Winter is best experienced surrounded by snow and winter fun. So this winter, I was privileged to spend an incredible week over in the Tatras Mountains region in Slovakia to enjoy the best of winter with Erik, the founder and incredible guide from Adventoura Slovakia.
The main area we focused on was in Vysoke Tatry, though later on we also covered the Donovaly region.
For an adventure seeker, there are heaps of incredible activities you can immerse in, and I will be sharing with you a summary of some of the best:
Overnight in an Igloo Experience in Tatras Mountains
Build and Sleep in an Igloo
This is probably something that very few people can say they have personally experienced – building an igloo. You will be surprised, even countries like Finland/ Iceland or Norway do not have such a tour available publicly, given it is quite a bit of work to build an igloo and tons of planning involved.
Hence, I must stay its incredible that we can embark on this experience here in Eastern Europe.
How to Make an Igloo
Making an igloo with snow from scratch is not as difficult as I thought it would be, though it takes great skill and teamwork. Our group consists of 6 persons, and we had to split the tasks to get the igloo completed in around 2+ hours, with nice hot drinks and cookie breaks in between.
We snowshoed for 30 minutes up to the Magura Mountain Range in Zdiar Village which was where we build our igloo!
- Choosing a good spot/ aware of wind direction
- Forming the base/ circumference
- Even-ing and flattening the ground
- Cutting the ice blocks with shovels
- Stacking up the ice blocks
- Joining the blocks and chiseling away the edges
- Forming the igloo doorway
- building the igloo ceiling/ roof (the most important part)
- Collecting leaves branches and twigs for bedding
- Ready for sleeping!
Things to prepare before building and making an Igloo
Building and igloo involve some level of manual work, so you must be ready with a set of clothes that are not too thick and warm as you will generate heat working. Also, waterproof gloves and shoes are a MUST, as you use them a lot, and it’s important to keep your vitals warm.
BBQ and Bonfire
We didn’t stay overnight straight after building it but went back to change a new set of dry clothes, wash up before heading over later at night. We enjoyed the evening with some sausages and mushrooms on a branch over a nice warm fire. More common bonfire food here in Slovakia will be the Zivanska. Afterwhich we spend a night in the igloo till sunrise the next day.
Overnight Experience and Stay in Igloo
Super incredible experience. it can get cold up to -5degrees at night outside in December – Jan, but we were relatively nice and warm in our negative 15degrees sleeping bags, which are provided by Adventoura Slovakia. We woke up to the incredible sunrise the next day right in front of our door, and nice hot tea to sip before packing up and heading to our next activity.
Book an Igloo Experience
- Full Building and Overnight in Igloo Experience Costs: 110 Euros
- Family and Kids Friendly
- Adventure and Outdoor Lovers
- Provided: Snowshoes, Poles, Shovels, Inflatable mattress/ insulation, Sleeping Bag, BBQ Food, Hot Tea
Husky Hugs and Dog-Sledding
Another highlight for many of us during this trip was the husky sledding experience. Okay, to be exact, not all the dogs were purebred huskies. There was a variety, but it was so nice to see barking and jumping around as we got nearer to them.
Many of us were dog lovers so we spend a good amount of time playing with them and giving them a good rub. The dogs have different personalities and abilities, so this is something the mushers know very well when they train them and pair them up for a sled.
We each took turns to be a passenger and to ride it. The 2 mushers and instructors that were with us were Daniel and Lucia. This wasn’t the first time for me but it was still heaps of fun and it was incredible mountain views all around.
In the 2nd round where Ely and I both rode it together with Daniel the musher, we had 8 sled dogs and we were going so fast it fell almost like a wooden rollercoaster ride, bumpy and crazy fast. Cez was the sled behind us and many times our dogs were competing to see who was faster. It was really fun and a good experience for many who did it for the 1st time.
Ski Experience in High Tatras
Our trip ended with the last day hitting the slopes of High Tatras. For some of us, it was the 1st or 2nd time. Erik our guide, who was also a qualified ski instructor in the past gave a beginner lesson ski class for Cez, and a refresher for Yvonne and Ely.
The Tatras Mountain Regions and Zones
Tatras mountains are broken up into 3 different zones – the High Tatras with 4 ski mid-size resorts with 5 slopes on average with the longest at maximum 2km long. They are generally family-friendly as well.
Donovaly, which is situated between the Veľká Fatra mountains (National Park) and Starohorské Vrchyis. Last but not least is Jasna, which is located in the low Tatras region, which happens to also be the biggest ski region with up to 20 chairlifts and gondolas in 1 resort.
Ski Lessons for Beginners
After much laughs and some basic techniques taught like the Snow Plough, tactics on how to get around on your skis, we were ready to go up the chairlift.
It was a great joy for Ely and I to hit the slopes again, and for Cez being his 1st time, it was truly exhilarating and new.
Reason for Skiing in Slovakia
The resort we ski-ed at was very beginner and children friendly, and you could see many young ones in their puffy jackets learning ski-ing. Such a joy to watch! It’s also a lot safer as you do not have that many students and beginner snowboarders, which can sometimes make a new beginner ski-er more nervous.
So if you are looking to visit Eastern Europe in Winter and want to avoid the more pricey ski destinations like Switzerland and Austria, Slovakia is a great place to bring your family and loved one.
Costs of Private Ski Classes
All in all, the experience was very pleasant and the weather was also terrific for us. Costs for a 1-day private ski lesson for 2 people for 4 hours is 120 euros for 2 ( 60euros per person).
Ski passes and chairlift access and ski equipment rental can be arranged too by Adventoura Slovakia and your private ski instructor seamlessly.
For more ideas of what else to do in your time here in Tatras Mountains during winter, here are a few awesome suggestions to make your trip worthwhile.
Fun Winter Things to Do in Tatras Mountain Region Slovakia:
- Free and Easy Tour of Tatras Main Town (Stary Smokovec) – Don’t miss out the Sherpa Museum to learn about the history of Sherpas here
- Half-Day Snowshoeing in Eastern Tatra Mountain Range, Zdiar – You can spot incredible wildlife like fox, deer, cat, dog
- Ice Dome and Ice Statues at Stary Smokovec: Kids friendly and good for a break from skiing.
- Sledding: At the longest run 2.4km in Tatras up from Hrebienok to Stary Smokovec
- Belianska Cave: Open all year round so best chance to visit one of the most beautiful caves in Eastern Europe
- Aqua City Poprad: Super lovely experience, especially with the herbal sauna rooms. Small warning, some of the rooms require you to go in nude!
- Day Visit to Poprad City – home of 55,000 people, this is a great city with the new of the mountains in the distance. Catch up with your winter shopping or indulge in some great Slovak Cusine and coffee joints.
Hotels to Stay in Tatras
When you are up in the mountainous regions, it’s always nice to stay in a smaller and cozier resort compared to a big one. We absolutely loved the one we stayed at which is Aplend Villa Beatrice, located at Tatranska Lomnica in Vysoke Tatry.
Not only is it spacious and very cozy with its light brown pine wood design, its also very stylishly designed ( it has a bookshelf with real books!) and has a full fledge kitchen for you to cook meals if you prefer. Very accessible to the ski resorts as well and for those keen to dine out, some local Slovak restaurants nearby just behind the resort across the railway track. We ate at Stara Mama, which was yummy!
Transport How to Get There
- A reasonable 2+ hours drive from Krakow Airport in Poland. It will hit the highway and go pass Zakopane mountain, the highest in Poland.
- Airport Connections (Direct flights from London/ Warsaw to Krakow)
Slovak Food and Dining Options
You cannot visit Slovakia and not try their local delicacies. We had a go at a few great ones recommended by Erik.
Authentic Slovak Restaurants
We ate at the following few local Slovak places. There was an Italian pizza place we ate as well as the food court at Poprad, but I guess those don’t really stand out compared to what we had here:
- Stara Mama: Located near our hotel at Tatranska Lomnica
- Koliba Kamsik: Located in the town centre of High Tatras
- Humno: We ended our last night in this restaurant or bar. There is this huge inverted car hanging there, which you cannot miss when you enter. The food was incredible here!
Best Slovak Dishes to try
Remember to have a taste of some of these Slovak dishes when you are here. Superb tastes and definitely warms you up after a long day of skiing.
- Beef Soup: its made up of beef pieces, vegetables and also contains noodles inside too! Reminds me of Asian egg noodles, so I love it!)
- Fried Cheese coated in breadcrumbs: ( Zyprazany Syr V Trojobale)
- For vegetarians: you can opt for Cauliflower coated in breadcrumbs
- Fried Potato Pancake: (Placky)
- Langos: Technically its Hungarian, and in the USA they call it Fried Dough. You can order it with icing or with cheese/ tomatoes
- Hot Soothing Drinks: Order Ginger Tea with Lemon here
- Cold Non-alcoholic: Birell Lemon OR Pomelo/ Grapefruit flavour is our favourite refreshing drink. Only found in Slovakia!!
Hence conclude some of our best adventures here in Tatras Mountains with Adventoura Slovakia, the outdoor adventure experts.
Cannot think of a better way to get around this stunning Slovak mountain range encountering such great experiences, great weather and most of all great company. Kudos to everyone on this trip – Erik our incredible guide from Adventoura Slovakia, Ely, Yvonne Gordon, Helen Custy and Cez Krol. You guys are awesome!