Southern Podlasie (pod-lah-sheh) fills a large swath of northeastern Poland, hogging much of the country's border with Belarus. More than any other region in this vast country, it is here that the influence of foreign cultures can be felt the strongest. The closer you get to the last dictatorship in Europe, the more onion-shaped Orthodox domes you'll see and Belarusian language you'll hear. You'll also be witness to remnants of 17th-century Tatar settlements. Jews, who once populated the region, have left traces of their presence too.
Despite its rich cultural make-up, the main attraction here is nature. Podlasie literally means 'the land close to the forest', a moniker it has for good reason. This part of the world was once covered in primeval forest, and while much of it has fallen to the woodcutter's axe, a rich pocket still remains within the Białowieża National Park. Southern Podlasie is also home to unique lowland marshes, which fall under the protection of the Biebrza and Narew National Parks.