#6 UNKNOWN POLAND – Bieszczady mountains

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The Bieszczady Mountains deserve to be called the wildest mountains in Poland not only because you will meet a real bison by the road, and at night you will hear the moose roar or – perhaps – distant howling of wolves. The myth of wild Bieszczady spread in Poland in the 50s-70s. last century. The cowboys from Bieszczady, Bieszczady captors, and the decision of the authorities to close this part of the country to make it an experimental area contributed to this.

Sunrise at Połonina Wetlińska

And the myth started to evolve and live on its own. Nowadays across the country, Bieszczady becomes an idyllic wild place you can hide and cherish nature at its purest form. When we’re frustrated and tired of everyday life we used to say: “Drop everything behind and go to Bieszczady”. There are people who actually did that, but that’s a story for another article.

What attracts people to this region is not ancient history, but the stunning beauty of these mountains located in the south-east of Poland.

How to get there?

As we’re talking about wildness… The best option is to rent a car. It will be the most convenient and comfortable option, especially if you want to go around Bieszczady.

If for some reason a car is not an option for you, use e-podroznik.pl to find the best car/train connection!

What to do/see there? List of attractions and must do!

1. Go to Połonina Caryńska and Połonina Wetlińska

Połonina Wetlinska view

Połoniny is a mountain meadow meandering in the wind like a green and yellow ocean (in the autumn). The view from them is wonderful because you can see the panorama of the area. The most spectacular are the views from two of the most popular pastures: Caryńska and Wetlińska.

Plan trip to each one separately as it takes c.a 4-5h to climb up and go down.

Trails are well marked along the way

Trail to Połonina Wetlińska:

The trail from Brzegi Górne through Winnie the Poo’s shelter, Połonina Wetlińska, to Chata Wędrowca (shelter) in Wetlina village.

  • Entrance along the red trail to Połonina Wetlińska from Brzegi Górne (village) to Chatka Puchatka (Winnie the Poo’s cottage) – c.a 1.5 hours
  • the passage from the Winnie The Pooh’s Cottage to the Orłowicz Pass (Przełęcz Orłowicza) along the ridge – c.a 1.5 hours,
  • descent to Wetlina from the Orłowicz Pass along the yellow trail – c.a1.5 hours.

In total: 4.5 hours. You can also do this route in the opposite direction. Wandering along the ridge of Połonina Wetlińska, you move around the Bieszczady National Park. This means that you will need a entrance ticket. You can buy it at the entrance to the trail.

Trail to Połonina Caryńska

Połonina Caryńska view

The trail from Brzegi Górne to Ustrzygi Górne (the village)

  • Entrance along the red trail to Połonina Caryńska from Brzegi Górne – bit over 2 hours,
  • crossing the ridge of połonina – 30 min,
  • descent to Ustrzyki Górne – 1.5 hours.

In total: 4 hours. You can also do this route in the opposite direction. Wandering along the ridge of Połonina Caryńska, you move around the Bieszczady National Park. This means that you will need an entrance ticket. You can buy it at the entrance to the trail.

There is no shelter in Połonina Caryńska, so be sure to take coffee and sandwiches with you. There are sheds along the way, where you can rest and find a place with benches on the top – you can admire fantastic views from here.

2. Solina Lake

When in Solina Lake go sailing!

Solina Lake is an artificial creation made by the dam and flooding of the former village of Solina. It is worth going to the Dam, as the views are stunning!

Solina Lake is a popular tourist destination!

In addition to undoubted recreational values, you need to add a few technical data: it is the largest artificial retention and energy reservoir in Poland, and the 81.8 m high dam is the highest dam in Poland. You can sail, go boating, kayak, or tourist boat. An interesting proposition, especially for those interested in construction, is to visit the dam itself. Fashionable towns with large recreational facilities developed around the lake: Polańczyk and Solina, and many smaller ones.

Solina Dam is the highest dam in Poland

3. The Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok

If you love history and stories of old-ages, this is a must for you! This museum is in fact huge (38ha!) thematical park located in Sanok.

Among others, you can visit many orthodox wooden churches.

In many guidebooks, Sanok is called “the gate to the Bieszczady Mountains”, because for centuries it was the seat of the authorities during the reign of Russian boyars and Polish kings. Its over 850-year history is a local synthesis of the fate of the Polish, Ruthenian, Jewish and Hungarian nations.

The museum is, in fact, huge (38ha) thematical park

In the open-air museum, themed homesteads with a clearly marked division into buildings of individual ethnic groups allow you to easily compare the architecture of Lemkos, Boykos or Pogórzans – it quickly turns out that thanks to certain similarities and regularities it was possible to recognize from a distance who lived in a given village, and in turn observation shrines or crosses by the road also enabled the faith of the group to be identified. How practical!

Cottages are formed into original villages grouped by its age and nationality of people who lived there.

Most of the objects can also be visited inside, finding out, among other things, that by the table was eaten only from the holiday (the norm was eating just seating on the benches), and the walls in hen huts were painted to only 2/3 of the height (above this line smoke from the hearth hung, so that would make no sense).

Reconstruction of typical Galician Market

Another most recent addition is a reconstruction of the Galician Market – restoration of the 25 market buildings of a typical small town.

Colonial store at Galician Market

In the watchmaker’s workshop tick the real hundred-year-old clocks brought for repair, the bakery encourages visitors to visit the aroma of fresh delicacies offered to tourists in a cozy cafe, and in the colonial store welcome us candy tubes and pre-war coffee cans, sold with the help of a beautifully decorated metal cash register.

You can also visit it inside and see how Poles lived before ages!

The truth is you can spend there the whole day and you won’t be bored as there is much more to visit and many stories to hear by a local guide (also in English!) who are willing to share with you about polish traditions, architecture, religion or just regular day-by-day life!

4. Look at the sky and see millions of stars!

Bieszczady is also one of the last places in Europe, where there is still a really dark sky, completely free from the artificial light pollution of our civilization.

Bieszczady is one of the darkest places in Poland and even in the whole of Europe, completely free from the artificial light pollution of our civilization. Space with its millions of stars can be seen perfectly from here. “Sky Park Bieszczady” it’s an organization that want to protect this last piece of dark sky in our part of the world. When you’re in spring/summer time don’t miss the “Sky show” organized by them! It takes around 2h (costs 60 PLN) and you can observe a fully starry sky of Bieszczady with the Milky Way. You’ll get deckchair, astronomical flashlight and a warm blanket to first watch laser show of constellations and zodiac signs, next you will have the unique opportunity of observation through large telescopes – bright stars, star clusters (the Pleiades and others), nebulae (Great Orion Nebula), galaxies (Andromeda Galaxy) and in the end get a group picture of you by the Milky Way background. If you’re into astronomy – it’s a total must!

Everything prepared for the “Sky show”

5. Ursa Maior Brewery

After a day in the mountains, everyone deserves a pint of beer! The best local one from Bieszczady with the possibility to get to know this interesting kraft better.

Ursa Maior is the only one local brewery.

Ursa Maior is the only brewery in the Bieszczady Mountains. A dozen of regional beer is made here. There are organized trips during which you can visit the interiors, get to know the whole process of how beer is made, and of course taste it!

Bottles of Ursa Maior are to buy in the local stores!

The brewery is located in Uherce Mineralne. More information: www.ursamaior.pl

6. Orthodox churches

An inseparable element of the Bieszczady landscape, a proposition not only for lovers of history and beautiful architecture but also for storytellers fans. Each orthodox church (in polish: cerkiew) is not only a style but a separate, often tragic story.

Wooden Orthodox church in Smolnik

There is plenty of them in many small, charming villages: Smolnik, Hoszowo, Bystre, Równia, Szczawne, Krywe.. you’ve got the point. PLENTY. The best day to visit them inside is Sunday, on the other days is possible but first, you need to make few phone calls to the church keeper you will open it for you and tell its story.

Cerkiew in Turzańsk was built in 1801 in East-Lemk style.

But there is a way to kind of visit them all in one day… and in one place! We’re talking about Park of Miniature Temples in Myczkowce.

On a surface area of almost one hectare, over 140 models of Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as Roman Catholic churches from south-eastern Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine are collected. All miniatures were made in a 1:25 scale grouped by its ethnic origin.

The mapped objects show how diverse the sacred architecture is, which can be encountered on the Polish-Slovak-Ukrainian border.

Of course, there is much more to do and see in Bieszczady! You can climb up to Tarnica – the highest peak in Bieszczady, go around the region using Bieszczady forest railway, search for the sources of San river (around 20km long trail, totally recommended during springtime!), but there is one place that you simply can’t miss. It’s called

7. Siekierezada in Cisna

This is an iconic (and truly ICONIC) pub, taproom. The interior is decorated with axes, devils, and works of Bieszczady artists. You can warm up here with mulled beer or homemade wine. Evenings of sung poetry are often held here.

Siekierezada’s interior is filled up with axes and art.

The name of the pub in Cisna refers to the title of the novel by Edward Stachura from 1971. The main character is employed in the wilderness as a woodcutter. Time passes by hard work, soaking up the wild nature, and contemplating his life. This is a story about the charms and hardships of a simple life.

Grab a hot beer, listen to the music and absorb the magic of Bieszczady!

Interested? Let’s go to Bieszczady!