Slovakia was recently featured as TOP winter destination by Lonely Planet and it's tourism and hospitality is rapidly improving. Unlike Austrian or Italian winter spots, Vysoke Tatry are less crowded, cheaper and more friendly. And let's not pretend - it's more adventourus for newbies to Eastern Europe (in a good sense - adventure means more fun, right? :-)
I spent my vacation warming myself with famous local liquor Tatra Tea, riding snow scooter and light hiking (my recently broken toe didn't help).
Snow lasts until april, so you have plenty of time to pay a visit ;-)
Location: Vysoke Tatry are located at north of Slovakia, Central Europe, just 4hours by train from the capital - Bratislava, 7hours by train from Prague (with one transfer). Enter from Poland is more complicated, there are no direct trains or buses from Krakow or Warsaw, only occasional buses from Polish winter spot Zakopane.
Winter Activities: ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, hiking, climbing, snowtubing, sledging, iceskating, kitewing, paragliding, balloon flights, bobsleigh, horse riding, siberian huskies rides, shooting at shooting range, karting, squash, bowling, gym, wellness&spa (in every major hotel), aquapark and of course drinking (cheap yet tasty alcohol, anyone?).
Where to stay: Depending on your budget, you can stay for as low as 14EUR per person per night in private apartment (where I stayed) or 5* luxury hotels such as Kempinski. You might even consider sleeping 1670 metres above sea level in Sliezky dom which is highest hotel in Slovakia. For more hotels check reviews.
How to get there: Fly to nearest airport Poprad, Bratislava or Vienna. By train either from Bratislava (±4 hours), from Prague (7hours with transfer in Zilina city) or from Vienna (±5hours with transfer in Bratislava). Buses are available as well, but I would recommend trains. Check schedule and prices here or here.
TIP: There is an app for that! :-) Tatry guide for iPhone.
Don't forget to visit Kosice - European Capital of Culture 2013 which is just 1,5 hour away from Vysoke Tatry!
What to eat and where to eat?
"Frndzalica" is a local liquor with secret ingredients. I drank it with herbal tea at Koliba restaurant at Strbske pleso. And yes, that's fire on top of it (you light it just like absinthe ;-)
Restaurant Stara mama (means Grandma) in Tatranska Lomnica town with authentic Slovak national cuisine, friendly staff and cool interior.
I had a little problem being a pescovegetarian as most of Slovak food includes meat. However, local cuisine is very tasty, cheap (±12eur per 3 course lunch) and probably like nothing you have ever tried. Grab some pierogi or halusky (potato dumplings with sheep-milk cheese), kapustnica (soup made of sauerkraut and sousage), potato salad with fish (salmon or carp), for desert go for trdelnik or medovnicky. Definitely try Slovak wine (especially white), local vodka or Tatratea.
Places worth visiting:
Stara mama restaurant, Tatranska Lomnica
Hotel Kukucka restaurant, Tatranska Lomnica
Cafe LaFee in Poprad city
Koliba Patria, Strbske Pleso