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A Walking Tour of the Chocholowska Valley

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The Chocholowska Valley, covering the area of 35 square km, is not only the largest valley in the Polish Tatra Mountains, but the longest one as well (10 km in length). It is situated in the Polish Western Tatras. Two parts can be distinguished in the Chocholowska Valley – the lower one, which looks more like a ravine with the so-called ''Gates'' . It is also here that the caves can be found, however, they are not open to the public. The other part of the valley was modelled by the glacier, thus, it differs in the landscape features. The richness of the wildlife, the unique beauty of the Chocholowska Clearing, the presence of rare plant species, the colourful diversity of the surrounding peaks depending on the season, etc. make it a must on the long list of Zakopane attractions.


Siwa Polana (Grey Clearing) as the starting point
 
To visit the Valley, one needs to get to Siwa Polana (Grey Clearing). From here the traffic is banned. One can either take one of the horse-drawn carriages or the ''Rakon'' tourist train. The former goes as far as the Chocholowska Polana Mountain Hut (Schronisko na Polanie Chocholowskiej), whereas the latter takes tourists to Polana Huciska (Huciska Clearing). The train, though gaudy and noisy, attracts those who find going along the tarmac road tiring and monotonous. There are two more options: going on foot or by bike. There are two bike rentals in the Chocholowska Valley. One a few metres away from the Huciska clearing and the other one – 1.5 kilometres away, near the Wyzna Brama Chocholowska (the Upper Chocholowska Gate).


 How to get from Zakopane to Siwa Polana?

From the PKS Coach Station in Zakopane one can take one of the buses which run quite frequently during the season. The distance to cover from Zakopane to Siwa Poland is 10 kilometres.


The major landmarks of the Chocholowska Valley
 
Siwa Polana looks more like a meadow, thus, it is often used as a picnic site. It is a good idea to spare a few minutes here to contemplate the beauty of the place. While walking - for an hour - from here to the Huciska Clearing (Polana Huciska), one can admire the nature, especially the relic pines, the only and the largest collections in the Polish Tatra Mountains, and listen to the Chocholowski Brook (Chocholowski Potok). The name of the Huciska Clearing is connected with the iron ore mining which took place here from the 16th century to the second half of the 19th century.
 
The two other landmarks in the Valley are the sites where the valley narrows forming the so-called ''Lower Chocholowska Gate'' and ''Upper Chocholowska Gate'' (Wyznia i Niznia Brama Chocholowska). In the vicinity of the former one, there is a plaque commemmorating John Paul II the Pope's visit to the Chocholowska Valley in 1983.
Not far from here, one can also see the Chocholowskie Wywierzysko – the 1.5-metre deep source – where the Chocholowski Potok starts. It is one of the largest sources in the Polish Tatra Mountains.
 
This part of the Chocholowska Valley close to the Upper Chocholowska Gate abounds in caves, such as the 2-kilometre-long Szczelina Chocholowska, the longest in the Valley, and Jaskinia Rybia (the Fish Cave). However, neither of them is accessible to visitors.
 

 The Striking Beauty of the Chocholowska Clearing

Chocholowska Valley ZakopaneUpon crossing the last of the bridges over the Chocholowski Brook and leaving the forest, the beautiful Chocholowska Clearing (Polana Chocholowska) strikes the eyes. It is definitely worth seeing as it is regarded as one of the largest and most beautiful clearings in the whole range of the Tatra Mountains. The best time of year to come here is the early spring when the clearing is filled with the crocuses. The Chocholowska Clearing used to be one of major sheep rearing centres with as many as 60 shepherd huts. Nowadays, most of them are well-preserved historical monuments, which have become part of the Chocholowska Valley landscape.
 
Some are still used by shepherds for tourist and business purposes (opportunity to purchase the genuine sheep's products). One of the huts was changed into the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, where Holy Masses are held in the summer season.
 
After an hour walk from the Huciska clearing, one gets to the Chocholowska Valley Mountain Hut - Schronisko PTTK na Polanie Chocholowskiej (1146 m above sea level). It is here that John Paul II met Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader and the later President of Poland.

The way back to Huciska – 50 minutes, from Huciska to Siwa Polana – 45 minutes.

The Siwa Polana – Polana Chocholowska – Siwa Poland tour time – 4 hours

 
 

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