The Great Bieszczady Loop
One of our flagship export products is Polish Golden Autumn. This is the time, usually beginning in the second week of October when nature begins to prepare for winter and the leaves on the trees acquire fascinating colors from gold to purple. It is also definitely the best time to drop everything and go to the Bieszczady Mountains, and as you know, it is best to do it behind the wheel of one of the modern and safe cars from PANEK Rent a Car.
Almost 130 kilometers long, the road called the “Great Bieszczady Loop” is one of the most beautiful routes in Poland. The asphalt thread winding among romantic meadows connects places that many of us know only from postcards. The road was built in the 1960s at the request of the then government to make life easier for residents and enable them to get from previously inaccessible places to larger cities in the region. The “Great Bieszczady Loop” begins in Lesko, and its course is marked by national roads No. 893, 897, 896, 895, and 84 again to Lesko. From Warsaw, the journey to Bieszczady should take about 6 hours, from Krakow – 3, and from Rzeszów – only one hour and forty minutes.
Lesko – “Gate of the Bieszczady Mountains”
Located on the right bank of the San Lesko River, it is often called the “Gate of the Bieszczady Mountains”. The settlement was probably founded in the fourteenth century by the Kmita family, who erected a castle in this place received city rights in 1470. Today, in the city, you can admire the Town Hall from the mid-nineteenth century and the seventeenth-century tenement houses surrounding the Market Square. In the near distance, there is the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from 1539. The most valuable monuments of the city, however, are related to the Jewish community, which was practically entirely murdered during the Second World War. The evidence of its presence in the city is the late Renaissance synagogue and one of the most valuable Jewish cemeteries in Poland, the oldest in the country after the Lublin Jewish cemetery.
Baligród – a village with a tank
Driving about 20 km south of Lesko we come across the village of Baligród. Its origins date back to the beginning of the 17th century when the Bal family established a settlement there. The town, lying on the former trade route, quickly gained in importance, and in 1634 it received city rights from King Władysław IV. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city would lose its importance and eventually became a village again in 1915. The biggest attractions of Baligród include a brick church from the second half of the 19th century, an Orthodox church from 1829, and the remains of the earth fortifications of the Balów castle. It is also worth mentioning the monument to the tank standing in the very center of the town. Originally it was a T-70 tank, the crew of which took part in the battles with the Ukrainian UPA. Since it was the only one in Poland that was practically in perfect condition, it was moved to a museum in Poznań, and its place was taken by the Soviet T-34 tank.
Cisna – a health resort in the center of the Bieszczady Mountains
17 kilometers from Baligród, further south, we reach the village of Ciana, located in the heart of the Bieszczady Mountains! It is situated on the Solinka River and is an excellent starting point for hiking in the High Bieszczady Mountains. The history of the village dates back to the 16th century, and one of its owners was the father of Aleksander Fredro – a great Polish writer. Since Cisna has had the status of a health resort since 1974, there is a good accommodation and catering base here. One of the attractions is the “Siekierezada” Bar – a special place where you can not only eat well. On the first floor of the building, there is a gallery where you can admire the works of local artists and even buy some exhibits. There is also the Bieszczady Forest Railway station in Cisna, from the windows of which you can admire beautiful views of wild nature.
Wetlina the unspoiled face of the mountains
The village is today one of the main local bases for tourists who want to visit the virgin Bieszczady. The majestic Połonina Wetlińska and Smerek dominate the village. Both peaks are absolutely obligatory points on the map of every hiker visiting the Bieszczady Mountains. It is here that the Bieszczady National Park begins – one of the last truly wild corners of Poland. It is best to visit this place in autumn, when nature plays its majestic, magical spectacle.
Ustrzyki Dolne – the winter capital of Podkarpacie
The city located on the route of the “Great Bieszczady Loop” is often called the “Winter Capital of Subcarpathia” due to its location and attractions. There is a thriving ski resort here, and the rich accommodation base encourages you to stay here, even for the weekend. One of the most interesting attractions for tourists coming to Ustrzyki with their whole families is the complex of indoor and outdoor swimming pools and saunas, where it is worth regenerating after hiking. Ustrzyki Dolne is an extremely picturesque and historic town that is worth visiting while in Podkarpacie. The absence of onerous industry over the years and the surrounding forests give this area a unique tourist value. In Ustrzyki Dolne, there are also several historic buildings. Among many of them, we can mention the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Rudecka, Queen of Bieszczady, as well as the neo-Gothic church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland, erected in 1908-1909. Noteworthy is also the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, erected in 1847, which once served as a Roman Catholic church. A special attraction, also for younger tourists, will be the Museum of Milling and the Village. The mill in Ustrzyki Dolne was established in 1925 and was intended primarily for the production of white flour, which at that time was much more expensive than the commonly used wholemeal flour. This building survived the war in good condition, and the most valuable exhibit of the museum is one of the oldest in Europe, a roller crusher.
Polańczyk and Lake Solińskie – Polish Croatia
In the middle of the Bieszczady loop there is Solińskie Lake, the largest artificial water reservoir in Poland and at the same time a place where you can completely forget yourself. In summer, the emerald water flowing into the lush green coves creates an idyllic landscape of mountain paradise, while in autumn the panorama shimmers with all the shades of pastels, leaving everyone who finds this place quietly amazed. However, this was not always the case. Even in the first half of the 1960s, there was a valley of the lazily flowing San River and a few small villages in this place. The then authorities decided to use the potential of the river, erected a dam with a hydroelectric power plant, which supplied electricity to the entire Bieszczady region. A side effect is, of course, the lake, which today is one of the region’s greatest attractions. You can successfully practice water sports here and enjoy the benefits of recreation centers. We recommend that you just sit down and lose yourself in this amazing view. The autumn sunrises that peek out from behind the misty peaks nowhere look the same as on Lake Solina.
The attractions presented in the text are only a part of what you will encounter when visiting the Bieszczady Mountains. It is worth coming here for a longer time to learn about the history of the Jewish, Lemko and Boyko people who lived here years ago. It is worth going on foot, following the trail of Orthodox, wooden churches, as well as getting away from reality and GSM connection for a moment. You can get there, in comfortable and safe cars from PANEK Rent a Car.