Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Polish: Puszcza Białowieska) is a primeval forest which straddles the Polish/Belarusian border. The Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park covers the Belarusian part of the forest. Mammals such as Bison, Wild Boar, Elk and Wild Horses inhabit the forest, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 (extended in 1992).
The Belaya Vezha Forest (Puszcza) has been known as a protected area since the 15th century when the Grand Dukes of Lithuania turned it into their hunting resort. The Polish kings who took over the forest continued the exploitation of the forest resources conducting particularly large-scale hunting tours. They also established factories that produced tar and tar oil.
Logging started in the late 16th century and at the same time royal edicts were issued aiming to preserve the population of bison (zubr) and other species. In 1795 Katherine the Great allowed hunting of all animals except for zubr and very soon the population of many species decreased while bears and beavers were totally exterminated. Bialowieza Puszcza was divided into areas that were given to high-ranking Russian officials. A devastating fire of 1811 and the Russian-French War of 1812 affected the forest, too.
In 1888 Bialowieza Puszcza became a property of the Tsar Family and hunting activities were stepped up. A hunting palace was built in Bialowieza Town (nowadays a Polish territory).
During the First World War the German occupants established several timber works to cut precious types of trees and built about 300 km of narrow-gauge railroad to facilitate the logging. As a result, 4.5 million m³ of trees were transported to Germany - about the same volume as had been produced in the forest since the 16th century.
In 1939 the Soviet authorities that took over Western Belarus established a State Reserve. The second German occupation during World War II didn't harm the forest much because Hermann Goering, a close associate of Hitler, wanted to turn it into a model hunting reserve of the Third Reich.
After World War II the new Soviet-Polish border divided the Bialowieza Puszcza into Polish and Belarusian parts. The latter was converted into a hunting reserve for the top ranks of the Communist Party in 1957. The secrecy kept the wide masses away and contributed to the development of the flora and fauna. Guest infrastructure was built and developed over the years.
In 1991 the Hunting Reserve was reorganized into the State National Park Belovezhskaya Puschcha. A year later it was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The deep forest is similar to that which covered most of central Europe until the 14th century.
Flora and fauna
Mammals such as Bison, Wild Boar, Elk and Wild Horses inhabit the forest. The forest is also known for its ancient oak trees, some over 600 cm in trunk diameter and thought to be over 450 years old.
Visa-free entry from Poland
Visitors from most countries need a visa to enter Belarus. However as of June 2015, the Belarusian government allows foreign visitors into the park visa-free for three days. You should pre-book a tour, fill in an online form and enter through the 1 Pererov-Belovezha border checkpoint.
Shuttle buses Brest - Kamenets - Kameniuky
Departure from Brest 7:00, 12:30, 17:00 (minibus) 8:00, 14:30 (bus)
Departure from Kameniuky 08:20, 14:10, 18:50 (minibus) 06:20, 10:00, 16:15 (bus) Bus station inquiry: 114 (Russian speaking only)
From Brest – take Brest-Kameniuky Highway (Р83) – 65 km.
From Minsk – take Minsk-Brest (M1) Highway till the turn to Zhabinka Town (P7) and then turn to Kamenets and on to Kameniuky Village (P83) – around 380 km.
From Minsk – take Minsk-Brest (M1) Highway till the turn to Slonim Town (P21) and then turn to Kamenets and on to Kameniuky Village (P83) – around 380 km.
Fees and permits
The National Park Headquarters at Kamieniuki has a zoo and a museum.
There is a hotel at the National Park Headquarters at Kamieniuki