Underrated but increasingly popular, Poland provides a huge amount for travellers of all stripes and from the stunning old towns of Krakow, Zamość, Gdańsk and Wroclaw to the wilderness of the Białowieża National Park with its ubiquitous buffalos and epic vistas. Poland has long been a nation steeped in tradition and history, although the past 20 years have witnessed such dizzying economic development that the country is starting to feel more and more like the West. If you’re partial to good home cooking, the way your grandmother used to make it, you’ve come to the right place.
Polish food is based largely on local ingredients like pork, cabbage, mushrooms, beetroot and onion, combined simply and honed to perfection. Regional specialities like duck, goose and trout keep things from getting dull. As for sweets, it’s hard to imagine a more accommodating destination. Cream cakes, apple strudel, pancakes, fruit-filled dumplings and a special mania for lody (ice cream) may have you skipping the main course and jumping straight to the main event.
Away from the big cities, much of Poland feels remote and unspoiled. While large swathes of the country are flat, the southern border is lined with a chain of low-lying but lovely mountains that invite days, if not weeks, of splendid solitude. Well-marked hiking paths criss-cross the country, taking you through dense forest, along broad rivers and through mountain passes. Much of the northeast is covered by interlinked lakes and waterways ideal for kayaking and canoeing – no experience necessary. Local outfitters are happy to set you up for a couple of hours or weeks.