Belarus – information about the country and attractions.

Belarus

The Anthem of Belarus

Belarus (the Republic of Belarus, Belorussia) is an Eastern European country with land borders with such countries as Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. In terms of tourism, Belarus is considered a tidbit for cultural treasure hunters, nature lovers dreaming of walks in the fairytale Polesie, and for food bloggers looking for new flavors where not everyone would guess to do so. And if you desperately wanted a European flavor, the “country of cornflowers and white storks” and then in no way concede the western neighbors. Medieval castles with ghosts and dark biographies of their owners, the ruins of once impregnable bastions, Catholic churches and Orthodox churches – even in the most medieval town of Belarus there is at least one building, whose story deserves at least a novel, if not a real romantic saga.

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General Information

The capital of Belarus – Minsk – has the status of an independent administrative unit. The city itself, as well as the region, the center of which it is, are located in the heart of the country and from a transport point of view are considered the most convenient tourist routes. The Belarusian capital is also not short on sights. There are ethno villages with their schools of crafts and museums of various kinds, from modest exhibitions like “The Space of Chaim Sutin” in Smilovichi to museum ensembles in the style of the National Museum-Reserve “Nesvizh”. The adherents of active lifestyle in Minsk will also find a place to relax: the majority of skiing and sports and tourist centers are located in the metropolitan area.

Grodno region, the westernmost region of the country, has been and remains the absolute champion in the number of historical monuments per capita. The main treasures of this part of the country are ancient castles and palaces, most of which were inherited from the legendary princes Radziwill. Besides there are more than a dozen of gentry’s homes, like the Umeiskie Palace or the Svyatopolk-Chetvertinskie estate. Besides, we should not forget about the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which included not only the Grodno Region, but also the territories of neighboring Brest Region.

The Gomel region and the Vitebsk region are completely free for ecotourists. Both regions are famous as the places where the nature is undisturbed by human interference. If you want to rest near blue lakes, set a course for Vitebsk and if you are nostalgic about Polesie, take a trip to Gomel region. Fans of wandering around atmospheric historical sites and listening to emotional monologues of museum guides should also stay in Vitebsk region. It certainly does not promise any Radziwill family estates, but their absence is easily compensated by the excursion to Polotsk – the oldest city of the country, which gave the start to Belarus’ independence.

Another “lure” of Belarus is military tourism. Places of bloody battles, partisan camps, mournful memorials on the foundations of concentration camps – the Belarusians not only honor their tragic past, but also willingly share it with all those interested. To see the history of the Great Patriotic War as Belarus saw it in 1941, go to Brest (5th fort of Brest Fortress), Minsk (memorial complex “Yama”, remains of pillboxes in Myadel region, memorial at the place of former camp “Trostenets”) and Gomel (Ozarichsk death zone).

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Cities of Belarus

Best time to go

Most of the Belarusian territories are under the influence of moderate continental climate, and only in the western part of the country the Atlantic “weather” does. As a result, Grodno and Brest regions combine features of both continental and maritime climatic types. Winters in Belarus are cold – down to -4.5 ° C, although in January, thermometers of the northeastern regions may show up to -8 ° C. Average temperature of summer months is +17. +19 °С.

The maximum influx of tourists and vacationers in Belarus is in the period from May to August – the time of yeast-like growing prices for accommodation and national restaurant meals. By September, drizzling rains and the first frosts arrive in the country, driving the last stranded foreigners out of Belarus. The second wave of tourist activity hits the country closer to Christmas and New Year holidays. Most visitors in this period are fans of skiing and snowboarding, who can’t wait to explore the slopes of local ski centers.

History of Belarus

The first settlers began to exploit the Belarusian territories in the late Paleolithic era, but the foundations of statehood were laid here only in the IX century AD. In the 11th century the Belarusian principalities tried to get out from under the influence of Kiev, which was the main owner of those lands at that time. But since the “mother of Russian cities” was in no hurry to part with its lands, only the Principality of Polotsk tried to achieve independence.

In the XIII century a part of Belarusian territories became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which tired of the Livonian Order’s claims, in the XVI century signed a union with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was thanks to this union that for the next two hundred years Polish traditions were actively imposed in the country. In the 18th century the Rzeczpospolita was divided among Russia, Austria and Prussia. Thus, a new stage of Belarus’ development as part of the Russian Empire began.

Minsk after German bombing on June 24, 1941

The 19th century was the time of transformation and birth of the national movement. And although Poland still tried to defend its own interests through uprisings, its influence on Belarus gradually faded away. With the outbreak of the First World War, new challengers appeared in the Belarusian territories. First the north-west of the country was occupied by Germany. After the October Revolution the Poles again tried to return here. The USSR won in the end, and Belarus became part of it in 1922.

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The most heroic and difficult period awaited the country during the Great Patriotic War. Belarus took the first blow from the German army and became an occupation zone for several years. In 1986, the locals had to endure another tragedy. As a result of the Chernobyl disaster, part of the territory became contaminated with radioactive waste and uninhabitable. Belarusians celebrated their independence in 1991, and in 1994 A. G. Lukashenko became the permanent president of the country.

Population and language

About 9.5 million people live in Belarus, of which almost 2 million are Minsk residents. The second biggest city of the country after the capital is Gomel: 536 thousand residents. The official languages in the Republic of Belarus are Belarusian, also known as “Belarussian Mova,” and Russian. Most often one hears a conversation in the great powerful language in Minsk and other major cities, but the farther to the provinces, the more conversations in the Mova and Trasianka (a hybrid of Russian and Belarusian dialects).

The attitude of Belarusians to tourists is generally benevolent. However, in recent years, more and more residents are complaining about the unwarranted snobbery of travelers from Russia. Accordingly, if you do not want to reinforce the stereotype of the Russian bum in the minds of local residents, behave correctly and politely. One more thing: Belarusians don’t like it when their country is called in the Soviet manner – “Belorussia. Keep it in mind and change the usual word for a more politically correct one – “Belarus”.

Sovetskaya Street in Brest Sovetskaya Street in Grodno

Attractions in Belarus

Belarus is a country where you have to be constantly “torn” between man-made attractions and protected natural areas. Both are not inferior to each other in scale and make an equally unforgettable impression on all who dare to tour the Republic.

Castles, historical monuments and memorial complexes

The castles of Belarus are not like Versailles, which is exquisite, but totally useless from the defensive point of view. Local manors are first of all military bastions, secondly – food and arms caches, and only thirdly – residence of the ruling family and the cultural center of the principality. The most convenient in terms of proximity to the capital is the Nesvizh Castle, the architectural heritage of the unforgettable Radziwills and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the park and palace complex, to put it bluntly, is not a pretty one: from time to time Nesvizh was put on fire, then rebuilt, so as not to leave any stone on the fortification again. Another “Yunesskovite” is situated in the Grodno Region. The Mir Castle, also called the Mir Castle and Park Complex, is one of the most mysterious constructions of the 16th century. If you didn’t manage to “catch” the Black Maid of Nesvizh whose spirit inhabits the eponymous castle at home, you can try to get acquainted with the White Maid or as she is affectionately called by local guides – Sonyechka.

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Nesvizh Castle Mir Castle

Krev and Golsha castles, as well as the palace in Ruzhany were a little less lucky than Nesvizh and Mir in the sense that the Belarusian authorities for some reason did not have a desire to restore them. Nevertheless, there is a sense to take a look at these majestic ruins – for the number of ancient legends and mystical stories they are not inferior to their more fortunate counterparts. Golshan Castle, apart from the “ancient legends”, can also delight you with its annual festival and the most powerful energy. If you are interested in knights’ culture and medieval festivals, you may want to visit the Lidsky castle. And the most sophisticated aesthetes will enjoy a tour to Kossovsky castle. It is certainly not the most ancient of buildings, but it has a very interesting biography and is absolutely atypical for the country style.

Krevo Castle Golsha Castle Lidsky Castle Kossovsky Castle

The Polish dominance left on the Belarusian land not only the memories of the oppression of local people, but also a number of invaluable monuments of architecture. Mostly from the Poles Belarusians inherited churches, of which the guides unanimously consider the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pinsk, the Church of Francis Xaveria in Grodno and the Church of the Holy Trinity in Volchin as obligatory to visit. All three buildings were built between the XVII-XVIII centuries and are well preserved. There are also enough Catholic churches of later periods, more ornate in their decoration and built mainly in the Neo-Gothic style.

Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pinsk Church of Francis Xavier The Holy Trinity Church in Volchin

Orthodox pilgrims will want to visit the St. Boris and Gleb (Kolozhskaya) Church in Grodno (XII century). Experts claim that the church has no analogues in terms of style. Indeed, the construction looks non-trivial and mysterious. The Assumption Zhirovichi Monastery and St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk can also tell entertaining chronicles.

Kolozhskaya Church in Grodno Svyato-Uspensky Zhirovichi Monastery Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk

Constant change of Belarusian territories from hand to hand also could not but leave its mark on the local architecture. There are as many military forts and citadels in the “land of cornflowers” as there are princely castles. The main must-see in this niche are the Bobruisk and Brest Fortresses. Both were erected in the XIX century, but the most terrible and heroic moments of their biography experienced in the Great Patriotic War. Another monument dedicated to the victims of the Nazi occupation is the Khatyn Memorial Complex. It is a kind of architectural requiem for all Belarusian villages, burned by the punishers together with their inhabitants.

The Brest Fortress Bobruisk Fortress Khatyn Memorial Complex

Reserves and national parks

Ecotourism in Belarus is growing and flourishing. The most mainstream route is Belovezhskaya Pushcha with its relict tree species, bison and name oaks, which are 5000 years old. By the way, the status of the reserve was granted to the local territories 600 years ago by the Lithuanian prince Jogaila. You can visit the Berezinskiy Biospheric Reserve on the excursion around the capital of Belarus. The park is only 120 km from Minsk and it takes only an hour and a half to get there.

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The Braslav Lakes Nature Reserve is a different kind of attraction. Here you can catch river fish and take romantic selfies. The floodplain oak forests of the Pripyatsky National Park are often called “the Belarusian Amazonia” and they do not exaggerate a bit. The similarities between such distant from each other natural areas are stunning. The Belarusians should be grateful to the Valdai glacier, which left 43 clear lakes as a reminder of their stay, for the reserve “Narochansky”. Besides the eco-parks, the local forests deserve a special mention; one can speak about their generosity endlessly. In the season mushrooms and berries from pine and spruce thickets are taken out by tractor carts. This is confirmed by the amateur photos which are regularly posted in the social networks by Belarusian villagers and tourists.

Museums

There are over a hundred and fifty museums in Belarus. Some of them are open at historical monuments like the Mir Castle, the Rumyantsev Palace and the Brest Fortress, and some are classic urban expositions. The largest exhibition halls are, of course, the capital ones – the National Museum of Art and History, the Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, the Museum of Books on Independence Avenue.

History Museum of the Great Patriotic War Minsk library

Lifehack for tourists: to save money on visiting Minsk exhibitions, buy or order on the official website Guest Card, which provides free visits to the city’s museums and serves as a pass for public transport.

In Vitebsk the most visited place is the house-museum of Marc Chagall, the main romantic of the avant-garde. By the way, if you move to the left bank of the Zapadnaya Dvina, you can come across the artist’s art center, where, among his other works, the illustrations to Gogol’s “Dead Souls”, made in Shagal’s trademark style, are kept. Enchanted by medieval ballads, the ancient Polotsk with its permanent knighthood exposition awaits. And true patriots will find it useful to take a “dose” of the heroic atmosphere of the Military-historical complex “Stalin Line”, situated in the vicinity of Loshany village of Minsk Region.

In general in Belarus they like to make something creative, which affects the themes of the local expositions. The Museum of Pharmacy, Grodno Kunstkammer, Museum of Boulders – the collections of these mini-anopticums will entertain you and help you pass the time.

Attractions in Belarus

Attractions in Belarus

The Republic of Belarus is rich in sights. Among them, there are many natural wonders, castles and family estates. Special attention should be paid to the temples and churches of Belarus. The cost of visiting museums and cultural events is symbolic. And for those who are tired and hungry there are numerous hotels, cafes and restaurants. The choice of interesting sights in Belarus is so vast that it is difficult to stop at one thing.

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What to see in Belarus?

Undoubtedly, you should visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Only here you can see trees that are centuries old, relict animals – bison, which live both in nature and in cages. Any city dweller will find it useful to breathe in the fresh forest air and hear birds singing. Just twenty kilometers from Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the town of Kamenetz, famous for its defense tower. It is the only tower in Volyn, which is so well preserved. Kamenets Tower is also known as the White Tower. It is one of the unofficial symbols of Belarus.

Sights of Belarus

Mir Castle is a fine example of architectural Gothic. It is the most eastern Gothic castle in the world, the place where the largest armies of Europe fought. Now there is a museum devoted to the history of the castle and the history of Belarus. You can stay in a hotel, as well as order a tour. In Mir Castle there are theatrical performances that perfectly recreate the historical atmosphere.

Attractions in Belarus

Nesvizh Castle is no less interesting than Mir Castle. Its history is also connected with numerous wars and sieges. Nevertheless, an amazing palace and park ensemble has been preserved here, on which several generations of architects worked for four hundred years. Also, in Nesvizh you can see a unique baroque church, which is a rarity in Eastern Europe. Nesvizh Town Hall is the oldest town hall in Belarus.

Important sights

The Great Patriotic War is the most tragic page in the history of Belarus. An exposition of the museum-memorial “Brest Fortress” will tell about the military feat and the incredible tension of those years. Soldiers here fought in conditions of lack of food and water, in encirclement and with the full superiority of enemy forces. Despite this, they showed such heroism, which is an example for all future generations. In the open area of the museum there are samples of military equipment of those times.

Attractions in Belarus

Another place connected with the history of the war in Belarus is Khatyn. A small village burned to the ground has become a symbol of the inhumanity of Nazi crimes. Khatyn deserves a visit as a historical and architectural monument, as well as a museum that is unparalleled in the world.

How to plan a route of a trip?

It’s convenient to travel around Belarus by public transport and guided tours, as well as by car. You can plan your route with the help of the sightseeing map of Belarus.

What to see in Belarus?

We’ve collected detailed information about the most interesting places in the country. All the places of interest in Belarus are marked on the map and have detailed information. You can book a hotel in any city on our site. Welcome to Belarus!

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