Quick Guide To Ždiar: Gateway To Slovakia’s High Tatras

Ždiar is a place you may not have heard of before, but once you visit, you will not forget it. A small village in Eastern Slovakia with a population of less than 1500 people, Zdiar punches above its weight. Thanks to the popularity of the epic hiking in the surrounding High Tatras mountains, and the equally epic Ginger Monkey Hostel, this small Slovakian paradise has become a must-visit on the Eastern European backpacking trail.

 

Zdiar lies in the Belianske Tatra mountain range so not only are the views breathtaking but there is plenty to keep you occupied. During the warmer months, hiking and biking are all the rage, and when the cool sets in you can indulge in snow sports. This is a place that will truly capture your heart and take your breath away. A stay in Zdiar is taking things back to the good and simple life: good food, enjoying nature, and meeting fellow travellers. Here is my Zdiar guide with advice on how to spend your time in the town and how to get there in the first place.

 

 

 

 

WHERE TO STAY IN ŽDIAR


As such a small village there are not a heap of accommodation options, but the ones there are top notch. I would strongly recommend staying at the Ginger Monkey Hostel. This hostel is very well-known and highly commended. Everywhere I seemed to go in Slovakia people would ask “did you stay at Ginger Monkey?”. It’s not that in general a lot of people go to Zdiar, but most travellers who end up in Eastern Slovakia have stopped by and stayed at Ginger Monkey. It’s kind of a Slovakian travel right of passage and it’s for a good reason.

 

The hostel is reasonably priced, has a ripper 9.8/10 rating on HostelWorld and consistently wins awards. Ginger Monkey is a gorgeous typically-Slovakian wooden building which feels so homely. With comfy couches, a welcoming kitchen, and amazing staff, it is a home away from home. This is the perfect place to base yourself in the High Tatras — plus there’s free breakfast so who can argue with that?

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED BUDGET


Slovakia is generally a very affordable place to travel. Accommodation is high quality for your euro, and transport and food are cheap. During my time in Zdiar, my budget was around $37-$40AUD per day. This was about $30 per night on a hostel room at Ginger Monkey and then the rest on goulash and bus trips. There is cheaper accommodation around if you need but Ginger Monkey was worth it in my opinion.

 

 

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WHAT TO DO IN ŽDIAR AND THE HIGH TATRAS


What to do in Zdiar is heavily dependent on the season. As both a popular hiking and snow sport region, there are bound to be people all year round. When visiting here, I found that summer/spring was mainly for hiking and winter was – obviously – for snow sports, but Autumn was the ‘down period’. I was lucky when I visited in Autumn that the weather was still good enough for hiking. In general this season is when a lot of shops and restaurants are shut in Zdiar and fewer buses are running which is a downside.

 

If you are into hiking then the “Saddle Walk” is a great place to start. This walk is around 7 hours as a loop and has some stunning and varied scenery along the way. With snow covered peak and clear blue lakes, this is a stunning hike. Doing this hike during Autumn as the trees turned a fiery orange was particularly stunning. You can start the walk from Zdiar, but will need to catch the bus from the end of the track (but this only costs a couple of euros).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

READ MORE: Europe Budget Travel: How To Travel Europe On A Budget

 

 

FOOD AND DRINK IN ŽDIAR


Zdiar has a few touristy restaurants that serve decent food, but my favourite place to eat was at a local man’s little goulash restaurant. From a quaint cabin next to his house, he passes his time watching TV whilst passing goulash and beer through a sliding window to hungry hikers. For a cheap price this was a quick and authentic dining experience.

 

Another great place to try is Pizzeria Rustika which serves some decent pizzas and has an enjoyable atmosphere. Beware that the servings can be big!

 

The supermarkets are pretty cheap for making your own meals in the hostel (or buying a sneaky 2L bottle of beer for only a couple of euros). Food is affordable in Zdiar, like in the rest of Slovakia, so it it is nothing to worry about if you are budget conscious.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO GET TO ŽDIAR


Getting to the High Tatras can be difficult but is possible via a couple of bus/train connections from either Krakow or Budapest.

 

From Krakow

This is the way that I came to Zdiar and it was very doable. It does involve a bit of waiting around so scratch out most of your day for the journey.

  1. Catch a bus to Zakopane from Krakow
  2. Once you arrive at the Zakopane station, head outside and opposite the station there are minibuses which go to Lysa Polana (border between Poland and Slovakia)
  3. Get off the bus at the border, cross over the bridge into Slovakia by foot and you will see a bus stop
  4. Buses will leave from this stop to Poprad
  5. The bus will go through Zdiar on the way to Poprad (around 20/25 minutes into the journey)

 

From Budapest

Coming from Budapest involves fewer changes than coming from Krakow. I tried this but going the other way.

  1. Catch a train to Poprad
  2. From Poprad station you can get on a bus which is heading to Lysa Polana
  3. Get off the bus at Zdiar

 

From Bratislava

  1. Catch a train to Poprad
  2. From Poprad station you can get on a bus which is heading to Lysa Polana
  3. Get off the bus at Zdiar

 

Although it does take a bit of time to get to Zdiar it is fairly simple and very cheap. All of these journeys also work in reverse. Despite the mismatch in the timings of the connections, the journey is incredibly fun and through some beautiful terrain.

 

Getting around the region is cheap and affordable, and buses come fairly regularly to take you around the Slovakian countryside. If you stay in Zdiar for a while you can use it as a base to get around Eastern Slovakia. With buses frequently coming through Zdiar to Poprad you can be quite connected to the rest of the country.

 

 

READ MORE: Krakow Guide: Exploring Poland’s Cultural Capital

 

 

 

 

 

NIGHTLIFE AROUND THE REGION


There is one nearby club that I unfortunately was unable to visit, but it sounds pretty decent. The atmosphere at the hostel was certainly enough to suffice with great people and cheap drinks in abundance.

 

 

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Been to Zdiar or have questions? Comment below!

Lucy Owens Travel Textbook

WELCOME ABOARD!

My name’s Lucy and I’m the jetsetting student doctor and travel writer behind the blog. If you’re a fan of scratching beneath the surface of travel, visiting interesting destinations, and exploring ethically, then you’re in the right place. Focusing on purposeful budget and solo travel, Travel Textbook hopes to inspire more young people to seek meaningful adventure.

 

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2 thoughts on “Quick Guide To Ždiar: Gateway To Slovakia’s High Tatras”

  1. I have been to beautiful Zdair and stayed at the Ginger Monkey with my sister back in 2010. We originally planned on only staying a night or two but enjoyed the atmosphere, people and surroundings so much we stayed on for a week!

    We even bought Ginger Monkey Hostel shirts as souveniours! In our 6 months of European travels the Ginger Monkey was our favourite hostel! We miss the beautiful place, Wally the dog and the great team there! Hope to get back there one day!

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