The rolling landscape of Mazovia (Mazowsze in Polish) may look blissful, but this central region has had an eventful history. Once a duchy, Mazovia is dotted with castles, cathedrals and palaces, the biggest of which reside in the riverside towns of Płock and Pułtusk. Łódź is the provincial capital, with more going for it than meets the eye. It's Poland's third-largest metropolis and reflects the ups and downs of its industrial past in its mix of gritty and restored architecture. If you take the time to discover its charms, you'll be happy you did.
To the east, the Podlasie region acts as the green lungs of Poland. Aside from a few urban centres, this province abutting the Lithuanian and Belarusian borders is a paradise 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.