At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to Poland scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that EcoQuest Travel offers many different itineraries to Poland – the trip listed below is just one example. If you are interested in Poland as a destination please contact us for further information.

POLAND

Wildlife of the European Plain and Forest

14 Day Natural History Trip from June 4 through June 17

Poland is a land of incredible natural beauty with primeval forests, soaring mountains, quaint countryside and extensive marshlands. Also blessed with cultural riches, Poland is a tapestry of old ruins, modern cities, picturesque castles, unique cuisine and extraordinary people. Although Poland is not known as an ecotourism destination, it should be, as its varied topography supports one of Europe’s most diverse wildlife communities. Tucked away in protected areas are 110 species of mammals including wild boar, elk, moose, lynx, brown bear, wolf and the largest mammal in Europe the European bison. Birdlife is no less spectacular with 424 species including lekking great snipes, nesting black storks, majestic common cranes and all ten species of woodpecker found in Europe. This trip is designed to uncover as much of Poland’s wildlife as possible as well as visit some of the country’s most important cultural sites. To accomplish this we will visit three national parks along with the cities of Warsaw and Krakow. After flying into Warsaw and visiting the capitol city’s cultural sights we will spend time exploring the marshes of Biebrza National Park. From Biebrza we will travel west to the border with Belarus to visit the old growth forests of Bialowieza National Park. Bialowieza is one of the greatest parks in Europe and home to a spectacular array of large mammals including the monarch of the forest, the European bison, which was brought back from the brink of extinction in this park. From Poland’s wild northeast we will travel south to the vibrant city of Krakow and even further south to Tatra National Park high in the Carpathian Mountains. Visiting the many historical sites in Krakow will certainly be one of the highlights of our trip! EcoQuest Travel is proud to invite you to journey with us to Poland to experience the magical wildlife of the European plain and forest!

ITINERARY

Day 1 – Saturday, June 4: Our US Gateway City and on to Warsaw, Poland

An early morning flight from our home cities will take us to our gateway city, likely either New York or Chicago, for our connecting flight to Warsaw, Poland. Please arrive at your respective airports no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Our flight to Warsaw is an overnight flight so we should have plenty of time to reach our gateway city prior to departure.

Day 2 – Sunday, June 5: Arrival in Warsaw, Poland & the Cultural Sights of Warsaw

Once we arrive in Warsaw this afternoon we will clear immigration and customs before gathering our luggage and transferring to our lodging. At our accommodations we will drop our luggage off and have a chance to freshen up before we depart to visit some of Warsaw’s most famous cultural sites. Our exploration of Warsaw will begin with a tour of one of its most important cultural sites – the Royal Castle. Although the original castle was destroyed by the Nazis near the end of the war, this incredible structure has been restored to its original grandeur. After touring the castle we will have a chance to see the Sigismund III Vasa Column and St. John’s Cathedral on our way to Old Town’s Square. After a full day we will have dinner before returning to our lodging at the Hotel Bristol for a night of much needed rest. The Hotel Bristol is a venerable old hotel with all the creature comforts and will certainly provide a welcome retreat each time we are in Warsaw. (B & L on the plane,D)

Days 3 & 4 – Monday & Tuesday, June 6 & 7: Biebrza Marshes

After breakfast at our hotel we will travel from Warsaw to Biebrza National Park where we will begin two full days of exploring Poland’s largest national park. This park protects a vast area of peat bogs, river floodplains, marshes and damp forests. This varied landscape supports an incredible variety of wildlife including wild boar, wolves, foxes, roe deer, otter, beaver and a huge population of moose. Biebrza is also home to more than 270 species of birds, making these wetlands one of the best birding sites in Europe.  On our first day we will stop along the way to try and find European roller. Once we reach the marshes we will begin to look for the specialty birds that make this area famous including aquatic warbler, lekking giant snipes, corncrake and white-backed woodpecker. Also found in the marshes, and in the vicinity of our host’s/guide’s farm and gardens, are 19 species of warbler including Savi’s, river, great reed, barred and others. Some of the other bird species we hope to see include: both white and black stork, great bittern, common crane, graylag goose, white-tailed eagle, Eurasian hoopoe, white-winged black tern, Eurasian wryneck, bluethroat and citrine wagtail. This area is fantastic for raptors with up to 20 species present including short-toed eagle, greater and lesser spotted eagles and three species of harriers. On one evening we will visit the great snipe lek in hopes that we are not too late to witness these special birds and their spectacular courtship behavior. Early one morning we will visit a black grouse lek and on the other morning we may try a ruff lek in hopes that a few stragglers are still displaying this late in the season. Nightjars, crakes and owls could be spotted on our night walks. Our explorations of the park will take place by vehicle and on foot. We will stay at the Knieja Hotel each night and have delicious regionally inspired Polish meals. The Knieja Hotel is nestled in an old pine forest above a lake, and while not luxurious it is clean and comfortable. (B,L,D)

Day 5, Wednesday, June 8: Travel to Puszcza Bialowieska

Today, after some early morning birding and breakfast, we will travel from the Biebrza area southwest to the great forests of Bialowieza National Park on the Polish Belorussian border. Although it is only a couple hours away we will stop several times along the way to look for wildlife. For example, we will stop at a gravel pit to look for European bee-eater, in the historic town of Tykocin to look for Syrian woodpecker, at fish ponds which often contain 5 species of grebes and at a reservoir to find waterfowl. We will have lunch along the way and once we arrive we will settle into our accommodations and should have time to explore the Palace Park named for the splendid palace built in 1894 for the Russian tsar. The park also contains a natural history museum and a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church just outside its eastern entrance. After a full day we will have dinner and settle into our rooms at the Hotel Wejmutka. The Hotel Wejmutka is family run with a distinctively local flavor and many interesting birds visit their gardens – including corncrake. (B,L,D)

Days 6 & 7 – Thursday & Friday, June 9 & 10: Puszcza Bialowieska

We will have two full days to explore the fantastic old growth forests of Bialowieza National Park. The primeval forests here once stretched over hundreds of kilometers, but now have been reduced to an area of about 1200 square kilometers divided roughly evenly between Poland and Belarus forming an important cross-boundary park. Despite recent exploitation and the loss of much of the original forest, the core of this forest remains untouched and represents the largest area of old growth forest left in Europe. As a consequence, this park, and the managed forests outside the park, holds many wildlife riches, but none more famous than the monarch of the forests the European bison. The loss of forest throughout Europe coupled with intense hunting pressure forced drove these great animals to extinction in the wild by the early 1900s. The last known wild bison inhabited Bialowieza forest and it was there that a successful reintroduction program has brought them back from the brink. It will be our great privilege to witness European bison once again in the wild. Bison are not the only mammals inhabiting the park and we will also be on the lookout for elk, wild boar, lynx and wolves. Some of our exploring will take place within the park’s Strictly Protected Area. The terrain in this area is mostly flat and dominated by 500 year-old oak trees as well as hornbeam, spruce and pine. The huge trees are spectacular in their own right! These ancient forests are also home to a spectacular array of birds including hazel grouse; tawny and Tengmalm’s owls; nine species of woodpecker (black, green, gray-headed, great-spotted, middle-spotted, white-backed, three-toed, lesser spotted and Eurasian wryneck); pied and collared flycatchers; great, blue, crested, willow, marsh and long-tailed tits;  Eurasian nutcracker; golden oriole; and a number of finches and buntings. We will need two full days to explore this park and its wildlife riches. We will overnight each night at the Hotel Wejmutka. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Saturday, June 11: Travel back to Warsaw and on to Krakow

This morning we will depart early for a fairly long day of travel. We will head east back to Warsaw before turning south for the drive to Krakow. If we arrive in Krakow early enough in the afternoon we will begin our explorations of this vibrant city by visiting Old Town and Rynek Glowny. Old Town was originally drawn up in the mid-13th century to defend against Tartar invasions. Not much of the old fortifications remain and today its cobblestone streets are home to many historical monuments, museums and churches. Situated in the heart of Old Town is Rynek Glowny – the largest medieval town square in Europe. The architecture of Rynek Glowny dates back to 1257 and the square is dominated by Cloth Hall. Cloth Hall was once the center of the medieval rag trade and is now home to a huge craft and souvenir market. The Town Hall Tower also dominates Rynek Glowny and the view of the city from the top is impressive. Once we have strolled around Rynek Glowny we will transfer to the Wentzl Hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Sunday, June 12: Cultural Sites of Krakow

Today we will have a full day to explore the cultural riches of Krakow. Krakow was Poland’s first royal capital and as such can boast of so much history, architecture and monuments. These historical treasures have been preserved over time because unlike Warsaw, Krakow came away from World War II relatively unscathed. Our first stop this morning is Wawel Castle. This hilltop site is more steeped in Polish history than anywhere else in the country. We will tour the Castle itself with its Royal Chambers, Hall of Senators, Hall of Deputies and Royal Private Apartments. We will also tour the Wawel Cathedral and the Crown Treasury and Armory. Visiting all of Wawel will take most of the morning and we will have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing our tour of Krakow. After lunch we will make a brief visit to Collegium Maius to view the 15th century gothic architecture on the outside of the building and the interesting university collection on the inside – which includes many 16th-century astronomical instruments used by Copernicus. After Collegium Maius, if time permits, we will travel outside the city proper for a tour of the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine. This unusual World Heritage Site has been in continuous operation for over 700 years and consists of eerie pits, chambers and a labyrinth of tunnels. The tour visits three levels within the mine including 22 chambers connected by galleries all hand-hewn from solid salt. Some of the chambers have been made into chapels and there is even an underground salt lake. Once we finish our mine tour we will return to Krakow for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Monday, June 13: Auschwitz-Birkenau

This morning after breakfast we will travel 40 kilometers west of Krakow to the Polish town of Oswiecim – known more by its German name – Auschwitz. The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex – now officially called the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp – was the scene of the largest attempt at genocide in human history. It is estimated that 1.6 million people, including over 1.1 million Jews were put to death in these camps. Auschwitz was only partially destroyed by the fleeing Nazis and, after crossing through the infamous barbed-wire gate, we will have a chance to see many of the original brick buildings including some of the prison blocks, the gas chamber and the crematorium. Much of Birkenau was destroyed when the retreating Nazis fled in the face of the Russian invasion, but climbing the watch tower will give us a chilling look at the scale of this extermination camp. These camps are home to the world’s largest cemetery with literally hundreds of thousands buried in mass graves. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is an absolute must, but it will not be easy. It is a difficult place to witness and the enormity of what transpired here may leave us emotionally spent. After a full, and perhaps exhausting day, we will return to Krakow for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Days 11 & 12 – Tuesday & Wednesday, June 14 & 15: Tatra National Park

We will depart Krakow early this morning to begin two full days of exploration in Tatra National Park. The Tatras form the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains and stretch along the Polish-Slovakian border for 60 kilometers. The town of Zakopane will serve as our gateway to this beautiful alpine land of towering peaks dappled with snow, forested valleys and icy lakes. Wildlife is plentiful here with roe deer, European wildcats and Eurasian badger favoring the lower forests and chamois, alpine marmot and brown bears inhabiting the rocky heights. This area is also great for birds with high enough elevations to support special species like wallcreeper, yellow-billed chough and alpine accentor, as well as more widespread species such as Eurasian pygmy-owl, Tengmalm’s owl, white-backed woodpecker and Eurasian nutcracker. On one of the days we will travel to the tiny town of Kuznice and ride the cable car to the top of Mt. Kasprowy Wierch where we hope to concentrate on the higher alpine species. These two days will be used to maximize our chances of seeing the greatest number of bird and mammal species and will likely include some hiking through the forests, meadows, valleys and mountain tops which make this region so unique and so picturesque. We will stay in Zakopane each night at the Hotel Sabala.  (B,L,D)

Day 13 – Thursday, June 16: Travel from Krakow back to Warsaw

This morning we will depart early to travel from our mountain retreat of Zakopane to Krakow and from Krakow back to Warsaw. Once we arrive in Warsaw, if time permits, we  will continue our explorations of the city by visiting the Barbican, the Ghettos Heros Monument and the Citadel. In the late afternoon we will head south of the city center to admire the Baroque splendor of Wilanow Palace and Gardens. Wilanow was, for part of its history, the royal summer residence, and miraculously escaped WWII nearly unscathed. We should also have time to stroll the expansive gardens and perhaps spy a few more birds. We will have our farewell dinner tonight at a local restaurant and will overnight once again at the Hotel Bristol. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Friday, June 17: Departure Warsaw for the US

This morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight from Warsaw back to our gateway city in the US. Once we arrive in the US we will go through immigration and customs before transferring to our flights home. (B)

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.