Bieszczady – the young mountains on the border of three countries
Bieszczady is a part of the Carpathian Mountains, which is located in the southeastern part of Poland in the border area with Slovakia and Ukraine. This is the wildest part of Poland – a remote corner where almost no people live because of the tragic events of the last century. It charms with its inaccessibility, vast empty spaces and wildness of almost pristine nature. The population in this area is one of the lowest in Europe – especially outside the summer season. The most beautiful part of the mountain range is protected by the Bieszczady National Park and belongs to the UNESCO Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. In addition to the mountains other attractions are man-made Lake Solina and narrow-gauge railroad, as well as historic Orthodox churches.
Description of Bieszczady Mountains
Beshchady is a group of two mountain ranges in the Carpathian Mountains.
- Western Bieszczady – for the most part they are located in the Polish territory, partly in the Ukrainian territory.
- Eastern Bieszczady – the main areas of the mountains are in the Lviv region of Ukraine.
Bieszczady are located on the border area of the three countries, which ensures the historical and natural diversity
Height and Area Beshchady
The highest peak of the Bieszczady Mountains is Pikui with a height of 1,405 meters above sea level, which is located in Ukraine. In Poland and the Bieszczady West the highest mountain is Mount Tarnica, which rises to 1,346 m above sea level.
Direction, extent and boundaries
The Unica River valley, which occupies the Ukrainian territories, divides the east and west mountain range. The characteristic landscape of the Bieszczady Mountains are extended and parallel mountain ranges, which run in a north-west to south-east direction, their height gradually increases from west to east.
The highest peak of the Beshchad
Pikuy is the highest peak of the Bieszczady, which is an extension of the Bieszczady range in Poland. The height of the mountain according to some sources is 1,408.3 m, and according to other researchers – 1,405 m.
Mount Pikuj can be conquered by tourists of all ages.
Because of the considerable relative height of the peak Pikuyu is characterized by a subalpine vegetation zone, the upper border of the forest here is at a height of 1,200-1,250 m above sea level. This allows tourists in a short section of the route to get acquainted with a variety of landscapes and unique flora, as the top grows rare species of plants. The summit is decorated with picturesque cliffs and steep precipices – small cuestas. The views from the Pikuyu peak are much wider than any other peak in Lviv region.
You can get to the mountain in different ways. Tourists from Europe usually go from Lviv by train to Syanki station. You can also take a bus to Kryvka, Belasovitsa or Husny villages. But the best way to get there is to go to Libokhora village. There you will be hospitably met by the workers of the local forestry and for a certain fee will bring you to the Russkaya Put’ pass at the height of 1,200 m above the sea level. The way from Libokhor to the pass is not long – just over 3 kilometers, but it requires a lot of endurance. From the pass to the top of the mountain – 8 km, you will climb on foot along the path laid down over the centuries.
Where are the Beshchady Mountains
The Bieszczady Mountains extend from the far southeast of Poland and northeast Slovakia to western Ukraine. On the territory of Poland, the Bieszczady occupy Bieszczady Poviat, a district in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship. It covers the southernmost part of Poland. In the west it borders with Leskowski Poviat and in a small area with Sanok Poviat, in the north with Peremyshl Poviat, and in the east and south the border of the poviat coincides with the state border with Ukraine, which runs through the territory of the Lviv region.
Location of the mountain system on the map
Location Beshchad on the map
Coordinates of Beshchad
- 49°16′59″ north latitude;
- 22 ° 28′59″ east longitude.
Age and formation features of the mountain system
The Beshchads are quite young mountains from a geological point of view, as they were raised only in the Cretaceous period. This is the last period of the Mesozoic Era, lasting about 80 million years: approximately 145 to 66 million years ago. The Cretaceous is divided into two periods:
- Early Cretaceous.
- Late Cretaceous.
At the end of the Early Cretaceous, the sea level was more than 200 meters higher than today. Much of the land was submerged and surrounded by numerous shallow epicontinental seas. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans were already well developed, although they were still much smaller than today. At the end of the Cretaceous, intense tectonic movements of the Alpine orogeny began, leading to folding and partial uplift of the sediments of earlier seas. At that time, the Tatras, the Bieszczady, and other mountain systems around the world were formed.
Tectonic structure and formation factors
The main condition that determines the morphology of the Bieszczady is the different resistance of mountain material to weathering. The ridges of the mountain ranges in the Beshchads are usually composed of harder sandstones, while the valleys are dominated by soft shales.
The Bieszczady were formed during the Cretaceous period, which formed their relief
The Bieszczady Mountains consist of sedimentary rocks, shales and marls, as well as sandstones, commonly referred to as the Carpathian flysch. These sediments were created during the Cretaceous to Paleogene and then uplifted and were folded during the younger Tertiary Neogene period. The highest peaks of the Bieszczady Mountains are mostly composed of sandstones and Krosni Shale, which contain almost 40% calcium carbonate.
Depressions of the relief and river valley bottoms are covered with alluvial and dealluvial formations. Most rocks contain significant amounts of minerals that are a natural source of many plant nutrients, among them biotite, orthoclase and muscovite, especially rich in potassium. However, no minerals containing phosphorus compounds have been found in these rocks.
In a close relationship between local rocks and climatic factors, soils are formed that are strongly decalcified at the surface and are acidic. Small amounts of calcium are found in alluvial and dealluvial soils lying in river valleys and depressions. The predominant soils in the Bieszczady are brown and acidic brown soils, and extremely rare podzolic soils are found only in the vicinity of Baligród.
The Bieszczady Mountains, located on the southeastern edge of Poland, differ from other parts of the Polish Beskids in many landscape characteristics. Vast mountain ridges show relief based on large-scale tectonic structures. The area lies in the contact zone of two major tectonic formations. The highest mountain ridges in the Polish part of Bieszczady lie within the Carpathian folded area, where only the youngest deposits are exposed on the surface. These sediments belong to the Krosno Zone of the Oligocene and boast a thickness of up to 2,000 m with a sandstone interlayer in the middle. The main types of Quaternary deposits are alluvium on ancient and young river terraces and slope deposits. Peat, limestone tuff, coccolithic limestone, bentonites, calcite veins, asphalt, bipyramidal quartz crystals, ancient oil wells and mineral springs are also found.
Mineral Resources of the Mountain System
Forests are the main natural wealth of the Bieszczady Mountains. A characteristic feature of this region is not only logging, but also the production of charcoal, which is exported to many countries in Western Europe. In addition, there is found here rock crystal, which in addition to aesthetic qualities are attributed bio-energetic properties, including protection against the “evil eye” and envious people.
Natural areas of Bieszczady
The most valuable natural and scenic landscapes are located in the Bieszczady National Park. The National Park is the third largest in Poland, with an area of 292 km². It belongs to the most interesting European national parks, mainly due to the presence of endemic Carpathian forests, dominated by fir, beech and sycamore.
Climate of the mountain system
The climate of Bieszczady Mountains is moderately warm, transitional with a predominance of continental climate. Summers are warm: the temperature at noon is about 15°C, in the higher parts it is colder. Winters are cold: the average temperature ranges from -5°C in the valleys to below -10°C above 1,300 m above sea level.
The climate of Beshchad is characterized by a visible change of seasons, which allows you to see them in different colors
Annual precipitation in the Bieszczady ranges from 800 to 1,200 mm. At more than 550 m above sea level, these precipitations exceed 1,000 mm per year, and at the highest peaks they even exceed 1,200 mm per year. The heaviest precipitation occurs in summer, in June and July, the most modest in winter. Unlike the rest of the Carpathians, the Beshchady Mountains receive more precipitation in autumn than in spring. Winds are most often recorded in the Beshchady with a longitudinal direction, much more often south than north. In January and February, there is a phenomenon of temperature inversion, which makes the air on the peaks very clear. Thanks to this you can enjoy even the peaks of the Tatras, which are more than 130 km away.
High altitude belts of the Bieszczady
In the Beshchads, as in other mountains, changes in vegetation are caused by altitudinal belts. In the higher areas, air temperatures are lower and precipitation increases. They are characterized by late spring and early autumn frosts, and the snow cover is thicker and longer, so the growing season is much shorter. The Bieszczady, because of its geographical location and specific floristic features, has a special distribution of altitudinal belts, different from the Eastern Carpathians, the Tatras or the Alps. In the latter there are five or six high-altitude zones, while in Beshchady only three:
- Foothills – up to 500 m.
- The lower slopes – from 500 to 150 m.
- Pastures – above 1,150 m.
Plants in the mountain system
Among the flora of Bieszczady found more than 900 species of vascular plants, 250 species of mosses and 300 species of lichens, including 30 species of endemic Eastern Carpathian and alpine plants.
It was found that at the end of the last glaciation, when the plains were dominated by pine stands with an admixture of larch and terminalia magnifica, the upper parts of the Bieszczady Mountains were almost completely treeless. As the climate warmed, heat-loving species such as pine, spruce, elm, and oak began to enter the Bieszczady area from southern Europe. Around 6000-4000 B.C., the Beshchads became overgrown with spruce forests. During the subboreal period, the proportion of spruce in the Bieszczady forests was higher than today. They grew in both the lower and the highest parts of the mountain peaks. In the sub-Atlantic period, typical heat-loving species such as beech, hornbeam, and fir migrated here from southern Europe.
The nature of the Bieszczady, thanks to the mixed forests, is especially beautiful in the fall.
The people who settled in the valleys had to cut down forests mainly around the peat bogs, where they established pastures, meadows and fields. The proportion of spruce, hornbeam and beech trees was rapidly decreasing. Intensive colonization, which began in the second half of the fifteenth century, increased significantly at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The considerable influx of people was accompanied by excessive logging, first in the valleys and then around the peaks. From the vast forests of the Bieszczady people gathered firewood for construction. The forests were also cut down to obtain new areas for crops and grasslands.
Initially, until the mid-16th century, settler activity did not adversely affect the quantity and quality of the Bieszczady vegetation. At that time, forests covered about 80% of the region. At the beginning of the 20th century, forest cover was about 40% in the lower parts of the mountain and about 60% in the upper parts. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the proportion of forest cover in the Bieszczady did not diminish.
Until 1947, the region was overpopulated, as there were about 90 people for every 100 hectares of agricultural land, and the population was primarily engaged in raising cattle and sheep, grazing large herds from early spring to late fall. Cattle and sheep also grazed in the forests, gradually leading to their destruction.
After World War II, the Bieszczady was almost completely deserted. Lush fields of nettles and other ruderal plants grew in place of ancient meadows, pastures and fields. Gray alder and willow grew in large numbers in the former agricultural fields, later joined by beech and fir.
Animals of the Bieszczady
In the Bieszczady there are plants and animals that have no analogues in other parts of Poland, especially those that like heat, such as the largest European Aesculapian snake – the Polonius snake. Well-preserved natural beech forests are a true paradise for animals. They are home to deer, bears, wolves, lynxes, forest cats, black storks and golden eagles.
Aesculapian snake is a unique representative of the flora in Poland
Natural objects in the mountain range
The pattern of mountain ridges consists of long ridges connected with low passes. River valleys are mostly straight, but they can also dramatically change channel: they cross ridges in deep narrow gorges. Individual features of relief and quaternary deposits include: mountain ridges and precipices, caves, slope cliffs, river terraces, natural and artificial reservoirs and peat bogs. In Bieszczady in Poland there are 27 small caves, the longest of which are in Nasiczna. There are no large-scale canyons and gorges, because the topography here, although indented, but fairly smooth.
Rivers and lakes
In Bieszczady a peculiar system of networks of rivers and ridges, often called the lattice, has formed, because that is how it looks from the bird’s eye view. In the upper reaches, the rivers flow parallel to the mountain ranges, while in the middle sections they may suddenly change direction to the north, thus crossing almost across the mountain ranges and massifs, creating small river gorges. The following rivers deserve special attention: the Solinka, the Wetlina, and the San.
Who discovered and explored the Bieszczady
The first traces of settlements in the Bieszczady date back to the Neolithic period and are associated with the cultural influence of the Pannonian Basin. This suggests that the region has been developed since ancient times. In the late Middle Ages, Polish King Casimir III the Great began the industrial development of the region, which resulted in the first mines here, and the areas began to be mapped.
Attractions in the region of the mountain system
In the Bieszczady area tourists will find dozens of marked trails, nature and historical routes, as well as horseback riding, mountain fishing on the San River, and in wintertime skiing. One of the biggest tourist attractions is Lake Solina – the largest artificial lake in Poland with an area of 22 km².
Interesting facts about Bieszczady
The Bieszczady is a region with a very complicated past. The most tragic period in the history of the Bieszczady region dates back to the first half of the twentieth century. Many lands and settlements perished during World War I, as bloody hostilities of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies took place there. The next dramatic events took place in 1918-1919, when the battle map of Ukraine and Poland unfolded here. During World War II, the Nazis waged a Jewish genocide, and the inhabitants of Poland were being trampled by Ukrainian forces. However, in 1944-1946, the vast majority of Ukrainian-speaking inhabitants were deported from these lands to their homeland.
The expulsion of Ukrainians and other newcomers devastated the region.
Dozens of villages ceased to exist and the technical infrastructure was destroyed. Another consequence of this displacement was a complete change in the national and religious structures of the population. Poles began to settle there, but in modest numbers – in the mid-1950s. Today in these mountains live a little over 50 thousand people.
Climbing the Bieszczady – video
Hiking and eco-tourism are well developed in the Bieszczady, so there are many videos that show the incredible beauty of this virtually deserted region. Tourists share scenic views, interesting routes and places to visit.
Beshchady: what to see? Here are 8 of the most beautiful places to stay
Bieszczady has been fascinating for many years with its extraordinary nature and interesting history. It is an ideal place for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. What is worth seeing in Bieszczady? Here is a list of 8 places of interest for your holidays.
Połoniny Caryńska and Wetlińska in Bieszczady
These are the favorite places for lovers of hiking. In Bieszczady tourism, the most important routes have always been through the meadows. The Caryńska meadow (also called Beregowska) is located between the Prowczy and Wołosatego valleys. It stretches for 4 km and has four peaks, the highest of which is Kruhly Wierch (1297 m). The panorama from Polonina Czaryńska is vast, with a clearly visible group of the highest peaks of the Polish Bieszczady, including Tarnica and Halicz.
Polonina Wetlińska is twice as long and is located in the Bieszczady National Park. The highest point of the mountain range – Roh (Roh) – rises to a height of 1255 m above sea level.
Solina: rest by the lake
Lake Solina (Jezioro Solińskie), although about an hour away from popular trails, is sometimes called the “Bieszczady Sea”. A giant dam was built here in 1960 to protect the area from flooding. Inside is a hydroelectric power plant that is worth a visit. This Polish lake, famous in the Bieszczady area, attracts all water sports enthusiasts. You can go boating, rent a canoe, water bike or sailboat. During the season it is difficult to find a free place for a lounger. Above the reservoir, created in the early 1960s, there are several famous resorts, including Solina, Myczkowce or Polańczyk.
Bieszczady Drezyny Rowerowe.
In 2015, part of the regional railway line in Bieszczady found a new destination and became the first route for bicycle “trains” in Poland. The length of the open route is about 47 kilometers. The rental point and the main station are located in Uherza Mineralna, where most of these unusual bikes depart from. (less often in Ustrzyki Dolne). You can ride a bike, including near the reserve “Bobry w Uhercach” along the San River, through one of the two railway tunnels in the region. The railway route offers a beautiful view of, among other things, the ruins of the family castle Kmitów.
Ustrzyki Dolne ( Ustrzyki Dolne)
This tourist town is one of the favorite holiday destinations of tourists visiting the Bieszczady. Ustrzyki Dolne is a very good starting point for both the Solina Lake and the Bieszczady Mountains. In summer this place attracts a network of scenic hiking trails (of varying degrees of difficulty), as well as numerous biking trails. In Ustrzyki there is also Bieszczady National Park Nature Museum, where you can learn, among other things, about the culture of the Highlanders, fauna and flora of the Bieszczady region and the geological structure of the mountains.
In winter, Ustrzyki Dolne is the ski capital of Bieszczady. There are two ski stations to choose from: Gromadzyń and Laworta with several ski slopes.
Tarnica: the highest peak of the Bieszczady Mountains
It is the highest peak of the Bieszczady Mountains, rising to 1,346 m above sea level. There lead to the hill two paths: red and blue. You can start the first hike in Ustrzyki Górne (it takes about 3 hours), and the second, shorter one in Wołosatem (about 2 hours).
Beautiful views from above are worth all the effort. A characteristic element of Tarnica is the cross erected on its summit in memory of the visit of Karol Wojtyła in 1954.
Winnie the Pooh Hut (Chatka Puchatka) in Bieszczady
It is the most famous and highest located house in Bieszczady. It is located in Polonin Wetlinska, at an altitude of 1,228 m above sea level. The building, built after World War II, has been expanded and rebuilt many times. However, the Winnie-the-Pooh hut has no electricity, running water and sewage. Currently – in connection with the reconstruction of the “iconic” hut – the object is closed. Many tourists stop here to get something to eat or just relax. Winnie the Pooh Hut is a must on the tourist map for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of this region.
Siekierezada: the most popular place in Bieszczady.
Undoubtedly, this is the most popular place in Bieszczady. The interiors of the pub are decorated with axes, works of artists from Bieszczady and figures depicting devils. On the premises you can try local cuisine, warm up with mulled wine or homemade wine.
Evenings of song poetry are often held here. During the season it is often crowded with tourists. The pub’s name refers to the title of a 1971 novel by Edward Stahura.
Park Gwiezdnego Nieba “Bieszczady”
In big cities, too much artificial light makes it extremely difficult to see the starry sky. To remember how beautiful the sky full of stars can be, it is worth a trip to Bieszczady. This is one of the darkest places in Poland, free from the artificial “light of civilization. In 2013, the Bieszczady Star Park was created in order to protect this unique element of Bieszczady nature and to popularize the night nature. This place covers the territory of the Bieszczady National Park, the San Valley Landscape Park and the Ciszniańsko Wetliński Landscape Park. Its purpose is primarily to protect against light pollution.