Jeremy at Morskie Oko

Hiking Morskie Oko: Top 10 Questions Answered & Useful Tips

If you are visiting the beautiful Polish mountain town of Zakopane, I am 100% certain that you have seen Morskie Oko on every list of the best things to do in Zakopane (our own list here is no exception). For Polish people, it is almost like a rite of passage to have hiked to this beautiful spot. However, there is a lot to know about how to do this hike, and from when I planned my own trip, I found it hard to find information in English all in one place. 

Thus, this article tries to answer every question you might have about Morskie Oko, so that you feel fully prepared to tackle this beautiful hike. You will find information on the hike itself, costs, transportation, facilities available at Morskie Oko, and more. If you have questions beyond this article, always feel free to reach out to me at my links at the bottom of the article! 

1. What is Morskie Oko?

Morskie Oko is an alpine lake found in the beautiful Tatra National Park in the far south of Poland, right along the border with Slovakia. This national park is one of the most popular places to visit in all of Poland for Polish people, due to its proximity to the popular mountain resort town of Zakopane. But people from all around the world make their way here, I met people from England, the United States, Germany, and even a large number from the UAE.  

Morskie Oko
Morskie Oko. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Morskie Oko translates directly to “eye of the sea,” which is taken from an old legend. The name is fitting, and the water is crystal clear, sitting amongst the tallest mountains of Poland. The area is perfect for a hike, and the hike to Morskie Oko is perhaps the most popular hike in all of Poland. You can also walk around the lake for some of the most amazing vistas in Poland. In general, there are very few places that look like Morskie Oko in Poland, but Morskie Oko is the most accessible.  

2. How hard is the hike to Morskie Oko?

In my opinion, the hike can be undertaken by anyone in reasonable shape who is properly prepared. I saw all people of all ages completing this hike, it just might take you longer depending on who much walking you have been doing. While this hike does gain 600 meters (2000 ft) in elevation during its duration, which could be a lot, you do not notice the elevation gain except for in a few sections, because the hike itself is 8.6 km (5.35 mi) each direction. 

So, overall, the hike is more about endurance and strength. It can better be described as a strenuous walk than a full-on hike, especially as the trail is a paved road all the way to the top. If you want to skip some of the distance, there is a section about halfway through the hike that cuts through the forest up some stone stairs, skipping the part of the road where there are a few long switchbacks, and cutting up to 20 minutes of your total time.  

By horse to Morskie Oko
If you feel you cannot make it all the way to the top, you can always pay for a horse carriage. Photo: Jeremy

But, overall, do not let the distance or elevation gain fool you into thinking you cannot do this hike. If you are concerned, there is another choice. There are horse carts available for rent run by local highlanders. These carts carry up to 12 people and will take you almost all the way to the top at a leisurely pace. Many people choose to do this. It will cost anywhere between 60 and 80 PLN per person. 

If you are concerned about the welfare of the horses, the national park closely checks the usage of horses, but if you are super concerned, the hike is 100% doable without aid from animals, even potentially for a stroller or wheelchair. I fully believe anyone can do this hike. 

3. How long does it take to hike Morskie Oko?

Morskie Oko is not a hike that will take you all day. In fact, the signage throughout the park shows that the hike should take around 2 hours 25 minutes each direction. However, it depends on how fast you want to go up, or how large your group is, when you start the hike, and if you have kids with you. For me personally, I cruised up to the top in around 1 hour 30 minutes. However, I was motivated to get to the top as soon as possible to beat the crowds, which meant I hiked straight through only taking a few stops for the bathroom and taking a few quick pictures. 

How long to Morskie Oko
How long the hike depends on how many stops you make. You will likely make a few as there are many good photo ops. Photo: Jeremy.

I would say the average person will take 2 to 3 hours to complete the hike to the top. This accounts for stopping to take pictures at some of the many beautiful vista points, stopping for water breaks, using the bathrooms along the way, and stopping for some snacks. I’d say this is achievable even if you have young kids. 

4. How do you get to Morskie Oko?

This is perhaps the trickiest part of planning this hike. Information is hard to find, but I will supply what I know here from my own experiences. Firstly, the easiest way to get to Morskie Oko is to use the minibuses that are found everywhere in Zakopane. They leave every day from the Zakopane Bus Station (which is currently at a temporary location as of July 2023, make sure to check online for the current location). On the minibuses you will find a sign that shows the destination of the bus. On many buses, you will find Morskie Oko listed, and the drivers will often ask as you walk by if you want to go to Morskie Oko. 

Buses leave consistently throughout the day, and the price depends on how fancy the minibus is. I think the best choice is using Trans-Bus-Bukowina. The journey using them is quick and efficient. The seats were certainly cramped, so this is not an option if you have large backpacks, strollers, or other large equipment with you. There are taxis and larger buses available that might better suit your needs. For the timetable, it is best to look at the Bus Station on some day before you plan the hike, as the information found online is unreliable. But, during the peak season, you should be able to leave as early as 6:30 AM

Crowds at Morskie Oko
The crowds at the start of the hike, many who took a minibus with me from Zakopane. Photo: Jeremy.

If you do not want to use the minibus, maybe because you have a lot of people or larger equipment, parking is also available. There is a decent-sized parking lot available right at Palenica Bialczanska, the main entrance to the Morskie Oko hike. However, when I arrived early on Saturday, the lot was almost already full. If the lot is full, you might end up parking down the side of the road, which can add up to 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to your hike, or you might even have to park further and still take a minibus to the start of the hike. 

To avoid the issues parking can cause, it is possible to reserve the parking space ahead of time. If you visit this website, you can guarantee yourself a parking spot at the lot ahead of time, so that you can just drive right in. If you do not do this, you will be forced to park at a different lot farther away where you can pay on sight, so definitely get there early, and have a reservation. The minibus from the farther parking lots will likely overcharge you knowing your desperate situation, so again, avoid this by thinking ahead! 

5. How much does Morskie Oko cost?

The main costs associated with hiking to Morskie Oko are the transportation to and from, as well as the entrance fee required by Tatra National Park. A minibus ticket each way will start from 15 PLN per person, each direction, so 30 PLN in total. But this price will increase depending on what you choose to take. Please also note that the buses only except cash for payments. They will usually have change if you have large bills, though, and it is also important to note that you pay on the way out

 Admission to the National Park currently costs 9 PLN, or 4.5 PLN reduced. Again, paying with cash is the option available as you enter the park, but you can also purchase your tickets ahead of time at this website. Other than that, all other costs depend on you, so the minimum cost per person can be as low as 34.5 PLN for one person, which for how long the activity takes, is certainly worth it. 

Other costs you might incur include bathrooms. There are free portable toilets along the trail in some points, but flush toilets will cost you 4 PLN per person per use. If you choose to park instead of taking the bus, parking starts from 55 PLN per day, but is free if you have a disability placard. Other than that, all costs would be related to renting the horse carts or buying food or souvenirs along the way. This trip is most certainly affordable overall. 

6. When is the best time to hike to Morskie Oko?

In my opinion, you should get to the start of the trail as early as possible! Especially if you are coming on a peak day such as the weekend like I did. This also guarantees you a parking spot in the lot if you have the ticket for a spot and can avoid adding extra distance to your hike. If you are choosing to take the minibus to the starting point, it matters less about when you leave since you do not have to worry about parking, but going later will ensure you have a very loud hike. 

When to go to Morskie Oko
Just before noon, you will find hundreds of people trying to find a spot to relax. Thus, I recommend hiking early in the morning to get some peace. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

I would also recommend hiking up quickly to the top. Of course, there are some stunning views on the way up that you should stop for, and you might need to take a quick break for water or a snack. But the quicker you can make it to the top, the more peaceful it will be. I cruised up to the top as quickly as I could, passing a bunch of slower hikers, and when I arrived at the top, there were maybe only 100 people hanging around. This was around 9 AM in the morning. 

Later in the day will certainly mean more people. By the time I had finished my added hiking, there were probably at least a thousand people near the lodge trying to find any spot to sit or take a picture. It honestly felt like going to Disneyland with the number of people there. And then on my way down, I passed thousands (yes, that is plural) of more people. So, I cannot even imagine what the lake was like in the afternoon. So, get as early as a start as you can manage for the best experience, or hike on a weekday for a slightly lesser number of people. 

7. What should I bring with me to Morskie Oko?

Jeremy at Morskie Oko
I brought a puffer jacket with me, and was thankful for it as it got cold the higher I got. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

This hike is not a super serious hike, so there is literally no chance of getting lost unless you choose to. With people all around you, if you need help someone will be able to, and there is the ability to get water and food along the way if you run out.  But, even so, I would recommend bringing the following: 

  • A rain jacket or rain poncho. On the way down, it started raining, and many people were not prepared for it, and likely had to complete their entire hike soaking wet because of 10 minutes of rain.
  • A warm jacket: The weather changes quickly in the mountains, and even in the summer it can get cold quickly, especially in the morning and evening. And if you choose to hike higher, it gets chilly. Warm gloves or a hat might also be useful depending on the season.  
  • Closed-toe shoes: Even though this hike is a paved road for most of it, you do not want to wear sandals or flip-flops to complete it. You do not need hiking boots, but the hike is long enough you will not be comfortable in open-toed shoes. 
  • Extra socks: In case your feet get wet from the rain that may happen, there is nothing worse than hiking with wet feet. 
  • 1-2 liters of water: This depends on your taste, and there is water along the way, but it is still good to bring sufficient water.  
  • Sunscreen: Just as quickly as it can rain, the sun can come quickly, and at higher elevations, it is more intense. Especially if you burn easy, you will want this. 
  • A camera: Morskie Oko is an amazing place to take photos, whether for your blog, Instagram, or other form of social media. Many people do the hike solely for this purpose. Especially if you do an extra hike above Morskie Oko (keep reading for more on that), you can get some amazing pictures.  

Also note that you will see lots of people with a lot of gear, including ice axes, rope, and serious hiking boots. But do not feel like you have under packed when you see them, as they are likely attempting to summit Rysy, Poland’s highest mountain, and this hike requires such gear.  

8. What facilities are available at Morskie Oko?

At Morskie Oko, you will find three different areas that have amenities and facilities for you to use. Compared to a typical hike, this is two more areas than you might expect. You will find most of the amenities near or at the top of the hike, with the rest at the bottom and a few clustered along the way. able to find toilets, food options, souvenirs, and even ATMs. 

At the start of your hike, you will find the ticket office and customer service area. There are portable toilets both available in the parking lot and right after you start the hike and have paid. You will also find an ATM in case you need to pick some cash up to pay for the horse cart, tickets, or food along the way. You will also find a few small food carts with typical Polish food, and some huts with the same souvenirs you might find in central Zakopane. There are also picnic tables if you want to eat your lunch after completing the hike in the morning like I did.  

On your way to the top, there will be three areas with portable toilets, including the one right by the start. These will be your only chance to use the toilet for free throughout your day in Morskie Oko. Be warned that there is no water or toilet paper available usually, so bring your own if you think that will be a concern or wait for paid ones. There is also a small hut that might have food and park rangers, but people were using it only as shelter from the rain on my journey. 

Facilities at Morskie Oko
This bar and grill is located about 15 minutes from the top. It has bathrooms, food, beer, and even ice cream. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

About 80% of the way up, you will find a major waypoint, which is a bar and grill found here the horse carts end their journeys. Here you will be able to buy food for a meal, or take a break with a coffee, beer, ice cream, or even a slushie depending on the season. There are also places to sit down, and the first paid restroom, costing 4 PLN per use when I visited. Generally, this spot is less busy than the top, so if you want some food, I might recommend stopping here on your way down. The views are cool too. 

At the very top is the Morskie Oko Lodge. Inside you will find a large restaurant where you order at the window and can choose to eat some delicious Polish food at the indoor seating or many outdoor picnic tables. Downstairs you will find a bar if you want a beverage, and another set of paid restrooms, also for 4 PLN per use.

There is also another ATM if you run out of cash and need more or need some in the first place. There are also individual outdoor stands for ice cream, popcorn, and souvenirs. Be warned since this is the top that this will by far be the busiest set of amenities on the hike, and you may have to wait for a bit depending on the time of day. 

9. What other hikes are around Morskie Oko?

In my opinion, it is worthwhile doing a hike that starts from Morskie Oko as an addition to your hike from Morskie Oko. Be warned these hikes will involve steep climbs, so they may not be best for kids or if you believe you aren’t in good shape. But these hikes are rewarding in that they provide you with a view of Morskie Oko from above, and they are much less busy. 

Czary Staw pod Rysy
Czary Staw pod Rysy is a great extension of your hike to Morskie Oko, with stellar views of the lake itself, and a close-up view of Rysy, Poland’s tallest mountain. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

The most accessible and popular of these options is climbing to Czarny Staw pod Rysy, which translates to “black pond under Rysy.” As is in the name, you will climb to another smaller alpine lake below Rysy, Poland’s tallest mountain. To reach this hike, walk to the opposite side of the lake along the lake loop trail, and climb your way up. This hike is short but hard. Make sure to take lots of breaks, and if you have a fear of heights or vertigo, do not do this hike.  

If you fancy yourself a top-notch hiker and climber, you can continue past Czarny Staw pod Rysy to a couple of spots, including Rysy. This hike takes around 5 hours each way, and takes technical skills beyond simple hiking, with snow present almost year-round. From this pond you can also summit Mięguszowiecka Przełęcz pod Chłopkiem, another of Poland’s highest points. 

Back at the lake, there are a few other destinations you can reach starting from other trails spurring from the lake loop. You can summit other Tatran peaks starting from the east of the lake, including Wrota Chałubińskiego, Monk, and Szpiglasowy Wierch. All these hikes, including the ones from near Rysy, will provide you some of the best views of Poland, and of Morskie Oko. Since drones are banned, you can get your drone-like footage from these hikes! 

Other trains near Morskie Oko
A trail sign points towards Rysy. These trail signs will help guide you if you choose to hike beyond Morskie Oko. Photo: Jeremy.

If you want to learn more about some of the trails, I use the AllTrails app for help (but only the free version, which still supplies enough for my tastes).  

10. What else is there to know about Morskie Oko?

Morskie Oko is a very rewarding hike. There is a reason it is the most popular hike in Poland. The pristine natural environment makes it a hike you could do every time you visit Zakopane. However, to help keep this nature pristine, help set an example for those hiking around you! Unfortunately, with so many people visiting, many not regular hikers, there were poor examples of trail etiquette. Cigarettes littered the sides of the road, and I should note that smoking is not allowed.  

Also, as you hike the trail, make sure to keep to the right, to allow horse carts and faster hikers easy passage, and to not block those coming down if you are going up in the afternoon. Pick up all your trash and take it with you until you can throw it away and stay on the designated trails. And finally, do not swim or enter Morskie Oko. To keep the lake as clear as it is, people are not allowed to swim or boat in it, and you will face a 300 PLN fine for doing so. 

Also, please note that there is no regular phone service throughout the hike, so do not expect to be able to work or be connected to social media while you are hiking! If you run into an emergency, you will fortunately have many hikers to help you, but the emergency number is always 112, or you can call the specific emergency number of +48 601 100 300. For more safety information, visit here. 

Finally, as it may be of interest, please find my timetable for hiking Morskie Oko below, to give you a better idea of how a day might look. With the questions answered in this guide, you should be prepared already. Morskie Oko is a top-notch hike, and you will enjoy it, I am certain of it! 

My Itinerary 

  • Bus left Zakopane Bus Station: 6:30 AM 
  • Bus arrived at Palenica Bialczanska: 7:15 AM 
  • Started hike: 7:20 AM 
  • First restroom: 7:25 AM 
  • Second restrooms: 8:10 AM 
  • First paid restroom/bar/grill: 8:35 AM 
  • Lodge at Morskie Oko (THE TOP): 8:50 AM 
  • Return to lodge after hike to Czarny Staw pod Rysy: 11:05 AM 
  • Completed hike: 12:45 PM 
  • Bus left Palenica Bialczanska: 1:00 PM 
  • Bus returned to Zakopane Bus Station: 1:45 PM 
  • Total Time: 7 hours, 15 minutes 

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