Visa free entry to Pushcha
Belovezhskaya Pushcha announces free entry for foreigners, for up to 72 hours
Actually, 72 hours are enough to enjoy all the local sights, although there’s plenty to do. You can use the services of a guide to travel by car, from Tsarskaya (Tsar) Avenue, or go as a group. Over the last weekend of May, imitators of noble deer’s roar from nine European countries gathered for a competition: the first such high-level event not only in Belarus but across the Union State.
The Museum of Folk Custom and Ancient Arts is certainly worth a visit, with its wooden frame house, situated amidst centuries-old oaks. The air is pure and fresh. You can also try locally distilled gin, since the Pushcha has its own license, or try rug weaving (rootstock is included on the List of Belarus’ Non-Intangible Heritage).
Father Frost’s Residence is the next stop; it’s even more attractive in summer than in winter, since there are fewer crowds, and Father Frost has more time to devote to his guests. The Museum of Nature is nearby: a truly interesting, educational and beautiful place.
There are open-air cages in the Pushcha but it’s definitely better to observe animals in their wild surroundings. Why not visit aurochs and wild boar via one of four cycle routes, which cover 10-27km each? A special 45km route takes tourists from Poland through the Bialowieza-Pererov checkpoint, to Lake Lyadskoe, and a monument to local victims of a massacre, conducted during the Great Patriotic War. It also takes in Tsarskaya (Tsar) Road, as well as deer, aurochs and many other attractions.
A simple 1km walking route, through the Yazvinskaya Dubrava (Oak Forest) passes through century-old trees: each a natural monument. Alternatively, you can enjoy a two-day hike of 21km, or take your camera on an eight-hour photo safari.
The National Park has created good conditions for tourists coming for several days and needing to spend the night. There’s the Kamenyuki Hotel (having three blocks), and a hotel near the museum, as well as several guesthouses run by the forestry. Several agro-mansions offer rooms near the Pushcha, at prices more affordable than local hotels.
Oksana Bogoleisha, the Head of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park’s Tourist Department, tells us that programmes for foreign tourists have already been developed. She comments, “We offer excursions lasting one, two or three days, taking in local sites. Guests from Poland can come on bicycles, through our simplified checkpoint, or you can hire a bike or car here, collecting them from near the checkpoint if necessary.”
Not long ago, Belarusians arranged a two-day tour for Polish businessmen, with foreign guests being most impressed by the Pushcha’s lakes, having none such on the Polish side.
The Belovezhskaya Pushcha covers over 150,000 hectares, with some areas dating back 250 to 350 years. There are even some 500 and 600-year-old oaks and pines. The first law on the Pushcha’s protection came into force in the 16th century, instigated by King Sigismund I.
By Valentina Kozlovich
Declarative character of passage
Polish tourist group of 27 enters Belovezhskaya Pushcha through international Pererov checkpoint, to enjoy foot-bicycle route, without need for visas, met by border guards, the management of the reserve, and diplomats
Henceforth, Europeans wishing to see the Belarusian side of the ancient forest are allowed to enter without restriction, simply applying to a travel agency or filling in an application form online (via the National Park site — at http://npbp.brest.by).
Director General Alexander Bury notes that they’d been considering the idea for about four years before implementation. He tells us, “There should be no borders to tourism. We want to increase tourist flow, and there’s so much to see on our side of the Pushcha: beautiful landscapes and animals, as well as museums, hotels, cafes and souvenir shops. As we gain more tourists from the West, we’ll develop infrastructure: in particular, in the northern zone of the Pushcha.”
There’s no doubt that tourists bring revenue. Mr. Bury is sure that, in the near future, the National Park could generate up to $25 billion a year. Border guards already expect an increase in volumes of passenger traffic through Pererov.
Having passed promptly through border control, Polish tourists shared impressions. The organiser of the first visa-free excursion, from a travel agency in Białystok, Yevgeny Lavrenyuk, underlines, “It was simple for us to order a pass from the Administration of the National Park. We found the first tourists as soon as we advertised, listing a one-day programme of seeing the Pushcha museum, open-air cages, Father Frost’s Residence, the folk museum and a sightseeing tour. We plan to next take a three-day group.” Some visitors have already made multiple trips, such as Yeva Kondratyuk, although it was her first visit to the Pushcha in this way. She asserts that the process is now simpler, requiring only passport details and insurance. “I think that our tourists will choose to travel to your country more often now,” she stresses. A similar move is soon expected from the Polish side, allowing Belarusians to visit that part of the Pushcha more freely.
By Alexander Mityukov