Wooooh that view from the Ginger Monkey porch!!!! Trains are fantastic. Do y’all know about trains?! With a train, you can turn a two-day break from working yer ass off in Praha into a magical mountain getaway in the High Tatras of Slovakia! Which is just what I did.
Want to visit the High Tatras? Concerned because you’re a solo traveler and everything in the mountains seems designed for families? Fear not! Your guide is here.Train station in Poprad, Slovakia
How to Get to the High Tatras (from Prague)
Easy Peasy. Jump on a train from the main station (Hlvani Nadrazi). You can buy your ticket online ahead of time from either Regiojet or direct through the usual ticketing systems. I took an overnight Regiojet on a Monday for $18. Not the world’s best sleep, but a sight better than buses on winding roads! I lucked out with two seats to myself and was watched over by a pair of older guys happily sneaking liquor while purchasing Chotebar beers. Hop off the train at the Poprad station.
Don’t fool yourself into believing you’ll walk around the town. No worries, I hear there’s not much to see anyways. This view is worth the death-scramble across a ski slope and night train! The downside to arriving at 4am was that the bus to Zdiar didn’t leave until 8:30am. However, it was obvious once it arrived. Just pay your fee and up into the mountains you’ll go.
Stay awake for the drive up into the mountains! Mostly because you don’t want to miss a peek at a hotel that provided inspiration for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wave for your driver to stop the bus at the Zdiar Tatra stop and head for the Ginger Monkey hostel.Wally looking majestic with the peaks for backdrop.
What to do in the High Tatras?
Coffee first, obviously. Maybe pet the super-famous dog, Wally, or (try) to befriend Kevin the cat. Sit on the porch and enjoy the magnificent mountain views! I didn’t grow up with mountains. Really, they’re fantastic things!
The folks at the hostel have snow suits you can borrow for romping or skiing. I highly recommend going for a hike. All the restaurant recommendations were surprisingly delicious, as well. Especially that pizza!! I hadn’t skied in over a decade and was a bit nervous about hitting the mountain slopes.
However, I found that the easier runs at the nearest big resort were manageable and I really got into it after regaining some confidence. Do be prepared for lines at the first lift and for super speedy kids occasionally running over the back of your skies. Didn’t die in the mountains!!!!!
How long should you stay in Zdair?
I stayed just two days, Like so many other small town trips I’ve made, there was so much left to do!! You can go to the larger towns for a day or take a trip to one of the beautiful High Tatras mountain lakes.
For those willing to spend a little extra cash, there’s a cable car that will take you straight up to the highest peak for a view that cannot help but be stunning. Party people, there’s plenty of Tatra Caj to be drank and (apparently) a club that is insane to bust your moves all night long. I hear they drove a snow plow through a wall for the DJ booth.
Slovakia’s High Tatras mountains are absolutely beautiful and worth taking some time to visit. If you have a group of peeps, consider renting a cottage or pension space. There are plenty of towns that will get you happily next to the mountains.
If you’re going alone and want to be in the mountains, then I highly recommend the Ginger Monkey in Zdair. (no, they didn’t pay me…I just reeeeeally loved my 2-day-stay!)