When Poland springs to mind you might find yourself contemplating a delicious pierogi or a glass of Bison Grass Vodka in the gothic metropolis of Warsaw. However, the country’s magic extends far beyond its poignant food scene and Medieval cities. Poland’s vast and glorious countryside also lures visitors — its mountains, meadows, and forests will leave lasting impressions on even the best-traveled outdoors enthusiasts.
Care to take a wander? We’re diving into eight of the best places to experience Poland’s great outdoors. After all, you can’t take a trip to The Land of the Fields without doing so.
Tatra National Park
Tucked just inside the border of Poland’s southernmost reaches and a mere 2-hour drive from Krakow, you’ll find the mighty and magnificent Tatra Mountains. Showcasing some of the nation’s most beautiful natural wonders, Tatra National Park has earned its coveted title of UNESCO biosphere reserve and receives droves of visitors all year round.
From the soaring peaks of Mount Rysy — Poland’s highest point — to the shimmering surface of Morskie Oko Lake below, the Tatra Mountains and surrounding region promise rugged peaks, snow-topped pinnacles, and glistening streams. For full immersion in the enchantment of the Slavic Hills, visitors can experience authentic mountain huts by night after tackling mountain pastures and winding forest tracks by day. With hiking trails fit for every type of walker, there’s no excuse not to visit this versatile national park. You can thank us later!
Karkonosze National Park
Located in southwestern Poland lies Karkonosze National Park, which spans along the border of the Czech Republic and consists of the highest mountain ranges in the Sudetes. Karkonosze is a popular territory for both hiking and mountain biking thanks to its striking jagged cliffs, waterfalls, undulating plateaus, and cirques — colossal hollows carved into the earth by glaciers during the Ice Age.
The most prominent peak of the Silesian Ridge is Mt Śnieżka, which boasts the highest above-ground-elevation in all of Poland and offers breathtaking views over the Jelenia Góra valley. The Roman Catholic chapel of St Lawrence sits stoically atop Śnieżka, joined by a restaurant and meteorological observatory, while stags, does, white-tailed eagles, muskrats, otters, and mouflon (just to name a few) inhabit the surrounding parklands. Śnieżka, which translates as “Snowy One,” is infamous for its year-round harsh climate: in winter it sees heavy rain and snow while at other times climbers must contend with biting winds and heavy mists. If you like your scenery to come with a challenge, this park is worth the visit!
Woliński National Park
One of Poland’s smallest parks, Woliński National Park is situated on the island of Wolin and is best accessed from the nearby resort town of Międzyzdroje. What the park lacks in size, it makes up for with beauty: towering sandy cliffs, turquoise lakes, and mixed forests warrant up to two days of leisurely hikes. Due to its coastal location, the waters of the Baltic Sea are included within this protected area, making Woliński Poland’s first maritime park. Wolin will also pique the interest of avid bird-watchers, as wetland bird species migrate to the shores during spring and autumn.
Kasprowy Wierch, Zakopane
As wintertime drapes the Tatra National Park in a dense covering of snow, the area is transformed into a wonderland for the winter sports enthusiast. All across the mountains, visitors can enjoy incredible alpine and cross-country skiing, mountaineering, and climbing.
Nestled between the valleys of the Tatra ranges is Zakopane, a charming ski town which reigns supreme as the winter capital of Poland. From Zakopane, keen hikers, skiers, and snowboarders travel on either foot or by cable car up to the north facing peak of Kasprowy Wierch. The cable car is one of the oldest operating in Europe, offering astounding views of the valleys below and mountain vistas beyond. Top off your stay with a few nights spent at one of Poland’s most famous hostels, which makes for the perfect base for your daytime adventures. If you’re up for a scenic, snowy hike or an advanced ski-run, a day on the slopes of Kasprowy Wierch has got to be on the cards.
Bialowieza National Park
Spanning 152 square kilometers in the north-east of Poland and spilling across the border with Belarus, Bialowieza National Park is one of Europe’s last and largest well-preserved primeval forests. Its huge expanse once stretched right across northern Europe and is still home to the world’s largest population of wild European bison. Along with its flourishing population of bison are an estimated 12 thousand other animal species: the likes of lynx, wolves, boars, deer, elk, and stag roam the park, along with around 230 species of bird.
The flora and fauna of this ancient forest draw around 100,000 nature lovers each year, to marvel at its greenery and luscious landscapes beneath the sun-dappled canopy of century-old oak trees. While it’s not likely that you’ll catch the shy and rambling beasts of the forest up close, the European Bison Show Reserve doubles as a scientific study area and zoo. Upon visiting, you’ll see why Bialowieza has been called the crown jewel of Poland’s national parks.
Masurian Lake District
The Masurian Lake District, or Masurian Lakeland, spans roughly 290 kilometers across northeastern Poland towards the border of Russia. Approximately three hours from Warsaw by car, Mazury is also easily reached by bus and train. The 2,000 pristine lakes of these rich waterways are connected by canals and rivers that allow visitors to island hop at leisure between lakeside hotels, cafes, and shops.
Little known outside of Poland, the district has been much loved by Poles and Germans for years. But with the introduction of new flight connections to Olsztyn-Mazury airport in the heart of the Masurian forest, Poland’s hidden gem is now becoming more accessible than ever. For those who relish in the beauty of nature and seek the most peace and space to explore it, the Masurian Lake District delivers with ample charm and tranquility. Enjoy a day out on the water aboard a sailboat on Poland’s largest lake, Śniardwy, and spend time in the popular resort towns of Gizycko and Mikolajki. Kayak along the picturesque Krutynia River, or spend a few nights at a Farm Stay to get a taste of organic, local cuisine.
The Dunajec Gorge and Pieniny Mountains
The magnificent Pieniny Mountains are set in the south of Poland along the border with eastern Slovakia and comprise of a portion of the Carpathian Mountains. The Polish side of the mountain range is protected by the Pieniński National Park, best known for its sheer-faced limestone gorges along the Dunajec River. Between the months of April and November, the gorge is open to river rafting, affording outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to float down the scenic river for meandering views of forests and fields.
Within the park are numerous medieval castles which once protected the border between Poland and Hungary during the 12th century. While most of the original thirteen castles are now in ruin, the Czorsztyn Castle and Niedzica Castle have been partially preserved and are open to the public, with the latter being adapted for museum purposes.
Gorce National Park
Forty kilometers northwest of the Tatras, the massif of Babia Góra dominates its surroundings within the Western Beskids. Straddling the border with Slovakia, Gorce National Park protects a portion of these mountains — Babia Góra being their most prominent. A name which translates literally to Old Wives’ or Witches’ Mountain, Babia Góra was first mentioned in medieval chronicles. According to folklore, the mountain was the location of a witches’ Sabbath; a gathering place for those who practiced witchcraft and sorcery.
Gorce National Park is known for its panoramic glades, arched peaks, river valleys, and rambling streams. It is also home to an abundance of animal life including bears, lynx, eagles, and wolves. Tourist numbers dwindle in this region, making the park a haven for keen nature lovers looking to go a little off the grid. A joint love affair with Mother Nature and ancient magic will have you spellbound with this national park.
Kashubian Lake District
Approximately an hour’s drive from Poland’s port city of Gdansk, the Kashubian Lake District is known as Poland’s little Switzerland thanks to its magnificent alpine valleys. The district is a tranquil region made up of vast forests, rolling hills, flowering meadows, and meandering waterways. It consists of approximately 500 lakes and boasts almost endless outdoor activities such as canoeing, four-wheel-driving, hot-air ballooning, fishing, biking, and climbing.
From the nearby village of Szymbark, visitors can ascend Wieżyca hill to the lookout tower for sweeping views over central Kashubia, and visit the Kashubian open-air museum in Wdzydze Kiszewskie to see architectural remains of local farms and sawmills. During the winter months, visitors flock to the region to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, as the sleepy villages of the summer transform into bustling ski resorts.
Header image by Janusz Maniak