Authored by Roman Zhyvitski
A somewhat isolated country at the edge of Eastern Europe, you may not have heard of Belarus. A landlocked country bordered by Russia in the north and east, Ukraine in the south, Poland in the west and Lithuania and Latvia in the north, it’s a country with rich architecture and a lot of natural history to explore.
So even if it wasn’t on your radar before, or you had to use Google to find out where it was, it’s a country which should be on your radar now. Very few tourists visit this part of the world, but honestly, they’re missing out. Here are three places you need to visit in Belarus.
Bialowieza Forest National Park
Belarus is a very green country, and forests occupy about 40% of its territory. Part of the forest territory are 5 huge and beautiful national parks, including the famous Bialowieza Forest on the border with Poland.
Not only is this the largest forest in Europe, but is also home to Europe’s largest mammal, the zubr (European bison). This is an endangered species living only on the territory of Belarus and Poland. It weighs on average 600 kilograms, and is 3 meters long and 2 meters tall.
The Bialowieza forest is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, and a popular way to explore is by renting a bike on one of the numerous bike paths. You can visit the local lore museum and try the national cuisine. There is also the house of Father Frost (Belarusian Santa Claus), which is a great attraction for families, and accommodation which means you can stay overnight in the middle of the oldest forest in Europe.
Because of its location, Belarus has found itself stuck in the middle of numerous wars between feuding nations including Fascist Germany and Soviet Union. Many of its cities have been completely destroyed throughout history, and re-built time and time again.
Such cities include the capital city of Minsk, and the difficult and complex history of this tiny nation are reflected in its monuments and museums such as the recently built World War 2 Museum and the Brest Fortress.
Brest fortress is widely known in European countries for its heroic defence against German invaders. The local soldiers were defending the city of Brest for a whole month (remember, the whole Poland was occupied in just 2 weeks). You can still see the last words of those soldiers written on the fortress walls to this day. The most famous of them is “I’m dying, but I’m not giving up. Goodbye, Motherland!”
Entering the gates of the Brest fortress, you can hear the original announcement of the German fascist invasion. The experience makes you dive into the tragic, but heroic history of Belarus. Here, you can also visit the Museum of War and the 5th Fort Museum for a deeper history.
Hotels We Recommend in Minsk
Hotel Belarus Minsk
The hotel is an easy drive from Minsk Automobile Plant and provides free private parking on site. It has a gym, as well as a swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and water slides.
It is close to shops, dining and Minsk’s nightlife. National Opera and Ballet of Belarus and Minsk Sports Palace are within walking a distance, and the in-house restaurant, Panorama, is a popular spot to enjoy a meal.
Renaissance Minsk: A Marriott Luxury & Lifestyle Hotel
The hotel is within easy reach of Victory Square and Minsk Automobile Plant. It has a gym, as well as a sauna, free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool.
This modern hotel offers a number of amenities, such as a ballroom, a currency exchange and 24-hour room service. Staff are available 24/7 and can book tours and tickets.
Volkovysk Chalk Quarries
The Volkovysk Chalk Quarries are a relatively new attraction in Belarus, however they have became very popular very fast. They attract a lot of local tourism, and it is a great spot to head for a picnic with your friends.
Chalk quarries, or ‘Belarusian Maldives’ how they are often called, are beautiful lakes with turquoise water, white sand and cliffs surrounding them. They are the result of the mining of chalk / limestone in the region of South-Western Belarus, and many people started coming after word spread of the incredible color of water and white sand.
But, it is a working mining area, and not a resort, which means that it is quite dangerous in some places. It is not recommended to swim in the water due to the chemical composition of it. Also, the cliffs are not very stable, so better to leave some distance between yourself and the edge!
Access is currently limited while the government creates a safer environment for tourists to visit without risk.
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Photo credits: Featured header image by my Life, the Universe and Everything. Białowieża National Park by Frank Vassen. European Bison by wer mei. Kholmsky Gate – Brest Fortress by Adam Jones. Brest fortress by Marco Fieber. Chalk quarries by Aliaksandr Palanetski. Pinterest images by my Life, the Universe and Everything and Marco Fieber.