Planning a Polish Holiday: Must-see Natural Beauty Areas
Poland stretches from high, Alpine mountains in the south to sandy Baltic beaches in the north. In between there are lakes and forests: a paradise for nature lovers and tired business travelers.
1. Tatra Mountains
The highest part of the Carpathians, the peaks of the Tatras reach over 2,500 metres (8,000 feet). Typically Alpine mountains with sharp ridges, lovely lakes, high meadow pastures and a folk culture all of its own, Tatras offer superb scenery and activities all around the year. There are well marked paths and a lot of ski facilities for all abilities. The town of Zakopane is a tourist centre of the Polish Tatras.
A trip by a horse-cart to the lakes of Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw and a cable car to Kasprowy Wierch make the high-mountain scenrey accessible to even the less fit and able.
2. Bieszczady Mountains
Lower than the Tatras, but more secluded in the far corner of the south-east Poland, Bieszczady are wild, atmospheric and breathtakingly beautiful.
The original wooden architecture of local churches adds appeal.
3. Pieniny Mountains & Dunajec Gorge
Third of the best mountain destinations in Poland, Pieniny are a small limestone range cut through by a gorge of Dunajec river.
Rafting trips led by local Highlanders are a major attraction and a must for all visitors, and allow for admiring the scenery. Original culture and heritage of the border Spisz region will appeal to the fans of folklore and romantic history.
4. Masurian (Mazury) Lakes
A wooded lowland area of post glacial lakes in north-eastern Poland (Poles call it a land of thousand lakes) which offers unparalleled opportunities for sailing, canoeing, horse raiding or cycling.
It gets very busy in the summer, but quiet places are not that hard to find. Wigry lake, even further east, is supremely beautiful and slightly less busy.
Another lake land, this time in the central-north Poland south-west of Gdansk, Kaszubian lakes are smaller but possibly even more picturesque than the Mazury ones.
Local population has a strong folk tradition and speaks its own dialect.
6. The Baltic Coast
The water temperatures are lower than in the Mediterranean, but higher than on the North Sea, and to make up for colder water, Polish coast offers hundreds of miles of wide beaches made up of white, squeaky sand, bordered by fragrant pine woods. Sun is pretty much guaranteed in the summer and sailing and windsurfing are popular activities. For warmer water, look in the Bay of Gdansk (Puck is a nice backwater), for clear open seas go to the main coast to places like Leba, Karwia or Debki. The sandbar of Hel peninsula offers both.
7. Bialowieza Forest
A huge and largely intact area of primeval forest on the border with Byelorussia, this was the original hunting ground of Polish kings. Conservationist re-introduced European bison (zubr) and wild horses (tarpan) into the forest, and other game abounds.
This is also a cross-over area between Catholic west and Orthodox east, with noticeable ethnic minorities, and many Orthodox churches as well as two Tartar mosques.
8. Spa Towns
The tradition of “taking waters” is very strong in Poland and even in communist times people were referred to what was called as “sanatorium” for restorative stays, part holidays, part treatments. Kudowa, Ciechocinek, Naleczow, Krynica Gorska, Rabka, Ladek and Szczawno all claim to have special micro-climates and mineral waters with health benefits.
9. The Krakow-Czestochowa Upland
A beautiful area with amazing limestone outcrops, dotted with medieval castles and full of caves. Hiking, rock climbing and potholing opportunities abound.
10. Biebrza Wetlands
Area for true nature enthusiasts, these wetlands stretch in floodplains of winding, wild Biebrza river. Beavers, moose and countless species of birds make it a paradise for wildlife spotters.