Ok, so admittedly at first glance Poland may not strike you as much of an adventure-lover’s dream destination. That’s because it isn’t. But ask yourself, how much do you really know about it? For example, did you know that Poland has a 435 mile Baltic coastline to the north, dotted with shifting sand dunes and national parks? Or how about its beautiful and southerly Tatra Mountains, home to the highest peak in the country at nearly 2,500m (8,200ft)? Do the Bison-populated primeval forests along the western border with Belarus ring a bell? Though its geological offerings are modest and, therefore, not universally recognizable, once you dig beneath the surface you begin to realize that there’s more to Poland’s landscape than initially meets the eye. Here’s a closer look at what we mean.
If it’s mountains you seek, you’ve got multiple options to choose from, ranging from the taller Carpathians and Sudetes in the south to the ancient and more centrally situated Swietokrzyskies near Kielce. Zakopane in particular, a happening town in Carpathian Tatra country, is your best bet for skiers, mountain bikers and hikers looking to get in on the best action and elevation Poland has to offer. There’s also some great climbing to be had around these parts, including the many caves (Jaskinia Mamutowa) and parks (Ojcow) carved into the Jurassic limestone around Krakow. If you prefer getting out on the water, what Poland lacks in rapids it more than makes up for in endless miles of scenic, navigable waterways. The magnificent Dunajec to the south, as well as serpentine rivers such as the Krutynia and Rospuda in northeastern Masurian Lake country, are just a few of the many options all you kayakers and rafters will definitely want to check out.
Relatively tame but still well worth exploring are the unique forests that encompass around 30% of the Polish interior. From the rich wildlife and extensive hiking and biking trails of Kampinoski near Warsaw to the ancient, UNESCO recognized forests of Bialowieza in the east, there’s plenty of history and adventure to be had beneath the country’s rich foliage. And speaking of trees, you’ll find plenty of them, along with cliffs, sand dunes and other unique geological combinations in the coastal north. Of particular interest is the island national park of Wolinski to the far northwest, where the striking variety of landscapes and coastal vistas make for a perfect hiking and camping destination away from the well-worn tourist hubs. So before you write off Poland as a country best left for historians and late night club fanatics, take a minute to acquaint yourself with the natural wonders of this incredible European country.