Set in the heart of Europe, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, Poland has become a byword for courage and resilience. The country was once part of the mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, renowned for its religious tolerance, but fell prey to more powerful neighbors and was actually wiped off the map for more than 100 years, partitioned between the Prussian, Russian and Austrian empires. The reconstitution of the nation in 1918 was by no means the end of Poland’s troubles: it was barely twenty years before the Nazis invaded the country, precipitating the Second World War. Occupied Poland lost one in five of her citizens over the course of the war, including nearly 90% of her once-thriving Jewish population, who died of hunger and disease in squalid ghettos and concentration camps, or was massacred by the Nazis in the gas chambers. When the people of the capital Warsaw rose up against their oppressors, the Nazis razed the city to the ground. Further repression by the USSR followed the war. Yet phoenix-like Poland has emerged from the centuries of suffering as a strong, versatile modern nation, full of vibrant cities and beautiful natural environments, and with one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe.
Discover Poland’s culture, history, and exquisite scenery as you travel through some of the country’s most memorable towns and rural areas. Visit Warsaw, risen triumphantly from its own ashes and full of parks, museums and distinctive buildings in styles ancient and modern. Explore beautiful Kraków, the country’s historic capital, where the golden age of Poland lives on in the vast Rynek marketplace and venerable Wawel Castle. There’s Gda?sk with its Baltic beaches, Toru? the birthplace of both Copernicus and Poland’s best gingerbread, and Wroc?aw, the city of bridges, gnomes, and nightclubs. And that’s before you strike out into the Polish countryside, where 40% of the nation’s population still lives. For an immersive experience amid time-defying landscapes, head south to the Tatra Mountains, snow-capped and skiable, or north to the wild tranquility and abundant birdlife of the Great Masurian Lake District.