Bieszczady Mountains are my favorite in Poland. They hide this wild ambiance to feel out of the planet. Perfect place to forget about concerns, worries or job and find an inner peace. Just you and nature. If you plan to visit off the beaten path Poland, I highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. Stunning views and solitary paths will surely make you want to come back. I chose few places you must see in Bieszczady Mountains, in my opinion the most beautiful and unique.
Where are Bieszczady Mountains?
On the very far south-east tip of Poland, you will find a mountain range Bieszczady which is also a National Park. The closest bigger city is Sanok and the nearest airport in Rzeszów. You can get there by car or public buses, which are numerous. As I mention, this region is a quite remote part of Poland, however tourism has significanty developed in the last few years and it becomes crowded. Avoid heading to Bieszczady during weekends and public holidays.
Talking about must see in Bieszczady Mountains, I cannot forget explaining the term połonina, which is an accumulation of grasslands above border of the forest. Why is it important? This is a name typical for the Eastern Carpathian or Alps, but in Poland everyone associates it exlusively with Bieszczady Mountains. A hike on those bare from the trees peaks, is the biggest attraction. The highest peak is Tarnica with 1346 meters above sea level. A crowd of hikers and organized groups appear here almost every day. All the other trails definitely have less visitors.
What to see in Bieszczady Mountains?
The vast majority of tourists come to Bieszczady Mountains for trekking, however, this place has much to offer. Those who may not like hiking but love to admire nature, will surely like the lakes, or heritage of the past with wooden Orthodox churches. Above all, the unique ambient of slow life, wooden bars with regional dishes and a piece of Poland where the time stopped.
1. Trekking on the Połonina
Instead of climbing Tarnica (the highest peak) I would recommend to go to Polonina Caryńska or Wetlinska, which are less touristy. To climb Połonina Caryńska, you have a choice of different trails, each with various difficulty level. For hikers Polonina Caryńska is practically accessible from each side, along the red, main trail and the green trail from the Wyżniańskie Pass. Entrance, as for each of the połonina initially led through the forest, but when you reach the highest part, you will have more than 4 km breathtaking views. The ridge consists of four tops, three of which are on the hiking trails. Połonina Caryńska took its name most likely from the word “tara”, which means in Romanian a field. Alternatively from a word “car”, which can be translated as a place lying above the cultivated land.
Wetlinska Połonina over Wetlina village is another magical range. Not only for the view, but also for the unique building that is on it. It’s called Chatka Puchatka translated to Winnie the Pooh Cottage – the highest situated hut in Bieszczady (1228 m). Overnight travelers stop mainly because of the unforgettable sunrises and sunsets that you can admire from here. To this day there is no running water; it must be brought from a nearby source. Conditions in the hut are very simple.
Through Połonina Wetlińska runs main hiking route – red trail. To the right (east) runs to Berehowa Górne, then to Połonina Caryńska and further to Ustrzyki Górne, then to Tarnica and finish running in Wołosate. On the left (west) main route runs through Roh, Orłowicz Pass, Smerek, Okrąglik and Cisna to Komańcza. The trail from Cisna passes through Smerek – the peak of this Połonina, which has fallen into my memory due to the steep approach.
My favorite trail in Bieszczady goes to Rawki. Peaks Mała and Wielka Rawka are on the border trail, in the western part of the mountains. Wielka Rawka is famous for its splendid panorama, including Połonina Wetlińska, Połonina Caryńska, Tarnica and Halicz, as well as the Bukovske Vrchy and the Jasło Range in the west. The views on all the main mountains are amazing. It’s unbelievable that actually only few people choose this trail. Definitely a must see in Bieszczady!
I mentioned all the most popular and at the same time the most spectacular mountains, but Bieszczady offer many more paths. Some of them are really remote and unspoiled.
2. Mountain villages
Coming to Bieszczady you will most likely arrive to one of the two main villages in the area which lay on the opposite sides of the main range. Both will provide you with accommodation, bars where you can chill and restaurants where you can taste regional dishes.
First one, Ustrzyki Gorne is considered the small capital of Bieszczady. For the reason, as this tiny village is the best starting point to the most popular trails. It’s the final part of the Main Beskid Trail: Połonina Wetlińska – Brzegi Górne – Połonina Caryńska – Ustrzyki Gorne – Szeroki Wierch – Halicz – Rozpypaniec – Wołosate, as well as a section of the border route to Rawki.
Second one, Cisna on the other side of the range. The main trail crosses here from Komańcza, through Chryszczata and the Żebrak Pass (about 8 hours), runs through the whole Bieszczady, ending in Wołosate. It is here that many travelers begin their adventure with a mountain trek, ending with the highest peak of Tarnica.
3. Siekierezada – a bar with a story
I kind of hesitate to recommend one bar/restaurant, because that it’s now is absolutely not what it was before, as the mountains became more popular for tourists. However, I will just mention it and you may want to have a look and imagine the old times. I am talking about Siekierezada, which used to have the best ambiance in the whole area. In 1985 there was a movie shoot in this bar, with exactly the same name. It was about one poet which run away way from the world into the wild. After the movie was released, several other artists decided to come to Bieszczady in search of a remote refuge. The bar Siekeirazada has become the place where those artists used to come every evening, chat with hikers and drink alcohol.
Now, the atmosphere inside is a bit different, but the interior is still the same. Original wooden decor with evil paintings and axes in the tables remember old times of the movie. Worth having a look. In the region, the generation of those “artists” (in Bieszczady called zakapiory) is slowly dying. Still, you can meet some of them or visit their art galleries for the unique souvenirs.
4. Turquoise landslide lakes
Talking about what to see in Bieszczady Mountains, I have to mention this unique natural reserve called Zwiezło. There are 2, and in the past 3 landslide lakes in the middle of the forest. After prolonged precipitation, water slime layers slipped from the slopes of the rock layers and the soil along with the forest. It fell to the Olchowat stream, dividing it and forming a flow of water resulting in the formation of lakes. You can still see the roots and stumps of tree trunks damaged by the landslide and flooded by the water stream. Above the reserve, you can clearly see traces of a powerful landslide gutter. Interestingly, the gases arising from the decay of wood and the remnants of vegetation in the depths of the lake cause explosions! In the winter you can see them as fountains of water in the places where the ice cover bursts.
The locals regard this place as enchanted. The cause of the landslide they associate with the action of the devil, who with anger threw a fiery ball, making havoc. Another legend causes the landslide to occur in the fall of the meteorite. During the cataclysm in 1907, the terrified residents of the nearby Duszatyń village, suspected the end of the world! They packed their belongings and fled to nearby villages, where the churches were struck with bells for fear. According to some people, this tremor of the earth, caused by the landslides, caused the bells to ring in the nearby temples.
5. Enjoy water sports at Solina Lake
Those who prefer to watch mountains from the valleys and do not like to climb probably come to enjoy the lake next to Solińska dam. Leisure resorts like Polanczyk and Solina are all well-known. In addition to the beach, the lake also offers sailing, cruises and a variety of water sports. One of the must see in Bieszczady is the famous dam on the lake, where you can have a walk as well as visit inside.
6. Ortodox Wooden Churches Trail
Wooden Orthodox Churches in the Bieszczady Mountains are one of the most characteristic and recognizable symbols of the region. A trail is also a great way to take a break from mountain hikes and get to know some history.
Once upon a time there was a busy trade route surrounded by early medieval fortifications. It was linking Hungary with Przemyśl city on the east of Poland and then to Kiev, Ukraine, until Byzantium. Orthodox churches serving mainly Orthodox settlements in these areas since XV-XVI century. The role was fulfilled until 1951 when, under the agreement on the change of borders between Poland and the Soviet Union. The territories on which the described objects were transferred to Poland and the former inhabitants (also within the “Wisła” campaign) were displaced. Initially abandoned churches were neglected and devastated and then taken over by Catholic churches. The most interesting and valuable are the Orthodox churches in Smolnik, Chmiel, Turzyn or Równia but there are many, many more.
Apart from the wooden Orthodox churches, there is one made out of stone in Łopienka village which is one of the many abandoned after II World War. Before, the church was the biggest religious sanctuary in the region. After war totally desolated and left as a ruin. Happily, locals took 30 years to recover the church, and they built it exactly how it was before. Nowadays, easy and beautiful trail leads to the remote village of Łopienka where the church is always open for visitors.
7. Ruins of the monastery
For me the most interesting ruins in this part of Poland. If you are fan of abandoned places shrouded in many legends, you should surely stop in Zagórz, near the city of Sanok. Ruins of the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites stand on the hill since XIIIth century and has been twice on fire. Despite the damage, you can still see ruins of the church, pillars and remains of the paintings. The place has lots of legends about the ghosts of the monks or soldiers which visited the monastery from time to time.
8. Street art memorial of the past
An interesting street art project called Silent memorial by Arkadiusz Andrejkow in the villages of Bieszczady. On the old wooden barns, he decided to immortalize some memories of the past. He tried to capture some family memories, local artists or important events from old photographs from the owner of the barn or other villages. With colors like on the old photographs and simple sketch he tried to keep the wooden background visible. The effects look mysterious and encourage to ask questions about the story of the family from the photo as well as the history of the village. The project is in my opinion great way to keep the memories of the past from vanishing and inspiring idea for other regions or cities in Poland.
There are several memorials you can see during your road trip in Bieszczady. The wooden barns with painting are usually near the reads and it can be a great addition to spots you must see in Bieszczady. There is a google map with all the memorials marked created by the author himself.
Responsible tourism in Bieszczady
I woudn’t be Time Travel Bee if not making a note about responsible travel in the purest natural reserve of Poland. Bieszczady National Park is home of stunning fauna and flora including lots of protected species. Having that in mind, please don’t go off the beaten path to don’t damage plants and don’t disturb wildlife. Never litter!
Bieszczady is an idyllic region where you can let your hair down and get immerse with nature. Slow down and learn about polish history and tradition. There are literally hundreds of stunning wooden huts, where you can stay. What’s more, a bunch of restaurants in the region where you can taste regional dishes. Area is also a great opportunity for shopping locally and support local economy. In Bieszczady you can get wooden art crafts, paintings and Orthodox art. Don’t forget about local honey to help saving the bees, regional cheese or herbs.