The Tatras, with their famous resort Zakopane, are not the only mountains in Poland.
There are many smaller but just as picturesque ranges elsewhere.
One of them, Beskid Wyspowy, is only 60 kilometers southeast of Krakow.
It is part of the Beskidy Zachodnie or Western Beskid range, situated between the Skawa Valley and Klodzka Valley.
The range?s most characteristic feature is not mountains that are adjacent and continuous but multiple, isolated peaks that resemble islands, divided by river valleys and low passes. In fact, ?Wyspowy? means island-like.
Adding to the island image is the fact that Beskid Wyspowy peaks have steep slopes and flat tops.
The ?sea of fog? is another famous feature of the Beskid Wyspowy range. Hilltops rising out of the fog resemble islands poking out of the sea.
One of the best times to see fog is in autumn, especially in the eastern part of the range.
With most mountain ranges, the higher you go, the lower the temperature. But in the Beskid Wyspowy range, temperatures are lower in the valleys ? in fact, sometimes 10 degrees lower. That temperature inversion is the reason why the fog stays below the mountains? peaks.
The summit of the Beskid Wyspowy is 1,170-meter-high Mogielica. It isn?t a typical peak in the range because it is not island-like. It is part of a ridge stretching south to Przyslop Pass.
Those who expect a breathtaking view from the range?s highest vantage point will be disappointed, however. Because of deforestation, what you see from the top of Mogielica is bare rock.
But there is a beautiful view about 50 meters southeast of the peak. At this vantage point you will find a few benches and a small metal cross dedicated to John Paul II, who liked walking in the area before he became pope.
The view includes glimpses of surrounding mountain ranges, including Beskid Wyspowy and Beskid Sadecki on the east and the Gorce and Tatra Mountains on the south.
Another place on Mogielica with a view is Hala Stumorgowa on the southern slope, just below the peak.
There are many legends connected with the mountain. One is that the bodies of those who had committed suicide were thrown from Mogielica.
This legend is connected with the fact that in the past the church refused to allow suicide victims to be buried in cemeteries.
Several tourist trails lead to Mogielica, running through the towns of Tymbark and Jurkow. The yellow trail from Tymbark takes four hours up and three down.
A popular mountain in the western part of the Beskid Wyspowy range is 1,022-meter-high Lubon Wielki. It has a characteristic island shape, with steep slopes and a flat peak.
On the top is a television relay station with a high tower. Built in 1961, the station gives the mountain towns and villages good TV reception.
Next to the relay station is a mountain sleeping lodge built almost 80 years ago. It has one room with 10 beds. The toilets are outhouses.
The lodge costs 22 to 25 zloty a night. Bedding is extra ? 10 zloty.
There is a buffet offering basic fare.
In summer 15 additional beds are available in a cottage next to the lodge.
The lodge has no garbage cans so visitors are asked to take their trash with them.
There are some interesting towns in the Beskid Wyspowy range. Two are Rabka and Limanowa.
Rabka is a 500-meter-high settlement at the foothills of the Gorce Mountains, where the Poniczanka and Sionka rivers join the Raba River. Although the town?s history dates to the 12th century, it became a well-known spa only in 1864. The first treatment center for children was established there a few years later.
The healing qualities of the town?s water are among the best in Europe, according to experts.
Before World War II, Rabka was the third most important spa in Poland. Every year around 30,000 patients came.
After the war that changed. Most of the spa-goers became children from Silesia with respiratory and circulatory problems. That is still the case today.
Limanowa is not a spa but a dynamic town with a lovely market square, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.
Established in the 15th Century, it was destroyed by fire in 1769 but came back to life about a century later thanks to tourism and trade.
Before the war the town had a large Jewish community.
The Nazis murdered more than half of the Jews there, however.
Limanowa has many things to see, including museums, old wooden churches and chapels, other wooden buildings and elegant manor houses.
The area has several folk festivals each year ? for example, the Folkloric Festival in autumn.
The town also attracts religious pilgrims. Half an hour?s walk from the city center is the highest steel cross in Poland, a spot with a panoramic view of the area.
Getting to Beskid Wyspowy is not a problem. Buses and minibuses leave for Limanowa and Rabka every hour from Krakow?s bus station.
Bigger towns have hotels. Many villages have ?agritourism farms? that offer lodging and traditional food.
They are a great way to see how people in the Beskid Wyspowy range live.