A pearl of nature renowned throughout Europe is the Puszcza Bialowieska – the last natural lowland forest on the continent, honoured with entries on both the List of Biosphere Reserves and the UNESCO list.
We also have superbly preserved broadleaved forests (Puszcza Kampinoska) and fir-beech forests (in the Swietokrzyskie Mountains). The Puszcza Romincka Forest in Mazuria has taiga-like features, while the Tucholskie Woods contain a cluster of 4,000 yews, unrivalled anywhere else in Europe, the oldest of the trees being 600 years old. Moreover, near Szczecin there is the beautiful, bright forest of Puszcza Bukowa.
Poland is also famous for its bogs and marshes, including the Biebrza Valley with the largest complex of low-lying peat bogs and the marshy valley of the Narew, Europe’s only anastomotic river, which seen from above resembles a loosely plaited braid. There is only one other river like this in the world: the Okawango river in Africa.
The Biebrza Marshes provide a haven for birds which is renowned worldwide. It is home to 271 species, including the endangered aquatic warbler and the ruff, the emblem of the Biebrza National Park.
The Biebrza Valley appears on the list of the world’s most valuable wetlands, protected under the international Ramsar convention. Other sites of distinction are the lakes of Luknajno, Oswin, Swidwie and Karas, the unique small lakes of the Stawy Milickie and the whole of the Slowinski National Park.
Water is one of Poland’s greatest riches. The often unappreciated queen, the Vistula, is the last of the great European rivers not to have been completely regulated.
Mazuria, the Suwalki region, Kashubia and the Drawskie, Wlodawskie and Lubuskie lake districts are lands rich in water, full of treasures such as the sapphire lobelia lakes of the Tucholskie Woods, the orange Lubygosc lake of Kashubia, the malachite lake Jaczno near Suwalki and the Radunsko Circle, beloved of canoeists, consisting of 10 post-glacial channel lakes joined in a necklace shape.