Eco-tourism comes to Poland

Posted: 29 January 2007

Poland, with over one thousand years of history, is today a country at the crossroads. EU membership and the forces of globalisation promise a new era of modernisation, including a booming tourist industry. But the eco-tourism movement is also stirring, promising a gentler, more sustainable, way to experience the country's natural riches, as Agnieszka Gorczynska reports.

One of these eco-tourism pioneers is the Civil Affairs Institute, an independent foundation with its headquarters in Lodz, in central Poland. This non-profit outfit sees tourism not just as a product, but as a way of perceiving the way human activities and local communities relate to, and have shaped, the natural world.

Poland trekking
Poland trekking
To promote this idea the Institute has created a number of active holidays which help to protect the land and its natural resources as well as the local culture, history, tradition and customs. All its income derived from organised expeditions is assigned to campaigns aimed at protecting Polish nature.

For centuries many nationalities, cultures, religions have met in what today is modern Poland. The traces of this can be found everywhere. Folk art is still alive and Poles continue to foster their traditions. And, despite the ravages of war and past exploitation of resources, there remains an extraordinary natural heritage.

Bison and beavers

Sea and mountains, hills and lowlands, cities of art and natural parks, unique landscapes and craggy peaks, untamed and wild rivers, wetland terrain, swamps, and gorgeous natural forests are still largely unspoilt, and very beautiful.

It's a place where you can find European bison, elk, and beavers. Poland is also a haven for hundreds of thousands of birds, many of which fly across on migration routes from north to south. It's also a homeland of storks, a Polish national symbol that brings good luck.

A culture of local and personal hospitality is perhaps the best asset of the Polish tourism, in a world tending to level all differences, peculiarities and identities.

Ecotourism tours provided by the Institute include long back-packing trips on foot in the mountains, or canoeing all day long, making campfires, preparing food and cooking outdoors. The trips are organised in small groups of four to six persons, with experienced and qualified guides. The organisers make sure that local communities are involved. Accommodation is arranged by small local companies in family-owned guesthouses, using local seasonal food.

Among the holidays on offer are hiking tours in the Beskidy mountains and canoeing with hiking in northeastern Poland (the so-called "Green Lungs" of Poland). This part of the country is a crossroads of cultures, distinguished by a harmonious landscape and unpolluted and well-preserved nature.

Mountains in Poland
Mountains in Poland
Beskid Sadecki is the highest part of the Beskidy mountains, second after the Tatra mountains. The area offers vivid elements of mountain culture and the mountaineering way of life. Beskid Sadecki is a picturesque mountain range covered with Carpathian forests and has traces of two cultures: Polish mountain dwellers and the Lemko's ethnic group.

To find out more visit www.ecotourism.org.pl