The ‘High Tatras’ is actually the smallest high mountains region in the world, yet it is only vaguely known to some and a few might even think it is an exotic kind of tree. As part of the Carpathians, this mountain mass forms a natural border between Poland and Slovakia. In both countries, this region has been protected as a natural park and listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. We spoke to Kathrin Noll, the German hotel manager of the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras at Lake Strbske Pleso and asked, what makes this region so special?
Mrs Noll, the High Tatras is, in terms of size, the smallest high mountains region in the world. Why come here instead of the Alps?
Unlike many parts of the Alps, you still find untouched nature in the High Tatras. Only a few tourists have discovered the beauty of the untouched High Tatras away from the main hiking trail “Tatranska Magistrala”, which passes through the mountains like a red line. Off the beaten track, you feel that the mountains are only there for you and no one else, even though the region is a paradise for holiday-makers who like to be active or seek relaxation outdoors.
What is the biggest surprise for visitors who come to Lake Strbske Pleso for the first time?
I would think the calm atmosphere and the crystal-clear mountain air. Many people do not know what that is anymore.
How extreme are the seasons and what is the best time to visit?
Every season has its very own charm, but it depends what you would like to do. If you would like to enjoy nature and its diversity, the best months to visit are June and July. For hiking, late summer and autumn are ideal, as you can see for miles and miles because of the clear mountain climate. From the end of October onwards, snowfall is to be expected and a white Christmas is guaranteed. The best months for skiing on the other hand are January and February.
What if you are not keen on hiking?
We can arrange outdoor activities for every taste from mountain biking to bear safaris and hot-air ballooning. Very popular is paddling on Lake Strbske Pleso or segway tours in the nearby regions. In winter, our complimentary shuttle service takes guests to the most beautiful skiing area in the region and if you would like to do something really special you can book a dog sledge ride through the glittering winter wonderland.
Enjoying nature is one thing, but what else is there to do?
Many cultural sites can easily be reached within an hour’s drive from the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras. Spis Castle, the biggest fortress in Europe for one, or the medieval city centre of Spisske Sobota. Vlkolinec is a complete village which has been named a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO. Every year in July, one of Slovakia’s biggest folklore and artisan festivals takes place in Kezmarok. There are numerous stalactite caves to be found, my personal favourite is the Demänovská Ice Cave.
What is typical Slovakian cuisine?
Slovakian cuisine is rather hearty; garlic soup and pork belly are very popular. Guests should definitely also try the traditional “Bryndzove pirohy” and smoked “Ostiepok” cheese. These and other Slovakian specialties are prepared with a modern twist by our very own Executive Chef Gabriel Kocák, a native Slovakian. We are also proud of our herb garden, which supplies our kitchen and lobby lounge with lush and fresh produce.
What is the secret of the healing power of the mountain air? Have you felt the benefits of it as well since you have been living here?
That was something which really surprised me in a positive way. My personal fitness has improved, as I am far more active outdoors here than I have been before. It might not be the correct medical explanation, but I have the feeling that the mountain air is not only clearer but also thinner, so you need to inhale more deeply. As far as I know, the fresh air here has a very positive healing effect and helps those suffering from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis.
And last but not least: Do you have a favourite tour or place close to Lake Strbske Pleso?
That would be the tour from Sliezky Dom via Popradske Pleso to Lake Strbske Pleso. This tour leads along the ridge of the mountains and offers a breathtaking view of the valleys. I also like to visit the impressive waterfall near Hrbeniok, roughly 20 minutes’ drive from Lake Strbske Pleso. The waterfall is quite hidden in the forest and visitors have a wonderful view over the thunderous water from a bridge.
Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras
Kupelna 6, 059 85 Strbske Pleso +421 52 3262 222