The Białowieża Forest and the Białowieża National Park (Polish: Białowieski Park Narodowy) is in Podlaskie Voivodship in Poland and extends across the border into Belarus (this part called Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park). The Polish part was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979; the Belarussian part was inscribed in 1992.
Białowieża Forest is the last remnant of the primeval forest which once covered most of Europe at the end of the last ice age, which has never been completely deforested. It contains several species of fauna which were once native in forests throughout Europe, but which have now been mostly eradicated. It is, for example, the only place where European Bison, (German: Wisent, Polish: Żubr) still remain free and living in the forest as they once did throughout Europe. Wolves, Lynx, Red Deer, Wild Boar, Elk (same as Moose in N. America), and Roe Deer are among its other inhabitants.
Hopefully plans in the future will include returning reverse-bred versions of the extinct Tarpan Horse and Aurochs. Breeds that try to mimic Tarpan Horses can be found living in other smaller nature parks and zoos in Europe.
The inner-most sanctuary of The Białowieża National Park is completely preserved and protected by a fence, with tourists only allowed inside with guides. Inside, the forest lives, breathes and decays as it has for thousands of years. Outside of the inner-sanctuary several more kilometers of forest are semi-preserved although sadly there are many reports of thinning and cutting of trees, supposedly due to disease, but more likely due to corruption and the market demand for large trees. Several extra kilometers of forest protection boundary could be added to this as a buffer.
The town of Białowieża is on the edge of the forest and is located in the Polish part of the reserve. The administration of the Belarusian part of Bialowieza Reserve is based in Kameniuky that can be reached by bus and by car.
Polish State Railways have train connections from Warsaw via Bialystok. The train takes two and a half hours and runs every two hours. It is also possible to take a train to Hajnówka which is closer to the forest, but the trains are slower and less frequent. The forest can be reached by both places by bus.
There is a direct bus from Białystok run by VoyagerTrans. The schedules can be found on their website.
There is a single daily direct bus service from Warsaw to Białowieża village operated by Veolia Transport. The bus departs from the Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) station at 14:20 and arrives in Białowieża at 19:20.
There are extensive waymarked bike trails in the National Park. Several trails lie very close to the Poland-Belarus border so it is advisable to carry ID in case you are stopped by border police.
Bikes can be rented in Białowieża village from a number of locations.
- Pensjonat Gawra - 17-230 Białowieża, ul. Gen. M. Polecha 2. 25-45zł for all day.
- Opposite the Best Western Hotel, next to a food shop. 10 zł per hour, 40zł for all day.
- 1 Bialowieza Forest tours (Register for tours at the museum in the palace park), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitors should understand that the primeval section of the forest is strictly off limits, open only to scientific expeditions and guided tours. Don't expect to go into the wilderness on your own. Tours begin at 225 PLN (~50€) and only cover a small, peripheral, part of the forest (~7km or looping trails at the edges of the forest). There are also tours available that can perfectly be done with children. Still quite a striking experience.
- Bird watching. With local ornithologist.
- Watching bison. In their natural environment.
- Sledge or carriage rides and bonfire.
There are many accommodation options in Bialowieza village. From agroturism offers to cheap hostels or even more comfortable hotels are found.