Zakrzowek Lake: A Hidden Gem Outside Krakow, Poland
Visitors to Krakow, Poland may expect to wander the Old Town squares, absorb the city’s history and enjoy hearty Polish dishes. They may not expect to find a hidden lagoon fit for swimming, rock climbing, and diving just outside of town. The sparkling blue water surrounded by white limestone cliffs and lush green trees is an oasis for locals and intrepid travelers. It also serves as the site of plenty of winding bike trails and running paths. So, if you are a runner or walker in Krakow, escape the city for a morning or afternoon and enjoy an excursion into the natural beauty surrounding the city.
Although it is just the second largest city in Poland, Krakow has become the most popular tourist destination. The city’s tumultuous past has seen more than its fair share of destruction and rebirth. Krakow was the country’s royal capital from 1038 to 1596 and sites such as Wawel Castle still capture the elegance and history of this time. In more recent years, the city has been devastated through the occupation of the Nazis through world war II followed by the Soviets after the war.
Krakow continues to progress from the fall of communism in 1989. It is a top site for history buffs but the city’s beautiful architecture and revitalized culture have plenty to offer any traveler. The large squares of the Old Town appear quiet and tranquil throughout the day but come alive with restaurants, bars, and clubs every evening when the sun goes down. It is a unique stop that should not be missed on any visit to Central Europe.
When planning a visit to Krakow, you will likely find yourself on some interesting but somber tours through the Old Town and Jewish Quarter as well as a day trip to the nearby site of Auschwitz. These are important stops in remembering the devastating history of the western world, however, visitors to the city should also seek out opportunities to find the light, natural beauty and culture representative of modern Krakow. A visit to the hidden gem of Zakrzowek Lake may do just that.
Zakrzowek Lake is the site of an old limestone quarry. Although officially prohibited for swimming and cliff diving, it is a popular summer hangout for locals. The water is warm enough to swim during the summer months but do so at your own risk; the area has been site to a few accidental deaths over the years, particularly from cliff divers.
If you want to explore the deep blue waters safely, you may look into the local diving school. The clear waters provide divers with the opportunity to explore the wrecks of boats, cars and even the former changing rooms for quarry workers that sit at the bottom of the reservoir.
Those satisfied with viewing the sparkling blue from above will find the vantage point from the running paths more than adequate. In addition to the breathtaking views of the beautiful lagoon, the trail will give you the opportunity to look over Skałki Twardowskiego Park and back onto Krakow. Mind the fences and do not venture too close to the edge of the cliffs. Visitors are prohibited from scaling the steep cliff walls down to the water.
If you are wanting to tack on an extra 2 miles of running or walking, you may start your excursion from Wawel Castle. From the castle, make your way to the paths that run along the Vistula River and continue south until you can cross the river over the bridge. Continue straight as the street becomes Monte Cassino and subsequently Generała Bohdana Zielińskiego. After a quarter mile on Generała Bohdana Zielińskiego, take the crosswalk to cross the road and take a slight left onto Zielna less than 200 meters up the road. Continue your slight left onto the footpath that will lead you into the surrounding park.
If you prefer to begin your run away from city streets, the park is easily and affordably accessed through public transportation. Take tram 19 or bus 194 to either Kapelenka or Norymberska to make your way to the surrounding park. Be sure to purchase and validate your ticket for the bus or tram upon entry. Tickets are very inexpensive but not having one may result in a hefty fine.
- Watch your footing. The trails surrounding Lake Zakrzowek are lined by steep limestone cliffs suitable for rock climbing. It has been site to some tragic accidents over the years so proceed with caution and stick to the established trails.
- Dress appropriately. The weather in Krakow can be hot in the summer but expect colder temperatures into the fall and winter. Be sure to check the weather and wear appropriate layers when visiting the lake.
- Pay your fare. Avoid large fines on public transit by purchasing and validating tickets on trams and buses.