Białowieża Village is the tourism hub in the forest. It’s where most of the hotels and restaurants are, and so most visitors will pass through here. Aside from the national park’s wonderful strict reserve, which I discuss in a separate article, the forest around these parts generally isn’t spectacular. But there are still a couple of possible short walks through the nearby nature reserves. These are great for 2-3 hour jaunts into the forest on lazy afternoons. There’s a few watch towers and tourist attractions to visit too.
Mode of transport
Assuming you’re staying the night somewhere in the village, you can just directly walk or bike out into the forest. Otherwise park up in one of the many tourist car parks and head off by foot. Just note that although most of the forest tracks around the village are perfect for biking, two of the trails described below aren’t suitable for bikes.
How to get there
Assuming you’re staying somewhere in the village, you’re already here. Otherwise drive to Białowieża village and park up close to the route you want to walk.
The forest surrounding Białowieża village is great for short walks. Below I’ve listed two that focus on the nearby nature reserves (routes 1 & 2) and another that borders the strict reserve (route 3). The former are surprisingly wild for being so close to civilisation, and the latter gives a glimpse of the strict reserve without having to pay for a guide and ticket. These trails get quite busy in the summer tourist season, so if you want something quieter or wilder, then head to one of the other areas I discuss on my blog. As usual, you’re free to explore and make up your own routes (as long as you keep outside the national park’s strict reserve).
Route 1 – Żebry Żubra
|1 h||6 km||Walk||Very easy|
This is a nice, short walk through a nearby nature reserve. The forest is well preserved and the path is well maintained, with much of it along an elevated wooden walkway. Here you can see all of Białowieża Forest’s main forest types: Jurassic park-like bog forests, leafy deciduous forest and coniferous forests. It’s a great place for an accessible, short overview of what the forest has to offer. The path can get a bit busy over spring/summer weekends. Wild animals consequently avoid this area. The zoo can be found at the end of the trail, for those that are interested. Return the same way as you came.
Route 2 – The High Swamp trail
|1 h||6 km||Walk||Very easy|
Another accessible short walk, this time through the High Swamp (Wysokie Bagno) nature reserve. The nature reserve was created in 1979 to protect a well-preserved boreal spruce peat-bog forest alongside various endangered plants, including orchids, in the Narewka River valley. This is another place where you can see a glimpse of what Białowieża Forest has to offer. The reserve is covered in moss-enveloped trees in all stages of their life-cycle. The spruce trees in this area were heavily affected by a bark-beetle outbreak in late 1990s. Many of them died, and you can see them lying, decomposing in the bog. A new generation of young spruce trees is now growing all around them: the forest’s circle of life. This is a short trail and once you reach the end, the easiest way back is to return the same way as you came.
Route 3 – The Dziedzinka trail.
|2-3 h||10 km||Walk/Cycle||Very easy|
This is an easy walk or cycle to the Belarusian border, traversing the edge of the strict reserve. (see the map at the top of the page for the location of the national park). On one side you have pristine forest (the north side) and on the other managed forest. This allows you to clearly see the differences between a well-preserved, near-natural forest and a forest managed by humans for wood production: the strict reserve comprises trees at all stages of their life, young, old, ancient and dead. Whereas the managed forest is mostly made up trees of a single species of the same age, with nothing substantial growing underneath them. At the end of the track you’ll arrive at a barrier that marks the Poland-Belarus border. You can then return the same way you came, or turn-off onto one of the side-forest tracks.
Diedzinka is the house in the clearing half way to the border. This was once the house of Simona Kossak, a famous local naturalist, and Lech Wilczek, a famous local photographer. They lived together in this remote location, without running water, electricity or a phone line.
Other things to do
Star-gazing Białowieża Forest has some of the darkest skies in Poland and the EU. If you happen to be here during a clear night, I highly recommend turning your sight upwards. One of my favourite spots of star-gazing is the watch-tower between Białowieża and Pogorzelce (see first map above), near the Żebry Żubra car park.
Miejsce mocy – In English: ‘The Power Place’, a place where some people feel energy, due to the area’s apparent heightened electromagnetism. Some people feel nothing, but some people feel energised and alive. The place receives mixed reports! There’s a viewing tower here, alongside various crooked trees and species like apple and pear that don’t normally occur inside forests. It seems quite likely that there was a settlement here at some point. If you’re into that kinda thing, you might find it a fun short walk. To get here, drive out of Białowieża towards Hajnówka and turn left after 2 km at the signpost. You can drive along the gravel-track for another 2km and park near the entrance to the attraction.
Zoo & Museum – These are possibly the most popular attractions, although they don’t showcase the forest’s wild beauty. The zoo is 3 km outside the village on the right as you drive towards Hajnowka. It’s not particularly inspiring, but you are guaranteed to see bison, wolves and lynx. The museum on the other hand is inside the national park headquarters in the middle of the village.
Watch towers – There are various watchtowers dotted around the village. Check these out for a view over the village and Narewka River Valley. You can see these marked on the map at the top of the page.