Białowieża Forest

Białowieża Forest
Photo by Els Slots.

Białowieża Forest is an ancient woodland, the only remaining part of the immense forest which once spread across the European Plain.

Pine, beech, oak, alder and spruce are found in the (partly) old-growth forests, and the many dead trees make it important for the conservation of fungi. These little disturbed forests are home to viable populations of large mammals such as wolf and lynx, and the European Bison was reintroduced here in 1929 and now forms the species’ largest free-roaming population.

Community Perspective: the site straddles the Polish-Belarusian border and crossing it here was relatively easy before the current crisis in diplomatic relations. The Polish side is covered by Solivagant, who clarifies which elements are part of the core zone and which aren’t, by Nan who describes a visit to the museum area and the Bison Reserve, and by Els and Clyde who entered the Strict Reserve with a guide. Tips for the Belarusian side are provided by Jakob, who cycled there from Poland, and Tamas who ended up at a “dodgy Sovjet era museum, with grey and brown displays of the local flora and fauna, and a gloomy zoo”.

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Malta - 11-Sep-20 -

Białowieża Forest by Clyde

I visited the Polish side of this WHS in August 2020. Knowing that August isn't the best month for birdwatching, my main goal was to visit the Strict Forest Reserve and if possible see European bison, the largest land mammal in Europe, if not in the wild at least in the Show Reserve (together with wolves, boars, lynxes, hybrid bisons, moose, tarpan horses).

To visit the Strict Forest Reserve I followed Els's suggestion and specifically asked for Arek to be my guide and he surely didn't disappoint. Perhaps due to the season or due to the lack of tourists, I was charged 60 euros for the circa 3.5 hrs guided private tour of the Strict Forest Reserve with a slightly later meeting time at around 05:00. Apart from his more than 20 years experience as a local licensed guide, Arek was thrilled that I had previously visited his far away home town and even knew how to pronounce it - Tarnowskie Gory! Apparently he's also a former miner from the recently inscribed Polish WHS. Even though the entrance to the Strict Forest Reserve is always open, but to enter you need to be accompanied by a licensed guide as 'rangers' frequently check tickets and licences!

The Strict Forest Reserve protects forest stands of natural origin and its primeval characteristics. New species are still being discovered here and natural processes are still being investigated in several scientific studies. It is one of four large areas in Poland under strict protection (together with Tatra, Bieszczady and Biebrza). The Bialowieza Forest National Park (BFNP) has been widely acclaimed on the international stage. It became a Biosphere reserve since 1977 and a UNESCO WHS as early as 1979 - the first natural WHS in Europe, and the fourth worldwide with the likes of Yellowstone, Galapagos and Simien. It was inscribed for possessing the highest criteria of nature conservations, namely biodiversity (criterion X) and continuity of natural processes (criterion IX), and in 2014, the WHS was heavily extended.

Shortly after meeting Arek at the side entrance of the Palace Park, some 500 metres away from the Strict Forest Reserve entrance and UNESCO WHS sign (there's also a similar sign at the Palace Park Entrance near the Bialowieza Orthodox Church, a stone marker in front of the museum, and a brown street sign at Haynocka as far as 65km away from Bialowieza!), Arek hurriedly invited me to forget about the numerous fox families in the fields as there was a small herd of European bison just next to the BFNP sign, attracted by the hay stacks placed there to avoid as much as possible that the freely roaming bisons venture too close of residential areas. Interestingly enough, calves and female bisons sometimes feed on this hay but male bisons prefer to feed on what the forest provides. That said, they still 'guard' their herd till they disappear again in the thick forest and follow it making it easier to take photos of the male bisons. It is much easier to spot European bison very early in the morning in the surrounding fields closest to the forest in nearby villages rather than near Bialowieza itself and this is especially true in the winter months. If you're not so lucky, and for better lighting, you can at least see them for a minimal fee at the Show Reserve (zoo).

The value of the BFNP lies in the forest being shaped by natural processes, relying mainly on the undisturbed presence of many dead trees, on which plants, ferns, mosses, liverworts, seedlings, other trees, mammals, birds, fungi and many predators thrive. Although you're likely to spot white-backed woodpeckers, three-toed woodpeckers and black woodpeckers as the national park particularly enjoys woodpecker abundance, Spring is the best time to see them out of their tree-holes which Arek knows by heart. August seems to be a great time to spot a rich variety of fungi. Of all the fungi Arek showed me, the ones I'll definitely remember are the large Umbrella/Parasol fungi (Macrolepiota procera) and the morbidly but aptly named Dead Man's Fingers fungi (Xylaria polymorpha). Another unique aspect I particularly enjoyed viewing was what's left of the wild beekeeping in hollow trees from the 18th and 19th centuries.

I must say that Arek really makes the tour interesting even if at times you might get a bit bored if you're not too much into trees. Do not forget mosquito repellent and sturdy hiking shoes even though the last bit was on a wooden boardwalk. Most of the mammals we saw were mostly spotted along the treeless open pathways (deer, fox, red squirrels, shrews) although Arek will also show you several old marks left by lynx and wolves. It was very interesting to see how woodpeckers affix pine cones to tree barks high above ground to be able to feed without being attacked by predators. Another interesting fact is that most birds such as wrens, robins, woodpeckers, etc. prefer to nest very close to the footpaths as human beings are less of a threat to them than other predators which live in the forest.

The half centimeter long spruce bark beetles can kill a mature tree especially spruces. This was initially used an excuse for logging but at least until now nature is left alone to take its course. On the other hand, some of the ecosystems represented in the BFNP such as wet meadows, wetlands, river corridors, etc. require maintenance through seasonal active management, due to the decrease of water flow and the absence of agriculture (hay cutting).

The 50 hectare Palace Park is also interesting to visit and it evolved from a private 19th century Tsar's hunting residence. The Tsar's Palace did not survive until present days, however there are several associated buildings left. The Nature and Forest Museum is also worth a quick visit for its excellent collection of insects and fungi. The Breeding Centre is strictly out of bounds and is the fenced area with a big stone bison statue just before reaching Bialowieza.

If you opt to do your own thing, there are 3 free hiking trails in the northern part of the of the BFNP. The 4.5km Tsar's Trail (Carska Tropina) goes along the former hunting route and there's an observation tower offering a beautiful panorama of the Narewka river valley. The 11.5km Wolf's Trail (Wilczy Szlak) connects the Masiewska clearing with the Kosy Most wilderness. The 5.5km trail around the Capercaille Forest Range (Wokol Uroczysja Gluszec) goes around one of the last refuges of the Capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) in the Bialowieza Forest. The latter trail is especially worth visiting in winter not only for birdwatchers but also for the increased chance of spotting bison. All in all, I really enjoyed my visit to the BFNP and wouldn't mind revisiting in a different season if I happen to be around. 

Jakob Frenzel

Germany - 12-Nov-19 -

Białowieża Forest by Jakob Frenzel

August 2017 - this Park was on my must see List for a long time. Finally we had the Chance to visit. We spent the night in a hotel in Białystok before entering the park. The weather was way better today. From polish news we heard about Protests against the timberindustry, cutting Down parts of the bufferzone. Fist thing we saw passing Hajnowka was Trucks with wood. Great! One of Europes oldest forests is not getting 100% protection?

We found a campground in the Main village of Bialowieza and visited the NP house, the village, the historic trainstation. And had some good kotlet the afternoon we drove on the Zebry Zubra, a hiking Trail to the Bisons, which leads through dense forest.

For the next day we were thinking about taking a guided Tour to the corezone. However we decided to take advantage of the free visa for the belarusan side. What an adventure! We arrived at the border with our bikes, the polish Guardians were friendly and told us not to bring back produce from Belarus. But going through the customs of BR was a bit intimidating, reminding of Soviet spy movies. I had some number wrong in the passport, so they didnt want to let us through. But finally he ca,us back the passport and we could Enter the Park.

Being with bike, we spend 6-7 hours driving on pathes through the quiet forest but only got to see Birds, foxes and a few Tourists, that had the same idea. There is a hut of the orthodox father christmas, which we visited. We had tea and Pelmeni,  great experience. The Major town Kamenuki has some animals in captivity, but the rest of the day we where on our own. Us and the Forest.

Afternoon we arrived at the border again, and  honestly we were happy when we got out of Europes last remaining dictatorship. It was a nice experience although we didnt meet Bisons

There are no options to change or withdraw belarussian cash in Poland nor at the border. But you can pay everywhere with visacard. We were charged 5% interest but the lunch was anyhow only 2€

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 10-Jun-19 -

Białowieża Forest by Els Slots

After so many unsatisfying visits described by previous reviewers, I tried a different approach to covering Bialowieza Forest. I pre-booked a private tour into the Strict Reserve on the Polish side, a part that can only be visited with a licensed guide. This is also the core area that was originally inscribed in 1979 (the WHS has been extended several times since). I went with Arek Szymura of Pygmy Owl Nature Tours; I knew he was serious when he suggested meeting up at 4 am! Just in time before sunrise, it was light already and a pleasant 15 degrees Celsius.

So 5 minutes to 4, I stood waiting in front of Bialowieza’s orthodox church. This lies next to Palace Park, which I had visited the day before. Our tour started with a quick crossing of that park (with a short stop for observing a tawny owl) and exiting it again at the northwestern corner. Between the park and the strict reserve is a stretch of some 500m of meadows, they were very pretty in the early morning light with a bit of haze. We encountered a small group of people with spotting scopes there, hoping to get a glimpse of bison who sometimes come out of the forest to graze. However, we only saw the first woodpecker of the day (many more were to follow, “The Bialowieza Forest is paradise for woodpeckers” – the nomination file states rightly).

The Strict Reserve has a similar wooden entrance gate to the Palace Park. This one though does have a UNESCO WHS sign (Solivagant was wondering in his review that none of the notice boards show the UNESCO logo – well, here it is) and a Biosphere Reserve logo. The access gate is not guarded, however, you are only allowed to enter with an official guide. Two tourists were walking behind us on their own and my guide resolutely sent them back.

The biggest difference between the park and the reserve is that it is much darker inside the latter. Very high trees compete for a bit of sunlight, and only the strongest ones survive. Also, the forest floor is covered with all kinds of plants, young trees and older ones that have collapsed. Just like the park, the reserve also has a network of trails although they are not signposted. An old Russian road crosscuts it as well, one of its markers stands next to the memorial where Polish and Soviet partisans were executed during WWII by the Nazis.

The guide was often scanning the trails with his binoculars: the larger mammals like to walk on the paths as well, they are much easier to navigate than the thickly covered forest floor. We saw a young fox early on. A bit later we encountered an odd combination: another fox in the company of a domestic cat! The cat comes from town but supposedly likes to venture into the forest, efforts to return it have had no success. Our final mammal ‘tick’ was a squirrel….

With no luck with larger mammals, we concentrated on the birds and the trees. Actually, the birds are easier to see in Palace Park. But we observed a Black Woodpecker (the biggest species) hammering away, which was quite spectacular. The forest has several very old and high trees. But a lot has also come down in recent years, due to snowfall, fire and a severe storm.

The tour cost 300 zloty (ca. 70 Eur) for 3 hours. We encountered two more official guides, each with a single tourist in tow. Another one that advertises in town and on the web is Edu-tour Puszczyk. I don’t think there is much difference between them: Arek is mainly a birding guide, and he knew the Dutch names of all the birds we spotted. The best thing about the guides is that they will get you in and know the way out!

Read more from Els Slots here.


Switzerland - 04-Nov-18 -

Białowieża Forest by Walter

Reading reviews about this site, I was not enclined to spend too much time trying to get to tick it.

I am not a big fan of animals in captivity. As I had a rental car on the Belarus side, my objective was (as Soligvant mentionned) to enter the UNESCO inscribed area and « experience » the forest. I tried to research the best way to visit the forest while skipping the touristic village (called « Father Frost Village ») or being driven around in a tractor for  a « photo-safari ».

Not much information is available on the internet, I just went with google map and try to find a route through the northern part of the inscribed area. It is 1 :30 hours south from the city of Hrodna

I first tried the north-south road parrallel to the Belarus-Polisg border, leaving from Nezbodichi village. Unfortenately, this road is closed by military police, being in a border area, and is checked. I was (very politely) turned down just after having passed a big roadsign welcoming me into the national park (but not in the inscribed area after the 2014 boudary modification).

Leaving the border area I took a road 3 km east, leaving from the village of  Grinki. Bad luck again. The road is blocked by a wooden fence just at the national park (and inscibed area) limit (see picture). The key to gate’s padlock is hidden in one of the stakes. Just after having been turned down by military police, I did not dare to drive through. Instead, I went into a one-hour hike in the forest. I was a very nice walk in the forest, along a very kind local dog.

I then drove along a main road (the P47) south of the village of Porazava. The road enters the forest afetr Novy Dvor for a few kilometers, and then crosses a natural bog area for a few kilometer. This forest and the bog area is part of the inscribed area after the 2014 boundary modification.

Visiting the northern part of the site was enough for me to fulffill my objectives and to tick an additional site, even if I had not seen any wild bisons. I spend maybe two hours altogether, and decided not to send more time, preferring to see some time on TL sites on the road back to Minsk.


UK - 27-Sep-17 -

Białowieża Forest by Solivagant

In common with Nan, we felt that we were arriving at Bialowieza (Sept 17) without a clear picture of the best way to see this WHS, despite a fair bit of research. So, when we reached the area somewhat earlier than we expected from Zamosc, we drove on the 22 kms past our booked hotel in Hajnowka to the “village” of Bialowieza to try to establish how best to spend the time we had scheduled the next morning for our main visit.

Bielowieza may be categorised as a “village” but nowadays it is clearly a busy resort/tourist centre and at the end of the road is a pay car park and a collection of souvenir stalls, restaurants and huts displaying “I” signs for “Information Centre” - these are in fact commercial tourist agencies selling visits of various sorts inside the Bialoweza National Park (BNP) and surrounding areas. Behind them, running between 2 lakes, is a path leading into the “Palace Park” where the BNP HQ, Nature and Forest Museum, Guest House, Educational Centre and official “Tourist Information Point” lie. This latter is situated in the museum foyer. 1 zloty bought us a single page flyer which contained a reasonably detailed map of the BNP and related areas. No freebie documentation is available other than the flyer of the PTTK or “Polish Association of Touring and Sightseeing of Bialowieza”.

In short, you have 2 choices for seeing Bialowieza –

a. Do your own thing in the “open” areas. These are not inconsiderable, though you would need your own transport to access them fully. There are a series of hiking/cycle/ski trails and a number of “Bison Refuges” along them, which consist of clearings with a viewing platform and hay racks – Free ranging Bison gather here to feed, particularly in early morning in winter. However, most of them are in the North of the inscribed area and best reached from Narewka. Only the Strict Nature Reserve (SNR) within the BNP is closed to you unless you are accompanied by a BNP-licensed guide. There is also the pay to enter Bison Show Reserve (i.e “Zoo”) around 3kms from Bialowieza.

b. Employ a guide from the PTTK either to go into the SNR (just 1km from the BNP HQ) and/or to assist you in wildlife viewing in the other areas. The flyer offers a wide range of tours - 3 different “levels” of walk in the SNR (6, 4 or 3 hours) and, outside the SNR, e.g Dawn bison tracking, the forest by night/ by twilight/by bike, an ornithological morning and even a trip by bike (9 hours) to see Father Frost on the Belorussian side of the park (No visa required)! A lot of the trips need prior booking, some are limited to 6 people and others to 8 or 12. Some will combine individuals or smaller groups whilst others will not. Some start at a specific time, others go as required. All are based on a “group price”, depending on the length of time, which needs to be shared among the participants and to which must be added any BNP (or Belorussian) entrance fees. The sort of group prices quoted are 258PLN for a 3hr SNR trip and 660PLN for a 6 hr Bison tracking trip. Where transport is required (as in the latter) you either provide your own car or get a guide who has one and pay the extra. If you want to go on any of these you need to go to the PTTK huts at the entrance and see what is available or can be organised either that day or the next.

At which point you need to ask yourself what exactly it is that you are trying to achieve from your visit and how best to do so!! Do you really need to go into the SNR? Do you want guiding assistance to find and explain the natural sights? Our personal objectives were to have

a. entered the UNESCO inscribed area

b. seen a European Bison even if in captivity

c. “experienced” the Forest in general but without the requirement to have seen it in depth or to have seriously attempted to see its “iconic” wildlife in the wild.

Which takes us to the definition of the “Inscribed area”! The best maps of this are on pages 254 and 256 of the Nomination File for the 2014 extension. They alone have a clear red “UNESCO line” around the bewildering variety of types of overlapping land areas with different titles - BNP, SNR, Protective District, Biosphere Reserve, numerous Forest Districts etc etc which make up the WHS. Each of these areas is shown with different shades of green to indicate different levels of protection and governmental responsibility. The line also shows the excluded enclaves within the external boundary – villages (such as Bialowieza), forest clearings etc. The inscribed area of “Bialowieza Forest” within Poland is now considerably larger than the BNP. Amazingly, NONE of the many notice boards in the forest and villages around the area which contain large examples of the map provided on the “1 zloty flyer” show the UNESCO boundary or even mention “World Heritage” or show the UNESCO logo. The only place we saw the logo was on the flyer’s front page. A further complexity is that not even all of BNP is inscribed!! In 1979 ONLY the SNR, the 2 areas making up the Breeding Centre and Show Reserve and the Palace Park were inscribed – these then constituted the BNP but, in 1994, Poland extended the BNP but didn’t apply to extend the WHS. In 1992 Belarus had added a large area of its forest, much of which was less “pristine” than Poland’s SNR and Poland was under pressure to add a similar range of secondary forest, which it did in 2012. But, in 2004, it had been suggested that the Palace Park and Breeding Centre/Show reserve should be removed (See page 13 of the Nom File - “According to suggestions of the experts visiting the Site in March 15/19, 2004, the boundaries of the Site should be changed. It is suggested that the separate areas now belonging to the Site (Polish part) such as The Palace Park (the area of 49.04 ha) and the European Bison Breeding Centre (the area of 274.25 ha) should be excluded as, according to the report of the Joint UNESCO/IUCN Mission to Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Bialowieza Forest, (they) do not carry World Heritage values. The World Heritage Site should be enlarged, however. We agree with the statement that the Palace Park (the area of 49.04 ha) does not carry the World Heritage values. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the European Bison Breeding Centre (the area of 274.25 ha) is the unique place for the restoration and conservation of the European bison. That is the place where the process of species restoration started…..”. So, in its 2012 Nomination File, Poland accepted this argument for the Palace Park but NOT for the Breeding Centre/Show Reserve – and UNESCO/IUCN apparently concurred. Thus the maps of the current inscribed area show the Palace Park as green, being part of the BNP, but NOT within a red line as being part of the UNESCO WHS! The other area of BNP extended in 1994 was included within the 2012 extension, together with many Forest Reserves.

The net result is that, to enter the WHS you merely have to travel via any route to the uninscribed “enclave” town of Bialowieza (although you will not have entered the BNP in doing so)!! You do not need to visit the SNR (though you may wish to do so to see old growth forest). If you then visit the Show Reserve you will also have been in the WHS but do not need to do so for that purpose. If you visit the Palace Park you will not be entering the WHS. I hope that is all clear now!

We decided to visit the Show Reserve that evening (seeing bison, wolves, moose, deer and wildcat) and to do a walk the next morning within the BNP, but without a guide. For this we chose a trail in the North close to the Belarus border where there was a Bison Refuge. But, before leaving the Palace Park, we visited the 1845 Manor House, now an “Educational Centre” and the only original building left within the Palace Park (The Palace was the Russian Tsar’s Hunting Lodge and had been destroyed in 1944). This had a (free!) temporary display of several hundred species of Fungi picked from the forest. An enthusiastic PhD student explained, in excellent English, the intricacies of forest fungal life. Our visit coincided with the height of the “Mushroom season” - which explained the timing of the display. Among interesting facts were the need of some fungi for several different species of trees for their entire life cycle and the need of some for dead wood of a certain age and girth which different species inhabit in series during the overall decomposition process according to their particular “needs”. One of the team had even, within the last few days, “discovered” a new fungal species in the forest! This provided an additional dimension to what we would see on our walk the next day and also explained the importance of the Old Growth Forest with its trees of great age and variety. In conclusion – don’t visit Bialowieza just to see Bison – go in Sept and have a look at the Fungi too!!

We started our walk the next morning from the car park at Stare Masiewo (52.816945, 23.924525). This took us inside the forest area of the BNP for the first time. And, yes, we saw a great profusion of mushrooms of many species! We reached the Czolo bison refuge (the hay rack was full but there was no sign that any Bison had visited it in recent days) and walked to within 15 metres of the Belarus frontier markers (notices warned against approaching closer!). We were the only people in that area of forest apart from 2 village ladies picking mushrooms! We also passed an old cemetery belonging to the now defunct village of Czolo - confirming that the thick forest we were walking through was not old growth. The history of the village provides a vignette of the troubled times the forest passed through in the 20th C. Founded by German Evangelicals in mid 19C when part of Russia, the inhabitants left with the retreating German army at the end of WWI. The main visible grave is of a Polish soldier killed by a Russian sniper in the 1920 Polish-Soviet war when Poland captured the area. The village was then taken by the Soviets in 1939 during the partition of Poland and then recaptured by the Nazis in 1941! Reprisals and deportations took place under both but the latter moved all the village buildings to a location now in Belarus and set about returning the area to forest. This “Wilding of Bialowieza” figured significantly in Nazi plans for their newly acquired lands and Goering had a particular interest in the Forest – if you want to know more have a look at the National Geographic video titled “Hitler’s Jurassic Monsters”.

So - we might only have given it a few hours and couldn’t claim to have seen its natural attributes in any depth but feel that we made good use of the limited time to achieve some good experiences and acquire a reasonable understanding of the WHS.


Germany - 05-May-17 -

Białowieża Forest by nan

For most Poles I know the bisons of Bialowieza are a symbol of their country. The core zone of the park is a fully protected nature reserve housing the last bisons of Europe as well as other rare animals that roam freely between Poland and Belarus.

Seeing that you will probably not run into a bison on your own, the park also has a small zoo with all the key animals on exhibition. The zoo is embedded in the forest and gives you a rather representative image of the wild life.

Due to a lack of preparation and in my opinion rather poor online resources I wasn’t aware of the access restrictions. While the museum and the bison reserve are part of the core zone, I could not venture into the forest itself as you need a guide and we didn’t have a reservation. This was a bit underwhelming. Indeed, I had a hard time taking a nice picture, never a good sign. At the end, I was left wondering if this wouldn’t be better served as a Unesco biodiversity hotspot. Maybe it's better on the Belarus side, though.

Of late the Polish government is reviewing the protections of the park. They would like to extend logging activities. A minister is on record saying that the site should be converted to a cultural site. I am hard pressed to see the cultural value here apart from the large imprint on Polish cultural identity. If the Poles move ahead with their plans, the Polish side of the park may well be a candidate for a future delisting.

Getting There

There are regular busses running from Bialystok to Bialowieza. If you have a car I would recommend doing the small detour via Narewka along the park border. Supposedly you can also access the park from the Northern side.

Getting In

At the park museum you can join guided tours into the protected area. In high season (e.g. long weekends), you will need a reservation. Luckily, the area around the museum is part of the core zone. And the bison reserve is, too. How and where trails run seems a bit hard to discern.

You can visit the Belarus side as pedestrian without visa. You need a passport and health insurance that you can obtain in the town plus a filled out form.

While You Are There

The Russian Tsar had a hunting lodge here that you can visit. He even left his historic train at the train station he had built.

The area along the road from Bialystok is dotted with wooden churches akin to inscribed churches of Poland, but more recent in nature and way more colourful. In a way they reminded me of the Chiloe churches. Bialystok itself is a pleasant stop over. And you will cross plenty of swamps along your way.

John booth

New Zealand - 17-Jan-14 -

Białowieża Forest by John Booth

I visited the Polish side in autumn when few other visitors were around. Enjoyed long hikes in the forest examining flora and fauna. The varity of fungi that I found on rotting trees was amazing. Wandered off the track at one point and found myself on the Belarus border. Not good as I didn't have a visa.

Saw a range of animals in a reserve, including deer, bison, lynx and wolves.

I travelled by bus to Bialowieza from Vilnius, changing buses in Bialystok.

Szucs Tamas

Hungary - 25-Mar-11 -

Białowieża Forest by Szucs Tamas

Belovezhskaya Pushcha was the greatest disappointment ever as a WH site. We have visited Belorussia as a part of a Baltic trip in August 2007, the first stop was Brest, the ideal jump off point to visit the national park. But the problems begun much earlier. Normally every trip begins with scrutinizing all the possible on-line (and some off-line) resources on the designated topic. Obviously the quality and quantity of resources vary. A WH site in Europe can have an elaborate website with all the necessary information , and there are a lot of reviews on different touristic and scientific sites that help the wishful traveler where to go and what to do. Belovezhskaya Pushcha was a black hole. I have found only two types of materials: detailed botanical essays on the flora (absolutely uninteresting for a group of historians), and enthusiastic reviews (mainly in Russian) on the historical importance of the regions. No practical information at all about the opening hours, the visiting opportunities, the prices, what we can see and how can we get there. So we had to lean on our off-line guidebook – a Lonely Planet Russia and Belarus. Unfortunately I was unsuspecting when I read that the writer put the entire country “off the beaten track”, and 80% of the Belarus chapter is about the capital. About BP there ware cca 50 words, and an allegation (false by the way), that can only be visited with a guided tour from Brest. I called the local tourist agency and reserved a tour for us (heavily overpriced).

After the Sovjet type horror of crossing the border (four hours) we have arrived to our hotel in Brest five o clock in the morning. After napping a short while we met our guide – a nice elderly lady. Considering that Belarus is the last dictatorship of Europe she was surprisingly opened. On the way to the park she entertained us with colorful stories on the survival skills of the Belorussian (what and how to smuggle from Poland), and harshly criticized the government.

After a half an hour we arrived to the entrance of the park. The secret unveiled – the car park was full of local Zhigulis, and families visiting the park (or whatever seemingly without any kind of guidance. The entrance fee was nominal – a cannot recall the exact amount. Anyway we were keen to go ahead. In our minds there was picture evoked by the enthousiastic reviews: the last untamed wilderness of central Europe, were bison bask on the glades among centennial oak trees, and the troat of wild deer mingling with the deep roar of the wild boar.

What we got instead? A dodgy Sovjet era museum, with grey and brown displays of the local flora and fauna, and a gloomy zoo. Behind the bars there were the animal we wished to spot: deer, wild boar, bison. With a heroic effort we pushed our camera in to make some photos, to catch the animal as if it were in its natural habitat. We hoped that the highlight is yet to come - but what came was not the highlight but the climax of the horror.

We were put on a bus and taken to a kitschy wooden hamlet, that was said to be the “hide-out of the Belorussian Santa” (Ded Moroz – Uncle Freeze). Between the food stalls and a children’s playground there was an over-ornamented house and porch stood a tall guy in false beard and folk costume. Had a small talk with the children and distributed some candies before the obligatory photo with Santa. Our guide politely asked whether we wanted a photo, we politely refused it. Then we asked whether we can see any wild animal here? – “Erm erm. Not for the time being. There is a fence, where they are fed in the winter, so they come there regularly, but in the summer they are in the woods. Can we go there? No. Can we see any of the historical points? Oh yes, from the bus back to the entrance. Will we stop there? O course not. Can we go there by car? Not behind the entrance. “

So we turned back to Brest to see the fort.

So, unless you are a real enthusiast, and want to collect a point for the WH site, do not go there. Or try the Polish side of the park, it may be much more rewarding.

Site Info

Full Name
Białowieża Forest
Unesco ID
Belarus Poland
9 10
Wildlife habitat - Fauna

Site History

2014 Extended

reduction of over 5000 hectares on the Belarus side and a vast extension of the Polish section

2014 Criteria

Criteria changed from 7 to 9 & 10

2014 Name change

From "Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest, Belarus, Poland" to "Białowieża Forest, Belarus, Poland"

1992 Extended

extended to Belarus

1979 Inscribed


The site has 1 locations

Białowieża Forest: Bialowieza Forest


The site has

Human Activity
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process


Community Members have visited.

Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Ali Zingstra Alikander99 Anna Wludarska Antonio J. Arseny Dimi Aspasia Atila Ege Bin Bori Sári Brett Baumann Cezar Grozavu Christer Sundberg Claire Bradshaw Clyde Colossus Craig Harder Ctravel Cumulus Czesioszpachelka Dachangjin3 Dan Dan Pettigrew Dibro Dimitar Krastev Dkabanov Drazsika Els Slots Erik Jelinek FGKJR1492X Filip Murlak Gabor George Gdanski Gernot Ghostbear Gonçalo Elias Grzegorz Andruszkiewicz Gwythyr Hanming Harald T. Harry Mitsidis Holub Vitali Iain Jackson Ivan Rucek J Mitchell Jakob Frenzel Janina Lehmann Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jaroslav Klement Joel on the Road John booth Jonas Kremer Jose Antonio Collar Joyce van Soest Jsalda Judith Tanner JudyWalsh Jungliemonkey KarenBMoore Karl Grossner Kasia Kasienka5 Kasper Kgeographer Klaus Bondar Komorfil Krafal_74 La caperucita roja Lara Adler Leonie Geurts Lidiane Loic Pedras Lorenzo2022 Luis Filipe Gaspar Luisfreire Lukasz N. Lukasz Palczewski Luke725 Luke725 MMM Maciej Gowin Maki Wang Malgorzata Kopczynska Marek Mariaana Nelimarkka Martin Lind (Switzerland) Martina Rúčková Mateusz Mathijs Max Smits Małgosia Łupicka Michal Kozok Michal Marciniak Mikko Mikko Syrjä Milan Jirasek Mkborys Nan Nihal Ege Nils Kronenberg Omnisppot Pascal Cauliez Paw90 Petteri Philipp Leu Q Randi Thomsen Remigiusz Reza Roger Ourset Roman Bruehwiler Roman Raab SHIHE HUANG Sazanami Schnitzel Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver Simonf Skalec Solivagant Stanislaw Warwas Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Tatiana Nikulnikova Thibault Magnien Thomas Buechler Tino A Offner Tony H. Tony0001 Triath Tsunami Usagi1974 VforMih WalGra Walter Walter H. Westwards Wojciech Fedoruk YaroMir Yevhen Ivanovych Zoë Sheng