Things to see and do in Belarus
Belintourist (National Tour Operator)Address: 19 Pobediteley Avenue, Minsk, 220004
Telephone: +375 17 226 9700
Attractions in Belarus
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park
Time appears to have stood still for centuries in this primeval forest surrounding Brest. Today, the park is home to over 900 plants and 250 animals and birds including European bison (reintroduced in 1929), tarpan (European wild horse), wolf and lynx. Foreign visitors can visit the National Park without a visa if they cross the border via the checkpoint Pererov-Belovezha but the process can be tricky so it is best to check the official website (https://npbp.by/eng) to obtain a pass before you go.
Braslav Lake District
Situated in the north of the country and some 250km (156 miles) from Minsk is the Braslaw Lake National Park, home to a network of lakes and an atmospheric forest. Flora and fauna are abundant in the region and the lakes are stocked with different types of fish, attracting keen fishermen near and afar. There are 30 campsites within the park plus other accommodation options along the lakeshore.
The historic city of Brest is 350km (217 miles) southwest of Minsk. One of the highlights of Brest is a tour of its fortress, which was used to repel the German forces during WWII. Inside, a museum chronicles its history back to the 13th century. This history is further illustrated by a fascinating selection of exhibits in the Museum of History and Archaeology. Other worthy diversions include the Puppet Theatre and the 13th century Belaya Vezha (Tower of Kamyenyets or White Tower).
Dudutki, Museum complex of ancient crafts and technologies
A museum dedicated to illuminating the traditional crafts, culture and way of 'old Belarusian life', The Dudutki Museum of Material Culture is 40km (25 miles) from the capital city and is the only private museum in Belarus that presents this elegant balance between past and present.
Close to the borders of Lithuania and Poland, Grodno has for hundreds of years been a strategic border town, particularly relevant during WWII. The major sites are the Old Grodno Castle, New Hrodna Castle and Kalozha Church.
In 1943, all 145 residents of Khatyn village were massacred by a Nazi battalion consisting of mostly Ukrainian collaborators. Khatyn has become a symbol of a number of mass killings that took place during the war, and the memorial now in place is a sobering yet suitable tribute to over 2,000,000 people that died during the three years of Nazi occupation. World leaders who have visited this site include Richard Nixon of the USA, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, Jiang Zemin of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
About 170km (106 miles) west of Minsk is the city of Lida which once a stronghold of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. Gediminas built the mighty Lida Castle on sands for protection against the assaults from Teutonic Knights. Today, the castle features regular knights' tournaments during the summer months and an ice-skating rink in the winter.
Minsk, Trinity Suburb (Troitskoye Predmestye)
The pretty suburb of Troitskoye Predmestye, commonly known as Trinity Suburb, has been loving rebuilt in the 1980s after decades of decline. Places of interest include: The Living Room of Vladislav Golubka, a monument to poet Maxim Bogdanovich and a pharmacy showing a collection of chemist's utensils and books from the 19th century.
With 160 museums ranging from Cat Museum to Olympic Glory Museum, the cultural scene in Minsk is surprisingly diverse. Major museums include: Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, National Arts Museum and Nature and Environment Museum. Another worthy diversion is the open-air Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Lifestyle featuring century-old buildings from different regions in Belarus.
99km (62 miles) southwest of Minsk is the small town of Mir which was once an important centre of Jewish learning and prior to 1939, the town belonged to Poland. Key attractions include the Mir Castle Complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Jewish war memorial, Church of St Nicholas and Trinity Orthodox Church.
Pinsk is 300km (186 miles) south of Minsk and located in the region known as the Marsh of Pinsk, a low-lying land of waters and mists. Apart from a good number of 19th century buildings gracing its city centre, key attractions include the Museum of Belarusian Polesie (Belorusskogo Poles'Ja) and Orthodox Church of St Barbara.
The centre of Christianity during the time of Rus (the first Russian state) lay in the Slavic town of Polotsk, 250km (155 miles) north of Minsk. Polotsk is the oldest of the Belarusian cities, founded in 862 and conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1563. Key attractions include an 11th century Cathedral of Saint Sophia, Museum of Belarusian Typography and Museum of Local Lore.
About 22km (14 miles) from the capital is the picturesque village of Raubichi, with an interesting Museum of Belarussian Folk Art, housed in an old church. However the main draw nowadays is not the village but the Olympic standard sports complex close by. It is home to a specialized educational and sports institution where winter sports athletes are trained. It is possible to join guided tours of the complex and hotel accommodation is available in this beautiful setting.
For tourists seeking political history, the village of Viskouli is where, on 8 December 1991, leaders of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine signed the famous agreement stipulating the final disintegration of the USSR.
Vitebsk, situated 270km (169 miles) from Minsk is the birthplace of the painter Marc Chagall. There is a cultural centre named after him and his family house has been turned into a museum. One of Belarus' oldest buildings, the Cathedral of the Holy Assumption, can also be found here, dating back to the 11th century.
The village of Zhirovichy, 190km (119 miles) from Minsk, is renowned for the beautiful 15th century Orthodox Monastery which includes three churches, a cathedral and a belfry, among other buildings. The main building, Cathedral of the Assumption, is an important pilgrimage site as it contains an icon of the Mother of God of Zhirovichy.
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