Close your eyes, imagine a storybook village and you may well picture Zalipie. Filled with delicately painted houses, I’d never been anywhere like it. Everywhere, from the walls to the wells, seemed to painted with ‘flowers of the imagination’. I visited for the day with my travel buddy, Lani, while we were staying in Krakow. I’d previously read mixed reviews about the place but was determined to go and make up my own mind.
Zalipie is just north-west of Tarnow and it has been known as the centre for folk painting for more than a century. After finally finding a taxi driver willing to take us as far as Zalipie (no one had heard of the place!), we were dropped off at the town’s museum. This is a traditionally decorated house filled with brightly painted objects. There was the option to do a painting class there which I think would have been fun if we had more time.
When at the museum, we requested a map of the little village which pointed out the painted houses; there is a loop you can follow either by car or foot. We enjoyed exploring Zalipie at our own leisure without any time constraints of a tour.
As we were excitably following the peaceful route we were the only people in sight. That’s one thing I loved about Zalipie, it’s not a typical touristy destination. Our hotel was clueless when we mentioned the place and even our taxi driver had no idea where he was going (good old Google maps!). Throughout the day we saw less than a handful of other tourists. It felt like an undiscovered gem.
The first painted house we saw was Lani’s favourite, she loved the bridge covered with flowers. There was also a tiny decorated house here, very cute! The place reminded me of a secret garden I could have imagined as a child.
As we passed and photographed peoples homes, many of them welcomed us into their garden to get a closer look. We really appreciated the effort the people put into keeping their homes beautiful. One lady even invited us into her little but fully decorated home for 2zl (around 40p). Her garden was just as grand on the outside.
About half way around the route we approached what we originally thought to be a school. We were in awe of what surrounded us. Everything in the grounds seemed to be decorated, from the benches to the wells. We immediately fell in love with this little house with a well outside.
We also adored the brightly painted sun dial.
We went closer to the building and noticed we could enter it. There, a lady welcomed us and informed us that it was a community centre. She was the first person we met who could speak English there and it was interesting to hear that not many English people visit Zalipie. This lovely lady gave us a tour of the centre. She took us into a room with people painting.
We saw a hall used for events.
She told us that all the flowers painted in Zalipie are ‘flowers of the imagination’. We entered the shop and each made a purchase. Lani bought a gorgeous box and I bought a beautiful chopping board which I hope to hang in my kitchen when I eventually buy a house. The lady gave us the number for a local taxi which we could call when we were ready to go home.
On our walk further around the village we approached yet another wonderfully decorated building and couldn’t resist another bunch of pictures.
We even saw someone painting their house.
Our final stop on the route, before circling back to the museum, was a Church. This was decorated in traditional Zalipie style with painted flowers.
I’d previously read mixed reviews about Zalipie. Some people raved about it and others complained that the painted houses were too spread out, however I was determined to go there and make up my own mind. Because it was in the middle of nowhere and hard to get to, I was hoping it would be worth the effort, and it really was. It’s nowhere like I’ve ever been before and I love that we saw few other tourists, six to be exact. It’s true that the painted houses are very spread out, but I enjoy walking so this really wasn’t a problem. The effort and detail that people put into painting their houses is admirable.
Take food! We made the mistake of not taking any and soon realised there were no shops or restaurants around. There’s no water to buy either but luckily we’d taken plenty of that.
How to get there:
Zalipie is situated around an hour and a half from Krakow. The easiest way to get there would be to drive but as we didn’t have a car, this wasn’t an option for us. We took a taxi both ways which cost around 300zl each way (around £60). There is also the option of public transport. There is a train that goes from Krakow to Tarnow and then you can take 2 buses from there.