From the shady recesses of the canopy shrouded, primordial forest floor of Białowieski in the east, to the oscillating, Baltic sand dunes ofSłowiński in the north, and the soaring Orava Beskids, the little brother of the snow-capped Tatras that straddle the Poland-Slovak border in the south, in all Poland has 23 national parks, many of which have also been designated UNESCO world biosphere reserve areas, securing their position as some of the world's most fascinating and unique natural habitats.
Since 1933, when the Polish government created the country's first national park, the Biebrzański Park Narodowy (The Biebrza National Park), a vast area of marshlands, and low land forests in the country's north east corner, that still remains Poland's largest national natural reserve, the designation of 'national park' status has steadily increased. Now, there are natural reserves in every corner of Poland, where conservation efforts are being focused to ensure a sustainable future for the diverse natural wealth of this undeniably beautiful country. Let's take a look at some of them
Tatrzański Park Narodowy (Tatras National Park)
Some of Poland's national parks are better known than others. The Tatra Mountains in the south are hailed throughout the country as home to some of Europe's cheapest skiing, and amongst the best slopes in the north east of the continent. It's capital, Zakopane, has gathered the epithet of Poland's 'winter capital', to account for the vast numbers of snow hungry Warsavians and Cracowians that flock south to enjoy the winter slopes. Divided into two parts the Tatry Zachodnie (western) and Tatry Wysokie (high), this park is littered with natural wonders. The famous Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea), is a deep and awe-inspiring mountain lake that, legend has it, was connected to the sea by underground tunnels, it is presided over by the even higher Czarny Staw pod Rysami (The Black Lake under Rysy), an equally as impressive mountain lake nestled on a plateau in the high Polish Tatras.
Babiogórski Park Narodowy (Babia Góra National Park)
Babia Góra literally means 'witches mountain'. The dark and brooding epithet now attributed to these southern Carpathian peaks comes from a folkloric legend that describes how the Babiogórski national park was a meeting place for witches and black magicians from the surrounding area. But, if you can get past its dark past, the sporadically fir clad hills of the low Carpathians, the roaming ground of the wild lynx and wolf, are immensely beautiful. The diverse natural wonders found here, meant that the Babiogórski Park Narodowy, was among the first ever areas to be designated an biosphere reservation by UNESCO.
Białowieża (Białowieża Forest)
This vast, dense area of woodland that extends through eastern Poland and into Belarus, is one of the world's last remaining examples of primordial forestry. This means it's home to woodland that has been untouched for a significant period of time - in this case centuries - and is capable of supporting flora and fauna that will not survive in other, less well developed, forested areas. One prime example is the park's indigenous population of żubr, or European Bison; estimated at around 800, it's Europe’s largest remaining population of wild bison and one of the few places that the animal can be observed in its natural habitat.
Karkonoski Park Narodowy (Karkonoski National Park)
In the south west of Poland, in the area of Lower Silesia, the Karkonoski mountains form the highest peaks in the Sudetes Mountain range that stretch westward in the Czech Republic. The park is riddled with dramatic waterfalls and peat bogs, but for the most part is covered in thick forest that clads the sides of the rising peaks. It's also one of Europe’s largest UNESCO designated biosphere reserves.