Mazury and the Mazurian Lakes

The Mazury (Masuria) region in northeastern Poland is home to the famous Masurian Lake district, a tighly-knit net of over 2.000 lakes. The area is famous for water-sports such as kayaking and sailing, as well as While the major lakes Śniardwy and Mamry see a vast amount of tourists in summer, many of the smaller lakes are not too crowded.

The Mazurian Lakes

The heart of Mazury lies in the vast expanse of lakes, rivers and forests to the north and east of Olsztyn, a land of tiny villages and unspoilt nature. It’s paradise for hikers, and offers perfect conditions for sailing and kayaking. Because of the absence of large towns, Mazury can be tricky to explore if you don’t have your own wheels. In summer, the biggest lakes – Mamry and Śniardwy – attract the biggest crowds. One option is to base yourself in the lakeside village of Mikolajki, from where you can set off into the countryside or onto surrounding lakes – the smaller ones will inevitably be quieter: as a general rule, tranquillity increases as you travel east.

Buses from Olsztyn run to Mikolajki six times a day. The tourist office is on pl. Wolnosci (April–June & Sept Sat & Sun 10am–6pm; July & Aug daily 10am–6pm; t 87/421 6850). There’s no shortage of accommodation in the village itself, although some guesthouses are only open in the summer. You’ll find dozens of small pensjons on ul. Kajki running eastward along the lakefront; try Krol Sielaw at no.5 (t 87/421 6323, w; 150zł), a friendly place with en suites above a popular pizzeria. A number of bars and inexpensive restaurants pop up in the summer along the waterfront, and you can get fresh bread and tasty pastries at Cukiernia on ul. 3 Maja.

Kayaking in Mazury

Known as the “land of a thousand lakes”, Mazury is one of the best kayaking spots in Europe. The hundreds of kilometres of signposted trails can keep you paddling for days, through sun-dappled forests and lakes filled with swans. The best known is the Krutynia Trail, which begins near the village of Sorkwity and ends 115km later in the town of Ruciana-Nida. A number of companies rent kayaks and canoes; the English-speaking AS Tour (89/742 1430, rents boats from 20zł per day, and offers a pick-up and drop-off service. Stay at campsites scattered along the kayak trails, or in village guesthouses en route – the tourist office can help with this.


The main town in the Mazury region, Olsztyn is first and foremost a transport hub and a handy springboard for forays into the countryside. You probably won’t want to linger too long here, but the historical centre is picturesque and there are enough sights to keep visitors entertained for a day or two.

Olsztyn’s most distinctive landmark is the Wysoka Brama (High Gate) at the entrance to the old town on ul. Staromiejska, an imposing red-brick edifice from the fourteenth century that was once part of the city walls and has served as an armoury and a prison. Olsztyn was once home to Nicolaus Copernicus, and you can see one of his sun dials embedded in the walls of the castle on ul. Zamkowa, now the town’s historical museum (Tues–Sun: June–Aug 9am–5pm; Sept–May 10am–4pm; 9zł). At the eastern edge of the old town stands the elegant Gothic St Jacob’s Cathedral, in which Napoleon’s troops once imprisoned 1500 Russian soldiers – the prisoners burnt most of the cathedral’s original wooden furnishings to keep warm.

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updated 22.07.2021

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