Wild safaris and unusual open air camping
What are domestic tourist agencies offering? We present Belarus’ top five unusual excursions.
By Lyudmila Minakova
Splashing through marshes
Those who like to watch birds and animals and admire the countryside will love our ecological tours through such places as the ‘Red Pine Forest’ in the Vitebsk Region’s Rossony District. It’s home to rare species of animals and birds, many of which are listed in the Red Book, and has about forty lakes and picturesque marshes. You can admire the marshland habitat via raised boardwalks, viewing glacial lakes and wooded hillsides. You may even catch a glimpse of a lynx, wolf or elk. Owls, woodcocks and woodpeckers are also in residence. Some routes can be taken beyond the boardwalks, with campers given firewood and their rubbish removed carefully after their stay.
Sleep afloat the water
Tourists loving taking trips on the water and are just as delighted with river travel as crossing oceans! The Pripyatsky National Park offers river trips on the beautiful Pripyat aboard steam-ships ‘Kirill Turovsky’, ‘Auroch’ and ‘Elk’ while those of an independent mind can rent paddle boats.
Tourists have the opportunity to take photos, fish, take supper afloat and, even, sleep overnight. In Turov, the Polesie Hotel is moored on the river, harking back to a bygone age, with its romantic wall lamps, small dining room with floor to ceiling windows and comfortable cabins upholstered in wood. How wonderful to fall asleep listening to the river lapping the side of the boat and be awoken by the cry of seagulls. The boat tours the Pripyat Reserve and, as staff have told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, can even continue to Kiev!
Fitness with a scythe and the coronation of Mindaugas
Tourists also love activity programmes, such as that offered by Dortour. Its King Mindaugas’ Way route takes visitors to the castles of Mir and Lyubcha, as well as to the churches of Novogrudok and to Lake Svityaz. The Coronation of Mindaugas is enacted, with knightly duels and medieval dancing. They also take in the Museum of National Architecture and Life, located in the village of Ozertso in the Minsk District, seeing ‘festivities in old-Belarusian style’.
Meanwhile, those on the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve’s Secret Marshes tour may see a Bolotnik (marsh ghost). Many superstitions are associated with these mysterious locations.
Diving into an underwater world
To see the beauty of the underwater kingdom, there’s no need to travel to Turkey or Egypt. The Narochansky National Park offers lake diving beneath the waters of the Naroch, Myastro, Rudakovo, Myadel, Volchino, Bolduk, Glublya, Glubelka and Bolshoi Boltik. These lakes are so clear that it’s easy to admire the world of fish and weed below the surface. Each differs in depth, water mineralisation and eco-diversity.
For those keen to track wild boar and roe, the Pripyatsky Park is the ideal destination. The 4,800 hectare reserve opened its safari route in 2009, allowing guests to get up close and personal with more than a thousand wild boar, fallow and roe deer, elks, aurochs, beavers, foxes and hares. Its white-tailed eagles, black storks and white herons, among others, are listed in the Red Book. Don’t forget your camera for the 30km route, as a herd of boar or deer can appear at any time.
There’s no need to travel far to experience the extraordinary in Belarus, whether you are a lover of nature or a history buff. The country has something to suit every taste.