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Introducing High Tatras

The High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry), the tallest range in the Carpathian Mountains, tower over most of Eastern Europe. Some 25 peaks measure above 2500m. The massif is only 25km wide and 78km long, but photo opportunities are enough to get you fantasising about a National Geographic career – pristine snowfields, ultramarine mountain lakes, crashing waterfalls, undulating pine forests and shimmering alpine meadows. Most of this jagged range is part of the Tatra National Park (Tanap). Not that this fact has arrested development on the Slovakian ski slopes, much to the chagrin of watchdog groups like International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Tatra National Park complements a similar park across the peaks in Poland.

Midmountain, three main resort towns string west to east. Štrbské Pleso is the traditional ski centre and is most crowded, with construction galore. Eleven kilometres east, Smokovec is an amalgam of the Nový (New), Starý (Old), Dolný (lower) and Horný (upper) settlements. Here there's still a bit of a turn-of-the-20th-century heyday feel, plus numerous lodgings and the most services. Five kilometres further, Tatranská Lomnica is the quaintest, quietest village. All have mountain access by cable car, funicular or chairlift. Poprad is the closest city (with mainline train station and airport), 14km south of central Starý Smokovec.

When planning your trip, keep in mind that the highest trails are closed to snow from November to mid-June. June and July can be especially rainy; July and August are the warmest (and most crowded) months. Hotel prices and crowds are at their lowest from October to April.