This pearl of north-eastern Poland is a small town that lies in the Augustowska Forest, and is also known as the “Venice of the North”. It is a picturesque and peaceful spa for enthusiasts preferring active vacations, including water sports like rowing, canoeing, and water skiing. There are many beautiful lakes surrounding Augustow and trails for walkers, or you can ride horses, hike or sail to give you the opportunity to marvel at the natural miracles of the Augustowski Channel. Lots of sport and cultural events happen here every summer. And then after an emotionally full day, you can head to the popular Zygmunt August Square, where you can relax in one of its many pubs and cafes.
Augustow is especially worthwhile for people who prefer to spend their time actively – the main tourist route is the Augustowski Channel, which at 101.2 km long connects the Vistula River with the Niemen (Nemunas) River (Lithuania), and was built in the first half of the 19th century. Today, together with the surrounding lakes, it makes for an attractive waterway. Especially popular is the “Pope’s route”, which takes you along the trail of places visited and beloved by Pope John Paul II. Lots of water sports enthusiasts come to Augustow in the summer as there are countless ways to relax – from swimming, canoeing, windsurfing, water skiing, rowing to yachting and gondola rides. The Channel is also a paradise for anglers, and there is always bicycle and horse riding too.
Among the numerous cultural events are shows, concerts by Polish bands, picnics, and annual performances and contests like the funny and spectacular “sailing in anything” competition for imaginative people who construct the strangest possible “machines” able to float. This unusual rally takes place on the banks of the Netta every year on the last Sunday of July. Another kind of cultural event is the Augustow Summer Theatre, which lasts from the beginning of July until the end of August and is an opportunity to spend the night watching performances, films and sketches in the fresh air. One of the most popular happenings during the Augustow Summer is the Water Slalom with famous Polish Radio 3 DJs on the first day of the holidays. The annual International Water Ski Jumping Championship also attracts many people.
Situated in the north-eastern part of Poland, in the Podlaskie Voivodship on the Netta River, Augustow is surrounded by the beautiful Necko, Biale, Sajno and Rospuda lakes, and is regarded as the most significant spa in the Augustowska Forest area. Near the Augustowskie lake district there are two national parks – Wigierski and Biebrzanski. Augustow is an important junction and its special location provides easy road connections with Vilnius in Lithuania (border crossings in Budzisk and Ogrodniki). There are also direct roads to Bialystok, Warsaw, Lodz, and Wroclaw. These days the Augustowski Channel is only open for tourists. Due to the climatic values and essential oils generated by the coniferous trees, this health-resort is famous for the treatment of heart and circulatory system diseases.
The legendary history of Augustow is very romantic – the city was established by the Polish King Zygmunt August (1548-1572) in memory of his first date with Barbara Radziwillowna. However, back in 14th century this place belonged to the Teutonic Order of Knights and was known as Metenburg. The present Augustow owes its existence to Queen Bona (the mother of Zygmunt), who took over the land from the Radziwill family in 1555 and two years later the place acquired city rights.
The next two centuries saw two invasions of the city by the Swedish army (during the Swedish Deluge) and the Tatars, and then there was a plague that decimated the inhabitants. The 19th century was a little more favourable, the Channel was built as well as the main road from Warsaw to Petersburg. Unfortunately, Augustow was badly destroyed during the November Insurrection and World War I. After the end of war the city became as famous as Jurata and Zakopane, and gained popularity as a spa and a holiday destination.