Worth a Trip: The Deep, Dark Augustów Forest

The Augustów Forest (Puszcza Augustowska) stretches east of Augustów as far as the Lithuania–Belarus border. At 1100 sq km, it's Poland's largest continuous forest after the Bory Dolnośląskie in Lower Silesia. It's a remnant of the vast primeval forest that once covered much of eastern Poland and southern Lithuania.

The forest is mainly made up of pine and spruce, with colourful deciduous species such as birch, oak, elm, lime, maple and aspen. The wildlife is rich and diverse, and includes beavers, wild boar, wolves, deer and even some elk. Birds are also well represented and the 55 lakes abound in fish. It was virtually unexplored until the 17th century, but today is criss-crossed by paved roads, dirt tracks, and walking and cycling paths. Despite this, there are large stretches that are almost untouched, and if you want to get firmly off the beaten track in Poland then this is a great swath of nature in which to do it.

You can explore part of the forest using private transport; roads will take you along the Augustów Canal to the Belarus border. Many of the rough tracks are perfectly OK for bikes and horses, and on foot you can get almost everywhere except the swamps.