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Czarny Staw in the High Tatras
Tichá dolina in Slovakia

The Tatra Mountains, Tatras or Tatra (Tatry in both Polish and Slovak), constitute a mountain range which forms a natural border between Slovakiamarker and Polandmarker. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlachmarker at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysymarker (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain.

The Tatras consist of:

The Tatra Mountains are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountainsmarker. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape. Their high mountain character, combined with great accessibility, makes them popular with tourist and scientists.


The area is a well-known winter sports area, with resorts such as Zakopanemarker, the "Winter Capital" of Poland, Popradmarker and the town Vysoké Tatrymarker in Slovakia (in English literally (Town of the High Tatras); created in 1999 and including the former separate resorts Štrbské Plesomarker, Starý Smokovecmarker, and Tatranská Lomnicamarker), andThe High Tatras, with their 24 (or 25) peaks over 2500 m above sea level, are, together with the Southern Carpathiansmarker, the only mountain ranges with an Alpine character in the whole 1200 km length of the Carpathian Mountain range.

Hala Gąsienicowa in Poland
Hala Gąsienicowa in Poland
Kotlina Piatich Spišskych plies in Slovakia
Kotlina Piatich Spišskych plies in Slovakia

The Tatras should be distinguished from another Slovak mountain range, the Low Tatrasmarker (in Slovak Nízke Tatry), situated south of the Tatras. Sometimes, however, the term 'Tatras' is used freely to refer to both the Tatras and the Low Tatras.


The Tatra Mountains (especially the High Tatras) are known to have undergone four glaciations. The most extensive transformations were caused by a glacier 100–230 m thick; the most apparent features of this process are the numerous cirques and mountain lakes. The mountains were shaped by glacial erosion, which formed many alpine cliffs, some up to 1,000 m high.


The Mountains lie in the temperate zone of Central Europe. They are an important barrier to the movements of air masses. Their mountainous topography causes the most diverse climate in that region.

The effects of global warming in the Tatra Mountains started to be visible around the 1980s.


The average wind speed on the summits is 6 m/s.
  • southerly winds on the northern side
  • westerly winds at the base of Tatra (Orawa-Nowy Targ Basin)
  • foehn winds (Polish: halny) most often occur between October and May. They are warm and dry and could cause extensive damage.


Temperatures range from −40 °C in the winter to 33 °C in warmer months. Temperatures also vary depending on altitude and sun exposure of a given slope.Temperatures below 0 °C last for 192 days on the summits.


Highest precipitation figures are recorded on northern slopes. In June and July monthly precipitation reaches around 250 mm (10 in). Precipitation occurs for 215 to 228 days a year. Thunderstorms occur 36 days a year on average.

Snow cover

Maximum thickness on the summit amounts to around 320 cm (125 in) in March. Peaks are sometimes covered with snow throughout the year. Avalanches are frequent.


The Mountains have a diverse variety of plants. They are home to more than 1,000 vascular plants, about 450 mosses, 200 hepatics, 700 lichens, 900 fungi, and 70 slime moulds.There are five climatic-vegetation belts in Tatras:

The distribution of plants depends on altitude:
  • up to 1,300 m: Carpathian beech forest; almost no shrub layer, herb layer occupies most of the forest floor
  • to 1,550 m: Spruce forest; shrub layer poorly developed, mosses are a major component
  • to 1,800 m: Mountain Pine, numerous herbs
  • to 2,300 m: high altitude grasslands
  • from 2,300 m up: Subnivean - bare rock and almost no vegetation (mostly lichens)


Tatra chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica
The Tatra Mountains are home to many species of animals: 54 tardigrades, 22 turbellarians, 100 rotifers, 22 copepods, 162 spiders, 81 molluscs, 43 mammals, 200 birds, 7 amphibians and 2 reptiles.

The most notable mammals are the Tatra chamois, marmot, snow vole, brown bear, wolf, Eurasian lynx, red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. Notable fish include the brook trout and alpine bullhead.

The endemic species include the caddis fly, spider Xysticus alpicola and wingless springtail.

Human involvement

Visible consequences of the 2004 storm

The Tatra Mountains were used in the 18th and 19th centuries for sheep grazing and mining and many trees were cut down to make way for human exploitation. Although these activities were stopped, the impact is still clearly visible. Moreover, there are new problems. Pollution from the industrialized regions of Krakówmarker, Ostravamarker and Orava and uncontrolled tourism are damaging the mountains.

The Slovak Tatra National Parkmarker (Tatranský národný park; TANAP) was founded in 1949, and the contiguous Polish Tatra National Parkmarker (Tatrzański Park Narodowy) was founded in 1954. Both areas were added to the UNESCOmarker Biosphere Reserve list in 1993.

On 19 November 2004, large parts of the forests in the southern part of the High Tatras were damaged by a strong wind storm. Three million cubic metres of trees were uprooted, two people died and several villages were totally cut off. Further damage was done by a subsequent forest fire, and it will take many years until the local ecology is fully recovered.

The 2006 Bollywood film, Fanaa, starring Aamer Khan and Kajol was shot here, with the location depicting Kashmir in the film. Considering the insurgency in Kashmir, and the similarity of the terrain with Kashmir, it was considered wiser, easier and better to shoot in the Polish part of the Tatra mountains, in Zakopane, than in Kashmir.

Mountain peaks

Batizovský štít above the Batizovské pleso lake

Eastern Tatras

Peaks of Western Tatras

Western Tatras

Notable people

Ludwig Greiner identified Gerlachovský Peakmarker as the summit of the Tatras, Carpathiansmarker.


Ján Lacika, Tatras (2nd edition), Bratislava 2006. ISBN 80-88975-95-6.

Colin Saunders and Renáta Nárožná, "Walking in the High Tatras" (2nd edition), Cicerone Press (Milnthorpe) 2006. ISBN 9781852844820.

External links

Commercial tourism-oriented websites

  • - tourist information and accommodation(mainly Slovak side)
  • -travel guide (mainly Slovak side)
  • - travel guide (mainly Polish side)




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