The times when a good vacation was the one spent at sea belong to history now. They can tell whether you have had a rest or not just looking at your face, the way you walk and your shining eyes. More and more Belarusians now prefer going to some local resort to leaving the country. This year vacations in Belarus cost a bit more that previously, after the state halved its subsidies for the sanatorium-resort sector (benefits for Chernobyl victims and children that live in contaminated areas still remain). Despite higher prices, rooms in many recreation centers have already been booked out until autumn, for Belarusian resort centers have become more attractive for visitors from Russia and the Baltic States owing to excellent services and low prices. The resort facilities located in picturesque corners of the country are especially popular. Here are hundreds of centers near lakes, rivers and even in national reserves.
— In 2005 there were 115 foreign visitors in our health resort, whereas by July 2006 we had had over 80, says Alexander Voinov, the head physician of the “Sosny” resort center, one of the favorite spots for the Belarusian economic and political elite.
A day in the center, which in located in the national park “Narochansky”, close to the wonderful lakes Beloe and Naroch, costs $30 (two-bedroom suite for two, treatment, four meals a day), or $25 (same in a regular room). You might have a rest for this money somewhere closer to the ocean, but any type of treatment definitely costs much more.
“Sosny” has become quite popular with Germans, Poles and Israelis, to say nothing of Russians and Balts. Besides traditional recreation and treatment courses that focus on the cardiovascular system, the nervous system and the locomotor system, the resort has developed 15 programs of targeted rehabilitation.
Another health center near Naroch is “Priozyorny” — an ideal spot for those who suffer from heart diseases, problems with the digestive tract and the locomotor system. You will have a room to your own with a perfect view of the largest lake in the country for only $19 a day. Other resorts have the same, “democratic” prices.
By the way, same prices apply to Belarusians and foreigners, while earlier the difference could reach 25–50%.
So if you select a resort, you are guided by various types of treatment, and not the price, as it is almost the same everywhere. And there is something to choose from: at least twenty resorts may easily compete with foreign vacations on the beach.
For those wishing to have fun and having enough strengths to skip treatment Naroch seems a perfect place. You may choose a hotel, a cottage or a village, it all depends on your financial possibilities. There are over 20 lots for caravans, where you spend less than $1 a day if you have your own food). Besides the beach you may have fun in the recreation center “Ozyorny”, built two years ago, with a restaurant, a bowling club, a pool lounge and a disco. There are 18 travel routes catering for everyone — from those interested in military history to ecology enthusiasts.
Ecological tourism is getting more and more popular. The demand for trips to Belarus’ four natural reserves has been growing recently. The Belovezhskaya Puscha Park with the official residence of Father Frost (which successfully competes with the Russian headquarters of the Slavic Santa, in Veliky Ustyug), had 180,000 visitors last year. Over 10,000 tourists visited the National Reserve “Pripyatski”, which had just started providing tourist services. The Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve and Braslav Lakes are especially popular in summer. Numerous ecologists, ornithologists and nature enthusiasts are lured by calm, silence and comfortable homes — from hunter huts to luxury cottages. Besides, the local grounds are ideal for hunters and fishermen. People more and more often refer to Belarus as a country that provides a real safari. Hunting fees that are all transferred to the national budget range from just $5 per a woodcock to a couple of thousand dollars for an aurochs.
Over the past few years Belarus acquired some brand new tourist facilities. These are tourist mansions, or manor houses, which cater for city dwellers that got tired of the hustle of large cities. They charge from $5 per day for fresh air, fresh vegetables and fruit, national cuisine, horse riding, barbecue and excursions, to say nothing of comfortable living conditions. This type of tourism, also call agro-tourism, is actively supported by the state, and one can be certain it will be developing very fast. The head of state has recently allowed these facilities to register without any licenses. The experience of neighboring countries, especially, Lithuania, proves that this type of holiday will always remain popular.
If the traveler gets bored, he can always go on a trip around Belarus’ famous spots, which are numerous. Besides the castles of Mir and Nesvizh and the Polotsk-based Sofia Cathedral, Belarus boasts modern tourist attractions, like the “Line of Stalin” — a series of fortifications that give an excellent picture of the first days of the war. Tourists may also wish to visit the skiing centers of “Silichi” and “Logoisk” even in summer to get back to comfortable hotels and well-developed pistes in winter.
The hot news is that the Awgustow Canal is getting ready for tourists, at least its Belarusian part. This waterway that crosses Poland, Lithuania and Belarus will soon provide an exciting cruise, or a possibility to go down the canal in canoes, so plenty of impressions and healthy adrenaline are there to be found.
by Lilia Khlystun