The rolling landscape of Mazovia (Mazowsze in Polish) has had an eventful history. Once a duchy, this central region is dotted with castles, cathedrals and palaces, the biggest of which reside in the riverside towns of Płock and Pułtusk. Łódź, the provincial capital, is Poland's third-largest metropolis and the region's cultural and nightlife centre. The ups and downs of the city's industrial past are reflected in its mix of gritty and restored architecture and the ever-growing list of attractions that play off its complex history.
To the east, Podlasie is rural and remote. Aside from a few urban centres, this province abutting the Lithuanian and Belarusian borders is a verdant expanse of farmland, forest and lakes. Its four national parks are splendid: Narew and Biebrza for their marshlands; Wigry for its lakes; and Białowieża for its primeval forest and wild European bison, the kings of Polish fauna.