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Warminsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is one of the 16 voivodeships contributing to Poland's territory. The province is located in the northern part of the country, aiding in creating a state border with the Russian province Kaliningrad. A shoreline serves as part of the northern border, as the voivodeship has access to the Baltic Sea. The rest of the borders are shared with the provinces of Podlaskie to the east, Mazowieckie to the south, Kujawsko-Pomorskie to the southwest, and Pomorskie to the west. The land of the Warminsko-Mazurskie Province is mostly of flat and lowland character. Numerous lakes are located in the territory, including Poland's largest lake, Śniardwy. The forests and nature of the province are relatively well-preserved, contributing to the high air quality in the environment. The region's capital city, Olsztyn, is located in the central part of the voivodeship and belongs among the largest agglomerations in the territory. Historically, the area was for centuries under the rule of the Teutonic Order and later Prussia. Various castles and other historic landmarks from that era are spread across the province and attract a number of tourists every year. However, presumably, the most significant attraction is the untouched nature and wide offer of water attractions.
Warminsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is presumably most visited for its well-preserved nature and numerous lakes. Masurian Lake District is one of the most popular attractions among tourists, offering various outdoor activities from sailing, kayaking, and swimming. The region also includes the largest lake in Poland, Śniardwy. One of the resort towns in Lakeland is the city of Giżycko, featuring an "ancient fortress, historic church, bridges, and passenger boats" to the adjacent resort cities. Łuknajno Lake is part of the Masurian Lake District, located in the region's eastern part. The lake is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in order to preserve water birds such as grebe, rail, moorhen, grey heron, bearded tit, white-tailed eagle, osprey, rust-colored kite, cormorant, black tern, and mute swan.
Concerning the region's historical treasures, one of the most pronounced is the Castle of Warmian Bishops in Lidzbark Warmiński. During medieval times Warmian-Masurian land was under the rule of the Knights of Teutonic Order. Since that time, a considerable number of monuments can be found across the region, and one of the best preserved among them is the Lidzbark Castle. The castle was built between 1350-1401. However, it was never actually used by Teutonic Order. During the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus lived in the castle for a short period. The castle is currently open for tourists, with various exhibitions, museums, and stud farms for visitors to see. The East of Poland Cycling Trail called Green Velo starts in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship and leads to the Lidzbark Castle as well. The trail has a 2,000 km length in total, making it the longest cycling route in Poland. The path leads through five voivodeships and their different sights and monuments.
Wolf's Lair, located in the Forest of Gierloz, near Ketrzyn, Masuria, is a historical site of more recent and darker history. Wolf's Lair is the name of a complex of over 200 bunkers, war shelters, and barracks hidden in the forest of Gierloz, which Adolf Hitler used during the Second World War. During the war, some vital decisions were made by Hitler and others there. It is also the place where the attempted assassination of Hitler by Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg was carried out. Nowadays, the complex is open to tourists.
The capital city of Warminsko-Mazruskie Voivodeship, Olsztyn, is located in the central part of the region. During the 16th century, the city was inhabited by mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who is said to have revolutionized physics with his heliocentric solar system model. Among the predominant historical sites in the city belongs the Olsztyn Castle from the 14th century, which now houses the Masurian Museum.
Warminsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is located in the northern-most part of Poland, contributing to the state border with Russia's Kaliningrad province. Part of the northern border represents the shore of the Baltic Sea. Geographically, Warmian-Masurian land stretches across the areas of the Central European Plain and the Eastern Baltic-Belarusian Lowlands. Generally, the terrain is of primarily flat and lowland character, with the highest point being Góra Dylewska at an altitude of 312 m above sea level. A significant water area is represented by the Iława Lake District, a macroregion belonging to the South Baltic Lake District. Moraines, hills, and numerous lakes are presumably postglacial. Over the northern part of the region stretches the Staropruska Lowland. The western part is composed of the Gdańsk Coastland and the Masurian Lakeland, where the province's largest lakes, Śniardwy and Mamry, are located. The most significant rivers flowing through the region are Pasłęka, Łyna, and Drwęca.
Approximately one-third of the Warmian-Masurian territory is covered by forests, mainly coniferous, due to the northern location of the province. Resulting from the high forestation level, Warminsko-Mazurskie, together with Podlaskie Voivodeship, is part of the protection program “the Green Lungs of Poland.” The air quality is said to be one of the best in the state. Almost half of the voivodeship's area is covered in natural protected areas. Warmian-Masurian lakes are of significance as well, as half of the ten largest lakes in Poland are located within the province's borders. The lakes pose one of the biggest tourist attractions, together with the well-preserved nature and forests. Approximately half of the voivodeship's land is arable. Chief crops are cereals, fodder, potatoes, and rapeseed. The province is also the leading producer of poultry in the state.
Warminsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is located in the transitional, sea-continental climate area. The weather is highly variable, with relatively cold summers and mild winters in the west. To the east, the summers are warmer and winters colder. The warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 18.8°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of -2.8°C. The driest month is February, with an average of 44 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 92 mm.
Warminsko-Mazurskie, or Warmian-Masurian territory, has been under the Polish administration since the first mentions of its inhabitation. In the 13th century, Prussians and Baltic groups of Lithuanians and Latvians threatened the Warminsko-Mazurskie, as the region is located in the north and in close proximity to today's Lithuania. For these reasons, in 1226, Conrad of Mazovia asked knights of the Teutonic Order for help and additional protection. The Knights protected the land. However, they later abused the trust by conquering the area and establishing a state of their own, which became another threat to Poland. Since the 14th century, Germans and Mazovians gradually settled the area. In 1410, a war between Poland and Teutonic Knights took place. Even though Poland won the battle, the Knights retained authority above a significant part of the territory. Prussian nobility allied with the Teutonic state, forming the Prussian Union. The centuries-long conflict ended by signing the Treaty of Toruń, which divided Warmia-Masuria. Warmia became part of Poland, whereas Masuria and other territories stayed part of the Teutonic State, which later became Ducal Prussia.
The 16th century marked economic growth and development of the territory, which was slowed down due to the Partitions of Poland, which took place in 1772, 1793, and 1795. With each partition, the area of Poland shrank until, eventually, Poland as an autonomic country ceased to exist. Polish territory was divided between Russia, Prussia, and Habsburg Monarchy. As a result, Warminsko-Mazurskie territory was annexed to East Prussia and became strongly Germanized. After World War I, five Masurian cities were annexed back to Poland due to the Treaty of Versailles. The rest of the territory belonged to Germany. Before the Second World War, a considerable number of German inhabitants fleed East Prussia for Germany in the so-called Ostflucht, or “escape from the east.” The area of Warminsko-Mazurskie was strategically important for Nazi Germany. After the war, the land was annexed to Poland.
Nowadays, the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship is a self-governing province of Poland with the lowest population density in the state. Due to its border location and history connected to different nations, Warminsko-Mazurskie is also Poland's most ethnically diverse province. Some of the strongly represented minorities include Ukrainians, Germans, Roma, and Belarusians. The voivodeship also homes representatives of various churches, mainly Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.
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