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Pripyatsky National Park/Belarus

Introducing Pripyatsky National Park

The 82, 460 hectares covered by this national park (75644, 75173; vul Leninskaja 127, Turau) offer a unique chance to explore a vast, relatively untouched swath of marshes, swampland and floodplains. As unattractive as 'swamp' might sound, the landscape here is striking, even haunting, and provides a welcome contrast to the stretches of flat, dry fields that cover most of Belarus.

Locals dub the area the 'lungs of Europe' as air currents passing over wetlands are reoxygenated. Flora and fauna particular to wetlands are found here, including more than 800 plant species, some 50 mammal species and more than 200 species of birds.

At the park headquarters & museum (75644; vul Leninskaja 127) you can tour a great display of the flora and fauna specific to the area, and make all the arrangements you need. Excursions range from one day to a week, and can include extended fishing, hunting and boating expeditions deep into the marshlands. Cruises on the river are particularly recommended.

Park staff can also put you up at one of their guesthouses in town, arrange accommodation in a private home or, even better, put you up in the middle of the park's nature itself. Several comfy cottages have been kitted out with kitchens and saunas and are set in sublimely peaceful settings. The park organises winter ice-fishing expeditions (followed by vodka and sauna, of course) and many summer activities. Prices vary, but generally a person need only spend about €60 per day, including accommodation, three meals and guided tours.

From the UK, a yearly, eight-day trek throughout the national park can be organised for about £1000 per person via Nature Trek (www.naturetrek.co.uk).