Poland's currently one of the most underrated European travel destinations. Tourists from all over the world head mainly to Italy, France and Spain. Is it surprising?
Not really - Western Europe is a real travel paradise:
- tourism infrastructure is perfect.
- Loads of amazing cities offering countless eye-catching monuments.
- Many interesting architectural styles.
- Breathtaking mountain landscapes.
- Modern ski resorts.
- Brilliant coastlines with clean, sandy beaches.
- Sunny weather.
Well, the list goes on and on. I'd probably need a few more hours to list all the fantastic things which Western Europe offers to its visitors.
Seems like Poland's not even a competitor to all the well-developed, amazingly colorful countries.
Or is it?
Is Poland worth travelling to? Do we have anything to offer to international visitors here? Or are there only Poles exploring their own backyard?
Here's what I think: Poland will be one of the most frequently visited European countries within the next 20 years.
And here's why:
1. Breathtaking Tatra mountains
They're the highest and most beautiful mountains in Poland. In my opinion, Tatras are equally beautiful to Alps.
There's loads of fantastic hiking trails leading across Tatra ranges. There are easy trails in the valleys and difficult, via ferrata-like trails high up in the mountains. They're all well marked (which doesn't always happen in France or Italy).
I love Tatra mountains variety! For example, Western range is totally different compared to High Tatras.
Air is clean and sharp, fauna and flora is a treat for any nature lover and the views do take your breath away.
Oh, and when you visit Tatra mountains in winter, don't forget to take you skis - there's lots of ski resorts in the area.
2. Family-friendly Beskidy mountains
Less famous than Tatra mountains but equally worth going to. There's less people, prices are lower.
But there's a lot of lovely, picturesque, small villages which offer comfortable accommodation.
And there are also many trails in Beskidy mountains. Not that demanding, not very steep - the peaks aren't high. Average height of Beskidy hills is about 1000 metres (3300 ft).
So, Beskidy are perfect for less experienced hikers, families with children or just for the nature lovers who appreciate great landscape and fresh air but don't necessarily want to strain themselves on steep trails.
3. Brilliant monuments in Cracow
You won't get bored in Cracow, especially if you're into history and architecture. Wawel castle, Mariacki church, Old Town, Sukiennice market, Barbakan fortification, Kazimierz area, about 50 museums - there's loads of things to see in one of the oldest cities in Poland. Besides, Cracow was listed in UNESCO World Heritage register in 1978 - now that's something!
If you're not that into historical stuff, there's also lots of restaurants, pubs and discos to choose from - Cracow's well prepared for entertaining all kinds of travel aficionados.
4. Clever dwarves in Wroclaw
Wroclaw is another vibrant big city in Poland. It's definitely less historical than Cracow but equally interesting. There are 2 trademarks of this city: bridges and dwarves. I'm not sure which one's better
What I strongly advise to do when visiting Wroclaw is to organize a dwarf hunt. You can bet with your travel companion who spots more dwarves. Easy as it may seem, it's rather tricky to find those little pranksters who lurk in weird, unexpected places all over the city!
5. Amazing ships in Gdansk
I like Gdansk the best, it's truly my favourite city in Poland. Pity it's so far away - I need to travel all the way up to the North of the country. But I'll definitely revisit Gdansk in coming years. Gdansk in port city, that's probably why it seems so interesting to me.
And it's simply very beautiful.
So, it would be sin to be in Gdansk and not try a ferry ride Besides its amazing Old Town, it's definitely worth to visit Westerplatte - place where Germans attacked Poland for the first time in September 1939. Westerplatte makes you instantly appreciate the fact that you don't have to take part in the worst thing on this planet - war.
I remember I visited also botanical garden in Oliwa district. It may not be in the city centre but definitely worth visiting too.
6. Yummy oscypek
What the heck is oscypek? - you may ask.
Well, oscypek is a smoked, salty cheese made of sheep milk. It looks fancy and tastes great. Actually, it's a signature food of Tatra mountains, a real trademark of the region. I mean, a proper trademark - since 2007 oscypek's name been protected by European law - it's a Polish regional product with PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin). Yeah!
I know a cheese isn't big enough reason to visit a country but I couldn't resist mentioning it here. Remember to buy oscypek when you're in Tatra mountains - you won't regret it.
7. Romantic Baltic coastline
OK, Baltic sea may not be as warm and azure blue like Mediterranean sea. But it fulfills it's function well. There's nice, fresh air on the coastline. There's lots of great beaches. And, as every seashore, Baltic offers you amazing opportunity to admire stunning sunsets (or sunrises), contemplate the nature and have a long walks along the shore.
Tourism infrastructure is well-developed on the Baltic coastline so every sea aficionado will be satisfied.
In addition, the fish tastes best in this area. Of course, the good fish is the fresh fish. So forget about halibut or panga. Try local species like flounder (plaice), herring, cod and sole fish.
8. Fantastic Masurian Lake District
OK, I need to admit I've never been there but everyone says it's brilliant getaway.
If you're into lakes (there's about 2000 of them in Mazury!), sailing, forests and biking you may want to consider visiting The Green Lungs of Poland. It's perfect place for water sports people who need to unwind in peaceful green getaway.
9. Mysterious Ogrodzieniec castle
You might not have heard about Ogrodzieniec, even though it's located so close do Cracow. Or maybe Cracow it the reason why castles on Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska aren't famous enough?
There's many reasons why it's worth to visit Polish Jurassic highland. Besides numerous castles to see, there are big jurassic rocks to climb and lots of trails to hike or bike. It's just another beautiful but underrated region in Poland with great Ogrodzieniec castle being its major tourist attraction.
10. Pierogi, yeah!
Everyone knows pierogi. You either heard of them or already tried them. They're delicious!
OK, in case you're not sure what pierogi are - they're stuffed dumplings which can be boiled or fried. They come in great variety - you can have them sweet or savoury.
The most popular type is Russian pierogi - they're filled with white cheese and potato mash. But do not limit yourself only to one filling - there's also cabbage and mushrooms, spinach, minced meat, broccoli and buckwheat. If you have a sweet tooth, then go for blueberries, strawberries or cottage cheese. I guess there's no limit when it comes to pierogi's stuffings
11. Relatively low prices
If you visit Poland, I bet the currency is a nice bargain for you. Polish zloty is immensely cheap, especially for those who earn their income in US dollars, European euros, Swiss francs, British pounds or Scandinavian currencies.
In general, prices in Poland aren't that high. Of course, you can pay through your nose in 5-star hotels but, still, it's nothing compared to prices in Western Europe or USA.
Museum tickets, nightclubs entrance fees or even ski passes are usually low-priced. Truth is, you'll find nice accommodation and great restaurants for a very reasonable price even in the biggest Polish cities.