Bieszczady National Park - remote mountains, trekking, wildlife

Going to Bieszczady Mountains is by all means one of the most exciting things to do in Poland, and Kraków is a very convenient place to reach Bieszczady. In the Polish psyche, Bieszczady are a romantic destination with the charm of the most remote and forgotten place in the world (Poles like to exaggerate, but go there and feel on your own this amazing isolation from civilization). This will be true if you really want to go deep into the mountrains. Otherwise, expect to sleep in comfortable family-run accommodation, experience endemic cuisine (ask for pierogi with kasza gryczana), and witness the distinct friendly culture of Orthodox Christians with their wooden churches called cerkwie.

Bieszczady Mountains form the south-east border of Poland and they are a part of the great Central European mountains called Carpathians (watch out for bears, wolves, European Bisons; see also our guidebook dedicated to Tatra Mountains, another part of Carpathians). Bieszczady are not rocky mountains and they are famous for their treeless summits covered with pastureland (called połoniny) that form great viewpoints. Bieszczady are very sparsely populated and they are awesome in autumn, when their beechwoods get gold. Nowedays Bieszczady are protected as the national park and they are a part of the UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.

Some history

Bieszczady were inhabited mainly by Vlachs (Boiks and Lemkos), who came here in the 14th-16th century escaping from Balkan Peninsula. They brought pasture culture, that caused extension of natural summit grasslands (now called połoniny). After repatriation of Ukrainians to USSR (in 1944-46) and the military operation of Polish communists 'Vistula' in 1947 (resettlement of Ukrainian minority, including Boiks and Lemkos, to so-called Recovered Territories in the north and west Poland), Bieszczady (and neighbouring mountains) became deserted and run wild. Old villages disappeared and nowadays you just see their ghost with ruins of orthodox churches, cemeteries/graveyards, houses. Do not be surprised by a well in the middle of a meadow, a roadside chapel, a three-bar cross or a single gravestone with an inscription in Cirillic script, an overgrown orchards (August/September is perfect for collecting some species of fruit in Poland). 

The Boiks (or Boykos, polish Bojkowie) were mainly orthodox christians, and later greek catholics. Orthodox church was in almost every village (in the interwar period, on 190 villages there were 155 orthodox churches). Most of them got ruined (war, operation 'Vistula', then demolitions in 50' and 60'), but some still stand, and some are still used. One of the best preserved orthodox churches are in region between Ustrzyki Dolne and Ustrzyki Górne. The most beautiful are believed to be churches in Równia, Rabe, Ustianowa, Krościenko. Those in Ukraininan style (from the beginning of 20th century) are in Hoszów, Hoszowczyk, Bystre, Chmiel. For a church in Boiko stye head to Smolnik, for chorches in Lemkos style visit river Osława valley and go to Komańcza, Rzepedź, Turzańsk. A well-preserved iconostasis is in the orthodox church of Turzańsk. You can also admire Boiko's nad Lemko's architecture in an open air museum in Sanok. This is the oldest and having most exhibits ethnographic museum in the whole Poland. It also has a permanent exposition of icons, which consists of over 220 icons originated between 15th and 20th century.

Some ideas for your visit in Bieszczady


Just follow one of well-marked tourist routes and you will understand why Polish people love Bieszczady so much. Maps and tourist gear are available in many larger towns in Bieszczady region, but before you lhead here we encourage you to visit one of our recommended places (remember Bieszczady are the remote wilderness). From a lazy one-day walk to weeks of Robinson Crusoe-like adventures (Bieszczady are a part of the famous trans-European mountain route), you can tune your trip to your time and expectations. Mountain views, nature and culture are the primary reason to be here.  

Połoniny – summits with grasslands

Połoniny are a symbol of Bieszczady and the most famous are: Tarnica (1346 m a.s.l.), the highest peak of Polish Bieszczady, with unrivalled views, also on the Ukrainian side of Bieszczady, Połonina Caryńska (1297 m a.s.l.), Połonina Wetlińska (with the only in Bieszczady mountain tourist hut located high on a ridge), Wielka Rawka (1307 m a.s.l.). Note that there are no cableways/ropeways in Bieszczady, so you need to walk everyware. The shortest and highly rewardous routes lead to famous peaks: Tarnica (around 2h hike along the blue route from Wołosate), Połonina Caryńska (only 1h20min by a green route from Przełęcz Wyżniańska), Połonina Wetlińska (only 1h30min by a red route from Brzegi Górne).

Solina Lake - Bieszczadzkie Sea

It is a big (22km2) artificial lake on a San river with a very diversified coastline (length 150 km). You can find here a health resort Polańczyk (mineral waters), Solina and few other tourist holiday resorts. There is no road to ride or a path to go around the lake. The best way to explore the vast lake is sailing, windsurfing and other watersports which are increasingly popular here. Rentals (yachts, boats, kayaks, paddle boats) are in many places at the lake. Expect the largest choice in Solina, Polańczyk and Teleśnica. Others include Jawor, Chrewt, Rajskie, Zawóz i Wołkowyja. Before you go sailing, remember that winds are very unpredictable here and demand good skills. There is the so-called 'silent zone' on whole lake (using any water equipment with combustion engines is prohibited, except cruise boats, police and lifeguards services). Swimming is restricted to designated water areas (which open in every holiday resort). Bathing beyond these areas can be dangerous because of steep shores. In summers, cruise boats run the lake. The embarcation points are in Solina and Polańczyk. The lake is formed by a giant dam (664 m long), which is a popular walkway. You can visit the interior of a dam and a power station. The route gets 6 meters under the lake bottom, where temperature in only 6°C.

Forest Railway (Bieszczadzka Kolejka Leśna)

A narrow-gauge (760mm) railway started in 1889 to collect wood from Bieszczady. Damaged during World War I, then seriously destroyed during World War II. Then, partially rebuilt and still used. In 1997 converted to a tourist attraction. The main station (and the only one where You can buy a ticket and embark) is Majdan near Cisna. A steam train runs two routes, in July and August it runs everyday, each route twice a day: Majdan-Przysłup-Majdan (12 km, which is 1h 10 min one way), Majdan – Balnica – Majdan (9 km, which is 45 minutes one way).


Bieszczady are a heaven for bikers. Valleys with non-existing villages are usually very gentle, and there are dirt or gravel roads on their bottoms/toward their floors. There are also some easily accessible passes. For example in West Bieszczady pass Żebrak (816 m a.s.l.) between villages Rabe and Wola Michowa and Mików or ride to Slovakia through the pass 'Nad Roztokami' (801 m a.s.l.) between villages Roztoki Górne and Slovak Ruskie (there is a tarmac road on the polish side). Bicycle rentals are mainly in Polańczyk. Some guesthouses also offer bikes for their guests.


Bieszczadzki National Park has maintained Preservatory Stud of the Hucul Horse in Wołosate (to learn more about these amazing horses go just a few kms from Kraków to Nielepice and see our guidebook). The stud offers horseback rides, carriage rides and also training sessions. For the ultimate experience with Bieszczady on a back of Hucul horses go to the remote Tabun stud in Polana, where you can organize a multiple-day riding adventure to the most remote parts of Bieszczady, including a horse-back trekking in the Ukrainian part of Bieszczady.   


Sparsely populated Bieszczady give a great opportunity to observe nature. Bieszczady host the biggest Polish population of brown bear (Ursus arctos). Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), that lives in Bieszczady and is difficult to spot because if its secretive lifestyle, is a symbol of Bieszczady National Park. Bieszczady are the one of five regions of Poland where European bison (Bison bonasus) lives in free-ranging herds (if you like bizons you must see Białowieża National Park which we describe in our guidebook). The biggest population in Bieszczady is in Lutowiska forestry. Beaver (Castor fiber) is another mammal that is numerous and easy to find. More difficult to observe but abundant are wolves (Canis lupus). Among reptiles, it is worth to mention Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus, previously Elaphe longissima), which is the largest European species of snakes, growing up to 2m. In Poland it occurs only in Bieszczady and mainly on the valley of San river, at the foot of the Otryt range.

How to get there?

The best point to go from to Bieszczady is Kraków. Go there by bus from the main bus station in Kraków. Fo example a bus to Ustrzyki Górne (right in the heart of Bieszczady) runs 3 times a day directly from Kraków and takes 5-7 hours (depending on a route). 

If you look for accommodation, typical holiday resorts with guesthouses and restaurants are Komańcza, Cisna, Wetlina. But, You will find accommodation in most villages (just look around to find information 'pokoje/rooms'). There are also tourist huts and many campsites around. Two students' camps (Rabe, Łopienka) are very basic and have no access to electricity (some like this experience).