Kościeliska Valley is a great idea for a winter trip – the trail has no difficulties, the whole way is easy and comfortable. In a sunny winter day, the views are beautiful and warm tea in a chalet will make the walk even more pleasant. Of course, it’s worth to go to the valley in the summer as well – then we can visit not only a valley but also caves.
- Trail: Kiry (in Kościelisko Village)-Kościeliska Valley-chalet on Ornak Glade
- Time: 3-4 hours (only a main trail)
- Difficulty level: easy
- For who: families with children, elderly people, and everybody who wants to take a nice walk
- Trail’s colour: green
Kościeliska Valley is one of the most populat and one of the biggest valley in Polish Tatras. It’s located in Western Tatras, it’s about 9 km long and has many side gorges and branches, e.g.: Miętusia Valley, Zbójnicka Valley, Cracow Gorge or Tomanowa Valley. The Kościeliska Valley’s area is about 35 km2.
To visit the valley you need only a couple of hours, but it’s good to book some more time to walk not only through the valley but also to visit some of its nooks.
Kościeliska Valley is built mostly from limestones, dolomites, slates and sandstones. The main infuance on the valley’s formation had Kościeliski Stream and underground waters that created many caves and fantastic sculptures in the stones.
Getting to Kościeliska Valley
If you go by car, there won’t be a problem with leaving it – on the opposite of valley’s entrance, there are some big car parks. Then you should just go to the other side of the street and you’re in the valley.
From Zakopane there’s a lot of buses to Kościeliska Valley – they go really often (every 15-20 minutes) in high season, from the square next to the train station.
From villages: Witów, Chochołów, Podczerwone and Czarny Dunajec you can get to the valley by bus Czarny Dunajec-Zakopane.
You can walk through the valley by foot or take a local horse-drawn carriage.
Walk throught the Kościeliska Valley
The place where are car parks and restaurants are located is called Kiry – it’s a part of Kościelisko Village. When you enter the valley and Tatra National Park, you need to pay a small fee and you can go.
Your companion during the trip will be a stream, called Kościeliski Stream – you’ll walk through many small bridges: from the right to the left side of the stream. At the beginning you’ll pass a Niżna Kościeliska Gate (niżna in Polish means lower) – narrow stone gate, sculptured by stream.
After some time you’ll go to the first glade, called Kira Miętusia, where shepherds’ huts are located. A little bit further, in a small copse, you’ll pass an old chapel – previously there was a small church in this place. Some time ago there was also a mining settlement here, that was mentioned above. Perceptive tourist will see two old lindens here – previously there were many of them in this place, but only those two survived harsh Tatras cilmate.
A little bit further you can turn left and walk through the small bridge to the Ice Spring – it’s a place, where water comes frome stone – and it has constant temperature of 4 °C (about 39°F).
Going further, you’ll pass another narrow gorge, surounded by vertical stone walls, that create high crags. It’s the Kraszewski’s Gate (Józef Kraszewski was a known Polish writer). The stone walls are even 100m high.
Now valley is wider and you come to Pisana Glade, surrounded by beautiful and abrupt limestone peaks. There’re also some shepherd’s huts here. Horse-drawn carriages go only to this place, so if you used them the rest of the way you will walk.
Behind Pisana Glade you’ll come to another gorge – Wyźnia Kościeliska Brama (wyżnia in Polish means upper). Then you’ll pass a small mountain pasture, called Hala Smytnia and you come to the chalet on the Ornak Glade.
Chalet in Kościeliska Valley, on the Ornak Glade
The chalet is located on 1121 m.a.s.l. It was built in 1947-48 in Zakopane’s architecture style. Before II world war, a little bit higher, on Hala Pyszna, there was the one more chalet, but it was burnt. The chalet on Ornak Glade was built instead. Forest that surrounds the chalet is an area of strict protection of Tatra National Park. From the glade you can see beautiful peaks, e.g. the highest in Western Tatras peak of Bystra (located in Slovakia), Błyszcz Peak or Kominiarski Peak.
Kościeliska Valley – Cracow Gorge
You can go to the Cracow Gorge, where you’ll turn left from Pisana Glade, yellow trail (when you walk in direction to the chalet).
It’s a side branch of Kościeliska Valley, that is deffinitely worth seeing. The name was a local highlanders’ idea, because the steep gorge’s walls are similar to narrow Cracow street and it’s high tenements.
The gorge’s lenght is about 3km and in it’s stone walls there are more than 120 caves. The gorge is really beautiful, especially in its lower part, where it creates the narrow ‘street’ between high and steep walls.
Available for tourists is only a lower part of the gorge – it’s a remains of the former cave, where the roof just fell down. After walking some time, you should return the same way or climb to the iron ladder (on your left) and walk through a short cave – Dragon Cave,. It leads you back to Pisana Glade.
Kościeliska Valley – Smreczyński Pond
You can walk to the pond, when you’ll turn left from the main trail through the valley – the curve is next to the Ornak Glde and chalet. A narrow path leads up through the forest.
The pond’s name come from surrounding trees – spruces, that in highlanders’ dialect are called ‘smreki’. The Smreczyński Pond’s surface is about 0,84 ha and in the deepest point has 5,2m. Water in the pond seems to be really dark – it’s because of mudy ground. There’s a wonderful forest reflection on the pond’s water, that gives this place an unique charm.
Kościeliska Valley – caves
In Kościeliska Valley there are hundreds of caves (about 450), but only 5 of them are available to visit: Mroźna (Frosty) Cave, Raptawicka Cave, Obłazkowa Cave, Mylna Cave and Dragon’s Cave – the last one is located in the mentioned Cracow Gorge. During visit in caves, you should always have a torch (flash light).
Mroźna (Frosty) Cave
The entrance to this cave is after 30 minutes walk from the beginning of the valley. You should go up the path in the forest (black trail). Before cave’s entrance you should pay a symbolic fee and listen to the guide’s advice.
It’s the only cave in Tatras, that has electric lights inside. Cave’s length is about 773m and it’s located 120m above the Kościeliska Valley. Walking through the cave lasts about 30 minutes, return the other way, to the main path through Kościeliska Valley.
To enter the Raptawicka Cave, you should turn right when going to chalet (black trail) – the cave’s entrance is visible from the way.
The cave is located in the lower part of Raptawickie Crags. After entering, you have to go down on the iron ladder (about 40m). Return the same way or through Mylna Cave (they’re connected).
It’s located next to Raptawicka Cave. Its all corridors’ length is 1630m. There is a red trail, that leads to the cave’s entrance and passing the cave on the main trail is about 30 minutes. It’s very interesting cave, with lots of corridors. In some places there’re really tight and low passes, so you need to crawl – it’s a big attraction for most people 🙂
It’s also located next to Mylna and Raptawicka Caves. To visit this cave you need a torch (flash light) as well. When going through the cave, you’ll have to walk on your knees in some places. Cave’s length is abou 200 metres.
Trails from Kościeliska Valley
There are some trails to Western Tatras starting in Kościeliska Valley:
Red trail – to Ciemniak Peak in Czerwone Wierchy, time: 3,5h
Black trail – Ścieżka nad Reglami, through Małej Łąki Valley to Strążyska and Białego Valley (in Zakopane): the whole trail is about 5h, to Małej Łąki Valley about 1h
Blue trail – Hala Stoły (Tables Glade), time: 1h 10min
Green trail – through Tomanowa Valley to Ciemniak Peak (Czerwone Wierchy), time: 3h 40 min
Yellow trail – through Iwaniacka Pass to Chochołowska Valley, time: 1h 15min
Have you been in Kościeliska Valley? Did you like it? Did you visit the caves? Let us know in the comments!