By European standards, Poland is quite a big country. Of course, places like Cracow, Warsaw, and Auschwitz death camp are definitely worth visiting, but Poland has much more to offer. Here is the list of the top 8 off-beaten-path places to make you fall in love in this Central-European country!
Close to the heart Beskid Niski mountains
Polish people say that whoever visits the Beskid Niski will leave a piece of his soul there. There is some truth in it. Beskid Niski is a small mountain range on the border of Poland and Slovakia. It is one of the least populated places in Europe. For this reason, it’s home to many rare animals, including bears, wolves, lynxes, eagles, wildcats, as well as many species of owls and butterflies.
It is also a very mysterious place. Before World War II, unique ethnic groups inhabited those lands: mostly Lemkov, but there were some Boykos and Hutsuls as well. In 1945, the Soviet Union brutally displaced the local population and scattered it all over Poland and Ukraine. Until now, in the Beskid Niski, you can find abandoned Lemko villages. It is a fantastic experience, something like time travel.
The door memorial to the abandoned Lemkov village (Source: author)
Land of Thousand Masurian Lakes
Masuria is a region in Poland where you can find over 2,600 lakes! It is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations for many Poles, however not widely known to foreign visitors. In Masuria, you can find both crowded tourist towns and quiet off-beaten-path villages.
This region is also historically distinct, as it belonged to Germany for centuries. Masurians are descendants of the Prussians who speak Polish. In addition to the beautiful nature, you will also find historical monuments such as the Wolf’s Lair – the heavily fortified headquarters of Adolf Hitler from 1941 to 1944.
Bialowieza, the last primeval forest in Europe
In the far east of Poland, near the Belarusian border, you can find the last part of the primeval forest of the Great European Plain. It’s the home of Europe’s heaviest land animal, the European bison.
The forest covers an area of 1250 km². There are unchanged ecosystems, which were not interfered with by humans, and the richness of fauna and flora is a jewel in the crown of Polish nature. The forest’s heart is a fragment of an over 500-year-old forest adjacent to the border with Belarus. This is where the Strict Reserve was created, which you can enter only with a guide.
Beehives in front of traditional wooden cottage in Budy, small village located in Bialowieza Forest national park in Poland
Kashubia spreads over several provinces in northern Poland. Kashubians are indigenous Pomeranians who use the ethnolect, referred to as the Kashubian language. The uniqueness of this region lies in its characteristic folklore. Its inhabitants cultivate traditions and rituals and pass them on from generation to generation. Many families still use the Kashubian language on a daily basis. For special occasions, they put on a national costume.
Local art, especially embroidery, is recognizable all over Poland. This unique region is especially worth recommending to those who combine relaxation with active outdoor activities. There is a lot to see and discover in the diversity of Poland.
The Skull Chapel in Czermna is a disturbing place. No wonder. After all, it’s a mass grave. Over 3,000 human skulls and bones are on the walls and ceiling inside the chapel.
It was built in the eighteenth century on the initiative of a local priest who found a large cemetery of people who had died in wars in previous centuries and died during the cholera epidemic. Moreover, there are more than 21,000 skulls in the chapel’s basement!
Malbork, the largest brick castle in the world
Malbork Castle, the UNESCO world heritage site, is the largest Medieval castle in Europe and the biggest brick castle in the world. For 150 years, it has been the capital and headquarters of the Teutonic Order. The whole building complex has a volume of 250,000 cubic meters. Freaking impressive!
Malbork Castle (source: author)
Castle in Ogrodzieniec – toss a coin to the Witcher
In the Middle Ages, there was a system of castles and forts between Cracow and Czestochowa known as the “Eagle Nests”. The castle in Ogrodzieniec is the most spectacular fortress among about thirty you can admire on the Eagle Nests Path. Ogrodzieniec became famous as one of the locations of the popular Netflix series “The Witcher”, based on a fantasy series by the Polish author – Andrzej Sapkowski. The castle is located about 70 kilometers from Cracow.
Castle in Ogrodzieniec (source: author)
Wrocław, the city of meetings
Wroclaw is the 4th largest city in Poland, and in the opinion of many – the most picturesque one. Called “The City of Meetings” or “The City of a Hundred Bridges” Wrocław has a very turbulent history. For over 1,000 years of history, Wrocław belonged to Poland, the Czech Republic, Silesia, and Germany.
No surprise that it’s the most multicultural city in Poland. Some compare it to Venice because of the extensive river system, numerous bridges, and beautiful square market.
Michal Jonca is passionate about trail running and travel experiences. He visited 40+ countries on four continents. Michal is a Travel Leader at Solisci Adventure Club and the Community Manager at Passport Photo Online. He also writes a travel blog.
Currently, he enjoys the life of a digital nomad in Rwanda and Uganda.