Augustow is a city in north-eastern Poland with a population in excess of 30,000. It is located on the River Netta and the Augustow Canal and surrounded by the beautiful Necko, Biale and Rospuda Lakes in the Podlaskie Province of Poland which is why it has been dubbed the „Venice of the North”. The city also lies close to the Wigry and Biebrza National Parks. It is a lowland spa centre and is regarded as the most significant spa in the Augustow Forest area. Augustow is an important crossroads and on the main route between Warsaw and Lithuania. The Augustow Canal was originally built as a vital trade route but today is only open for tourist activities. Due to the climatic conditions and the essential oils generated by the coniferous trees in the area, this health resort has become famous for the treatment of heart and circulatory diseases.
The history of the town is very romantic. It was established by the Polish King Zygmunt August in memory of his first meeting with Barbara Radziwill. The town was originally governed by the Order of Teutonic Knights and known as Metenburg. Present day Augustow owes its existence to Queen Bona, King Zygmunt’s mother, who took over the lands from the Radziwill Family in 1555 and acquired city rights two years later. Over the next two centuries the city saw invasions by Swedes and the Tatars and a plague decimated its inhabitants. The nineteenth century was more favourable for the region as the Canal and the main road from Warsaw to St Petersburg was built. Unfortunately, Augustow was badly destroyed during the November Insurrection and World War I but after the end of the war the city became as famous as Jurata and Zakopane and gained popularity as a spa and holiday destination.
Augustow has become especially popular with active tourism enthusiasts with the main attraction being the surrounding lakes and the Augustow Canal which is over 100km long and connects the River Vistula with the River Neman in Lithuania. Today, the Canal is an attractive waterway and includes the „Pope’s Route”, a trail of sites visited and beloved by Pope John Paul II. Watersports enthusiasts flock to the lakes district in the summer to enjoy swimming, canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, rowing and yachting and the Canal is also a paradise for anglers, which also has cycle and horse trails along its banks. As most of the regions attractions tend to revolve around water, a great appeal are the passenger cruises provided by the Augustow Shipping Company. It is one of Poland’s few remaining shipping companies providing cruises along the regions lakes and waterways for passengers on board its so called „White Fleet”. During the tourist season it serves in excess of 1000,000 passengers.
Augustow specialises in spa treatments of traumatic orthopaedic diseases, rheumatologic ailments, peripheral vascular diseases, neurosis and osteoporosis. The well documented peat deposits in the area, which are used in certain treatments, contain certain curative minerals. Its position and climate play a significant role in the city’s Balneological worth. The essential oils and phytoncides secreted by conifers in the area act as a bactericidal, regulating blood pressure and heart rhythm and also have a positive effect on the respiratory system.
In 1971 Augustow was only granted partial rights as a spa centre but this was upgraded to full status in 1993. The Sanatorium „Budowlani”, on the shores of Lake Necko, specialises in spa mud treatments.