates back to 1728. Its interior is considered one of the most valuable in Orawa and Podhale. The polychrome dating from 1711 shows scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist and figures of saints venerated in Hungary. You can also see the coats of arms of the village headmen of the surrounding villages: the Moniaks from Zubrzyca Górna, the Wilczaks from Podwilek and the Bukowińskis from Bukowina. The choir gallery contains scenes illustrating the Ten Commandments with elements of the then-community's life. Since 8 April 2021, the temple has been a Historical Monument.

Right next to the Church, there is the grave of the pilots (with a propeller) who died after their PZL 23B 'Karaś' plane was shot down on 3 September 1939, when the 24th Reconnaissance Squadron was bombing a German armoured column.

In the basement of the nearby linen dyeing house, dating back to the 18th century, there was a warehouse for goods on the trade route leading to Hungary.

From the parking lot, head south towards Jabłonka. After about two kilometres, on the left side, on a hill, you will see a temple in this town. It is worth turning left and stopping for a moment at the Church.


Piktogram z parkingiem next to the temple.

It is known that in 1368, at the will of King Casimir the Great, a customs house was established in today's Jabłonka, but permanent settlement in this region began only in the 16th century. The first wooden Church was burned down shortly after its construction. Protestants dominated the area, and Catholics prayed in secluded places. Religious quarrels ended in the 17th century.

At that time, the church in Jabłonka was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene (a symbol of conversion) and St. Rosalia (a patroness protecting against epidemics). In 1787, with the consent of the Austrian Emperor, a parish was established in Jabłonka, and at the beginning of the 19th century, the current brick church was built. The problematic social, political, and religious situation in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century meant that the temple was consecrated only in 1954. It is now known as the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Let us add that on 22 March 1970, in the local church, the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła ordained Bishop Jan Szkodon and Father Józef Piech.

In front of the temple, on a small square, is a monument to John Paul II, the Pilgrim Pope. There is an impressive view of the Tatras from here. You can admire a fantastic view of the Babia massif from the parking lot.

Go down the same street to the main road and turn left. You can already see the sign with the road no. 958 leading to Białka and Maków Podhalański.

Piktogram z opcją wycieczki

Using road no. 958, you can reach the Orawa Ethnographic Park in Zubrzyca Górna (11 kilometres), where interesting objects documenting folk architecture in Orawa are exhibited, including the bell tower with a Loretto bell, the granary from Podwilk and the Moniak manor house.

If you decide not to visit Zubrzyca Górna, turn left in the centre of Jabłonka and follow road no. 957 towards Nowy Targ. Soon, you will pass the last buildings and reach a small hill. From now on, on the right side, you will be constantly accompanied by a vast panorama of the Tatras, which will delight you from every perspective.

After 17 kilometres from leaving Jabłonka, you will reach Czarny Dunajec. Do not enter the centre but turn right onto road no. 958 and drive towards Zakopane.

On the way to the Tatras

Now, you see the Tatras right in front of you. The closer they get, the more impressive they become!

Soon, you will enter Chochołów, a beautiful and historic village with characteristic buildings, which are protected as a folk architecture complex.

Piktogram z parkingiemPictogram with a car park, approximately 100 metres from the road (on the right, there is a sign indicating access) or a dozen or so metres further by the church (on the left).

The church in Chochołów was built in 1853-1873. Its founder was priest Wojciech Błaszyński, a parish priest in Sidzin, who decided to erect a temple in his home village. Two dramatic events are associated with the construction. The first was the theft of money collected by Father Błaszyński for construction. The second occurred on 11 August 1866, when, while dismantling the tower's scaffolding, a falling beam hit a board, which mortally injured Father Błaszyński. Two days later, his funeral took place, which was a great religious gathering. Father Wojciech Błaszyński is called the Apostle of Podhale due to introducing catechesis for adults, which was innovative then.

A folk artist created one of the six altars in the highlander style.

In front of the temple is a monument to the Chochołów Insurgents, founded in 1970 by compatriots from the United States. On the other side of the street, in the Bafiów Chałupy, there is the Chochołów Uprising Museum, which began on 22 February 1846. The black room contains everyday items, and the white room has festive items.

Continuing the journey towards the Tatras, you will pass the road leading to Trstena in Slovakia, and after a while (on the left), the Chochołów Thermal Baths.

Then, you will pass through Witów, where there is the wooden Church of Our Lady of Scapular  . Then, the road will lead you through the forest, after which you will pass the exit to the Chochołowska Valley, and soon after Kiry; this is where the Kościeliska Valley begins. After a dozen or so minutes, you will reach Zakopane, the Krzeptówki housing estate (40 kilometres from Jabłonka).

Zakopane – not only the winter capital of Poland

On the way to the centre of Zakopane, you can visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Krzeptówki.

Piktogram z parkingiem car park inside the Sanctuary, on the left side of the street.

This is one of the places in Zakopane associated with Pope John Paul II. The church was built by highlanders thanks to donors as a vote of gratitude for saving the life of the Holy Father in the attack on St. Peter's Square on 13 May 1981.

Continuing your drive towards the centre of Zakopane, you can stop at Kościeliska Street, famous for its historic buildings and the old church. We will return to their description in a moment, and by showing other attractions waiting in the city, we will show that Zakopane is not only the winter capital of Poland.

It is hard to find parking spaces in the city, so we suggest parking somewhere close to everything and only then go sightseeing.

After passing the lower section of Krupówki (on the right) and the Gubałówka cable car station (on the left), go straight for a while until you reach a large roundabout, where you turn right and at the next roundabout you also turn right. You are now at Aleja 3 Maja.

Piktogram z parkingiem There is a paid parking zone in the city and several paid parking lots, too. In short, you cannot avoid parking charges if you want to stay close to the centre. The optimal solution is to park in one of the parking lots along Aleja 3 Maja, parallel to Krupówki. Let's say that the section before the intersection with the traffic lights is the lower part, and above it, the upper part.

Krupówki is the main shopping street of Zakopane, and a walk along it is one of the must-sees when visiting the Tatra Mountains. Depending on where you parked, you can go up or down Krupówki.

In the upper part (above Kościuszki Street) are mainly shops and a characteristic bridge that appears in many reports from Zakopane. Piłsudskiego Street begins there, leading to the Wielka Krokiew ski jump. (about 1.5 kilometres).

Walking down Krupówki, you should look at the first cultural centre in Zakopane:  the Tatra Railway Station. Its history dates to 1874 (12 Krupówki Street). Right next to it is the newly renovated Tatra Museum with a wonderful exhibition presenting the history of Zakopane and ethnographic and nature collections.

Near the intersection with Kościeliska Street, which you take to enter the centre, is the Church of Holy Family with a highlander interpretation of the Eight Beatitudes and many elements of equipment designed and made by Stanisław Witkiewicz.

Reaching Kościeliska Street, it is worth turning left to reach the Church of Our Lady of Częstochowa and St. Clement. From the mid-19th century, the interior has been decorated with folk paintings and the Cemetery of Merit in Pęksowy Brzyzek. Among those buried here are the first Zakopane parish priest, Father Józef Stolarczyk, Doctor Tytus Chałubiński, distinguished for Zakopane, a co-founder of the Tatra Society, Olympians and couriers from World War II: Stanisław Marusarz and Helena Marusarzówna, as well as the poet Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer and many other outstanding figures.

At the entrance to the cemetery stands the oldest religious building in the city, dedicated to the Chapel of Saints Świerad and Benedict from 1810. A little further on begins the section of Kościeliska Street, which is a living open-air museum, composed of highlander cottages from the 19th century. It is worth going to the Museum of the Zakopane Style, which is approximately 500 metres away, to learn more.

One day is not enough

Let us add that specific suggestions for walks in Zakopane can be found on the City Hall website. The descriptions specify the walking time and include descriptions of places along the route.

There are many museums in Zakopane related to outstanding figures, for example, the Karol Szymanowski Museum Willa Atma, the Jan Kasprowicz Harenda, the Kornel Makuszyński Museum, and also events and objects – the Palace of Struggle and Martyrdom Museum and the  Oscypek Museum. It is also worth visiting the Nature Education Centre created by the Tatra National Park management, taking the funicular railway to Mt Gubałówka or the cable car to Mt Kasprowy Wierch, learn about the lively highlander folklore during one of the events or an evening visit to one of the inns or relax in the local aqua park.

In short, there are so many attractions and recreational opportunities that it is impossible to see them all in a few hours. During a quick visit, you can only look at the most important ones and then return for an extended stay to visit the others and go hiking along the Tatra trails. You do not have to go straight to the peaks; it's best to start by exploring the valleys. We have already mentioned two of them when reaching Zakopane.

The Strążyska Valley, the Pięciu Stawów Polskich Valley and other valleys are also waiting to be discovered. To make the choice easier, we have prepared our suggestions: ‘The Tatras for everyone’ and ‘Through Mt Wielki Kopieniec to Hala Gąsienicowa’.

Zakopane is the winter capital of Poland and the centre of the world, but it is worth visiting all year round!

Following the Oswald Balzer Road

You will continue along Aleja 3 Maja, turning towards the Tatras. Keep driving up the main road until you reach the Jana Pawła II roundabout (before Kuźnice), where you turn left to Łysa Polana and Morskie Oko.

Piktogram z opcją wycieczki

If you want to see the Wielka Krokiew ski jump up close, you must turn right and drive 800 metres, then return to the roundabout.

The road climbs upwards; on the right, you will pass the Nosal peak, popular among hikers and skiers, from which the legendary Route 'K' leads, Poland's most difficult slalom route. Then, you will pass the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Jaszczurówka. The facility is a beautiful example of wooden architecture and Zakopane style. Stanisław Witkiewicz made its design, and the chapel interior is decorated with stained glass windows designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz Father.

Piktogram z parkingiem car park on the right side of the road.

Just behind Jaszczurówka, the road leads through less developed areas, and you enter another large housing estate called Cyrhla.

You are following the Oswald Balzer Road, which leads to Morskie Oko. Its construction was completed in 1902, and until the mid-20th century, it was covered with crushed limestone. It had to be repaired after almost every storm or prolonged period of rain, so several buildings were next to it for linemen who kept the road surface in good condition. Occasionally, you will pass parking lots from which trails leading deep into the Tatra National Park begin.

Piktogram z ciekawostką na temat szlaku

Oswald Balzer was a legal historian, born into an Austrian family but became Polish. He led the Polish delegation to the arbitration court in Graz, which finally awarded the area of Morskie Oko to Galicia, not Hungary, in 1902.

Time to relax

After driving seventeen kilometres from the centre of Zakopane, you will reach Mt Wierch Poroniec, to the intersection with route no. 960. To the right, the road leads to the border crossing at the Łysa Glade and to the parking lot at Palenica Białczańska, from where most tourists start their hike to Morskie Oko. Stopping there and several others in the area is only possible after making an online reservation. You turn left towards Nowy Targ. Soon, you will enter the large Głodówka Glade, from which there is a beautiful view of the Tatras. On the left, the Tatry Bielskie, in front of the Tatry Wysokie with Mt Lodowy, Mt Szeroka Jaworzyńska and Mt Rysy up to Mt Świnica, Mt Giewont and Mt Kominiarski Wierch.

After another four kilometres, you will find yourself in the centre of Bukowina Tatrzańska, which, together with nearby Białka Tatrzańska, is a popular alternative to Zakopane among skiers. In winter, there are many ski resorts here, where ski enthusiasts of all skill levels will find suitable slopes. Whatever the season, the thermal pools with a view of the Tatra Mountains are well worth a visit.

Your trip ends here, but it does not have to mean the end of discovering Małopolska! There are places nearby through which two other proposed car routes lead: ‘The Gorce that you don’t know’ and Polski Spisz (a description of the Polish Spisz car trail).

We encourage you to stay in the Tatras a little longer. Set off on the Tatra trails, learn about authentic highland folklore, try local cuisine, and explore the fascinating culture of this unique region.

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