Białowieża National Park

El Białowieża National Park, located between Poland and Belarus, is one of the oldest parks in Europe. It was established in 1921, receiving the Polish name: Bialowieski Park Narodowy, Belarusian: Нацыянальны парк Белавежская пушча, and Russian: Национальный парк "Беловежская пуща"), originating from an ancient royal and imperial hunting ground, obtaining national park status in 1932 under the name "Narodowy w Białowieży." Since 1945, it has been divided by the border between both countries, effectively creating two separate parks: Bialowieski Parc Narodowy in Poland and Нацыянальны парк Белавежская пушча in Belarus.

The total area of the park is approximately 150,000 hectares and it is classified as a category II protected area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Polish part was declared a World Heritage Site in 1977, while the Belarusian part received this distinction in 1992, under the name Białowieża Forest.

History of Białowieża National Park in Poland

The Białowieża Forest has a history dating back to the Neolithic period, around 4,500 years ago, with evidence of human settlements and activities such as hunting, livestock raising, and mineral extraction. During the period between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD, settlement remains show influences from various cultures, such as the Przeworsk and Wielbark cultures. During this time, iron smelting activities were carried out and slight deforestation is noted in the area.

Białowieża National Park

The first attempts to establish a national park in Białowieża date back to 1916, but they were not successful. The idea of protecting part of the forest emerged in 1919 during a bison census. However, efforts did not materialize until December 29, 1921, when a group of Polish naturalists and foresters, led by Professor Władysław Szafer, managed to establish a forest reserve under the Ministry of Agriculture and State Assets. This reserve was elevated to the rank of a forest district in 1924.

In 1929, under the direction of Józef Paczoski, the forest area came under strict protection. In 1932, by a regulation issued by the Minister of Agriculture, the Forest Reserve District was transformed into "Białowieża National Park," with an initial area of 4,693.24 hectares. After World War II, the park was reactivated in 1947, including meadows in the Narewka and Hwoźna rivers, and its boundary was extended to the state border with the USSR.

In 1996, the park’s area was increased to 10,502 hectares, incorporating parts of two neighboring forest districts, and a buffer zone of 3,224 hectares was established around the park. Since 2011, this buffer zone has also been included in the game protection area, prohibiting hunting and creating hunting teams.

Recommended Tours and Activities

Powered by GetYourGuide

What to See and Do in Białowieża National Park

Bison Reserve

Currently, approximately 950 bison live in Białowieża National Park, with around 510 on the Polish side. These bison represent a significant fraction of the world population of this species, estimated at around 4,500 individuals in total. All the bison in the park come from captive breeding programs and conservation efforts.

Białowieża has been crucial for the preservation of the plains bison in Europe, with a history dating back to the 19th century. During World War I, the bison population suffered a sharp decline due to the war and human activity, leading to the last wild bison dying in 1919. However, captive breeding efforts were initiated to preserve the species, which can now be seen in the wild within this protected area of Poland.

In 1929, a zoo was established in Białowieża for bison breeding. Through selective breeding programs, the bison population was restored to its natural habitat after World War II. Today, the Bison Demonstration Reserve showcases these animals along with other wildlife species in semi-natural conditions, making it a significant tourist attraction.

The reserve is open to visitors most of the year:

  • From April 16 to October 15: Open daily, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • From October 16 to April 15: Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The reserve is closed on the following dates:

  • January 1.
  • January 7.
  • November 1.
  • December 25.
  • The second day of Catholic and Orthodox Easter holidays.

Nature and Forest Museum of Białowieża National Park

Nature and Forest Museum of Białowieża National Park

This museum, one of the oldest in the Podlaskie Voivodeship, is an essential stop on any trip to the Białowieża Forest. Its aim is to successfully showcase the diversity of fauna and flora, as well as the natural processes occurring in this primeval forest. Using modern and innovative methods, it presents wildlife and human life in this environment through lights, sounds, and detailed explanations from guides. Visiting this museum before venturing into the strict reserve provides valuable preparation and understanding of the forest and its importance in terms of conservation.

Białowieża Forest: Strict Reserve

Białowieża Forest: Strict Reserve

The very essence of Białowieża Forest and the core of the National Park. Here, time seems to stand still as we immerse ourselves in a primeval forest where natural processes have developed uninterrupted for hundreds of thousands of years. In this place, surrounded by profound silence, we can feel the grandeur and wisdom of nature. We observe how trees die, providing shelter to numerous species. Human intervention is kept to a minimum, creating a unique touristic and metaphysical experience. It is recommended to visit this reserve in spring, early in the morning, to capture moments that will last in the memory of those with sensitivity toward nature. It is important to remember that access is only allowed with a certified guide from Białowieża National Park, in groups of no more than 12 people.

Palace Park in Białowieża

Palace Park in Białowieża

The Palace Park in Białowieża is a green oasis all year round. Conceived by Walery Kronenberg at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it served as the setting for the czars’ hunting residence, located where the Natural History Museum now stands. The park, extended over 50 hectares in the English style, has no clear boundaries, and its plantings are meticulously planned. Despite not being altered for more than a century, it continues to dazzle with its display of colors, species, and forms. Among its features are the governor’s mansion, a commemorative obelisk of King Augustus III of Saxony’s hunt in 1752, the agricultural buildings of the old hunting palace, and a causeway between two ponds.

St. Nicholas Church in Białowieża

St. Nicholas Church in Białowieża

St. Nicholas Church in Białowieża is a place steeped in history, where Tsar Nicholas II once prayed with his family and entourage. Built between 1894 and 1897, it was considered the most beautiful church in the Grodno Governorate. A notable curiosity is that it was erected on the site of its predecessor, a wooden Orthodox church that was moved to Trześcianka, where it still functions as a cemetery chapel. However, the highlight of the church is its unique iconostasis, made of glazed ceramic of the majolica type. This iconostasis is unique in Poland and one of only two in Europe, standing out for its unique manufacturing techniques and decorations. It is worth mentioning that, although Chinese porcelain has been referenced, the correct specification is that it is glazed ceramic. Its uniqueness makes it a cultural treasure of the region, being one of the three of this type in Eastern Europe.

Białowieża Towarowa: Tsar’s Restaurant

Białowieża Towarowa: Tsar's Restaurant

Białowieża Towarowa, built in 1903 as an auxiliary station to relieve traffic at the Pałac station, gradually declined after the war and during the 1990s fell into ruin. After the closure of the unprofitable line, its fate seemed sealed. However, after numerous vicissitudes, the station finally fell into good hands. The current owners won the Well-Preserved Monument competition by the Chief Conservator of Monuments in Warsaw in 2004. Today, the Białowieża Towarowa train station houses the magnificently decorated Tsar’s Restaurant, as well as apartments in the water tower and "rooms" in original historic carriages.

Żebra Żubra Nature Trail

Żebra Żubra Nature TrailLast year, an attractive educational trail that runs through wet alder forests and swampy woods was renovated. This season, we find frogs awakening from their winter lethargy and migrating towards the Narewka River. This nature trail, known as Żebra Żubra, was created in the 1970s by the foresters of Białowieża, with the Wysmułek family as part of the project. For years it was the main trail for any excursion. Although it was closed due to wear and tear, it has recently been renovated, with new signs installed, and is now open to visitors. Entry is free. It should be noted that the circuit consists of a 3-kilometer walk that starts on the road from Białowieża to the village of Pogorzelce and ends at the Bison Demonstration Reserve.

Royal Oaks Trail in Białowieża Forest

Royal Oaks Trail in Białowieża Forest

This special place in the history of the forest, known as Stara Białowieża, has witnessed human presence since the 10th century. The hunting lodge of Sigismund the Old was likely already here in the 16th century, as evidenced by archaeological findings of tumuli and furnaces. The educational trail, which winds among monumental oaks, aims to present the profiles of the rulers of Poland and the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, highlighting their connections with Białowieża Forest. It also partially commemorates the visit of Prince Philip, who explored the forest in 1975. The central point along the trail is called Filipówka, and this trail was opened to the general public in 1976.

Tram Ride through Białowieża Forest

Tram Ride through Białowieża Forest

Exploring Białowieża Forest offers a variety of experiences, from hiking and cycling to car tours. However, if you’re looking for a unique adventure, we recommend taking a hand-powered tram ride. There are three routes available, each with different levels of difficulty and duration. Departing from Białowieża Towarowa, you’ll have the chance to drive these vehicles using your own muscle power. A fun experience guaranteed!

Białowieża Forest: Place of Power

Białowieża Forest: Place of Power

One of the mysterious corners, accessible by handcar but also on foot or by bicycle, was discovered by chance in 1993. Dowsers have confirmed that this place concentrates a notable amount of positive energy, supposedly more powerful than in Jasna Góra or Grabarka. Nature itself reveals the uniqueness of this site: trees with strange bifurcations are found at every step, along with thick thickets of hawthorns, apple trees, and pear trees, all intertwined with stones arranged in circles. It is believed that this place was the scene of pagan rituals.

Fishing on the Banks of the Narewka River

Fishing on the Banks of the Narewka River in Poland

In the Palace Park, visitors have the opportunity to fish from the shore in the ponds and in the Narewka River, upon payment of a fee. However, fishermen must comply with the regulations established by the Polish Fishing Association, including respecting catch limits and protective sizes of the fish.

Grill Area Rental and Campfire Lighting

The park rents out two campfire sites ("Filipówka" and "Zamosze") for lighting fires to cook food in nature. Out of respect for the environment and the wildlife that inhabit the park, playing music is prohibited in its facilities. To reserve a campfire site, an upfront payment is required. In case of cancellation of the campfire site reservation on the agreed date, the upfront payment will not be refunded.

The Rivers of Białowieża

Białowieża National Park is located in the basin of the Vistula and Neman rivers. Although it does not have lakes or major rivers, its most prominent area is at the confluence of the Hwoźna and Narewka rivers. The Orłówka River originates in this park, while the tributaries of the Narewka, including Łutownia, Przedzielna, and Braszcza, flow through its territory. The average annual temperature is 6.8°C and the average annual precipitation reaches 633 mm, with most of this precipitation occurring during the growing season. Extreme temperatures recorded range from -38.7°C (in 1950) to +34.5°C.

The Fauna of Białowieża

Bison of Białowieża in Poland

Białowieża Forest hosts an extraordinary diversity of animal life in its unique climate. From invertebrates such as protozoa, spiders, and insects, to vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, more than 12,000 species have been recorded in this forest. It is estimated that in all of Poland there are between 35,000 and 40,000 species, with approximately half of them present in this forest.

The quality and variety of animal species are more significant than their number. Many of these species are native to natural environments, with a low density of individuals but a high diversity in a given area. Invertebrates are especially notable, with around 8,000 species of insects identified so far. Additionally, 58 species of mammals, 120 species of birds, 32 species of fish, 7 species of reptiles, and 11 species of amphibians have been recorded.

The bison is the park’s emblematic symbol, as this place was crucial for its survival. Nearly extinct in the 18th century, bison found refuge in Białowieża Forest. Although the last wild bison in the forest was recorded dead in 1919, their population recovered thanks to specimens brought from zoos. Since 1952, captive-bred bison have been released into the forest, and it is currently estimated that around 950 bison inhabit this place, with approximately half of them on the Polish side of the park.

The Diversity of Flora and Plant Species in Białowieża

The Diversity of Flora and Plant Species in Białowieża

Białowieża Forest stands out as the best-preserved example of a natural forest on the Eastern European plain, with more than two-thirds of its area covered by deciduous forests. Oaks and hornbeams predominate on fertile soils, while in flooded areas alder and riparian forests thrive, mainly composed of black alder and ash. In drier places, pine, fir, and mixed-species forests are found. In total, more than 1,000 plant species have been identified in the park, including 728 species of vascular plants and 277 species of lichens, among which rare species such as the European globe flower, Siberian iris, mountain arnica, and marsh violet stand out.

The diversity of the forest is best observed in its different strata, where fir trees reach heights of over 50 meters in the upper stratum, followed by oaks, lindens, and ashes of between 40 and 44 meters in height. Maples, on the other hand, usually do not exceed 40 meters, while hornbeams grow into shorter trees of up to 30 meters in height.

A notable feature of Białowieża National Park is the abundance of dead wood. In the Strict Protection Zone, this represents approximately 25% of the weight of all trees. The decomposition of these logs provides valuable nutrients to the soil, restoring its fertility. Additionally, dead wood serves as a habitat for numerous saproxylic organisms, such as fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates, many of which are endangered and unique species in Europe.


Mushrooms of Białowieża

So far, more than 1,600 species of macrofungi have been documented in Białowieża National Park, although the actual number is believed to be much higher. Surprisingly, this confirmed list of species in an area of only 10,000 hectares constitutes 25% of the mycobiota of the entire European continent. However, the disappearance of many valuable species’ habitats worldwide has been observed, mainly due to the negative impact of human activity on natural ecosystems.

The lichen biota, which includes lichenized fungi, has 237 species recorded in the park, representing approximately 60% of the species present in the entire Białowieża Forest.

Many species of bryophytes, lichens, and fungi that once had a wide distribution are now only found in ecosystems like the Białowieża Forest. Their survival is linked to the preservation of the natural character of the forest and conditions where human activity is sustainable. Most of these rare and endangered species depend on the presence of dead wood or old trees, whose trunks, branches, and bark provide vital habitats. The presence of these elements not only makes Białowieża National Park unique but also serves as an indicator of the degree of conservation of natural processes and the original character of this forest complex.

Visitors to the National Park

Białowieża National Park in Poland receives approximately 140,000 visitors each year, attracted by its impressive landscapes and rich biodiversity. The most popular attractions for tourists include the Bison Demonstration Reserve, the park museum, and the Strict Protection Area. However, access to these areas, especially the Orłówka protection district and the museum, is restricted and visitors must be accompanied by an authorized guide.

In the Orłówka protection district, tourists can enjoy trails leading to the Jagiello Oak and beech forests, with a duration of approximately three hours. In the protected area of Hwoźna, there are two marked routes for hiking and cycling, one 6.5 km long and the other 11.5 km long. Additionally, an animal observation tower has been built in the Narewka valley, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the park’s wildlife from an elevated perspective.

These tourism options offer visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Białowieża National Park while learning about its history and conservation under the expert guidance of park rangers and authorized guides.

Recommended Accommodations in Białowieża National Park

For a comfortable and convenient stay while visiting the protected area of Białowieża, you can opt to stay in the rooms located in the center of the historic Palace Park of Białowieża, within the national park itself. This location guarantees tranquility and relaxation before and after your visit, being surrounded by the lush nature of the park. This hotel is an excellent starting point for beginning excursions and routes along the park’s trails.

The facilities offer 44 rooms with bathrooms, including single, double, and triple rooms, with a total capacity for 107 people. Additionally, the site is adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities. In the same building, you will find a restaurant for convenient meals, the Nature and Forest Museum to learn more about the park’s environment, conference rooms, and the Office of the Białowieża National Park Management.

How to Get to Białowieża National Park

By Car

From Warsaw

The travel time by car from Warsaw to Białowieża is approximately 4 hours. You can choose three routes:

Via Sokołów Podlaski (approx. 210 km)

From Warsaw, take road no. 637 through Stanisławów, Węgrów, Sokołów Podlaski, Drohiczyn, and Siemiatycze, then roads no. 693 and 691 through Kleszczele, Hajnówka, and road no. 689 to Białowieża.

Via Ciechanowiec and Bielsk Podlaski (approx. 230 km)

From Warsaw, take route 8 towards Białystok, after Wyszków take road no. 694 towards Brok, then from Ciechanowiec road no. 681 towards Brańsk. Then turn onto road no. 689 and passing through Bielsk Podlaski and Hajnówka reach Białowieża.

Via Zambrów (approx. 250 km)

Leave Warsaw on road no. 8 towards Zambrów, then take road no. 66 towards Bielsk Podlaski and then switch to road no. 689 through Hajnówka to Białowieża.

From Białystok

The travel time by car from Białystok to Białowieża is approximately 2 hours. You can choose two routes:

Via Narew (approx. 90 km)

Leave Białystok on route no. 19 (towards Lublin), in Zabłudów take route no. 685 towards Narew. In Narew, take the road towards Hajnówka and continue on road no. 689 to Białowieża.

Via Bielsk Podlaski (approx. 100 km)

Leave Białystok on route no. 19 (towards Lublin), in Bielsk Podlaski take route no. 689 towards Hajnówka and then to Białowieża.

By Public Transport

From Warsaw

Warsaw – Białystok – Białowieża: The train journey from Warsaw to Białystok takes approximately 2.5 hours. From Białystok, the best way to reach Białowieża (usually with a transfer in Hajnówka) is by PKS bus lines or private transport. The journey takes approximately 2-3 hours.

Warsaw – Siedlce – Hajnówka – Białowieża: The train journey from Warsaw to Hajnówka (via Siedlce and Czeremcha) takes approximately 4 hours. From Hajnówka to Białowieża, you can reach via PKS bus lines or private transport lines. The journey takes approximately 0.5 hours.

Warsaw – Białowieża: Direct bus connection from Warsaw (East Station) to Białowieża via Ostrów Mazowiecka, Ciechanowiec, Bielsk Podlaski, and Hajnówka. The journey takes approximately 4.5 hours (267 kilometers).

From Białystok

From Białystok, the best way to reach Białowieża (usually with a transfer in Hajnówka) is by PKS bus lines or private transport lines. The journey takes approximately 2-3 hours.

The current timetable can be found on the regional transport area website:

National Park Map

The national park map is downloadable from here:

Białowieża National Park Map in Poland

If you are traveling through Poland, you might also be interested in learning about Ojców National Park.