“ Country: Poland / Country Region: Elsass / World Region: Europe „
Lake Wigry - the largest in the whole Suwalszczyzna region of the north-eastern Poland and since 1989 a designated national park - lies about 10 miles east of the main town of the region, Suwalki and is largely surrounded by Puszcza Augustowska, a large area of forest that used to cover most of the region and stretch well into what is now Lithuania.
Wigry is regarded as one of the most beautiful, and by some, the most beautiful lakes in Poland. It is, indeed, incredibly picturesque, with varied, reedy shore adorned with inlets and little peninsulas, scattering of islets in the middle and despite the fact that the area is devoted to tourism, still mostly a very peaceful area. Being a national park helps, as development is heavily restricted and accommodation is largely limited to private rooms, agro-tourist farms and camping.
The closest access to the lake is from the north side, from the main Suwalki-Sejny road: Stary Folwark has some tourist facilities as have villages south of Ryzowka. On the south shore, the tarmac road ends in Bryzgiel, but there is a decent (at least in dry weather) dirt track through the forest and countryside on the east coast.
Wigry area is perfect for getting away from it all: there is plenty of opportunities for walking, swimming, kayaking/canoeing and yachting, horse riding is also widely available and in the winter, you can partake in kulig - a traditional Polish wintertime sleigh ride party. A cavalcade of horse-pulled sleighs and sledges goes, traditionally, from a manor house to another, but nowadays more often between hotels and inns in the countryside or forest. Suwalszczyzna has the lowest winter temperatures in Poland and almost a guarantee of snow.
The village of Wigry itself is where a former Camaldolese monastery (built in 17th-18th centuries) complex , consisting of a church, a number of hermitage cottages and other convent building stands on a peninsula cutting into the lake from the north. It's a strikingly beautiful setting, especially in the later hours of a summer day, when the pink walls of the convent and the blue and green of the lake combine to produce picture-postcard pretty views bathed in deep, warm hues of the mature summer.
The monastery has been turned into a working pension for writers and other artists (which also works as a hotel for mere mortals). A walk round the monastery is very pleasant - go late to avoid the crowds and make sure you climb the clock tower for absolutely stunning views of the lake and the surrounding area (and look out for air-photos of the lake displayed on the walls).
The church holds concerts of classical music and the centre hosts exhibitions and other events often devoted to cross-cultural communication in the region rich with mixed ethnic and religious influences.
There are excursion boats playing the lake from the quay near the monastery complex - or hire a kayak and have a private tour. Kayaking on Czarna Hancza river that flows between Wigry to Hancza lake is a popular past-time: you can participate in a day's trip organised from Wigry (with a transport one way provided by mini bus).
A restored narrow-gauge diesel forest train takes visitors on a trip along the shores of the lake and through the depths of Augustow Forest. The station is in Plociczno, at the southern end of the lake and in the summer the train consists of open-side carriages, in the winter -closed and heated ones. There are several stops where the passengers can disembark and walk to the lake to admire the views. The restaurant near the station in Plociczno has a selection of well amde traditional dishes, a palypark and an old disused engine on which children love to climb. The return trip takes 2.5 hours (including stops). The train runs daily in July and August and in other months when there are at least 15 passengers - call for info on (+48) 087 563 92 63.
Puszcza Augustowska stretches all the way to the town of Augustow 20 miles south and beyond. The whole area is dotted with lakes, crossed with rivers and rich in cultural influence: a bit off the beaten track, and further away than the most popular regions Masurian lakes, but very worth visiting.
"National Park in north-eastern Poland / Address: Krzywe 82, 16-400 Suwałki, Poland / Tel: (+48 87) 563 25 40"