by Karina Sitnik

Want to escape the city into the peace and quiet of idyllic Belarusian countryside? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the first green cycling route in Belarus, typical Norwegian sport which was detected in Volozhin district and places where half a century ago you could have got only by boat. Besides, you will find out how to actively explore the nature by cycling, horse riding, kayaking or walking in bog shoes.

Hiking across the bogs

group of people hiking across the bog

Photo by walktofolk.com

Vitebsk region

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions Belarusian nature? If you ask any local resident about the most distinctive natural landmark of our country, you can be sure that most  will say “the bogs”. Yes, we do love our bogs, and a lot of good tourist infrastructure today is built around the most significant bogs in Belarus. For reference, about 5% of our territory is covered by bogs (60 years ago it used to be as twice as much, the reason it went down being reclamation). With the guys from Walk to Folk tours, you can stroll around the bogs in special “bog shoes”, walk along the eco routes, swim in local peat lakes (a simply incredible experience!) and go on a birdwatching tour. It is best to go to the bogs in Vitebsk region — here you can visit the Yelnya Reserve, which offers 4 routes to the nearest bogs. Summer is a great time to come here, but it is also really nice in late spring and early autumn.

two people are hiking across the bog

Photo by walktofolk.com

Cycling

bicycles at the curb of a rural road

Photo by Karina Sitnik

Minsk Region

If you like to travel on your own, we recommend a route in Minsk region, just 80 kilometers from the capital. Here you can easily get on the train with your bike (if you don’t have one, rent here). Go to Bogdanovo station, enjoy a ride in the hilly Volozhin area, swim in the West Berezina River, and stop at one of the local eco-lodges. We recommend Nalibokskie Vasilki, Hutar Dudara, Zastsenak Skryplevo and Ravnovesie. Learn more about some of them in our article here.

bicycles and a tent in the forest

Photo by Karina Sitnik

The length of the route is 145 km, which starts at Bogdanovo train station and ends at Radoshkovichi train station, which makes your trip from and to Minsk a lot easier. However, there are some details you need to know when you travel by train with a bicycle: in order to carry your bike for free, you need to place it under a cover and make sure that the sum of the three dimensions does not exceed 200 cm. If it does, you will have to buy a separate bike ticket.

Here is the GPS track for whole route. It will help you stay on the route and enjoy the beauty of Volozhin district! Also on this map, you will find all the eco-lodges and other notable places of the area.

Kayaking

two tourists in a kayak in the river

Photo by Karina Sitnik

All regions

The total length of the rivers here is over 90 thousand kilometers, so the trip will definitely be worth your while. If you want to escape the city for a day, go to the eco-lodge Zastsenak Skryplevo, located right on the bank of the West Berezina River, 85 kilometers from Minsk. Here an experienced instructor will show you the vivid Belarusian landscape: villages, forests and fields. This is a good option for a one day tour.

two tourists in a kayak in the river

Photo by Karina Sitnik

If you are looking for a longer adventure, go to Belarusian Palesse. This is a fantastic unique region: the local landscape is one of the main distinctive brands of Belarus. During the flood stage, river water comes up to the thresholds of local houses, meaning that even today some locals cannot operate without a boat! In some villages there were no roads until the second half of the 20th century. The region once attracted Louise Boyd, a famous American explorer who recorded the local ethnography and culture. Now you have the opportunity to look at the villages where the traveller took hundreds of photos in early 20th century. In the eco-lodge Priryatcky Plyos, you can rent kayaks to explore these amazing places from the water.

More kayak tours can be found on the Walk to Folk website: these guys are experienced in the field of active tourism, so they will gladly offer you a tailor-made tour based on your schedule and interests.

Horseback riding

horses and their riders

Photo from vk.com

Minsk and Hrodna regions

Are you ready to race the wind in search of adventure? Victor, the owner of an eco-lodge Gaspardar, which is just 8 kilometers away from Minsk, offers horseback tours in Minsk and Hrodna regions. The eco-lodge also has a school where you can learn to ride a horse, so feel free to contact them if you are new to this. As soon as you are ready, you will immediately want to to go on a longer journey! Horseback riding is an interesting kind of travel, allowing you to feel the life to the full, becoming one with nature. The horse is able to walk over all kinds of rough surfaces, so you will be able to look into spots which are impossible to visit otherwise. Also, the horse is not just a means of travel, but an equal participant with its own thoughts, feelings and needs. Viktor regularly organizes group horseback tours, but if his pre-planned dates are not convenient for you, contact him to arrange an individual tour.

horses and their riders in the forest

Photo from vk.com

Hiking in the forest

a group of people hiking in the forest

Photo by Arina Moroz

Minsk, Vitebsk region

Narachansky National Park is an excellent place for walking in the forest. Here you will find a landscape that is completely unique for Belarus: it is unusually hilly, with steep banks of a rough Stracha river and a whole lot of lakes! There is an ecopath with special markings so you will not get lost! You can either come here for a day or stay for a longer time (for an overnight stay we recommend the eco-lodge Hutar Trabutsishki).

hiking trail in Berezinsky biosphere reserve

Photo by Arina Moroz

Another option for a one-day tour is the Berezinsky biosphere reserve. This territory has the highest protection status in Belarus. Here you can take a walk accompanied only by a guide from the reserve, which is really an advantage. The guide will point out things that you might have missed otherwise, like birds, rare plants and trees. You need to book a tour in advance on their website.

Yoga

people with gathered herbs from the garden

Photo by shantidom.by

Minsk region

Yoga fans have a wealth of options to enjoy the philosophy of environmentally conscious lifestyle in one place. Shanti Dom follows the principles of vegetarianism, environmentally friendly attitude and cooperation with locals. This eco-lodge offers a chance to volunteer if you want to stay a bit  longer, and in summer you can take part in yoga retreats held in English. Today Shanti Dom is run by a team of like-minded people who believe in a happy and harmonious life in touch with nature and oneself. In addition to organizing yoga retreats and hosting WWOOF volunteers, Shanti Dom helps locals from the nearby village: they buy all the products from local farmers and help elderly people to maintain their houses and gardens.

people relax in open air by the fire

Photo by shantidom.by

Skijoring

Minsk Region

Belarus is sort of similar to Scandinavia: we also have cold winters and a multitude of forests and lakes. In Volozhin district you can get a proper Norway-like experience: here in winter you can ride on skis with Alaskan malamute through spacious fields and roads! Just 85 kilometers away from Minsk you will find the estate Zastsenak Skryplevo, which we described here. In winter you will not get bored: Vasil now has two Alaskan malamutes, and one of them is already strong enough to show you the neighborhood!

Snowboarding

Minsk region

ALLRIDE is a community of people united by their love of snowboarding and an active lifestyle. The project started in 2016 and continues to grow. The guys are eager to make snowboarding more popular and accessible in Belarus. If you miss the snowy slopes or just want to know how snowboarding can exist in the country with no mountains, feel free to contact Sasha, the founder of this community. Maybe you will be lucky and your travel schedule will fall on the dates of a tour to the nearest ski resort in Minsk region, or he can organize an individual program for you. ALLRIDE also runs a snowboarding school, so if you have always dreamed of this but have not yet tried standing on the board, maybe your time has come?