Vysoké Tatry Stories and Tips

Cable-ways of Slovakian High Tatras

Photo of Vysoké Tatry, Slovakia

Tourist cable-ways that operate all year round (as opposed to winter-only ski lifts) are situated in three locations the Slovakian High Tatras, one for each of the main resorts that are strung on the Cesta Svobody between Strbskie Pleso and Tatranska Lomnica.
Strbskie Pleso boasts a chair lift up the slope of Solisko mountain to Chata Pod Soliskom. This lift covers an altitude difference of 430m, travelling from the altitude of 1386m to 1814m. The adult return ticket cost 10 Euro at the time of writing (2011). The chairlift trip is very enjoyable, especially further up as the cable climbs more steeply and above the tree line. The Chata Pod Soliskom mountain hostel offers refreshments, as does a cafe at the top station of the chairlift. I am not sure though if the chairlift trip itself is worth the hefty price tag (after all we are talking close to 30 Euro for a family, minimum). However, the chairlift offers a huge advance on those intending to climb to the minor summit of Predne Solisko (2093m) which is accessible by a steep (18% gradient) but short (nominally 45 minutes) route from the top station of the cable car and offers magnificent views.
Stary Smokovec has a funicular to the popular resort area of Hrebienok. The Stary Smokovec - Hrebienok Funicular covers a distance of 2190m and climbs 255m to the altitude of 1272m. It can transport 1600 people an hour from the bottom station at Old Smokovec to the small ski resort of Hrebienok. There are several walking paths, easily accessible from the top station, some leading to mountain hostels and waterfalls. The adult ticket costs 7 euro return, 6 euro up and 4 euro down (2011 prices). Children under 6 years old travel free. There is also a possibility of buying a combined deal ticket for the funicular and the Skalnate Pleso - Tatranska Lomnica gondola cable car (each one way) and walking the 2 hour stretch of Tatra Highway (Tatranska Magistrala) between the two stations

This cable-way takes litterally just a few minutes and is a completely unexciting ride in itself, with no views as such. The top is very busy (this is the cheapest and fastest of the High Tatra cable ways). However, it saves a 45 minutes (standard time, and more if you have kids or aren't very fit) and over 250m of a dull ascent, taking the visitor to a starting point of quite a few great Vysoke Tatry walks, from genetle strolls to the waterfalls of Studeny Potok to moderately easy, short walks to Zamkovskego Chata (Zamkovsky's Cottage) and further on to Tatranska Magistrala to Skalnate Pleso and its to station of the cable car or the opposite way to Silezsky Dom. Longer and more sternous walks also start from Hrebienok and several different colour-coded trails pass by. One of the best value options for a nice, high-altitude walk takes advantage of a "Magistrala" joint ticket that for 13 Euro offers a ride up on the Hrebienok funicular and a ride down the Skalnate Pleso cable car to Tatranska Lomnica (or a ride up the cable car and ride down the funicular), allowing for a two-hour walk on the stretch of Tatranska Magistrala between the two stations.
The most exciting set of the High Tatra cableways is undoubtedly in the Tatranska Lomnica. In the actual fact it's three different cableways that include a gondola cable car from Tatranska Lomnica to Skalnate Pleso, a suspension cablecar from Skalnate Pleso to the Lomnica Peak (Lomnicky Stit) and a chair lift from Skalnate Pleso to Lomnicke Sedlo.

The Cable Car to Skalnate Pleso, near Vysoké Tatry, constitutes the first (and entirely separate) part of the cable car journey from Tatranska Lomnica to the peak of Lomnicky Stit. This itself is composed of two cable-ways carrying the passengers from the bottom station at the altitude of 903m via the intermediate station Start at 1173m to the Skalnate Pleso itself at 1772m. This cable car operates 4 person gondolas and costs (2011 prices) 10 Euro one way or 15 Euro return. Children under 6 travel free. Skalnate Pleso is above the tree line and surrounded by alpine landscape of High Tatras, with close views of the peaks as well as views to the settlements below. It features a small loch, a nature walk round the loch as well as a restaurant and (in a separate building) an astronomical observatory. There are also numerous high-altitude walking trails. It is also the bottom station of the suspension tramway to the peak of Lomnicky Stit and the access point for the chairlift to Lomnicke Sedlo.

The suspension cable-way Skalnate Pleso - Lomnicky Stit near Vysoké Tatry is the second part of the cable-car ascent to the peak of Lomnicky Stit, following on from the gondola cable car that connects Tatranska Lomnica to Skalnate Pleso.. This cable-way starts at 1772m and ascends to 2625m, the top of the second highest peak in the Tatras which is only otherwise accessible to mountaineers and experienced hikers on a guided climb. The cable car costs 24 Euro (2011 prices) for a return journey. Tickets can be bought in advance online and are for specific journeys, allowing visitors 50 minutes at the top.

The total cost of a return trip from Tatranska Lomnica to the top of the Lomnica peak is thus a whopping 34 Euros per adult. Despite its price, the peak cable-car gets booked up really quickly and in the high season you need to be up on Skalnate Pleso pretty early to have a chance. It is also possible to book tickets online in advance, but obviously this doesn't take into account the changeable mountain weather and you might end up paying the final 24 Euro for a while-knuckle ride in a cable car to the second highest peak in the Tatras... and see nothing but a meteo station, some rocks and a sea of clouds. On a good day, the views are stunning and apparently worth every cent, stretching towards the Polish lowlands on one side and beyond Low Tatras into southern Slovakia on the other. The only other way to reach the Lomnica peak is to climb it with a guide (it's not on the public trail network) which not only requires hiking skills bordering on mountaineering as well as reasonable fitness level, but also is rather more expensive than the cable car.

The cheaper alternative is to take the chairlift to Lomnicke Sedlo. Skalnaté pleso - Lomnické sedlo Chair Lift, near Vysoké Tatry, offers an alternative - and substantially cheaper - means of travelling above the Skalnate pleso to the suspension cable-way to the peak of Lomnica. The lift covers a distance of 1138m and climbs up 408m from 1772m to 2196m above the sea level. Lomnicke Sedlo (Lomnica Saddle) is the starting point for the guided ascent of Lomnica Peak itself and also offers wide views of the surrounding areas and the alpine landscape of the High Tatras. The return journey (compulsory as there is no trail) costs 8 Euro per person (2011 prices).

Many people take just the trip up to Skalnate Pleso and either take the gondola down or walk on one of the many paths available for hikers there. Skalnate Pleso itself offers a taste of the high mountain environment, with a small and shallow tarn in which the precipitous walls and the peak of Lomnica get reflected. There is and educational path around the tarn, a kids' play-park next to it and a couple of minutes away, the Skalna Chata mountain hostel that offers refreshments in a slightly more intimate surroundings that the cafe at the top station of the gondola cable car. The main trail that passes Skalnate Pleso is Tatranska Magistrala.

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