Sometimes there is a combination of factors that makes a place more special than others and this is a clear example. We practically booked our trip to Poland a couple of weeks before; the summer holidays were nearing the end and we did not want to miss the last opportunity for some time abroad. With winter approaching and a consequent surge in COVID cases, and uncertainty related to changing restrictions, we thought of leaving again our tiny island after less than a month as we might not be able to travel again during wintertime (we never know when lockdowns may return!).
We made excellent deals with flights, as I never saw such cheap prices for flights during the summer holidays! Usually we book months before and flights are still quite expensive, so I was super happy with the prices we paid. Our itinerary was designed around the natural parks in Eastern Poland and after we landed in Gdansk we immediately made our way to the Warmia & Masuria region, approximately 3 hours east. This is also known the land of a thousand lakes; actually there over 2,000 lakes in the region! We spent a total of 5 days in the region and here are some tips on how to spend your time and the top things to do in Warmia Masuria voivodship.
Stay by one of the lakes!
With such a large abundance of lakes you will surely find the perfect place to stay by the lake. We chose our accommodation in the outskirts of Giżycko and this accommodation was one of those factors mentioned above that made this place extra special for us. We stayed in the cottages of Sterla Masuria and I have nothing but positive feedback to say about this place. This is the place to stay if you wish to stay in a place surrounded by nature, where calmness reigns and all you will be able to hear are the birds chirping. The houses are very modern and well equipped, they can sleep up to 6 people and our favourite part of the house was the outdoor terrace overlooking the lakes. This place is perfect for families with young kids but also groups of friends, as there is a common outdoor area with barbecues, sauna and playing area.
Jezioro Nidzkie and Jezioro Beldany!
There are a lot of beautiful lakes in the area and choosing which ones to visit may prove to be a daunting experience. The majority of the touristic towns are located along these lakes. After a lot of research online we decided to visit Jezioro Nidzkie and Jezioro Beldany. There are a lot of possibilities and things to do along these lakes, such as yacht tours, paddle boat hire or simply relaxing strolls along their shores.
Wolfsschanze or Wolf’s Lair
History lovers cannot miss this attraction! The Wolf’s Lair was one of the most important sites during World War II as here there was an attempt to kill Adolf Hitler. This complex was one of the Fuhrer’s headquarters as it lied a couple of kilometres away from the Prussian border. This episode was also featured in the famous movie with Tom Cruise Valkyrie. The assassination attempt has been done through a briefcase bomb, but it failed. The location is now a museum with detailed explanations on Hitler’s daily routine and how the quarters were designed.
One of my favourite locations in the Warmia region was this place. The forest arboretum, set in the outskirts of Olsztyn, is a botanical garden which offers an educational walk in the forest featuring over 1,000 species of plants, trees and shrubs. It is also possible to observe fauna in the park such as birds, frogs, reptiles, slugs and butterflies amongst others. The arboretum is a very relaxing place and you can easily spend half a day here observing the beauty of nature.
Olsztyn is the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship and is home to over 170,000 people. The main attractions in Olsztyn are the lake Jezioro Dlugie (which is actually the one that is closest to its historical centre – as there are 15 lakes within the city), Rynek or market square, the Upper Gate (the main entrance to the old town) and the Olsztyn Castle (Zamek Kapituły Warmińskiej). There is also a central park which lies east of the market square if you wish to take a break in nature from the city sightseeing.
Kayak the Krutyn River
This was our first attempt at kayaking with our 3 year old daughter. We had read that there are several parts of the river that can be kayaked, however we chose the easiest one. The journey was approximately 2 hours and we were not sure about whether our daughter would sit still for this period of time. When we are abroad we tend to break rules and during trips in the car or as a reward after a long and strenuous trek, we buy snacks (crisps) for our daughter that we usually do not eat at home. This solution worked very well during our kayaking 🙂 The trip was very enjoyable for all of us as we were able to observe several animals as well; foxes, cows, ducks and birds accompanied us along the way. The water was very calm and the journey was indeed very easy. I highly recommend AS Tours if you are interested in doing this activity.
Mikolajki is the main seaside resort town in the region. It is very touristic and the main things to do are walking along the shores of the lake. There are hotels and restaurants here mainly catering for Polish and German tourists. However it is one of the few places where we had no issues with finding English speaking people. A nearby lake worth visiting is Jezioro Luknajko, which is a protected natural reserve. This lake is the breeding place of the mute swan and apart from the swans, you will be able to observe many other birds on the lake. There are several viewing platforms to do so, however you won’t be able to approach the shores of the lake as there are marshlands.
This was our favourite activity in the region. Everyday we would leave some free time to wander in the forests and drive offroad with our car to look for wildlife. Most of the time we did not succeed straightaway but had several encounters with wildlife when we least expected them. If you would like to spot some wildlife here are some tips:
- Timing: They are mainly active early in the morning or after sunset
- Movement: If you are on foot animals tend to be scared away more easily than when you are in a car. Animals do not consider cars as a threat, so if you do spot any wildlife do not go down from your car.
- Indications: Look for footsteps or feces and follow them
Having said so we managed to see several roe deer, foxes, marmots, moose, squirrels, several bird species (white storks being the most numerous), frogs etc. The fauna of the Masurian Landscape Park is one of the richest in Poland and we never imagined we would be able to see so much animals in Europe!