Visit Pope John Paul II’s favourite mountain valley

More and more tourists are discovering the beauty of Pope John Paul II’s favourite valley. Chochołowska valley, the longest and largest valley in the Polish Tatra Mountains, is located on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic, just a little more than 10 kilometres from Zakopane, Poland’s most popular winter resort.

Zakopane in turn is located less than 100 km south of Poland’s former capital city Krakow, which is easily accessible thanks to the many international flight connections of Krakow John Paul II International Airport.

The picturesque valley, which occupies an area covering more than 35 km² and has a length of about 10 km, owes its name to the village Chochołów, located a couple of kilometres from the valley. The old village, dating back to the sixteenth century, attracted herdsmen who took advantage of the large pastures available in the valley. Back in the 1930s 70 shepherds grazed a total of 4000 sheep in the area, while another 280 shepherds used the valley to graze their cattle.

The herdsmen left numerous old huts and shelters behind them that have now become popular tourist attractions.

The first tourists appeared in the area in the 19th century but it was just before the outbreak of the First World War that the valley became truly popular with the skiers and mountaineers from the Zakopane Ski Association and the Tatra Society, who decided to build a large shelter on Starorobotynska Równia. Between 1930-1932, the Warsaw Ski Club followed in their footsteps and built a large shelter on the Chochołowska Glade.

As much as two thirds of the valley is covered with spruce forests, while the peaks and ridges of the higher mountains are grassy. In autumn, the local flora turns into a palette of colours, attracting painters and other artists seeking inspiration.

The fauna is also varied, as Chochołowska Valley serves as a refuge for the region’s wild animals. Deer, bears, marmots and many other species thrive in the area.

As spring looms, dust off your comfortable hiking shoes, prepare your backpack and set out on a journey to see what the Tatra Mountains and the beautiful Chochołowska Valley, once frequently visited by the Polish Pope, have to offer.