What is Kampinos?
Kampinos National Park is a stunning natural reserve on the north-western outskirts of Warsaw. Taking public transportation you can easily and fast transport yourself from the busy and noisy (and sometimes heavily polluted) city to a gorgeous swamp and sand covered park.
Although the park was created in 1959, the idea was born much earlier on – already in the 1920s. The ancient Puszcza Kampinoska (Kampinos Forest) is on the UNESCO’s list of biosphere reserves.
As you can see on the map above – the huge green area is right outside of Warsaw.
Kampinos National Park: Landscape
The Kampinos National Park is not particularly big – at the moment its area covers about 385,44 km2 of which about 12% is under a strict protection. The majority of the area is covered in forest with pine being the most common tree.
The most fascinating in the Park is its landscape – you can see both swamps and sand dunes! They might not be exactly desert-like (except for a few spots), but there are a lot of really sandy areas, hence the pine forest.
Can you believe this landscape is right in the middle of Poland? Photo credit.
The land of the Kampinos National Park was created during the last ice age by waters of melting glaciers. On the area of the banks of this ancient river sandy dunes formed, while where there used to be the river bed – swamps.
Kampinos National Park: Fauna and Flora
Although the majority of the forest is made up of pine, the flora is actually really diverse with more than thousand species growing there, many of which are under protection.
Sands and swamps so close to each other create truly spectacular landscapes. Photo credit.
The real gem is the Kampinos’s fauna: the Park’s symbol is a moose which was reintroduced to the park in the ‘50s. You can also have a chance to see a beaver, a deer, a boar or a lynx (although that’s highly unlikely – there are only about ten of them!) and many others of the 16 thousand of animal kingdom representatives. A few dozens of those are under strict protection as endangered.
Kampinos National Park: Its Relevancy in Polish History
Kampinos National Park is worth visiting not only for a wonderful nature hike but also for its history. This area, being so close to Poland’s capital was a witness to many important and often tragic events. Its thick forest was the perfect hiding place for partisans – starting with the 1863 anti-Russian November Uprising and most recently during the World War II.
At the Palmiry cemetery: a memorial to thousands of people murdered at this spot during the WWII.
Germans used this forest as a mass killing place: at the Palmiry cemetery and memorial, there are graves of those secretly murdered here by the Nazis between 1939 and 1945. Being so close to Warsaw, many of the inhabitants of Warsaw – both those involved in the underground resistance as well as regular people caught by chance in order to terrorize the population – were brought here to their deaths.
Memorial plaques: Those who are buried here died because they were Poles.
During the war there was a steady partisan activity in the forest – the German soldiers were afraid to enter for fear of being attacked. It was so well protected that people started to call it “Free Kampinos Republic”. In addition to the big Palmiry cemetery and memorial, there are partisan graves and monuments in many other places.
Kampinos National Park: Tourists and Athletes Friendly
Visitors to the Park have about 350 km of trails for themselves – there are very well-marked and easily navigated – but it’s good to buy a map or save a good image from the internet. There are walking, cycling (200km) and even horse-riding paths. Some of them are easier to get to by car – which you can leave at one of 19 parking areas, but there are plenty of options for those who rely on public transport.
A map showing the various trails in Kampinos. Photo credit.
That’s a lot of sand!
Kampinos National Park: Getting There from Warsaw
First of all get to the final metro station: Młociny. Then you need to go to the big bus station with multiple bus stops. To get to the Palmiry cemetery and start walking from there, choose bus No. 800. It’s a seasonal line running only May – October. You will need a two-zone ticket to get here.
You can reach other places in the Park by taking bus No. 708 (about 20 min. ride) to “Urząd Gminy w Izabelinie” from there it’s about 750m to the Park’s main offices.
Have you had a chance to see Kampinos? Do you know of other Nature reserves right next to big cities?