How is it to cycle Poland? Have you been there? I see foreign people asking more and more often. Where to go, where to sleep, is it ok to wild camp? More questions arise.
Poland has never been a top tourist destination and is not a number 1 place to go cycling, but believe me, it offers a lot. I’ve been exploring Poland on a bicycle for more than 30 years. I know it quite well (even though not all over). The biggest obstacle is that information other than in Polish is simply difficult to find, so let me give you some tips on cycling Poland. Where to go and where to stay, where to cycle in Poland. Plus some practical tips. Hope you’ll find it useful and visit.
WHERE TO GO?
Poland is located in the very heart of Europe (so it’s still Central Europe with some eastern feeling). There’s more than 300 km of the Baltic sea coast in the north, vast area of lakes below the coast and in the north-east, low and high peak mountains in the south. All in between is a lowland that comprises around 70% of territory. So there is a big diversity of landscape and one can choose according to the liking and power in your legs 🙂
My favourite areas to cycle are:
- the east in general, from the Lithuania and Suwalki region along the eastern border with Belarus and Ukraine to the south. To me it is where the time stands still, it’s quiet, calm, simply beautiful.. lots of forests and meadows, lots of wooden architecture. The people there speak with and eastern accent and do not rush anywhere. Take time to talk to the stranger.
- Lakes areas – not just Masuria lakes which tends to be touristy, but Western Pomerania. Lakes and forests, yeah! The second region is also is investing a lot in good quality cycling roads, another reason to go and try.
- The mountains
especially Beskidy and lower Bieszczady. Yes you will be tired, but the views! It is there that you can find absolutely stunning examples or wooden architecture, recently 16 of wooden churches / tserkvas, both in Poland and Ukraine, has been designated as UNESCO world heritage – https://culture.pl/en/article/polands-most-beautiful-wooden-prayer-houses. Google more if interested. Visit the sites of wooden architecture in Malopolska region http://www.drewniana.malopolska.pl/ or Podkarpackie Province https://sad.podkarpackie.travel/en
- The Baltic sea coast is a place to go, but off season to me as it’s flooded with people, noisy, just unbearable. As for the cycling infrastructure though, the path along the coast is very well developed especially in Western Pomerania. The part in Pomorskie region (closer to Gdańsk) has still a lot to work on.
Having said that I’ve just spent 3 days cycling the Baltic sea on Mierzeja Wiślana and it was pretty enjoyable, as the path goes through the forest, sometimes close to the sea and despite the parts where it was crossing the resorts areas really quiet.
The least attractive I find the central Poland, my homeland.. but that’s personal.
As for the architecture due to the Polish history and the fact that it’s borders has been moved after 1945 the architecture in the west and north, north-east and south-west (ex-Germany, Prussia) it’s totally different. I call it “red brick” architecture, while the eastern and local one would be originally mostly wooden structures to be found in the east and in the south, south –east. I find it interesting and worth paying attention to.
Where to go if you prefer designated cycling paths
The network of bicycle roads and trails has been developing the last years but do not expect Poland (at least not all) to be at a high standards of Germany or Austria. The regions that take cyclists seriously and invest into cycling infrastructure are Malopolska (Lesser Poland in the south with main city Cracow) and Western Pomerania (neighbouring Germany and the Baltic seaside). I’ve explored them quite a bit – here are more detailed desriptions of the Old Railway trail in Western Pomerania, the Lakes route there and Vistula cycling path in Lesser Poland – east and west side of Cracow.
2. CYCLING PATHS AND TRAILS IN POLAND
where I wanted to hop on the Parenzana cycle route
There are 6 Eurovelo routes are crossing Poland: EV2, EV4, EV9, EV10, EV11 and EV13.
Thing is, you will find just parts of them signed, mostly are just planned :(. Yes, that’s disappointing.
I’ve never bothered to follow them, but came across quite a few. Here is a list of them with some comments.
- EV2 ( Route of the Capitals – in the Polish section from the border with Germany, through Poznań, Warsaw to the border with Belarus); route at planning stage only.
- EV4 (From France to Ukraine – in Poland from the border with the Czech Republic, through Krakow, Rzeszow to the border with Ukraine); in Malopolska/Lesser Poland EuroVelo4 is marked as VeloMetropolis/WTR (not EV4) and there is no target passability at the entrances to Krakow. It is partly marked in Silesia region, too.
- EV9 (From the Baltic to the Adriatic – in Poland from Gdansk, through Poznan, Wroclaw, to the border with the Czech Republic); it is signed well from Poznań south and is being signed in the north, Pomeranian region.
- EV10 (Route around the Baltic – in Poland from the border with Germany, through Swinoujscie, Gdansk. To the border with the Kaliningrad Oblast); it is pretty well signed in both Western Pomerania and Pomerania regions together with EV 13
- EV11 (Eastern European Route – in Poland from the border with Lithuania, through Warsaw, Kraków to the border with Slovakia).
- EV13 – Iron Curtain Route – in Poland coincides with the route along the Baltic Sea; it is pretty well signed in both Western Pomerania and Pomerania regions together with EV 13
Here a link to Eurovelo routes in Poland https://en.eurovelo.com/poland
Recommended bike routes in Poland
that was the “hit” of the last years The East of Poland Cycling Trail Green Velo, with a length of nearly 2000 km, is the longest cycling route in Poland. The plan was good, but unfortunately the implementation in different regions differs a lot. It can be a separate path or it can be cycling on hardly passable roads or with the cars. It skips some ery interesting places and areas, too (who knows why?) Nevertheless, the region is absolutely worth visiting and the route and the app might help you in planning.
Western Lakes route, Old Railway route, along the Baltic sea route – just go to https://rowery.wzp.pl/en and/or download and app!
Malopolska (Lesser Poland) region
– here you have plenty of choice, but Vistula Cycling route, Velo Dunajec (Top 3 in Poland) and Around the Tatra mountains are the best choices. The website is also well prepared and updated. https://narowery.visitmalopolska.pl/en_GB/
There are many other, shorter trails. Sometimes you will see a cycling sign on a tree by the road – these are local trails, following roads with smaller traffic, but the quality of the surface may is a guesswork.
There is a new project to bring toghether all the maps in Poland and it’s called Velopmapa.pl – still in Polish though, but good initiative.
In general when cycling just use backroads, there are plenty.
DO NOT CYCLE on national highways (two digit numbers like 16 etc.). Yes, it is allowed, but super dangerous and not nice, as they tend not to have a shoulder and with so many cars and trucks passing by it’s not much about bicycle touring.
3. WHERE TO STAY?
Hotels / Agritourism (Agrotourism/ guesthouses/ Rooms to rent
Let’s start with agritourism, as hotels are self-explanatory. Agroturystyka usually means accommodation somewhere in the countryside and close to nature, usually simple but you can find more posh and luxury options, with a breakfast or full board etc. In some countries like Italy staying in agrotourism is really expensive, in Poland, even though in 2022 the prices went up a lot but I would say you can still find a place for as little as 40/50 PLN (up to 10 EUR), but more common will be now from 80 PLN/person and more.
Rooms to rent (ROOMS FOR RENT in Polish) tend to operate just in the season in the most touristy areas like the seaside / lakes / mountains.
How to book? Well, you will find most on booking.com or AIRBNB. Typically Polish site is www.nocowanie.pl, where I guess there are cheaper places, but it’s just in Polish (again!).
If you don’t mind asking at the last moment you can do it when passing by – usually can negotiate a better price, too.
Campsites / campgrounds (in Polish: Camping / campsite)
There not as many as in the western Europe but there are between 300-400 operating campsites in Poland. Usually in the season (mid June – mid September) but some are open year-round.
The Polish Federation of Camping and Caravaning associates the campsites in Poland (not all though). It checks them though regularly and keeps a track of it. Their page is so old-fashioned and has no English version L, so let me give you the link to the map where you can search by the region (voivodship).
You can use this map of Caravaning.pl https://polskicaravaning.pl/kempingilooks a bit better:
or simply google “camping” on the google maps.
Worth noting that the simplest version of Camping is in Poland called “pole namiotowe” – means “tent field”. Usually there are just some basic toilets/showers and not much there, but the price is usually low – 4-6 EUR.
How much does a camping cost in Poland? The price for a regular camping for a person and a tent would start from 30/35 PLN – 50-60 PLN (7-13 EUR). Nothing like a crazy 20 – 30 EUR.
Stealth / wild camping in Poland – legal/not legal?
My favourite. Those who have had a wake-up call after a night out in nature know that it’s priceless memories, a quality night’s sleep and mostly a stunning view in the morning.
Quite recently to my surprise I’ve read some info about young long-distance bike travellers that were crossing Poland and found it hard to wild camp, because they claimed that “wild camping is illegal in Poland”. My eyes opened wide as I do not know many countries, and I’ve crossed 50 or more on my bicycle, that is as little problematic when it comes to wild camp as Poland. Most probably the law is about campers and cars, but hey, we are on a bicycle and assuming that one sets up a tent just overnight, behave and leaves no trace it’s simply widely accepted.
You can also pitch a tent “in the wild.” However, remember that camping is prohibited in nature reserves and national parks. You should also not trespass on private property without permission
Wild camping in the forest – legal (in some places)
Here comes the great news! It’s been just since 2020 that the State Forests have launched a program allowing people to stay legally at designated areas in the forest! You can stay overnight at designated locations even without reporting it to the State Forest/ Forestry Commission, provided that no more than 9 people will stay overnight at a given location and/or the stay will last no longer than 2 nights.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I’ve tried it in a few locations already and sometimes you can have a great forest clearing with some shelter to use, sometimes it’s basically nothing..
The best is to use a website www.czaswlas.pl– once you see a map click on a tent icon – the red areas are free to camp, the tent icons show bivouac places.
Other useful websites or maps for camping
Staying at/close to the shelters has been my favourite in South Korea, recently there has been many built in Poland too. The most useful recently has been the map of wooden shelters (called wiata in Polish) www.wiating.eu. You can click on to see how it works. It was meant to show the shelters and huts mostly in the mountains, but it grew to a all over Europe base.
Well, there might be people there of course, drinking parties at night (weekends), but I tend to check them, too. Very useful.
GROUP YOU ARE GOING TO BE AWAY app (Bivouac group)
– it’s in Polish, too but the icons do the job. It comprises both payable and free places good to camp – campsites, tent fields, shelters, parkings and other spots. I check it regularly.
Asking a local farmer for a campground on their pastures is always a good idea.
Last but not least – Warmshowers or Coachsurfing
The Polish are pretty active there (but I’ve done it maybe 3 times – wild camping is easy!.
Tip from myself:
Whenever I pass countryside there are often newly built playgrounds with some fitness areas, there’s usually a shelter etc. Not to mention a community center building (called Świetlica village in Polish). These are public areas and unless they are just by the busy road I find them really useful and good for overnight stay. I usually go to ask at the closest building if it’s ok to put up a tent there and usually the people say “I do not know, why not, if you are not scared..”. Sometimes if it’s really late I might not even ask.
OTHER USEFUL INFO
Taking a bicycle on a train
Good news! Bikes are allowed on most trains in Poland, but it might be tricky.
There are long distance trains (EIC/IC/TLK) that require obligatory booking a space together with your ticket (price is 9,10 PLN – 2,5 EUR). In the season they might be pretty much booked up. Usually you are not allowed to take a bicycle on a night train, but it in some cases there is a space for bikes. Novelty to me. You can check the timetable and if the train takes the bicycles here https://rozklad-pkp.pl/en. Tick the bicycles box first.
Taking on a regional train is maybe easier, but there are many regional train companies and they have their own rules and it’s hard for us, Poles to understand them so I am not capable of doing that. Usually though it’s much easier to take a bicycle on a regional train – there are racks for bicycles or a luggage space. I prefer those as I do not have to take the bags off the bicycle. Sometimes the trains will be brand new, sometimes old style with uncomfortable stairs – hard to say. Usually you have to pay for a bicycle, but some regions like my favourite local Masovia region take bicycle for free.
Bicycles are usually not allowed on any buses or coaches, but free market, you know… Just talk to the driver 🙂
That was a lot of info, but I hope all the info helps you to plan your cycling trip to Poland. If there’s anything missing here please let me know.
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