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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » May 31, 2012
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Poland: A Holiday Heven
May 31, 2012   
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Poland is a dream destination for anyone in search of a fascinating vacation. You can choose between taking a break at the seaside or by a lake, in the mountains or exploring mementos of the past.

Sandy beaches on the Baltic
The Baltic Sea with its beautiful beaches has been a traditional summer destination for Polish people for years. The Polish coast is well prepared for taking in a large number of tourists in the season, which lasts from May to September. Many attractions are available, for example hiking and cycling tourist trails, including a cycling route running along the Baltic coast. Another route worth recommending to fans of cycling trips is the one leading from Władysławowo to Hel Peninsula, running along the Bay of Puck, and a network of cycling trails in Słowiński National Park and nearby localities. For those who prefer lounging in the sun, the Baltic coast has many magnificent sandy beaches to offer. The most popular ones are in Władysławowo, Chałupy, Hel, Chłapowo, Puck, Karwia, Dąbki, Łeba, Ustka, Kołobrzeg, Międzyzdroje. A few nudist beaches also exist, including in Chłapowo, Chałupy and Dąbki.

Seaside tourist resorts have excellent catering and service infrastructure. Children can expect many attractions, to mention water slides, bouncy castles and trampolines, “banana” motorboat rides etc. Older tourists can take advantage of floating equipment rentals. Fish frying establishments are a local catering specialty. The seaside has a sizable accommodation base, diverse in terms of price and standard, in the form of hotels, bed and breakfasts, privately rented rooms, agrotourism accommodation and campsites. The Polish sea coast is also an excellent place for anglers wanting to try their luck at sea. You can organize a fishing trip by hiring a cutter or fishing from a pier (after obtaining the required permit, of course). Though the sea in Poland is not the warmest, the coast and its unforgettable landscapes is charming at any time of year.

Land of a Thousand Lakes
Mazuria is a veritable paradise for anyone who loves aquatic sports and vacationing on water. This is an extremely picturesque historical and ethnographic region in northeastern Poland, in Warmia-Mazuria province. Mazuria, which comprises the Mazurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District, is popularly known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes. Every year Mazuria attracts crowds of tourists, who can find peace and quiet here in many tiny localities hidden among the forests or entertainment in famous resorts. Wherever they go, they can expect lakes with marinas, canoeing trails and unpolluted nature. Some even come here every year, unable to exist without Mazuria’s waters and the excitement of living on a boat.

Since tourism plays a major role in Mazuria, local residents do their best to cater to their guests, Poles and foreigners alike. Tourist infrastructure is developing intensively and the quality of services is improving all the time. The most popular towns in Mazuria are Mikołajki, Ruciane-Nida, Mrągowo, Giżycko and Węgorzewo. The most famous lakes include Śniardwy—the biggest in Poland, Mamry, Mikołajskie, and Poland’s deepest lake Hańcza.

Mountainous south
Just as the north of Poland is associated with leisure on the water, the south is the perfect destination for those who prefer mountain tourism. Anyone who loves to wander along mountain trails and conquer summits is sure to find something to meet their needs among the six greatest mountain ranges in this part of Poland. Each of them—the Tatras, Beskidy, Bieszczady, Pieniny, Karkonosze and Świętokrzyskie mountains—is different in terms of landscape and all of them offer tourists many mountain sites where all forms of active vacationing can be pursued. Poland has 28 summits in the Crown of Polish Mountains, just waiting for climbers.

The highest and best-known range in Poland is the Tatra Mountains. They are under strict protection thanks to the establishment of the Tatra National Park and membership in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The tallest summit in the Polish Tatras is Mt. Rysy (2,499 m above sea level). There is a dense network of hiking trails here, cycling routes and, in the winter season, numerous downhill skiing trails as well.

The sites most often visited on the Polish side of the Tatras include Lake Morskie Oko, the Giewont and Kasprowy Wierch peaks, and the Kościeliska Valley with adjacent caves. The most famous tourist resort is Zakopane, dubbed Poland’s winter capital, which is visited by thousands of tourists all year round.

The next range popular among tourists in Poland is the Bieszczady Mountains—the western part of the Eastern Beskidy Mountains, located between Łupków Pass (640 m above sea level) and Wyszków Pass (933 m above sea level). The highest summit in the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland is Mt. Tarnica (1,346 m above sea level). Conquering this peak, which is included in the Crown of Polish Mountains, is not very difficult and the landscapes viewed from the top are magnificent. The most popular tourist destination in the region is Połonina Wetlińska where there is a mountain hostel called Chatka Puchatka (House at Pooh Corner). When in the Bieszczady Mountains it is also worth going to Lake Solińskie.

The Beskidy Mountains are a group of mountain ranges in the Outer Carpathians, stretching from the Becva river in the west (Czech Republic) to the Cheremosh river (Ukraine) in the east. The range is 50-70 km wide and about 600 km long. These mountains include a great many sites that tourists will find extremely attractive. Suffice it to say that there are 11 national parks in the Beskidy Mountains. Tourists are drawn here by picturesque landscapes and numerous attractions that include a great many hiking and cycling trails. The Trans-Beskidy Horse Trail also runs across the region.

The Karkonosze Mountains are the highest range in the Sudety Mountains, stretching from Szklarska Pass in the west to Lubawska Pass in the east. They occupy an area of about 650 square km, of which more than a quarter lies in Poland. The tallest summit is Mt. Śnieżka (1,602 m above sea level). The most popular tourist resorts in the Polish part of these mountains are Szklarska Poręba and Karpacz. The many tourist attractions of the Karkonosze Mountains include Śnieżne Kotły (“Snowy Cirques/Corries”), Kocioł Łomniczki (“Łomniczka Cirque/Corrie”), Szklarka Waterfall, Kamieńczyk Waterfall, Mały Staw (a glacial lake) and Chojnik Castle.

Southern Poland and northern Slovakia are home to another beautiful range: the Pieniny Mountains. Their central part is the most attractive as far as tourism goes. The Pieniny Mountains are second after the Tatras in Poland in terms of visitor numbers. The tallest summit is Mt. Trzy Korony (Three Crowns; 982 m above sea level). A major attraction here is a raft trip down the Dunajec river. Tourists with an interest in history will enjoy the castle ruins in Czorsztyn and the Gothic-Renaissance castle in Niedzica.

Poland’s oldest mountain range is the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, located in the central part of the Kielce Upland. The tallest summit is Mt. Łysica (612 m above sea level). The name (literally: Holy Cross Mountains) for this range comes from the relic of the Holy Cross housed in a monastery on Łysa Góra. Major tourist resorts near Świętokrzyski National Park include Święta Katarzyna and Nowa Słupia. This is a destination for anyone seeking peace and quiet among beautiful mountain landscapes.

Mementos of the past
Poland is also an unusually fascinating destination for those who enjoy history. From the very beginnings of tourism, castles have been considered huge tourist attractions. In Poland, the most popular castles are Wawel in Cracow and the Royal Castle in Warsaw. However, besides these “flagship” castles with their extensive museum collections, there are true gems of defensive architecture all over the country. Many castles in Poland once belonged to aristocratic families. Medieval buildings were expanded and converted in subsequent centuries and now feature elements of Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Gothic style. Interiors house collections of art, furniture, tapestries and firearms. These former residences are surrounded by gardens and parks. Today they are open not just for sightseeing but also host interesting cultural and other original events.

The Teutonic Order’s castle in Malbork, built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, is the greatest Gothic stronghold in Europe, with 20 hectares of space. Today events held at the castle include knight’s tournaments, monumental shows and battle reconstructions such as the impressive reenactment of the siege of Malbork. The greatest stronghold in Lower Silesia, and the third-largest in the country after Wawel and Malbork, is the monumental Książ Castle in Wałbrzych. Picturesquely perched on a rock cliff, it is famous for its many as yet unsolved mysteries. Art exhibitions, concerts and other events are held there. The international carriage driving and dressage competitions and horse auctions held there are very popular as well.

Another great tourist attraction in Poland is the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests, a tourist trail 169 km long and running from Cracow to Częstochowa. Along the trail are several dozen sites with ruins of historical strongholds; the most popular among tourists are the castles of Pieskowa Skała, Ogrodzieniec and Olsztyn. The castles, located at the top of calcareous hills, were built in the times of King Kazimierz the Great (1333-1370) as part of a defense system protecting trading routes leading from Cracow to Wielkopolska.

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