Main Attractions in Great Masurian Lakes

The Augustow Forest is one of the most extensive forests in Poland. It covers almost all of the Augustow plain. It has mainly pine and spruce trees, many of them over a century old. Here, look out for the European Bison, elk, boars, wolves and beavers. Of course there are many other interesting animals to spot, some of them being species of birds unique to this area. The town of Augustow, situated in the western part of the Augustow Forest is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North because it is very close to three lakes. Today, it has gained the status of a spa. In summer, tourists descend on this little town of 30,000 inhabitants in droves, making brisk business for holiday homes, yacht operators at the marina and beach vendors. Visit the 19th century park in the center of the market place, which has some ancient trees.

The Pisz Forest is the biggest forest in Masuria and one of the biggest in Poland. It has pine woods and lakes dotted with islands - all adding up to a beautiful landscape. It is perfect for walking, cycling, hiking and kayaking trips. The Masuria National Landscape Park protects part of the forest. Within the park lies the Lake Luknajo Reserve, a breeding ground for the rare mute swan. It is on the list of UNESCO Biosphere reserves.

There is also a private park of wild animals at Kadzidlowo in the Pisz Forest. Here you can spot elks, tarpans, miniature goats and beavers among other wild animals.

The Krytunia River area is another reserve in the Pisz Forest. The route of the Krytunia River, is famed as the most picturesque kayaking route in Poland. It is suitable even for beginners.

In the Olsztyn Lake District, you should visit Lidzbark, the old capital of Warmia and the seat of its bishops for over four centuries. On the southern fringe of this district lies Olsztynek, whose main attraction is the Museum of Folk Architecture. Many examples of the timber building styles of Warmia and Mazuria are exhibited here. Don't miss the water mill, Mazurian farmyard, wooden church and three windmills. Also enjoy the scenic beauty of several beautiful lakes located in the nearby forests.

To the southwest of Olsztyn, lie the Fields of Grunwald, a major tourist attraction, where allied Polish and Lithuanian armies defeated the knights of the Teutonic order in 1410. It was the greatest clash of arms in the entire Middle Ages. Each year, the anniversary of the battle is celebrated by presenting the knights' culture and reproducing the battle scene. In 1960, a memorial was unveiled at the site of the battle.

On the Western fringe of the Great Lakes District, lies Ketrzyn, an old settlement next to a castle of the Teutonic Knights. Today, there is a museum of regional history in the castle. Just ten kilometers away, is Gierloz, the town here Hitler made his wartime headquarters. The "Wolf's Lair" as the area is known, covers 8 square kilometers. It mainly consists of a group of bunkers dug deep into the ground, a railway station and an airfield. The headquarters were surrounded by an a belt of mine fields and the buildings were flawlessly camouflaged with foliage which was changed from season to season. What remains today are the ruins left after the German Army destroyed the area before retreating in 1945.

To the southwest of Ketrzyn, lies Swieta Lipka,a place of pilgrimage. The 17th century Baroque Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary lies in a monastery complex. It is known for its lime tree with a silver figure of the Virgin Mary, its enormous three-storey altar and its Baroque organ.

The Elblag Canal is an attraction unique in Europe. 81 kilometers in length, it was built between 1848 to 1860. It runs through a chain of lakes, which lie at different heights above sea level, and are joined together by manmade cuttings. What is interesting is that one can sail through tanks to two locks and five slipways, through which ships are carried dry on rails on special platforms.