Morskie Oko is the most popular destination in the Tatra Mountains. It is also considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the Tatra Mountains. It is easily accessible because of the asphalted road that leads from Palenica Białczańska to the lake itself, which is also used by horse-drawn carriages. You will find shelter at the lake, one of the most iconic in the Polish Tatras, and the surrounding views are breathtaking.
The surroundings of Morskie Oko are very scenic and picturesque. The shining surface of the lake and the surrounding mountains looking through it make a great impression. From the vicinity of the shelter, you can see Rysy and the nearby Peaks of Mięguszowice. If you are walking around the lake along the red trail, you can admire the view with the shelter standing on a moraine above the waterline.
As you hike the trail to Morskie Oko from Palenica Bialczanska, take a good look at the waterfall Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza in the Roztoka Valley, it is a beautiful place.
Located in the High Tatras, in the Rybi Potok valley at an altitude of 1,395 m above sea level, Morskie Oko is the largest lake in the Polish Tatra Mountains. It is a post-glacial lake, closed by the shaft of a terminal moraine. This barrier makes it impossible to see the lake while walking along the Rybi Potok Valley, but only after climbing the hill.
The waters of Morskie Oko have a greenish color. They have different shades depending on the angle of the sun’s rays and the weather. Morskie Oko is the only naturally stocked lake in the Tatra Mountains. Still, due to its location in the Tatra National Park, fishing is prohibited here.
On the Morskie Oko Lake, a tourist hostel has been operating since the second half of the 19th century. It is a destination for many tourists, but it can also be the starting point for climbing Rysy. The highest peak in Poland is visible from under the shelter and the nearby Peaks of Mięguszowieckie and Mnich as well.
Morskie Oko is located in the Rybi Potok Valley. The trail leading to it begins at Palenica Bialczanska, near Lysa Polana. On Palenica Bialczanska and in the former border crossing point – Lysa Polana, you will find a large car park for cars and coaches. Due to its constant overcrowding in 2020, an obligation to purchase parking tickets online before arriving at the venue was introduced. Tickets can be purchased on the TPN website: https://tpn.pl/zwiedzaj/e-bilety Arriving in the area of Palenica Bialczanska / Lysa Polana without a purchased ticket does not guarantee a parking space. Car parking along the road is prohibited.
Buses run from Zakopane to Palenica Bialczanska, which depart from the square in front of the railway station.
Morskie Oko is a perfect choice for a trip with children. Thanks to the straight, asphalt road, even the little ones can cope with it. However, it is worth considering taking a baby carrier to help our little tourist when he gets tired because of the distance. Children over 5-6 years old should not have any problems with this route. The option to go through the valley of Five Ponds will not be appropriate for the youngest children because of a steep ascent and descent along the way.
You can get to Morskie Oko using a red trail from Palenica Bialczanska. There is a car park and a bus stop for buses from Zakopane.
Admission to the trail is payable. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office or earlier online on the TPN website https://tpn.pl/zwiedzaj/e-bilety. There is also a stop for horse-drawn carriages that run all the way to Polana Wlosienica (20 min from Morskie Oko on foot). Both in winter and summer, the carriages run until sunset. In recent years, horses’ use to transport tourists to Morskie Oko has caused many emotions, controversy, and disputes between highlanders and animal rights defenders. However, it is still a popular way to move around this section.
It is the most popular way to get to Morskie Oko. Every day in the season, on average, 5-7 thousand people enter the trail on Palenica Bialczanska. It leads along an asphalt road to the Polana Wlosienica and then on its rocky extension all the way to the shelter on the Morskie Oko Lake. In 4 points, you will find trails that shorten sharp turns of the paved road. Horse-drawn carriages move up and down the route along with the tourists. After about 50 minutes of walking, where the trail crosses the Roztoka stream, there is the Mickiewicz Waterfall, one of the most beautiful and highest in the Polish Tatra Mountains. The entire route takes approx. 2 h 30 min on foot. It is an easy trail, steadily and gently rising along the bottom of the valley. A large part of it runs through the forest, and the views appear only at its end.
People who want to reach Morskie Oko along a longer and more diverse route can choose to pass through the Valley of Five Polish Ponds. Its beginning is a hike along the red trail from Palenica Bialczanska to a waterfall Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza. At that point, you should switch to the green trail leading to the vicinity of Siklawa Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the Polish Tatra Mountains. From there, it is only 5 minutes to the shelter in the Valley of Five Ponds. The last stage is a hike along the blue trail through Swistowa Czuba and Wolarnia to the shelter at Morskie Oko. The crossing of this route takes about 5 hours. You can return to Palenica Bialczanska along the asphalt route following the red trail. This option is easy and gentle from Palenica Bialczańska to Five Lake valley. But the last section requires a steep climb and then a steep descent to the Valley of Rybi Potok, which is near the Morskie Oko.
Morskie Oko and its surroundings are located in the Tatra National Park, and there is an entrance fee. The checkout point is situated at Palenica Bialczanska. Tickets can also be purchased online on the Park’s website.
In the vicinity of Morskie Oko, you will find peaks that belonging to the highest and most spectacular in the Polish Tatra Mountains. There are Rysy and the Mięguszowieckie Peaks that are inaccessible by hiking trails, and the Mnich, which is very popular among climbers.
The Red Trail runs around Morskie Oko, thanks to which you can see the lake and the surrounding views from all sides. It takes about 50 minutes to go around the lake. You can also walk along the red trail to the Czarny Staw pond under Rysy mountain. The route lasts nearly half an hour from the southern end of the lake.
Morskie Oko is also a good starting point for the highest peak in Poland, Rysy. The route follows the red trail along the shores of Morskie Oko lake, then to the Czarny Staw lake, under the Rysy mountain. Then along the rocky ridge secured with metal chains and straight to the top. The ascent takes approx. 4 h 30 min, and it is demanding regarding one’s physical condition. Returning to the vicinity of the shelter takes about 3 hours. In the high-season, traffic jams appear on the trail, making it longer to cover. Ascent to Rysy is a full-day trip that is best to start in the early morning. Going out on the trail in the afternoon hours may cause the necessity to go down after dark, which is very dangerous in steep, rocky terrain.
From the Morskie Oko lake, you can also go to the Mieguszowiecka Przelecz pod Chlopkiem. Initially, you go to Czarny Staw lake under the Rysy mountain, the same trail as you would go to Rysy. And then you should switch o the green trail. The approach time is about 4 hours, and the return takes about 3 hours. The climb to the “Pod Chlopkiem Pass” is considered one of the most challenging routes in the Polish Tatra Mountains.
The third option for a trip from Morskie Oko is to walk along the Ceprostrada, a yellow trail lined with boulders, leading to Szpiglasowa Przelecz, which takes about 2 hours 15 minutes. The hike can be continued to the Valley of Five Polish Ponds.
Morskie Oko is located in the Tatra National Park. According to its regulations, dogs and other pets are not allowed here, even if they are led on a leash.
The Rybi Potok Valley and Morskie Oko are popular hiking destinations both in summer and winter. When it is snowing, you can go on a sleigh from Palenica Bialczanska to the Polana Włosienica. The sleds run until dusk, and it is not possible to return on them after sunset.
In winter, the road to Morskie Oko is cleared during snowfall, but it can be covered in snow if it has frequently been snowing. When going out in such weather, it is essential to remember that the hike takes much longer. With heavy traffic, slippery spots appear on the road that makes walking difficult. It is good to have light crampons or anti-slip overlays for shoes and trekking poles. You should also take a flashlight or a headlamp (the phone’s flashlight may not be enough because it drains the battery quickly). Most of all, plan the route and leave early enough to make it before sunset, around 15: 30-16: 00.
Although the vicinity of Morskie Oko is associated with light, pleasant, and completely safe trips, you should also pay attention to the risk of avalanches here. One of the most avalanche places in the Polish Tatra Mountains is the Głęboki Żleb, located just behind the Polana Wlosienica. Before entering the trail, check the TOPR message regarding the degree of avalanche risk. If it is 3 or higher, it is better not to go to the top and spend your time differently.
In winter, the Morskie Oko lake freezes over. But that doesn’t mean you can walk or slide on it. The ice can break down at any moment, and at its deepest point, the lake is over 50 meters. Such an accident can even result in death.
One of the most famous Polish shelters stands on the moraine above the Morskie Oko lake. The traditions of its existence date back to the first half of the 19th century. The current building, the third in this place, was built in 1908 in the Zakopane style. Today, the facility consists of the so-called The Old Shelter and the New Shelter and has almost 80 beds. However, it does not mean that it is easy to find accommodation here. Reservations, especially in the high season, must be made several months in advance.
The shelter has a cult reputation and is mainly eagerly visited by mountaineers of various generations. Since 1918, the Lapinski family has hosted the shelter. The stories of how the next generations of Polish climbers found a hospitable haven are present in mountain literature for years. The facility often hosts tourist and mountaineering reunions, alpine clubs, and the mountain community’s social meetings.
There is a restaurant in the hostel. There is also free hot water for your own dishes. Payment by card is not possible. Only cash is accepted.
When choosing Morskie Oko, it is worth planning your trip to have time to go around the lake. The journey takes less than an hour and allows you to see the lake from all sides. The farther from the shelter, the fewer people there are, so it can be a way to temporarily escape from the crowds.
Morskie Oko has been one of the most visited places in the Tatra Mountains by tourists for many years. Although there are many people here, one should not forget that nature is the primary host in the Tatra mountains. Bears are living in the Rybi Potok Valley, and they also approach the shelter. Therefore, you should not leave any leftovers of food near the trail or shelter, not even an apple core. Food leftovers lure animals. They start to learn that they can benefit from an easy but often unhealthy meal for them. Bears also get used to the presence of people this way and are not afraid of meeting them. How tragic the fate of such an animal accustomed to humans can be is shown by the fate of Magda the bear. As a result of additional feeding, the bear had to be locked up with its children in the zoo where it died.
The beautiful surroundings of Morskie Oko lake are like a magnet. Tourists consider this place to be one of the ‘must-see’ places in the Tatra Mountains. Even the crowds that travel from Palenica Bialczanska throughout the season cannot discourage you from this trip, which for many, is one of the most beautiful and earliest memories of mountain trails.