From its rolling deserts in the north, to the expansive Alpine-esque Tatra Mountains in the south, Poland is choc-a-block with magical attractions vying for your attention. Today Argophilia takes a look at some of our favorite, less well known, Polish highlights.
Slowinski National Park
Desert sand in Europe? You’d better believe it, for right here in Slowinski National Park lies Poland’s very own miniature Sahara, with dozens of sandy peaks to scale and steep slopes to roll down once your reach the top. The expansive sand dunes of Slowinski have been shifting with the winds for millennia, but have provided a constant oasis of calm away from Poland’s often boisterous seaside resorts.
The park has now been given the status of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and can be easily reached by bicycle from the town of Leba.
Zakopane & The Tatra Mountains
Jump on a bus and head out of Zakopane, then yomp on up to the Morskie Oto Lake, a hidden gem that’s snuggled in amongst some of Poland’s highest peaks in the Tatra Mountain range. Those who don’t like to hike might enjoy riding up to the lake on horseback, or alternatively those that prefer doing things at a faster pace might want to try something more daring – in which case, the nearby resorts at Nosal, Poland’s number one skiing destination, might be more appealing.
Dunajec River, Pieniny
Forming part of the border between Poland and Slovaki, the Dunajec River offers a wonderful rafting experience aboard traditional rafts. It’s actually possible to enter Slovakia this way too, by rafting down the Slovak section of the river from Pieniny, then crossing the border on foot after reaching the shore.
Alternatively, for those coming in the opposite direction travelling by river raft is a truly unforgettable way to see Poland for the first time. It’s possible to find rafting trips online, or simply walk down to the river and find a local guide.
Ostwall Fortifications, Miedzyrzecz
The Ostwall fortifications are a series of tunnels and bunkers that pre-date World War II, having been built on what was then the border with Germany in the early 1930s as a defense against Russian invasion. Some of the tunnels plunge to depths of 40 meters, and are wide enough to fit a two trains inside them! Unfortunately for the Germans, these defenses proved to be ineffective – the Russians invaded so quickly that the fort’s defenders had no time to reach their battle stations, and were rapidly overrun.
The surface ruins can be explored free of charge, but the guided underground tours are well worth the entrance fee. As an interesting side attraction, the Ostwall Fortifications have recent been designated as a nature reserve, for the bunkers are now home to the largest colony of bats in Europe – more than 30,00 of them now live deep underground.
Biebrza National Park
The last remaining ancient wetlands and woodlands in Europe, the prospect of visiting Biebrza National Park is a tantalizing one for any nature lover. It’s a well-worn cliché, but a trip to Biebrza is like stepping back in time, to an era when humans had yet to make their mark on the world.
The forest is home to magnificent creatures including European bison, elk, beavers and wolves, plus numerous bird species like the great snipe and the aquatic warbler. As well as wildlife watching, visitors can enjoy horse rides through the dark forests, or canoe rides along the river.