When you wake up on a clear morning and see the snowy peaks of the High Tatras it quickly becomes clear why the Slovaks worship them and love to identify with their mountains. Just as the Slovenians are with Triglav, the Slovaks are fascinated with these peaks and it seems that the Tatras are both geographically and symbolically watching over Slovakia and its people. The Krivan Peak (2,495m) is to Slovaks what Triglav is to Slovenians, which is why most of the High Tatras have been protected as a National Park since 1948.
The High Tatras are a part of the Carpathian Mountain range, which extends in a large, north-easterly arc from Bratislava to Orsova. The 15-25km wide and 26km long granite ridge stretches from west to east, is open to the north and to the south is peppered with reefs. The mountains are also the main feature between the East and Black Sea. The Poprad river originates in the Mengusovská valley and flows into Vyslo, from where it continues on to the Baltic Sea. The Vah River, which originates as the White Vah beneath Krivan mountain (2,496 m), flows into the Danube and from there on to the Black Sea. The Lomnický štít peak, with its pyramidal shape and at 2,632m the second highest mountain of the High Tatras, offers a very special vista over the wonderfully high mountains. You may be surprised on your first contact with the Tatras by the consequences of a 2004 natural disaster, when hurricane winds of up to 170km/h destroyed almost all of the spruce forests at their foot. The damage evaluation showed that approximately 3 million m3 of wood was felled and whilst the forest is slowly re-establishing itself the scrap wood still testifies to the very delicate balance of nature.
A Tradition of Hiking
The dramatic landscape that is largely protected in the national parks has always attracted mountaineers because of its marvellous views. The surrounding beauty is something you just can’t get enough of, with its attractiveness stretching over more than 25 peaks at a height of more than 2,600 metres. As it is a protected area you are only allowed to walk along marked trails in Tatras, so the best option is to hire a local registered guide. The Slovakian mountain trails are excellently furnished with road signs and markings, as well as with numerous guides, and hiking is actually amongst the most developed of its tourist activities. We strongly recommend that you include a truly memorable experience of the only European Sherpas in your visit to the High Tatras, who day by day supply the more than 12 Tatras mountain huts that all offer their own genuine mountain hospitality.
Lomnický peak–Slovakia’s most visited
Seeing it in the distance you instantly wish you could get straight to the top, and to do so it’s easiest for both you and congress guests to use a system of gondolas that whisk you to the top of the observatory and Europe’s highest botanical garden. A modern gondola from the Lomnický peak village leads to the Skalnaté pleso, at an altitude of 1,760m, and from there the old gondola, which can accommodate up to 15 passengers, carries onwards to the summit, an experience that feels like being in a James Bond film. This and the modestly measured time to explore the peak (50 minutes) adds to the exclusivity of the experience, where you won’t be able to stop wondering at the engineer’s genius to create a mountain outpost in such a narrow space and connected by gondola. A photo platform that floats above the cliffs is a must experience for every adrenaline-seeking meeting researcher and in the restaurant on the Skalnaté pleso you can have lunch or dinner quite literally in the clouds. It is quite something to be served up typical Slovak dishes at an altitude of 2,654 metres.
Slovenes and Slovaks are similar in their skiing habits and both love to conquer mountain peaks. The largest ski resorts in the High Tatras are Strbske Pleso, Starý Smokovec, Tatranská Lomnica in Slovakia and Zakopane in Poland. All of the equipment on the ski slopes are modern and if necessary the ski channels can be artificially snowed. From what we have seen it is a great ski resort, where the legs quickly itch to try it out. The resorts are connected by electrical rail, allowing easy and sustainable travel between some of the major tourist destinations. The season runs until the end of April, but the equipment also operates in summer time, to shorten the tourist route to the heart of the Tatras. The ski offer can also be adapted for a variety of incentive programmes that covers everything from zorbing to night sledding and snowshoeing.
St. Moritz of Slovakia
In Štrbské Pleso you instantly feel like you’re in the trendy Swiss resort of St. Moritz – the altitude, glacial lake, ski resort and legendary Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras are all very similar. The hotel is true haute-couture and belongs in the elite group of European hotels, albeit that the prices are much more wallet-friendly. The hotel offers a rustic comfort combined with prestigious services in accordance with the Kempinski standards. The hotel, which in the past hosted many important guests, including Ban Ki-moon-a, General secretary of the United Nations, will play an important role during the presidency of Slovakia in the EU as the location for numerous state meetings.
If you’re looking for an escape from the everyday hustle and don’t like industrial hotels for your convention groups, then Štrbské Pleso is a perfect choice. After a long day of meetings, you can relax in the spa area and enjoy exceptional views of spectacular mountain scenery. The local food and drink also offers up many pleasant surprises and you certainly should definitely visit one of the nearby cottages offering some local cuisine.
Endless possibilities for fun
The very diverse tourist offers demonstrates that this is a well-developed tourist region, on that you can use primarily for incentive groups. In addition to the ski resort offer, the locals are especially proud of the Aqua City Poprad, built by entrepreneur and visionary Jan Telensky. It is an impeccably sustainable project, nicely integrated into the natural environment and offering 10 swimming pools and numerous wellness programmes. The hotel has created a kind of hybrid, suitable also for large conference groups. The latest acquisition, popular among media planners, is the Hurricane Factory Tatralandia. It is the first aerodynamic tunnel in Slovakia, where they can create the feeling you feel when jumping out of an airplane (if you happen to know that already!). Whether in summer or winter a range of activities on the ski slopes can be organised for congress groups and when organising teambuilding activities the Pro Events agency is able to help you out. For winter activities they also use the landing spot of spectacular 120-metre ski jump in Štrbské Pleso, which in the 90s was the venue for the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup.
You can find some of the best Slovakian restaurants offering excellent cuisine in the High Tatras and for less formal occasions there is also the type of catering facilities where you can try traditional local dishes. For gourmets a visit to the Culinarium restaurant is near obligatory. An innovative restaurant menu includes seasonal organic food and specialties prepared in a modern way by celebrity chef Gabriel Kočak, but fear not, for you can also try the Slovak national dish of “bryndzové halušky”, dumplings made of potato dough and coated with a mixture of sheep’s ricotta and cream and dressed with crackling.
Meetings vox populi
Locations in the High Tatras have good transport connections and the congress-hotel offer can be divided into four main spots. The first is in Štrbské Pleso, where of the many different category hotels the Grand Hotel Kempinski, right on the picturesque glacial lake and often a venue for diplomatic meetings, is the stand out. Thanks to the ProEvents agency the place is also the centre of a very active incentive offer.
The other convention centre is in the town at Old (Story) and Upper (Horny) Smokovec, where the Grand Hotel Bellevue with its 141 rooms and multi-functional congress centre – the largest hall accommodating up to 600 people theatre-style – is the largest provider and specialized in the meetings industry. The historic Grand Hotel, built in the Art Nouveau style, is not too far away and has smaller halls for special events.
The third centre for events is in Tatranská Lomnica with the Grand Hotel Praha hall, which can accommodate up to 250 participants in a theatre set-up and the final option is in the town Poprad, where Aquapark has become the new centre of events, combining a water fun and wellness offer with three hotels and the convention centre. Their biggest multifunctional hall can accommodate up to 250 participants and for bigger receptions organisers also have at their disposal an area by the pools suitable for up to 400 participants.
The ProEvents Agency is the most recognizable DMC and event agency in Tatras. They will help you find the most suitable location for your event and with their thorough knowledge of the local supply chain also prepare a programme ideal for your participants.
Hospitality and food
Most foreign meetings guests are genuinely surprised by the exceptional hospitality and delicious food in Tatras. This has been mastered by almost every host and it seems that it is a part of their training-focussed culture and central to their values. To explore the High Tatras you have to take your time, as only then can you feel the genuine hospitality.
WHAT'S HOT IN 2016
QUALITY MEETINGS DESTINATION
5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
COMPARISION WITH THE REGION
The High Tatras are an extraordinary surprise and one of the undiscovered European incentive jewels. In the shadow of the much more notorious Zakopane range in neighbouring Poland, they offer at least as broad an incentive offer, which is nicely complemented by a very favourable financial package. As the main tourist resorts are close to mountain resorts, ski resorts and scenic walking trails, it is a totally perfect destination for more sports-inspired incentive groups. We recommend organising events in the spring and autumn months, when places aren’t flooded with the annual mass winter tourist flows. The prices in Slovakia are significantly lower than in central Europe and the destination is just a few hours’ drive by motorway from major Central European cities.