If you’re a first time visitor, central Białowieża Forest is the best place to begin your adventure. It’s the most visited area, with plenty of well-preserved old-growth forest to be admired. Bison are also relatively easy to spot, often simply hanging out in the meadows around the villages. As elsewhere, to see the best preserved forest head towards the nature reserves. These are fairly evenly dispersed, and there are particularly nice reserves to the west of Budy village and to the north of the Łutownia River.
Mode of transport
You can cycle in from Białowieża, or park in one of the villages and go for a walk. If cycling in from Białowieża, you can leave the paved road and explore any of the routes marked as cyclable below.
How to get there
There’s a paved road that loops from Białowieża through the three villages of Pogorzelce, Teremiski and Budy. The road’s easily accessible by bike from Białowieża. Alternatively, you can park your car in any of the villages, or in Stara Białowieża.
I’ve listed a few of my favourite areas to explore below. But feel free to design your own walk. All the forest tracks are open to the public, and you can find these either on openstreetmap or on a tourist map of the local area. The forest tracks are laid out in a 1 km x 1 km grid across the whole forest, so it’s easy to make spontaneous circular routes of varying lengths. If you’re designing your own route, the Łutownia river valley is a good focal point: its open meadows are great for wildlife spotting and are flanked by an abundance of old trees.
|The Łutownia river valley is one of my favourite places to explore. Along most of its length it is flanked by mowed meadows − foraging grounds for the lesser spotted eagle. The bird nests inside the forest, and forages in the open-areas. In historical times it flourished as the river valleys were cleared and then used by people as pasture for livestock. Over the last couple of decades, as farming in the local area collapsed, the eagle’s foraging grounds began to overgrow and disappear. To prevent the local extinction of the species, it was decided the traditional landscape would be actively maintained through mowing. Although these mowed meadows are a rather strange sight inside this dense forest, they provide excellent open viewing grounds for wild animals. Particularly at dawn many species, including bison, moose and deer can be found grazing here. Moreover, adjacent to the meadows are well-preserved ancient tree stands, with abundant moss-bound centuries old trees. When planning a trip into the forest, you can either walk along the meadows flanking the river, or one of the paths inside the woods.|
Route 1: The Spalony Most (Burnt bridge) trail
|1 h||3 km||Walk/bike||Very easy|
Park at Stara Białowieża.
A short walk in the woods down the border of the national park to the Narewka River. To begin, look for the forest track opposite the entrance to the ‘szlak dębów królewskich’. The forest on the north-side of the path was added to the national park in 1996. Although its not quite as spectacular as the strict reserve, it’s still fairly natural and well-preserved. At the end of the trail, at the Narewka River, you’ll find the remains of the so-called Burnt Bridge (PL: Spalony Most). In winter the route is an excellent place to track large carnivores: I’ve often seen wolf and lynx tracks, who seem to use the remains of the burnt bridge as a spot for swimming across the river.
Route 2: Black walking trail
|2-3 h||8 km||Walk/bike||Easy|
Park in Stara Białowieża.
This is another easy one. It’s marked as the black trail on all tourist maps. From Stara Białowieża, walk south 0.5 km down Narewkowksa Road. You’ll reach a small bonfire spot in a clearing, after which the black trail will veer off right into the forest. This is a relatively easy-going straight track, which passes through some pretty nature reserves in its second half. You can turn it into a loop by taking one of the north-bound forest tracks into Teremiski or Budy, but you’ll have to walk back to Sara Białowieża along the paved road.
Route 3: Teremiski – Łutownia Valley walk
|2 h||6 km||Walk/bike||Easy|
Park somewhere in Teremiski.
A nice short route that takes you from a typical eastern Polish village along a cute river valley. Park up somewhere in Teremiski, and walk along the northbound track into the forest. As you turn left, you’ll soon see signs that you’re entering a nature reserve. There’s an abundance of well-preserved forest here, with plenty of grand old trees with buttress roots. Feel free to leave the path and explore the river valley – it’s a wide open space that’s far better for spotting wild animals than the forest interior. I’ve marked the trail as finishing at the bridge behind Budy, but feel free to make the trail as long or as short as you want. You can return the same way you came, or you can return directly along the river valley (although that’ll be somewhat hard-going, as there’s no trail there), or you can head north along one of the forest tracks and loop back to Teremiski.
This trip can easily be doubled up with a visit to the Forest Information Point in Teremiski (see description at the bottom of this article).
Route 4: The Budy – Łutownia Valley trail
|2 h||6 km||Walk||Medium-Hard|
Park somewhere in the western half of Budy. Trail not suitable for bicycles.
Another route that passes along the Łutownia River valley. This is a nice option, as it showcases a variety of different landscapes, including the scenic meadows around Budy village, the stunning nature reserves flanking the Łutownia rover, and the river valley itself. If you’re scared of getting lost in the woods, this probably isn’t a route for you. But if you enjoy lots of clambering over and around fallen trees amongst an old-growth woodland, you’ll definitely enjoy it. The path along the Łutownia is largely unmaintained and has fallen into disrepair. In many places it’s barely even visible, so a GPS device helps to avoid going off piste. If you get lost, look towards the forest edge, towards the Łutownia river valley – from there you’ll be able to navigate your way westwards to Tryb Zwierzyniecki. This is a tarmacked forest track, that will take you southwards back to Budy.
Route 5 Budy-Łutownia circuit
|2-3 h||8 km||Walk||Easy|
Park somewhere at the western end of Budy. Trail not suitable for bicycles.
This is a medium-length route and a favourite of mine. I’ve seen bison, moose, and red deer along this stretch of the Łutownia river valley, and wolf and lynx tracks on the whole circumference of the trail. Not only is the path better maintained than in route 4, but it traverses closer to the river, giving you a better view of the valley. As the river turns northwards, you’ll cross an abandonded bridge on the corner. It’s in fairly good condition, so don’t worry about safety. For the remainder of the route you’ll be walking through a lovely nature reserve showcasing a variety of different forest types. After about 1 km you’ll have to turn right (south), and after another 2.5 km you turn left (east), to head back to Budy.
Route 6 – Szczekotowo circuit
|2-3 h||14 km||Cycle||Easy|
Park your car somewhere in Budy.
An easy going cycle ride that takes you through the Szczekotowo nature reserve. It’s a small nature reserve, but boy is it interesting. The forest here is nice, but this is primarily an archaeological site. There are 131 burial chambers originating from the medieval period. Notice the 1 m high semi-spherical mounds dotted all around the place. In the middle of the nature reserve there’s a small meadow and watch tower on the location of a 17th century village. You can still see black scars on the ground left over from charcoal, potash, tar, and pitch making. The village was abandoned in 1792, as the wood chemical industry in Białowieża Forest collapsed. The villagers moved to Budy to become farmers. Shortly after crossing the Łutownia, turn southwards. Then as you arrive parallel to Budy, turn left (east) to return to your car. Feel free to extend your cycle ride by exploring any of the tracks turning off along the way. As always, look for the nature reserves for the most interesting parts of the forest.
Route 7 – The Budy nature reserve circuit
|2-3 h||12 km||Cycle||Easy|
Park your car somewhere in Budy.
There’s a beautiful array of different nature reserves west of Budy. The route marked on the map above is rather self-explanatory. Turn right at the western end of Budy, and follow the route around. This route is just one of many options for exploring these nature reserves. There’s an excellent grid-network of well-maintained tracks here, so whether you want a longer, or shorter route, or even if you’re exploring by foot, it’s easy for you to design your own route.
You might meet bison along the way. They particularly gather in this part of the forest in winter (see below).
Bison spotting in winter
Teremiski bison feeding stations – These are a great place to spot bison during the winter (November to March). There are a couple of feeding stations in the meadows surrounding the village, most notably immediately on both the left and the right the road as you drive into the village from Białowieża direction.
The forest north of Zwierzyniec − There’s a bison feeding station here. Be careful not to go inside the feeding-station itself as that’s illegal (there should be signs). But during the day, the bison often rest away from the feeding sites in the nearby forest. If there’s snow on the ground, you’ll quickly find their tracks, which you can follow till you find them. They’ll usually be hanging out in a herd of 5-20 bison. Don’t get too close as you’ll scare them off.
For other bison spotting locations, see my dedicated article on the topic.
Other tourist attractions
Forest Information Point (Puszczański Punk Informacyjny): Located in the old school house in Teremiski, this is the headquarters of local environmental activists. Not formally affiliated to any NGO, they are simply a collection of folks who love the forest and campaign for its protection. They run various events throughout the year, some to raise awareness about the forest, others to educate the public about nature. They generally have an open-door policy – you can pop by for a cup of tea or coffee to have a chat with some of the most interesting people in the area. There is even the possibility to stay there overnight in one of their dorms, if you contact them beforehand. You can find them on facebook here. Their address is Teremiski 12.
Szlak dębów królewskich – A short (0.5 km) tourist trail showcasing a group of old oak trees 150-500 years old named after Polish-Lithuanian kings. There are various notice boards describing the history of the area in both English and Polish. Tickets cost 4 Zl for adults and 2 Zl for kids. Park at Stara Białowieża.
Lunch spot: Zajazd Myśliwski in Budy. Excellent pierogi and soups. Not always open outside of the tourist season.