Morskie Oko Hike In Zakopane: Poland’s Most Beautiful Lake

After spending months traveling in Poland, there is one place that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with – Morkie Oko.

Also known as the “Eye of the Sea”, Morskie Oko is the largest and fourth-deepest lake in the Tatra National Park. Its natural beauty is unparalleled, with its crystal-clear water reflecting the surrounding rugged mountain peaks and lush Swiss pines.

After hiking the Morskie Oko Lake ourselves, we knew we had to share this gem with our readers. So read on and find out how to hike Morskie Oko, our experience hiking it, essential tips, and what makes this attraction one of the best things to do in Zakopane!

Planning A Trip To Zakopane Last Minute?

Make sure you book your tours, places to stay, and airport transfers ahead of time to ensure availability!

Our recommended transfer from Krakow to Zakopane:

  1. Bus From Krakow To Zakopane (SUPER cheap!)

Our recommended tours to Zakopane:

  1. From Krakow: Zakopane and Thermal Springs Tour with Hotel Pickup (SUPER Unique Experience!)
  2. From Krakow: Zakopane and Dunajec River Rafting Tour
  3. From Krakow: Morskie Oko and Zakopane Day Trip (Incredible hike!)

Our recommended places to stay in Zakopane:

  1. Domki Javorina (Gorgeous traditional chalet!!!)
  2. Villa Nova (Amazing value-for-money!)
  3. Top Hostel Pokoje Gościnne (Ideal for backpackers)

Why Hike Morskie Oko Lake In Zakopane, Poland?

Morskie Oko Poland

As the biggest lake in Polish Tatra Mountains, Morskie Oko (or Eye of the Sea in English) is arguably the biggest attraction in Zakopane. To miss visiting Morskie Oko in Zakopane is like to miss seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Situated 1,395 meters above sea level, Morskie Oko features crystal-clear water, allowing visitors to see up to great depths from the surface.

The lake was originally called Rybie Jezioro, or Fish Lake in English, due to the high amount of fish in the lake. Nowadays, visitors can still see the trout in the lake! 

Zakopane Morskie Oko

The best part about Morskie Oko is that everyone gets to enjoy its beauty.

Unlike other hikes in Zakopane that require long trekking distances and difficult terrain, the Morskie Oko hiking trail is easy and short.

It is easily accessible through a short 2-hour hike from Palenica Białczańska, the farthest point a motorized vehicle can go (and where the bus drops you off). The trail is clearly marked and well-paved, perfect for travelers looking for things to do in Zakopane with kids or elders.

Horse-drawn carriages are also available for anyone struggling along the route!

Zakopane Morskie Oko Hike Summary

Not sure if the hiking Morskie Oko in Zakopane is right for you? Here is a quick summary:

How Long Does it Take to Hike Morskie Oko?

Morskie Oko Restaurant
Beautiful views on the Morskie Oko hiking trail

On average, it takes about 5 to 6 hours to finish the Morskie Oko hike. Though the hiking trail (one way) to Morskie Oko takes about 2 hours, we recommend factoring in the time you would spend walking around the beautiful lake.

Hikers can also take an additional 1 to 1.5-hour out-and-back trail to Czarny Staw pod Rysami, another equally breathtaking lake in the Tatra Mountain Range in Poland.

Though the lake is spectacular, the bird’s-eye view of Morskie Oko Lake on the trail to Czarny Staw pod Rysami is what makes the additional hike worth it.

In our opinion, taking the extra hike to Czarny Staw pod Rysami is a MUST when you visit Morskie Oko.

How Long Is The Morskie Oko Hike?

The standard Morskie Oko hike is a 16 km (10 miles) out-and-back trail. However, most hikers decide to include a loop around the lake, which brings it to a total of 17.6 km (11 miles).

You could also add a hike up to Czarny Staw pod Rysami for panoramic views of the lake, which brings the total distance to 19.4 km (12 miles).

If you could, we highly recommend the additional hike to the top. The view from there is simply breathtaking.

How Hard is the Morskie Oko Lake Hike?

Morskie Oko Bus
Gorals with their horse carriages

The Morskie Oko hiking trail is fairly easy. Most of the trail is on a paved asphalt road and shade is abundant. There are several pit stops and shops along the way where you can replenish yourself with some food or drinks.

If we have to rate it out of 10, we would give 4/10 if you are not including Czarny Staw pod Rysami and 7/10 if including Czarny Staw pod Rysami. 

The PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut adjacent to the lake serves incredible food and drinks, and is a place to stay if you plan on spending the night there. Just remember to book in advance (sometimes a year in advance) to secure yourself a spot in their iconic lodge.

If you are struggling on the trail to Morskie Oko, you can hop on one of the horse-drawn carriages operated by the local Gorals, but you will still need to hike for 20 minutes! These Morskie Oko horse carriages cost 90 PLN on the way up and 50 PLN on the way down.

If possible, we highly advise against getting one of the horse carriages due to animal mistreatment issues.

Adding Czarny Staw pod Rysami to your Morskie Oko Lake hike will increase the difficulty by a little bit because the trail is fairly steep (but short).

How Much Elevation Do You Gain On The Morskie Oko Hike?

LocationElevation (in meters)
Morskie Oko1,395
Czarny Staw pod Rysami1,583
Start of Trail (Palenica Białczańska)984

On the Morskie Oko hike, you gain approximately 411 meters in elevation. This assumes that you start your hike at the parking lot, which the majority of hikers do. If you hike up to Czarny Staw pod Rysami, you’ll find around 600 meters instead.

As you can see, you gain a few hundred meters in elevation during your hike. But due to the easy terrain and the long duration, it never feels too strenuous. 

How To Get To Morskie Oko Lake In Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane Morskie Oko Bus

As one of the most connected attractions in the Polish Tatra Mountains, getting to Morskie Oko is very easy. Numerous hiking trails connect Morskie Oko to other incredible attractions in the park, such as the Five Lakes Valley or even Rysy, the highest peak in all of Poland.

The trailhead for the quickest and easiest way to Morskie Oko starts at Palenica Białczańska, the farthest point a motorized vehicle can go. Palenica Białczańska is located a 30-minute drive from Zakopane, so it is wise to stay in Zakopane the night before you want to visit Morskie Oko.

If you are staying in Krakow, you can also take a day trip from Krakow to Morskie Oko, though it will be a long exhausting day.

From Palenica Białczańska, Morskie Oko is a short 2 to 2.5-hour hike away!

Driving and Parking at Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko Zakopane
The beautiful views on the trail to Morskie Oko

One of the most frequently asked questions is can you drive to Morskie Oko? The answer is no!

However, you could drive to the parking lot at Palenica Białczańska, the closest point a vehicle is allowed to go. From there, it is a 2 to 2.5-hour hike to reach Morskie Oko. Many visitors will simply call that the Morskie Oko parking lot. The cost to park there for a day is 36 PLN.

If you are visiting during peak season (summer or during the holidays), there is a high chance the Palenica Białczańska parking lot will be full and you have to park a little further back. Recently, park officials have started to issue online tickets, so visitors can reserve a parking space before they arrive.

Find out how you can reserve your parking for Morskie Oko on the official site here!

We recommend you to get to Morskie Oko as early as possible (like 7 to 8 AM) if you are visiting during the peak season.

Taking The Bus To Morskie Oko Lake From Zakopane

Taking the bus to Morskie Oko is easy. Buses leaving for Morskie Oko from Zakopane depart regularly, and they only cost 15 PLN one-way and can be found at the Zakopane bus station, right next to the train station.

Though there is a schedule for the Morskie Oko buses, they generally just depart when they are full. During peak season, these buses come every few minutes.

The route takes about 30 minutes as we mentioned, but can be longer during peak season due to traffic congestion.

During peak season, the buses to Morskie Oko leave as early as 7 AM and run until late at night (~9 PM). But generally, the buses run until a little after dusk.

The bus to Morskie Oko drops passengers off at Palenica Białczańska, where visitors can then buy a ticket to enter the UNESCO-recognized Tatra National Park where Morskie Oko is located. The admission fee is 4.5 PLN for the day.

Our Experience Hiking Morskie Oko In Poland

Morskie Oko Parking
Beautiful Morskie Oko Lake

Taking The Morskie Oko Bus From Zakopane to Palenica Białczańska

After grabbing some Zapiekanka (Polish pizza) for brunch, we headed towards the Morskie Oko Bus Station at around 11 AM. We were staying at Target Hostel when we visited Zakopane, so the bus station was only a few blocks away from us.

When we arrived at the bus station, it was very easy to find the bus for Morskie Oko. Because we were catching the bus in the middle of the day, the long queue gave it away. There was also a sign on the front of the bus that said “Morskie Oko”.

We double-checked with the driver and hopped on the bus. It didn’t take long to fill up and the bus started to leave.

The bus journey took about 30 minutes to arrive at Palenica Białczańska, the start of the Morskie Oko hike. Once we got off, we went to the ticketing counter and bought our day entrance ticket for the Tatra National Park, which cost us 4.5 PLN.

Morskie Oko Horse Carriage

Hiking To Morskie Oko From Palenica Białczańska

Immediately after we entered the hiking trail, we saw the famous Morskie Oko horse carriages on the side.

These horse carriages are operated by the local Gorals residents, and a ride to Włosienica (the farthest point a horse carriage can go on the Morskie Oko hiking trail) costs 90 PLN. The cost depends on the season and how difficult the terrain is.

From Wlosienica, it is still a 20-minute walk to the Morskie Oko Lake.

Being the young enthusiastic hikers that we were, we obviously decided to not go on the horse carriages.

The trail started off on an asphalt road that winded up the mountain. The hard asphalt road was quite uncomfortable for our knees but we figured the monotonous terrain would eventually change.

It didn’t change.

Morskie Oko Hiking Trail
Asphalt Road dominates the hiking trail to Morskie Oko

After about 40 minutes of hiking, we arrived at the popular Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza Waterfall. Here is where the hikers can opt to take the green trail and visit the Polish Five Lakes Valley.

The entire asphalt road was monotonous and gradually sloped, so it eventually felt like an uninspiring long walk up the hill. Here and there the path would open up to some amazing scenery, offering hikers glimpses of the natural beauty of the Tatra Mountains.

If you want to shorten your hike to Morskie Oko, there are several shortcuts that are on the path. These shortcuts are steps that lead into the woods, shaving off a bit of time on your hike. These shortcuts are particularly nice for the way back.

Morskie Oko Hike
Take the shortcuts on your way to Morskie Oko for surprising views!

After nearly 2 hours of hiking, we reached Wlosienica. Here the landscape changed a bit and the scenery opened up. We could see the mountains and beautiful trees that were miles away from us. Here is also where the horse carriages stopped, so we got a chance to admire them and watch them eat!

Wlosienica Hike Morskie Oko

We continued along and reached Morskie Oko and the PTTTK Morkie Oko Mountain Hut in about 20 minutes. This 20 minutes of the trail was no more difficult than the parts before it.

If you want to grab some refreshments, the hut is the perfect place to do so. We visited in the off-peak season and it was still very crowded, though we visited at the most popular time of the day.

PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut Zakopane
PTTTK Morkie Oko Mountain Hut

We were happy to find that Morskie Oko looked even better than it did in photos. With its pristine transparent water and lush surrounding landscape, it was like a photo from a travel magazine.

Morskie Oko Lake Poland
Nothing but breathtaking

We found a quiet spot to take photos before we started our Czarny Staw pod Rysami lake hike (or the Black Pond under Rysy).

Parking Morskie Oko

From Morskie Oko To Czarny Staw pod Rysami

Before we set out for Morskie Oko, we heard about the beautiful viewpoints on the way to Czarny Staw and the beauty of Czarny Staw itself. We knew that if we were to hike to Morskie Oko, we would need to include the hike to Czarny Staw pod Rysami as well.

Lake Morskie Oko Zakopane Poland

Located at 1,583 meters high, Czarny Staw pod Rysami is nearly 200 meters higher than Morskie Oko. It took us about 30 to 45 minutes to ascend to Czarny Staw pod Rysami, something that we weren’t expecting considering the short distance on the map.

The trail to Czarny Staw pod Rysami is much different than the trail to Morskie Oko. Not only is it steep and challenging, but the trail offers jaw-dropping views that you will never forget. If the difficult trail won’t take your breath away, the scenery will surely do.

Hike To Czarny Staw Tatras National Park

Unsurprisingly, Czarny Staw had a fraction of the tourists as Morskie Oko. Compared to Morskie Oko, Czarny Staw pod Rysami was like an abandoned city. The lake water at Czarny Staw was equally, if not, more clear than the water in Morskie Oko.

The still water created the perfect reflection with the mighty Rysy mountain in the background!

Morskie Oko Czarny Staw pod Rysami

We reached Czarny Staw pod Rysami at around 4 PM and sunset was around 6 PM. It took us about 1.5 hours to return back to Palenica Białczańska, where we immediately caught a bus back to Zakopane.

Morskie Oko In Winter

Morskie Oko In Winter

Though we did not visit Morskie Oko in the winter, we have heard great things about visiting it during that time. Even in the winter, Morskie Oko is one of the biggest attractions in Zakopane.

The area sees a large amount of snowfall every year, but the relatively flat terrain and maintenance by the park officials allow visitors to easily visit Morskie Oko. Plenty of refreshment stops are situated along the trail for hikers to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or some food. 

Winter Morskie Oko Hike

The Morskie Oko Lake itself tends to freeze in the winter, giving visitors a chance to walk on a frozen lake. Visitors can even go ice skating on it if the winter conditions are ideal.

Instead of having carriages, local Gorals might use sleighs to transport tourists from the Palenica Białczańska to Wlosienica and vice versa.

There is an avalanche zone on the trail during the winter. Visitors must take extra precautions when traversing through this section of the trail.

Morskie Oko FAQs

Can You Swim In Morskie Oko?

Swimming in Morskie Oko is strictly prohibited because of its fragile ecosystem. Though it might be tempting to jump in, especially on a hot sunny day, you’ll get in trouble and could cause permanent damage to the lake.

Is Morskie Oko Worth Visiting?

Morskie Oko is one of the most popular attractions in the Tatra National Park of Poland, and it is for good reason. It is the biggest lake in the park and the surrounding scenery is gorgeous. The water is so clear you easily see the bottom of the lake on a good day.

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Morskie Oko Lake Hike Zakopane Poland Pinterest

Final Thoughts: Morskie Oko Near Zakopane, Poland

If you are still considering whether you should hike Morskie Oko or not, don’t. Just do it! It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Poland, and one that everyone can do.

With our guide, you have all the necessary information to make your visit as enjoyable as possible!

Any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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