If you’re looking for peace and quiet, with an emphasis on relaxation then the Masurian Lake District is the place to go. Whether you’re looking for relaxing activity, or simply a place to just be, then this area has a wealth of opportunities.
The Masurian Lake District covers an area of approximately 200 square miles. Billed as the ‘Land of 1000 Lakes’, this wildly underestimates the true number of lakes in the region. There are around 2000 lakes here, connected with canals and rivers, interspersed with lush undulating hills. This North-Eastern corner of Poland, nestled up to the Lithuanian border, is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone who simply loves the great outdoors.
Blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna, the wonderful scenery is paired with friendly locals keen to showcase their home area. Amongst the multitude of lakes and waterways are area of verdant forest and small farms. The Masurian Lake District really is Poland’s summer paradise.
The Main Names in Mazury
Much of the activity in the Masurian Lake District focuses around Lake Śniardwy, the largest of the Masurian Lakes stretching approximately 10 miles in length, and 8 miles wide. It’s dotted with 8 islands, and is Poland’s largest lake. Another popular lake is Lake Mamry.
The main towns and resorts of the Masurian Lake District can be somewhat crowded in the summer months of July and August, but nonetheless are wonderful bases to stay in and explore from. The main areas are Giżycko, Mikolajki, Węgorzewo, Olecko, Mragowo and Ruciane Nida. Where you choose to make your holiday base will depend on your interests and holiday aspirations.
Activities in the Masurian Lake District
If relaxing with a drink watching the world go by is enough activity then you won’t be disappointed. But the Mazury area is popular for a range of outdoor pursuits and you will find plenty of companies and organisations able to help you with the following:
In addition, nature lovers will be spoilt for experience as the Masurian Lake District is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna including elks, tarpans, miniature goats and beavers. There are 11 Nature Reserves in the area perfect for foraging and viewing wildlife, for example Luknajo Lake which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In addition nature lovers should be sure to visit the Borecka Pushcha Nature Reserve where there is a breeding station for European Bison. The forests surrounding the lakes are plentiful for trails for hikers, biking and horse-trekking.
Whilst the Masurian Lake District is at its most popular in the summer months when visitors are mainly drawn to the water sports and water activities on the many lakes, including several yacht and boat racing events, winter in Mazury is catered for too. The area is popular in winter for snowmobiling, ice boating, horse-riding, sledging, cross-country skiing and ice-fishing.
Where to Stay in Mazury
There is a huge abundance of places to stay in the Masurian Lake District catering for any taste and budget. One of the most popular ways to enjoy visiting this area is to make use of the agroturystyka (agro-tourism) where you can stay as a guest on a small holding or farm, often living very much as the locals do. In addition there are options for camping, log cabins, Bed and Breakfasts and Hostels. The Lakeside Resorts offer a huge choice of hotels, spas and self-catering options. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it!
Masurian Lake District Top Sight-Seeing Picks
Whilst relaxation and outdoor pursuits are the main focus of the Masurian Lake District, there are plenty of places to visit for those interested in history and architecture.
- Wolf’s Lair: Wolf’s Lair was Hitler’s secret base, and indeed where he spent most of World War II. The eerie relics of the concrete bunkers, gradually being swallowed by nature, are a sobering reminder of what Poland experienced in the war. There are 18 hectares of bunkers to explore, and it is well worth making use of the site map.
- Swieta Lipka: In stark contrast to the Wolf’s Lair is Swieta Lipka, a place of pilgrimage dating from the 17th Pilgrims come to the Baroque church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, situated in a monastery complex. The sights include the incredible baroque organ, staggering 3 storey altar, and the lime tree with the silver Virgin Mary.
- Boyen Fortress: Built between 1844 and 1856, the Boyen Fortress is now a museum, showcasing several bastions, defensive towers and surrounded by a moat.
- Fields of Grunwald: South West of Olsztyn is the site where the allied Polish and Lithuanian armies defeated the Knights of the Teutonic Order in 1410. This remarkable battle of the Middle Ages, enormous in scale, is re-enacted on the anniversary each year.
- Kętrzyn Castle: There are several castles dotted throughout the region, and this is one that like the others tells of the Teutonic history of the area. This is a mid 14th Century brick castle playing home to a small museum.
- Rotary Bridge at Giżycko: Opened in 1889, this is the only Rotary Bridge of its kind in Poland. Visitors can watch it being opened for boats six times daily.
- Water Tower at Giżycko: Built in 1900 in the neo-Gothic style, this water tower was in use until the late 1990s. Now however, it is wonderful for the panoramas from the top, accessed via lift.
- St George’s Church at Kętrzyn: This church comprises a square tower and varied interiors worth a visit if you are in the area.
Where to Eat – The Masurian Lake District:
The Lake District covers a vast area encompassing many different towns, villages and hamlets. Food in this area reflects the geographical location and the area’s history, with Lithuanian, Polish and Prussian influences. There is an abundance of choice, but here are some top picks from across the region:
- Gospoda Pod Czarnym Łabędziem, Rydzewo, Giżycko: This is the Black Swan Inn renowned throughout the Lake District and interesting because it is not just a restaurant serving regional cuisine, but also a museum.
- Kuchnia Świata, Giżycko: Whatever dish you can imagine, from around the world, you are likely to find it here on this restaurant’s enormous menu.
- Folwark Łuknajno, Mikolajki: This wonderful restaurant serves regional dishes within the peace and quiet of the nature reserve.
- Restauracja Prohibicja, Mikolajki: With a gangster-jazz theme you’ll be sure of a fun time at this Polish and Eastern European restaurant. The vine-shaded terrace is particularly pleasant on warm summer evenings.
- Karczma Stara Kużnia, Przykop, Giżycko: With award-winning dishes in an old smithy with delightful interiors, you can’t go wrong.
- Bar Hornet, Giżycko: This café/bistro is perfect for good value light-meals and fast service. You can choose between the self-serve options or the waited sit down area.
- Staromiejska Restaurant, Olsztyn: Situated in the centre of the town this is a 20th Century restaurant serving great food.
- Grota, Giżycko: This is a popular restaurant with locals, and with good reason – the pizzas, Polish and German fare, are high quality and can be enjoyed sitting canal side in the summer months.