Guest Post by Jules Bukovsky
Experiencing Poland would not be complete without experiencing some of Poland’s natural beauty. Living abroad can be overwhelming at times and escaping to nature always makes me feel at home. I’ve narrowed down my picks to five places at the verges of Poland, all of which have alternative paths for those with an eye for adventure.
1. Białowieża Forest: Polish-Belarusian border
These forests are known as the last Primeval forest in Lowland Europe and they are a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. If you happen to get hurt on these paths, rescue will come by horseback and could take hours. Even with the Nazis in World War 2, the area was only driven through once.
To go hiking, you have two options. The cheaper option is to go with a group, and have a guide take you on a loop. Another option is to get a bushwhacking permit and personal guide. If you’re found in the strictly reserved forests without a guide, you will be fined. In the surrounding national park area, however, you are permitted to hike without a guide.
Unlike the other hikes, altitude and views aren’t the goal of hiking here. Instead, take your time enjoying the forest air and variety of wildlife. This forest is famous for having żubr or wild European bison herds, there are very few animals as large as these in Europe. You can spot them also in the surroundings of Białowieża Forest, check out where they have been seen most recently here.
2. Bieszczady Mountains: Polish-Ukrainian border
Bieszczady lies on the border between Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia. There are 300 km of paths spanning across the mountains. In Old Town Krakow, a simple public transit trip will take you into the village of Lesko. I recommend starting in Lesko, then heading towards Solinka Lake, nicknamed the Bieszczady Sea.
At Terka, the altitude definitely starts to increase. The Polonynas is a Polish name for the grassy pastures that cover the mountains and make them so unique.
Near here there’s the Ridge of Polonyna with Tarnica, the highest mountain and the best place to get an excellent view of the brilliant green pastures. People say they can actually hear male deer making their authority calls and crashing their antlers against each other. Definitely be prepared to run into deer and even the occasional bear while hiking through this region.
3. Stołowe Mountains: Polish-Czech border
The Stołowe Mountains translates to Table Mountains because the peaks are flat, as if they were levelled off. The areas around are made up of labyrinths of sandstone rock.
The most popular place is Szczeliniec Wielki, with heaps of tourists in the summer. It’s best to go early in the off season and not in winter because, with snow, the labyrinths will be closed. You may enter them at your own risk but this is discouraged as the conditions are slippery.
Another spot is Skalne Grzyby or Rock Mushrooms, just 5 km east of Karłów. In summer, a bus runs between Kłodzko and Karłów for easy access to the hikes. Camping is forbidden in the protected area but there is campsite called Pasterka and a mountain refuge for tourists on top of Szczeliniec Wielki.
These mountains are a bit lower in altitude, with the highest being Szczeliniec at 919 m. In this area, the best spots are Szczeliniec Wielki, Szczeliniec Maly and Errant Rocks.
4. Tatra Mountains: Polish-Slovakian border
The Tatra Mountains are made for hikers, just two hours away from the city of Krakow by bus. Zakopane is the spot where most hikes will take off from.
The Tatras have Poland’s highest peak with Mt Rysy at 2499 m, offering a panoramic view of hundreds of other mountains. Mt Rysy is a steep hike but there are some chains to help you out there. From here, you can choose to hike to the popular and picturesque Morskie Oko lake.
Another great hike in the High Tatra area begins with the cable car from Tatranska Lamnica on the Slovak side to Skalnata and from here, hikers can take the red trail up to Lamnicky Hreben.
There’s fields of grass, with flowers in the spring, and then the rugged mountains jut out. It’s this extraordinary mixture of delicate greenery and steep mountain climbs that make these hikes so interesting.
5. Hel Peninsula: Baltic Sea
The Hel Peninsula is a sandbar on the baltic sea, with by far the lowest altitude of any of the hikes on this list at 23 m. It looks like an arm reaching out into the Baltic Sea. The sandbar is only 100-300 m wide. (David: Much like the equally amazing Curonian Spit in Lithuania).
Hel is at the tip of the peninsula, then there are four villages called Jastarnia, Chałupy, Kuźnica and Jurata. All of them are joined by railway and road. I would recommend driving down and then deciding which of the little towns you prefer to stay in. Campsites in the area have surf schools and rental equipment.
Słowiński National Park also has beautiful beaches, as does Bukowo and Kopań Lake. These places are largely only reachable by walking so you’ll seldom find lots of tourists here.
About the Writer
Jules Bukovsky is an independent traveler living in Poland, passionate about budget traveling, art and hiking. You can find her work at Discover Krakow where she is a guest blogger or follow her on Twitter.
Have you had the chance to go any of these hikes in Poland? Which hike would you want to do first if you could? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.