Białowieża National Park - primaeval forest, bizons

The Białowieża National Park was established to protect the Białowieża Primeval Forest, one of the last and largest still remaining stands of the primeval forest in Europe. It goes without saing that it is the most exciting and revardous destination for naturalists who visit Poland. The Forest or as it is called in Polish the Puszcza Białowieska is divided between Poland and Belarus. Its unmatched beauty and biological treasures were recognized already in mediaeval times and therefore became the property of the Polish Kings with very limited hunting rights for others. The Forest once thrived in game such as bison, deer, moose, bear, wolf, lynx and even auroch. Nowadays, thanks to intense conservation activities some of these species (bizons included) are roaming free again in the Forest.

The Forests treasures were protected legally since the 16th century, when in 1538 the King Sigismund I issued a document instituting death penalty for bison poachers. Three years later the Forest was officially declared a hunting reserve to protect bisons. In the following centuries other conservation acts were also issued, while peasants living in the Forest were granted special rights such as freeing them of taxes in exchange for taking care of the Forest.

Later, after the Partitions of Poland between three empires, the Forest was handed to various Russian aristocrats and all earlier protection was abolished. Consequently, the number of bisons fell from more than 500 to fewer than 200 in 15 years. The beginning of the 19th century brought back some level of protection to Białowieża. Russian Tsar Alexander I re-established the reserve and hired a small number of peasants to protect animals. His heir Tsar Alexander II visited the forest in 1860 and decided to re-establish the protection of bisons. His protection was, however, controversial. Following his orders, locals killed all predators: wolves, bears and lynx, depriving the Forest of its natural predators.

The World Wars also left their mark on the area. During the I WW bisons were completely exterminated and had to be reintroduced in 1929 from zoos in the Western Caucasus. The reintroduction was successful and bisons started to reproduce in the Forest. During the II World War Hermann Göring planned to create the largest hunting reserve in the world there.

Today the Białowieża National Park in Poland protects the best preserved part of the Białowieża Forest. The Park comprises, inter alia, 809 vascular plants species, over 3 thousand cryptogams and fungi species, almost 200 moss species and 283 lichen species. There have been more than 8 thousand invertebrates species, approximately 120 species of breeding birds and 52 mammal species. Old, primeval forest stands in Białowieża National Park are characterized by large amounts of deadwood at the various stage of disintegration, and by the presence of typical natural forest species. Among the birds fund in the park one can identify e.g.: Eurasian pygmy-owl, three-toed and white-backed woodpecker; beetles – black fir sawyer, Osmoderma eremita, Pytho kolwensis; and butterflies  – Aglia tau, moorland clouded yellow. Apart from Białowieża Forest, many of the aforementioned species can be found only in few other places in the world.

At present, Białowieża Forest comprises the largest free-living population of European bison in the world. There are approximately 500 European bisons living in the Polish part of Białowieża Forest. Białowieża National Park is the only Polish natural property designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The Park is the most important – central zone of Białowieża Forest Biosphere Reserve.

The following visitor sites are available for tourists:

- European bison Show Reserve (without guide)

- Nature and Forest Museum (only with a professional guide)

- Sierchanowo Protective Unit (only with a professional guide)

- Hwoźna Protective Unit (without a guide)


Types of fee




The entrance fee to European bison Show Reserve, and Orłówka Protective Unit



per person, to each of the tourist attractions

Bike entrance fee to European bison Show Reserve




Bike entrance fee to Sierchanowo Protective Unit




Entrance fee to Nature and Forest Museum

12 PLN


Admission fee includes – permanent exposition, temporary exhibitions, entrance to observation tower

Remark: The fee does not cover the assistance of the professional guide.

Admission only to temporary exhibitions and observation tower in Nature and Forest Museum



admission without the assistance of the professional guide


Practical information

The Easiest way to reach Białowieża from Kraków is by taking trains to Białystok (through Warsaw) and next a direct bus to Białowieża. Bus timetables from Białystok to Białowieża can be found here.

Accommodation can be found in Białowieża village or other villages near the park.

Serious nature photographers can organize a photo safari through here.