Situated north of the Szczecin Lagoon, Usedom Island has been divided between Poland and Germany since 1945. It is the second biggest Pomeranian island after Rügen, and it boasts an incredibly rich history. The first settlements date back to the Stone Age, when the area was inhabited by Germanic tribes. Archeologists found 11 graves from that time period, as well as over 100 villages form the Bronze Age. If ancient history is not your gem, don’t worry. You can simply relax on the 42km-long beach.
Dunajec River Gorge
Those seeking more adventurous activities should head to the Pieniny Mountains in the south of Poland. The Dunajec Gorge is known for its unique geological and geomorphological structures. Visitors can enjoy the views from wooden rafts operated by local tour guides. The route, which starts in Szczawnica, is 18km long, and the trip takes around two to three hours. If “untouched by a human hand” does not give you the thrill, you may want to check out the ruins of medieval castles that populate this area. Definitely worth visiting are the ones in Nowy Sącz, Niedzica, and Czorsztyn.
If your heart just skipped a beat on the mention of a castle, Książ Castle, the third biggest in Poland (after Malbork and Wawel) will surely tick all of your boxes. Built in 1288-1292 under Bolko I the Strict, the building was seized in 1944 and occupied by the Nazis until 1945, when it was taken over by the Red Army. The castle was a part of the Nazis’ Project Riese. Currently, only a small portion is open to the public, but what is on display gives a good overview of the history of the Silesia region.
Located 30 kilometers southwest of Krakow, Lanckorona used to offer escape for painters, writers, and artists who were looking for inspiration outside of the city. Its beautiful and well-preserved 19th-century wooden houses, picturesque surroundings, and ruins of Lanckorona Castle till this day attract tourists in need of a dreamy and calm atmosphere to recharge away from the city’s chaos.
Located in northern Poland, Toruń boasts one of the largest and best preserved Gothic Old Towns in the country. The architecture reflects the city’s once high status and its position as one of the leading trade centers in the Middle Ages. Toruń is also the birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus, who proved that Earth was revolving around the Sun. Those who get hungry after walking along the fortifications or up and down the keep towers should grab a piece of traditional gingerbread.
This Baroque-style Łańcut Castle is one of the most beautiful aristocratic residences in the country, and its interiors will surely make you feel like a time traveler. The palace is surrounded by a picturesque park in the English style that also includes pavilions and farm buildings, which give visitors a better idea of the daily life in the residence. Also worth visiting are the Orthodox Art gallery, stables, couch house, and orchid greenhouse.
An absolute must-visit for all history buffs, Biskupin is an archeological site and a life-size model of an Iron Age fortified settlement in Poland. If you want to learn how people lived in 800–650 BC, definitely add it to your itinerary.