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Szlak samochodowy: Polski Spisz

Car trail: Polski Spisz

Rzeka, skałki i drzewa w Rezerwacie przyrody Przełom Białki pod Krempachami
Nowa Biała Tourist region: Pieniny i Spisz
The Polish Spisz region is magical and unique! It is here that you can admire the most beautiful panorama of the Tatras, see the impressive double-sided altar in the octagonal chapel in Frydman, look for places known from films and try to find the Inca treasure, which is said to have been hidden in the castle in Niedzica for centuries. Fancy an adventurous trip? Then head for the Polish Spisz region!

When going to Zakopane, we usually think only of getting to the Tatras as quickly as possible. As we drive eastwards from Nowy Targ, we look at the Gorce massif (on the left) and Lake Czorsztyńskie (on the right), but we rarely look at the area lying beyond. If we do, it is only to the castle in Niedzica. Meanwhile, the Polish Spisz, which differs in tradition and architecture from Podhale, hides many valuable monuments. Peculiar village buildings, historic churches, and unique sycamores are just some of the attractions of Spisz, an area still not very well known, still undiscovered by tourists, although located just off two busy roads. Today, we will venture into this area and take you on a trip to where, over the centuries, Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian and Wallachian influences have mixed, resulting in a fascinating cultural mix.

Piktogram z długością trasy Polski Spisz 52 kilometres

Piktogram z miejscem startowym szlaku Polski Spisz Nowa Biała

Dojazd do miejsca startowego szlaku Polski Spisz  To get to Nowa Biała, it is easiest to get from Łopuszna (‘The Gorce that you don’t know’) car trail tour runs through it, which is crossed by road no. 969 from Nowy Targ (9 kilometres) to Krościenko nad Dunajcem (24 kilometres). You need to follow the signpost to Dursztyn.


On the border of Polish and Hungarian lands

To begin with, let us give you some background on the history of this region. According to historical sources, in the times of Bolesław Chrobry, the Polish lands may have reached as far as the Cisa and the Dunaj rivers and thus included the entire Spisz area. Subsequently, successive fragments of the area passed into Hungarian hands but were largely uninhabited until the second half of the 13th century. It was then that Spišská Stará Ves (within the borders of present-day Slovakia) and Frydman (on Polish territory) were founded. The end of Hungarian expansion to the north came under King Casimir the Great, who built castles in Szaflary and Czorsztyn and colonised the areas of Podhale and Nowy Sącz.

On the Hungarian side, a castle was built in Niedzica in 1320, with which the history of the now Polish part of the Spisz region has been linked ever since. Interestingly, in the 16th century, the fortress was in the hands of the Polish Łaski family for several decades. Olbracht Łaski mortgaged the castle and sold it to the Hungarian magnate Gyorgy Horvath of Palocsa.

In 1769, the Austrians took over the Spisz, Podhale and the Sardinia region. After the transformation of the state into the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Spisz found itself in Hungarian territory. The Białka and Dunajec rivers formed part of the border between Hungary and Galicia.

In the middle of the 19th century, a national Slovak movement began to emerge, but for the Spisz people, the concept of nationality was alien, as they considered themselves Spisz. After the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the problem of border delimitation arose, and historical, ethnographic, and geographical arguments were made. There was even the idea of a referendum, but in the end, the border, according to its present course, was drawn by the so-called Council of Ambassadors.

Its location at the meeting point of countries, cultures, and the interests of the powerful has resulted in a fascinating mosaic of traditions and customs, evident in the folk costumes, specific village buildings, and folk culture. Let's get to know it!

Picturesque Białka River Gorge

The first places worth visiting on our route are still on the Podhale side of the Białka River, which, together with the Dunajec used to be the border between Polish and Hungarian lands centuries ago. Reaching Nowa Biała, you can see the Tatras in the distance, with the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the background, which is an example of the so-called Spisz Baroque. The main altar features an 18th-century painting depicting the martyrdom of St. Catherine and a pulpit with an image in a Spisz costume.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail; you can park your car right next to the church.

From the church, turn right into Św. Floriana Street, heading towards the village of Gronków. After about 1.5 kilometres, it is worth stopping again, this time, to admire the Białka River Gorge between the rocks named Kramnica and Obłazowa. This charming place has already enchanted many and has even starred in several films. Here, the daring scenes from 'Janosik' took place, as well as the famous scene with a canoe instead of an altar from the film 'Karol: A Man Who Became Pope'.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThe car park on the Polish Spisz car trail is on the left side of the road.

After a short walk to the river, continue west, and when you reach a crossroads, turn left towards Niedzica.

After crossing the Białka River, you will find yourself in the Spisz region, which belonged to Hungary for centuries. In nearby Trybsz, you will notice characteristic buildings with houses on the shorter side of the street, behind which a row of barns stretches a few dozen metres away.

The first panorama of the Tatras and a contemporary view

In Trybsz, the wooden Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, dating from 1567, is worth seeing. Its interior features polychrome paintings with scenes from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, which are examples of the so-called poor man's bible, conveying biblical content in the form of pictures. The background of the Last Judgement is the Tatra peaks, the oldest surviving panorama of the Tatras as seen from the north.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski Spisz There is a car park on the car route Polish Spisz; the village buildings are very cramped. The only possibility to park a car is on the slightly widened pavement next to the old building of the Voluntary Fire Brigade (between the old and the new church).

Behind the village, the road rises slightly and leads through vast meadows (after some time, a view of the Tatra peaks appears on the right side), and after a few kilometres it begins to descend to the next village - Łapsze Wyżne (10 kilometres from Nowa Biała).

Before you visit the local church, we suggest you go to the Nad Łapszanką Pass (6 km from Łapsze), which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the Tatras and Magura Spiska. Before the church, you must turn right, following the signposts to Jurgów. The initially wide and comfortable road becomes narrower and narrower with every kilometre, and some sections are very steep.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail; there is not anywhere to park on the Pass. If there are no more vehicles and you are only planning to stop for a few minutes, you can stop at the fork by the direction signs of the trails. Alternatively, stop at the side of the road or drive about 800 metres towards Jurgów, where there is more space.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa is a Loretto belfry. Buildings of this type were built in the Carpathian villages to warn against storms and scare off lightning. It was also believed that the sound of the bell would frighten away ‘płanetniks‘ (who were said to be suicides and drowned people) who bring clouds.

In 1967, Franciszek Kapołka was fatally struck by lightning while ringing a bell in the chapel; a commemorative plaque recalls this.

The panorama is explained by information boards and a telescope that allows one to see many details invisible to the naked eye. A few minutes' walk will take you to the border with Slovakia. The Pass is a favourite place for photographers, so you may also be tempted to take some beautiful shots.

You will return to Łapsze along the same road.

A car park: if you want to visit the church in Łapsze Wyżne, stop at the large car park on the right, at the foot of the temple. Alternatively, there is a small square by the main road next to the church fence.

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul dates from the 18th century and is called the pearl of the Rococo style in the Polish Spisz region. The interior is remarkable for its main altar, which has a painting of the church's patron saints and a richly decorated pulpit.

From the car park, you go to the main road and turn right, eastwards, to drive about 3 km to Łapsze Niżne (27 km from Nowa Biała), where you will find another interesting building: the only Church of St. Quiryn in Poland, a bishop and martyr active in the territory of present-day Croatia at the time of Diocletian.

If you want to see it up close, turn right off the main road at the beginning of the village; Jana Pawła II Street, which runs parallel, will lead you to the temple and then onto the main road.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail: parking spaces are on the eastern side of the church.

It's time to think about the further plan of the day, because in 5 kilometres we will reach a roundabout, where we will have to decide whether to turn right to Kacwin or continue the trip along the main route to Niedzica, going left. We will suggest attractions below, and you can decide for yourself where you want to go first.

Piktogram z inną opcją wycieczki Polski Spisz

Kacwin attractions

In a small, out-of-the-way village, several exciting things exist. The name comes from the German katzwinkiel, which means cat's corner.

When you reach the centre, you will see the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at the crossroads and right next to the church dedicated to Christ the King. In total, there are seven shrines worth seeing in this small village!

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail; the best starting point to get to know the village is the parking lot right next to the church.


The Temple of All Saints, which grabs our attention with its rich bell tower and domed cupola crowning the tower, dates back to the early 15th century. Most of the furnishings date back to the 17th century when renovation works were carried out after a large fire.

Next to the church is a monument commemorating Kacwin's 700th anniversary. To find out why the village has been famous for centuries, you must go about 200 metres south along the road. We are referring to sypańce: characteristic wooden buildings on a stone foundation covered with clay with a sloping movable roof, where grain, meat and other food products were stored. Covering the wooden structure with clay protected the building from fire.

There are other interesting places to see in the area: the Pod Młynarzką Waterfall (in the centre of the village, on private property) and the Pod Upłazem Waterfall (near the border with Slovakia), the Koczy Zamek Hill, and in winter, you can go skiing here.

A walking route around the village takes approximately 1 ½ hours. There is also a blue trail from here to the Nad Łapszanką Pass (3 hours), which we mentioned earlier.

Two castles facing each other

You will return to the main tour route the same way. At the roundabout, follow the signs to Niedzica. Driving through the village, you will pass the Church of St. Bartholomew from the 14th century. Its founder was Kokosz Berzeviczy, who also started the construction of the Niedzica Castle. The most valuable piece of equipment is part of a triptych depicting the story of the life of the temple's patron and his martyr's death in India. The remaining elements are in the museum in Budapest.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThe car park on the Polish Spisz car trail is near the church.

At the next roundabout (3 kilometres from the previous one), you start towards Nowy Targ and the castle.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski Spisz

At the next roundabout (3 kilometres from the previous one), you start towards Nowy Targ and the castle.

There is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail; while passing the roundabout, you need to decide where to stop to see all the local attractions. The first option is a large parking lot at the foot of the dam. The other option is parking lots on the access road to the Castle and on its premises and an area located a little further away by a private beach. A parking fee applies to all car parks. On those located higher in the season, there may be problems with the availability of free places.

You must go to the Dunajec Castle, visible on the hill, which appeared in several films, among others, 'Revenge' and 'Janosik.' Many people's imaginations are stimulated by the legend of the Inca gold treasure hidden in the area. Information about this was apparently written in a document written in quipu script, found in a secret compartment in the Castle in 1946.

Opposite the entrance to the Castle, there is a granary, which was once part of a farm belonging to the stronghold, the only facility of this type in the Podtatra region standing in its original location.

Piktogram z ciekawostką o szlaku Polski Spisz

The Salamon family, the last owners of the Castle, maintained serfdom on their estates after World War I, although it had been abolished in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1848. Attempts to end this began in 1920, but it took 11 years to collect files and prepare regulations. Ultimately, serfdom was abolished in Spisz by a special parliamentary act in 1931.

Another must-see during your stay in Niedzica is a walk along the top of the dam (its height is 56 metres). The facility was built to protect the Dunajec Valley from flooding. Lake Czorsztyńskie serves as a reservoir for water sports, with pleasure boats and small vessels transporting tourists to the Wronin Castle in Czorsztyn, located on the other side of Lake Czorsztyńskie. For centuries, both strongholds guarded the Polish-Hungarian border running along the Dunajec River and today, they are a tourist attraction visited by crowds of tourists.

Piktogram z inną opcją wycieczki Polski Spisz

An interesting idea is to sail to Czorsztyn, visit the castle there and return on foot (walking time approx. 4 hours 15 minutes).

At the top of the dam, it is worth paying attention to the 3D painting 'The Power of the Elements.' You can also visit one of the nearby miniature parks, where models of castles and Marian sanctuaries are presented.

Driving from the roundabout towards the Castle, on the right, you will pass the Chapel of St. Michael, in which the image of its patron fighting a dragon was kept for two centuries. After passing the stronghold, you will catch a glimpse of Lake Czorsztyńskie. You will pass through Falszty a few kilometres further, where the road is winding and sometimes dangerous. We recommend driving carefully because there are a lot of dangerous bends! On the way, you will see a fantastic view of the Gorce with the Turbacz massif and, below, the characteristic white church building in Frydman, to which you are heading.

To Frydman and Krempachy

Unfortunately, the exit to the Frydman centre is not marked. Turn right at the first fork after leaving the hill. You must continue straight and turn towards the village at the next intersection, heading towards the church visible from a distance.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail. Parking spaces are located near the Volunteer Fire Department station, west of the church.


The Church of St. Stanisław dates from the beginning of the 14th century. Throughout history, its interior has changed many times, and for several dozen years, it was in the hands of Lutherans. However, the shape has not changed, and you can find a Romanesque element: a small window in the eastern wall of the sacristy, and a Gothic element: the head in the corner of the nave and the portal.

Looking at the tower, you will notice a unique attic and the remains of a guard porch that burned down in the 18th century. The most valuable element of the building is the Chapel of Our Lady of Carmel, which was built in 1764, thanks to the efforts of the then parish priest, Father Michał Lorenc. It is distinguished by its octagonal shape and the fact that in its centre, there is a double-sided altar topped with a twelve-pointed star constituting a reliquary.

Standing with your back to the temple, between the buildings you will see the Frydman Castellum, a summer residence with defensive features, once belonging to George Horvath Palocsay. Under the building, there are two-level cellars where wine was stored.

From the centre of the village, head west along Jana Pawła II Street, which changes its name to Długa after crossing the Niedzica – Dębno road. You must drive five kilometres to Krempachy, where two more interesting churches await you.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail; the road leads directly to the centre, and a car park is next to the church.

The first – the 16th century Church of St. Martin – is visible from a distance thanks to a slender tower ending with a dovetailed attic. If you managed to enter it, you would see the perfectly preserved shape of a typical Spisz village: a market square, houses facing the road, and, at some distance from them, a row of barns. The lack of spaces between houses had a defensive character, while the separation of farm buildings protected at least part of the property in the event of a fire.

The second – the Church of St. Valentine – stands a few hundred metres away at the cemetery, you will see it when leaving towards Nowa Biała.

Parking na szlaku samochodowym Polski SpiszThere is a car park on the Polish Spisz car trail on the roadside, next to the cemetery.

The Rococo altar contains part of a triptych depicting Saints Stanislaus, Valentine and Nicholas, the so-called holy conversation. A person with epilepsy lies at the feet of St. Valentine, whom we know mainly as the patron saint of lovers but who also cares for people with epilepsy. His figure is arched, his arms raised high, his head tilted back, and his face contorted in a scream.

Krempachy is the last town on the route of this trip. You can see the bridge over the Białka from the cemetery, through which you will leave Spisz, which once belonged to Hungary, and you will find yourself in Polish territory again. The road will take you to the centre of Nowa Biała, to the church where you started your journey.

For those enchanted by Polish Spisz, we also recommend a trip to the Slovak side of this historic land. Kieżmark, Stara Lubowla with its castle, Lewocza, and the Spisz Castle are places with a unique atmosphere, very charming and, like the Polish part of Spisz, are still untouched by tourists.

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