Introduction

Suwałki (soo-vahw-kee) is the largest town in the region, but lacks Augustów's charm and immediate proximity to lakes and rivers. There's also little in the way of tourism infrastructure, so if you view it as a gateway to the surrounding countryside, particularly the nearby Wigry National Park, rather than as a destination in itself, you're on the right track.

The town first appeared on the map at the end of the 17th century as one of the villages established by the Camaldolese monks from Wigry. The small multinational community grew slowly; at different times it included Jews, Lithuanians, Tatars, Russians, Germans and Old Believers, a religious group that split off from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. Very few members of any of these groups are still present in the town today.