At first glance, Belarus may not sound like the most exciting of destinations, but if you look closely there is much to see and do in this landlocked country that counts Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine as neighbours. As over 40% of the country is forest, expect lush vegetation and picturesque countryside, as well as an abundance of local wildlife including rare European bison. You can take a trip back in time at the numerous forts and castles in Belarus, as well as keeping up with the more modern side of things in the buzzing capital city of Minsk.
The capital city of Belarus has a lot to offer visitors. Head to Independence Square which at 7 hectares is one of the largest public squares in all of Europe, and is perfect for an evening stroll to take in the pretty water fountains and dancing lights. Also not to be missed is Independence Avenue that acts as the main artery of the city, and has cafes, restaurants, and shopping opportunitiess, as well as clubs and music events. Minsk is also known for its parks and gardens, so don’t miss a trip to the Gorky Central Children’s Park that features fairground rides as well as an observation wheel that provides stunning views over the city. Dive into Belarusian history at the National History Museum, or take in the cultural sights at the National Art Museum.
2. Braslav Lake Area
If you want to explore what is left of an ancient glacier then a visit to Braslav Lake Area is something that you can’t miss. There are approximately 300 lakes in the region that are known as the ‘Blue Necklace’ of Belarus due to their azure waters. The area is also studded with rugged countryside such as bays and cliffs, and the lakes contain over 30 species of fish. Bird watching is a common pastime here as well as rambling and climbing. You can also see the boulders left over as a result of the glacier, some of which can weigh up to 40 tonnes. The most famous of these rocks have names such as Devil’s Footprint and Cow’s Stone due to their size and shape.
3. Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park covers both Belarus and neighbouring Poland, and is a protected area of land as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is famous for its lush landscapes and flora and fauna, the most notable of which is the European Bison, and is one of the few places in the world where these majestic animals can be viewed in their natural habitat. As well as bison, there are also semi-wild horse known as konik, wild boar, and Eurasian elk found in the park. If you should happen to come here during the winter months, there is a holiday museum that is set up at the park that features the Belarusian version of Father Christmas and is bound to be a hit with younger visitors.
4. Mir Castle
One of the premium attractions in Belarus, Mir Castle lies in the Grodno region and dates from the 16th century. This mighty architectural feat is built in the Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles, and is heavily surrounded by fortification walls. Visitors to the castle can enjoy a stroll in the stunning flower gardens that are designed in the Italian style, as well as the vast artificial lake on the property. The castle offers a spectacular look at some of the best architecture in Belarus, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and although it was badly damaged by cannon fire in the days of old, it has now been lovingly restored to its former glory.
5. Brest Hero Fortress Memorial Complex
A memorial complex erected in the city of Brest that stands on the site of the original fortress, Brest Fortress is dedicated to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The site features conserved parts of the original ruins of the fortress as well as ramparts, and there are also modern art installations including memorial structures that stand on site. The fortress is built in the shape of a star, and there is a central island in the centre on which the main citadel of the fortress sits, that has been naturally carved out by the surrounding Bug River.
6. National Park Pripyatsky
National Park Pripyatsky lies in a valley that is also known as the Belarus Amazon, due to the amazing number of forests and swamps found here. Visitors to the region flock here for the sheer diversity of wildlife present, and photography safaris are a popular activity. There are 51 species of mammals in the park including deer, elk, racoons, and beavers, as well as rarer animals such as lynx and mink. If you like bird watching then you will love it here, as there are over 250 species of birds that migrate to the Pripyat River. The river also offers visitors the chance to take a boat tour to observe the aquatic life up close, and there are fishing and hunting trips available for those who want to explore the park even further. There is also a Nature Museum on site for those who want a more structured tour of the area.
7. Minsk Sea
Found to the north of the capital city of Minsk, the Minsk Sea is actually and artificially created reservoir that is popular amongst locals and tourists alike, particularly in the summer months in Belarus. On the edges of the sea you will find sandy beaches, quaint local cafes, and restaurants where you can sample the local delicacies. If you want to get out on the sea, you can rent a pedalo or even a catamaran and take to the waters for a scenic view of the surrounding countryside. To access the sea there are dedicated trains that depart from Minsk.
Located in the west of Belarus, the city of Lida is the home of Lida Castle, first constructed in the 14th century. The castle is known for being trapezium in shape, as well as for its crimson walls that are the result of the ornate brickwork. Also of interest in Lida is the Church of Saint Joseph, a working church that is instantly recognizable due to the dome that tops the main building, and which was built in the 18th century. There is also a large Jewish community in Lida, and visitors will find a wealth of Jewish eateries and shops, as well as a Jewish memorial stone in memory of the victims of the Second World War.
9. Berestyle Archaeological Museum
Berestyle Archaeological Museum is one of the more unique museums in all of Belarus, and stands on an important archaeological site outside of the city of Brest that dates from the 13th century. The site is that of a former wooden town that was excavated in the 1960s and turned into a museum in the 1980s when a class roof was placed over the site. Visitors to the area can observe 28 traditional log cabins in addition to 1400 period artefacts from the region that give an amazing glimpse of life in Belarus in the days of old.
Known for being the oldest city in Belarus, having first been mentioned in the year 862, Polotsk is a place of significance historical and architectural importance and has a whole host of heritage buildings for visitors to explore. The Cathedral of Saint Sophia dates from the medieval period and was restored over the years in the Baroque style, and there are several cultural museums of note in the city. For those interested in the rich textile industry in Belarus, there is the Museum of Traditional Weaving, as well as the Museum of Belarusian Printing that has examples of works that date from the 16th century. You can also join a walking tour to explore Polotsk on foot and learn more about the history and culture of the region.
Found on the western border of Belarus, come to the city of Grodno in particular for the Kalozha Church, a nominee as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is still in working order and is a place of worship for Orthodox Christians in Belarus, and is said to have been built in the 12th century. The church sits on the banks of a river giving it a romantic waterside feel. Look out for the church’s six circular towers and the exquisite ceramic work in the interior. There are even frescoes said to date back to the 12th century. Other attractions in Grodno include the Old Grodno Castle that is built from local stone and features a stone arch bridge that is still intact.
12. Brest Railway Museum
A quirky and whimsical spot in the town of Brest, located near the south western border of Belarus, the railway museum has fifty-six trains and features steam locomotives, steam cranes, diesel trains, and even a snow plough! The museum opened in 2002 to showcase train travel in Belarus and is the first open-air museum in the country. There are various festivals held at the location so check the listings when you go to see what’s on throughout the year. If you want to do something a little different then this is definitely well worth a visit if you happen to be in Brest.
If you fancy a day trip from Minsk, then head to Dudutki Ethnological Museum Complex to go back in time and take in the history and folklore of Belarus. The museum complex features local handicrafts and offers a glimpse into the local traditions of the people of Belarus. You can learn how ancient horseshoes were made, watch local potters in action, and you can even stay on site at one of the period guesthouses that feature traditional Belarus saunas. Another big draw at the museum complex is the creamery which features traditional cheeses and cheese making techniques that allow you to sample the local fare, and there is a bistro where you can enjoy a typical Belarus meal. As if that wasn’t enough, there are stables, a vintage car museum, and romantic courtyards to explore at your leisure.
The city of Nesvizh is famous for its medieval castle, also known as Nesvizh Castle. The building is a mix of Baroque and Renaissance styles, and was completed in the 17th century. The former home of the Radziwill family, the castle is now open to the public who can explore the building as well as the sprawling gardens that are modelled on traditional English rose gardens. The castle was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, and from there visitors can move on to Corpus Christi Church, one of the oldest Jesuit churches in the world outside of Italy, that houses the tombs of the Radziwill family.
15. Tower of Kamyenets
Also known as the ‘White Tower’, the Tower of Kamyenets is actually red in colour due to its construction from red bricks in the 13th century. The tower stands in the town of Kamyenets and in the past the tower was one of several located across Belarus, including in Kamyenets, Brest, and Grodno. Unfortunately, all of these were destroyed during various wars, and now only one remains. Aside from visiting the tower which is a historic site in Belarus, visitors can also stop by a branch of the Brest Regional Museum that is also located on site. (thecrazytourist)