In the summer of 2017 I was traveling in southern Poland to explore the Tatra Mountains. So we had only seen the airport of Krakow because we wanted to experience some adventures in nature. Just after a 2 hour drive from Krakow you get into the (relatively unknown) middle mountains that are located on the border of Poland and Slovakia. We had no intention of visiting a desert in Poland at the time.
After a few big walks and a storm at the top of the Giewont we needed something quieter. Apparently, many Poles have also free time in the last 10 days of July, and the Tatra Mountains appear to be a very popular holiday destination for the average Pool. As a result, there were sometimes too many people to enjoy nature and views 100%. This is probably better during other periods.
After the shower on the Giewont we decided to go back to Krakow and visit some smaller nature parks. During our search for nice places we suddenly read something about the Błędów desert. “A desert in Poland? That’s where we’re going!”
The Błędów desert is the largest mass of sand in Central Europe (the coasts not included of course). The sand ended up there thousands of years ago through a glacier. In the end, this did not remain desert but became a forest, but deforestation caused groundwater levels to collapse so dramatically that nothing could grow for a long time. Over time, groundwater levels were eventually able to recover, and everything became forest again. In 2013, Polish nature management began to clean a piece of 32 km² (the desert area was once 150 km² in size) and thus a small “desert” was created that can now be visited.
When you are there
In the parking lot you look out from the height on the desert. It’s a strange sight to see a giant bald spot in the middle of a forest (the desert actually consists of 2 pieces, so I only looked out at one half). When I was there, they were still busy building hiking trails. So our choice was quite limited and a simple loop walk wasn’t even there at the time. I’ve done some research and seen that a lot of paths have already been added. Loop walks are perfect to do these days.
You can walk in the desert and in the woods around it. There is little height difference but the sand can make walking a little more difficult. Here and there there are some covered picnic huts and benches, but we didn’t see many people that day (the weather was also rather rainy, especially for a desert). Everything is well designated and you regularly come across a large sign with the routes on.
What I remember most of the walk is that you could see how the forest was taking back the desert. Many small pine trees grow at the transition between desert and pine forest. If those trees are already a bit older, you can see that the soil beneath those pines is already much more fertile. Without human intervention, it’s only a matter of time before everything would turn back into forest.
If you go to the south of Poland, a visit to the Błędów desert is definitely recommended. It is easy to combine with a visit to Krakow, which is only 50 km from the desert. The Tatra Mountains are certainly also worth visiting, but not during the second half of July. Another plus is that Poland is an interesting destination if your travel budget is rather limited.
Are you an hiker yourself? Then this post about three nice walks in the Ardennes might also interest you.