Welcome to the Bialowieza Forest!
Be our guest at Podlasie! Come and experience the magic of cultural landscapes of the region. Find out for yourself why this area is called the green lungs of Central and Eastern Europe. Set off on your own adventure with the last natural forest of the European continent – with the Bialowieza Forest.
Back in the 16th century the Forest was a part of vast woodland, reaching the territory of modern Lithuania in the north and present western Ukraine in the south. Nowadays, it is much smaller, pared down by civilization, but this is also exactly why it should be protected as our priceless treasure. Due to its unique value, the Forest was distinguished as the UNESCO World Heritage site and remains the only Polish natural property on the list.
Podlasie is the border region. The borders changed their shape in the storms of history, but somehow always led across this area, contributing to the mixture of nationalities, languages and confessions. The region has been home to Poles, Belarusians, Ruthenians, Russians, Lithuenians, Jews and Tatars. To the Orthodox, Old Believers, Catholics, Muslims and followers of Judaism. This cultural mosaic left its trace in the local language and culture. Different parts of Podlasie speak different dialects fully understandable only for the local inhabitants – in our, northern part of the Forest this is a language very close to Belarusian.
There is a lot to discover around here: catholic and orthodox churches, mosques, sometimes old synagogues, most of which were unfortunately destroyed. Traces of traditional crafts have also been preserved in the region. Some locals still weave, build stoves, make pots or do wickerwork. The skills of the older generation, with more and more enthusiasm, are taken up by young people. Also the local cuisine is really worth trying and will give you the possibility of a culinary journey, which often turns out to be much eastwards bound. Last but not least, most products are home-grown and come from the area.
Local people have always been strongly connected with this ancient woodland. The Forest served them as a pantry, supplied them with timber necessary for the construction of their houses and, during historical turmoil, provided a hiding place. But it was less than a hundred years ago that extensive exploitation of the Forest began. Luckily, it did not afflict all of it. Nowadays, we can experience a piece of wilderness shaped mainly by the power of nature. The area included in the UNESCO list covers 141885ha and is located on both Polish and Belarusian sides of the border.
A visit to the strict reserve of the Bialowieza National Park – so, to the area which can be entered only with a licenced guide – will help you understand the specifics of the Forest and will prepare you better for your own, individual trips. But it is all over the Forest that with some luck you might encounter bisons, wolves, lynx, deer, moose, roe deer or wild boars roaming freely across a place that has been their home for millennia. You might also like to set off into the wild with an experienced guide that will show you how to track forest animals. The woods and their surroundings are also great for watching birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Due to the large amount of dead wood, without which the wilderness would not be really wild, it is also possible to admire the realm of fungi, lichens, slime moulds and innumerable insects of unique shapes, names and life cycles. Dead wood, decaying for long decades, plays the same role for the Forest, as old, dead corals for the coral reef. It becomes a reservoir of minerals and, additionally, of water. One fallen tree turns into a home to hundreds and thousands of species and gives beginning to new lives. This is exactly the uninterrupted cycle of constant rebirth that gives the Forest its name and makes it different from any other European lowland woodlands.
The unique and wonderful feeling of being one with nature, of diving into it, experiencing its sounds, smells, textures and its primeval powers can also become yours. Children will enjoy making bunches of wild meadow flowers, running around freely, having their little adventures under the open skies and falling asleep by the fire at the end of a busy day. Adults will appreciate the freedom of vast, untouched space, the proximity of wilderness and the harmony that flows from it. The happiness of being together, looking into the fire or the stars above and of connecting with something big and beautiful, and full of life is what will remain with you even when you are already back home.