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Eco trail – the marshes, lakes and primeval woodlands of Poland


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Introduction

Poland is the only place in Europe where wild bison can be found. In vast forests and in natural wild meadows you can also see many rare species of birds. Poland is a country with a large population of storks, and in villages special poles are built for these birds to build their huge nests upon – because a stork brings good luck. But beware, in Poland they also bring children!

Day 1: Warszawa – Janów Podlaski (180km)

After your arrival in Warszawa we will take you little further on to Janów Podlaski, where you will eat a dinner featuring regional specialties to the accompaniment of a Podlaski folk ensemble.

Overnight stay in traditional-style wooden buildings near Janów.

Day 2: Janów Podlaski – Białowieża (140km)

Today we begin with a tour of the best known and at the same time one of the most beautiful stud farms in Poland. The Janów Podlaski Stud, with its 19th century stables and old parklands, is the oldest state-run establishment for horses in Poland, specialising in breeding Arabian and Anglo Arabian horses. You can take a horse-drawn ride through picturesque Bug River Valley meadows and a romantic stroll through the “Podlaski Bug Gorge” Landscape Park. You can take the road up to the Bug River Valley escarpment where you will find an interesting panorama of the valley stretching in front of you, including the border region with Belarus. After all these exertions you can then reinvigorate yourself with a picnic in the heart of nature.

In the afternoon you will set off on an adventurous raft trip down the River Bug, after which we will take you to the Holy Mountain of Grabarka – the most important sanctuary for followers of the Orthodox faith in Poland. Located right on the border and crowned with a modest Orthodox church and the Cudowne Źródełko (“Miraculous Spring”) Grabarka also includes the amazing site of thousands of penitential crosses brought here by pilgrims from all over the world. After contemplating this unearthly place you will then travel onto Białowieża, where you will be treated to a special dinner with Polish-Belorussian-Ukrainian specialties washed down with the region’s traditional alcoholic beverage – Żubrówka (Bison Grass vodka), which contains an extract of an aromatic herb that grows in the ancient Białowieża Primeval Forest.

Overnight stay in an open air museum in the Forest.

Day 3: Białowieża

After a country breakfast we will take you on a tour of the most interesting places in Białowieża Forest, which is a UNESCO-listed site. It is the last natural lowland forest in Europe and features an unusual array of flora and fauna. You can take a special journey back in time to a primeval world of untouched, nature in the Strict Nature Reserve of Białowieża National Park, which you will see accompanied by a qualified guide. This area of the Podlasie region, priceless from a natural and cultural point of view, is documented in an innovative and very attractive way in the Museum of Nature and Forestry, the most advanced museum of its kind in Poland.

In the afternoon we suggest a walk through the European Bison Show Reserve, where in conditions approximating those in the wild, you will be able to observe European bison, field ponies, elk, deer, roe deer, wild boar, żubron (a hybrid of domestic cattle and European bison) and wolves. Next we will take you to the neighbouring town of Hajnówka, the home of the biggest and one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches in Poland – the Church of the Holy Trinity. Every year the church plays host to an International Festival of Orthodox Church Music. A local Orthodox choir will sing especially for you.

In the evening we offer you a horse-drawn trip through the forest and a bonfire feast to the accompaniment of an accordionist playing typical Białowieża songs and melodies. For those who are interested we can also organise craft and culinary workshops.

Overnight stay in an open-air ethnographic museum near the Forest.

Day 4: Białowieża – Kurowo – Tykocin – Goniądz (175km)

After breakfast you will head in the direction of Narwiański National Park, which lies in the Narew River Valley, a river unlike any other in Europe. Its waters form at this point numerous marshes and pools that provide a habitat for many species of birds. The numerous channels of the River Narew carve out a unique landscape known as "The Polish Amazon". Your tour of the Narwiański National Park begins with its seat, the 19th century manor house in Kurow with its historic park and viewing towers, from which you can admire this scenic district and observe its rich bird-life. You will also be able to raft along the branches of the Narew, an experience you will never forget. En route you can visit the defensive earth redoubt of the "Billy goat" (reduta Koziołek), a unique example of 17th century fortification art, and admire the valley from the “torn away bridge” near Kruszew.

 

After leaving Narwiański National Park you will head a little further north, visiting along the way the town of Tykocin – a jewel of baroque architecture. The baroque Church of the Holy Trinity and the 18th century Synagogue are particularly worth visiting. This quiet and dreamy small town is the oldest and most beautiful urban centre in the old Podlasie.

Overnight stay near Biebrzański National Park.

Day 5: Goniądz – Augustów – Wigry (130km)

After breakfast you will pass through the Biebrza Marshes, the most important hatching area for many species of marsh birds in Central and Eastern Europe. The Biebrza River Valley is especially valuable from an ornithological point of view, also because marshes are disappearing from the European landscape. You can discover the unusual natural qualities of what is the largest national park in Poland on foot, by bike or by kayak, depending on your preference. The enchanting Red Marsh boasts the oldest elk sanctuary in Poland where you will be able to see herds of grazing elk and observe birds of prey from the viewing tower. You can visit the 19th century Osowiec Tsar’s Fortress, a site of unique historical interest, as well as meet the ‘King of Biebrza’, a man who has turned his back on civilisation to lead the life of a hermit in the marshes.

After all that excitement we will take you on a relaxing boat trip along the Augustów Canal, featuring 18 locks dating from the mid-19th century that help to regulate differences of more than 54m in water levels along the route. The Canal is an exceptional achievement in the European art of water engineering.

Overnight stay in Wigierski National Park, in a remote Camaldolite monastery picturesquely situated on Lake Wigry.

Day 6: Wigry – Stańczyki – Giżycko – Mikołajki (193km)

You will travel through Romincki Forest, along a route known as the ‘Polish Taiga’. You will see the historic Stańczyki bridges – powerful aqueducts of a now defunct railway line. Based on ancient Roman viaducts, they are a monument to construction technology at the beginning of the 20th century. Before noon you reach the Land of a Thousand Lakes, an area unique on the European landscape.The Masurian Lake District is one of the most beautiful regions in Europe, and unusually blessed in terms of nature, full of historic buildings and adored by water sports enthusiasts, anglers and holiday makers. The Great Masurian Lakes are also famous for providing a habitat for many rare birds. If you take a boat trip from Giżycko you will be able to admire cormorants in their hatching colonies on Cormorant Island on Lake Dobski.

In the afternoon you will reach Mikołajki, a place pulsating with life. Mikołajki is the jewel of the Masurian Lakes and its summer capital where in the summer season many sport and cultural events take place. Here you can relax and enjoy the sailing atmosphere of this holiday resort.

Overnight stay in Mikołajki.

Day 7: Mikołajki – Kadzidłowo – Nowogród – Warszawa (242km)

In the morning you will take a short bicycle ride to the ornithological reserve on Lake Łuknajno, which has been incorporated into UNESCO’s international network of biosphere reserves. We will then take you down the River Krutynia that is one of the most beautiful boat trials in Europe.

In the afternoon we invite you on a safari in the Wild Animal Park in Piska Forest near Kadzidłowo. Here you will be able to see animals of the Masurian forests, including deer, roe deer, elk, wild boar, beavers and cranes. Alternatively, on your way back to Warszawa we can stop off in Nowogród, the site of the enormous Kurpiowski open air museum featuring wooden folk architecture.

Overnight stay in Warszawa.

Day 8: Warszawa

In the morning we invite you for a farewell stroll through Warszawa’s charming Old Town.