Delve into Belarus beyond its Stalinist architecture and grand structures into the quieter more rural side. Home to Europe’s Big 5, witness bison in the wild and embrace the raw beauty of wetlands, a protected biosphere and its primeval forests.
Embrace the time frozen folklore and ancient traditions of weaving and let your taste buds delight in age old recipes passed down from generation to generation.
Explore the countries oldest cities as you learn of Belarus’ role in both WWII and also of life under former Soviet rule. Venture into the Belarus Exclusion Zone, a side of the Chernobyl disaster many people do not know about and witness the thriving and pristine nature which has resulted from this catastrophe. Be absorbed in quaint village life where time slows down and slip into the pace of rural living. A country perfect for those with a curious mind and a fascination to uncover yet another gem of Eastern Europe.
Welcome to Belarus! Upon arrival in Minsk, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. Minsk is a progressive and modern city. Now booming with fashionable cafes and impressive restaurants, sushi bars and art galleries have taken up residence in a city centre once totally remodelled to the tastes of Stalin. Your accommodation this evening is a historical 17th century building which is a former Bernardine monastery.
Overnight Monastyrski Hotel or similar
Today you will visit the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, the gem of Belarus’ lakes district – a protected area of untouched diverse wildlife which began to take shape thousands of years ago after the meltdown of ancient glaciers. It is the only place, not only in Belarus but also in Europe, that is home to ‘Europe’s Big 5’ – European bison, moose, bear, wolf, and lynx. This is the only place you can see all of them in one place.
You will visit the Museum of Nature, Forest zoo, follow an eco-trail along Belarusian wetlands, and discover the Mythology museum, where you can take a journey around the world tree.
Along the way to the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, you will visit Borisov – a city with a rich history and a fascinating modern life. The restaurant ‘Bivouac’, where you will enjoy lunch, is famous for its unique museum and art gallery with portraits of military leaders who participated in the War of 1812: Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander I, Mikhail Kutuzov and Jan Dombrowski and others. Participate in a straw weaving workshop – this is a very special Belarusian handcraft where you will learn to create a “spider,” a traditional Belarusian protective talisman.
Tonight you will stay on the shore of the beautiful Plavno Lake right in the heart of the reserve. (B,L)
Overnight Plavno Hotel or similar
This morning after breakfast, you will head to Polotsk – the oldest city in Belarus, where you will see the St. Sophia Cathedral, the St. Euphrosyne convent and the Spaso-Preobrazhenskiy 12th century temple. You will then meet with the local youth who form an early middle ages re-enactment club. You will be able to see what local young people are doing in Polotsk as a hobby to keep them connected with the history of their native city. You will also have the unique opportunity to learn how to print a book using 16th century techniques. Polotsk for centuries was a famous book printing centre in Eastern Europe. You will then take a short river trip on board an early middle ages boat.
Lunch today is on a rural estate in Ekiman village, just near Polotsk. The owner is a lovely woman and her home-made cuisine is simply delicious.
Continuing on as you drive to Vitebsk. The great artist Marc Chagall was born here. In his paintings, you can observe the beauty of the Vitebsk urban landscape. You will visit his house-museum.
Vitebsk has a long Jewish presence. You will also visit the new Vitebsk synagogue where Ohel David will teach you about the life of the modern Jewish community in the city. (B,L)
Overnight in Hotel Luchesa or similar
Today you will visit the Orsha Linen Mill, the largest European manufacturer of linen fabrics and home textile products made from flax northern silk. After lunch, you will depart to Mogilev. Along the way, you will visit the Centre of Folk Arts and Crafts in Kopys and try your hand at being a real potter.
Mogilev is quite off the grid in Belarus, but it is definitely worth visiting for a glimpse at untouched life. Mogilev is a very old city with a wide range of interesting attractions which you will explore. (B,L)
Overnight at Hotel Gubernskaya or similar
Following breakfast, you will visit a fairytale like estate in the village of Krasny Bereg. Built in the second half of the 19th century, this magical place also houses the world’s only memorial commemorating child victims of WWII. In 1943, the Nazis set up a camp here where they used the most inhumane methods to take children’s blood for hospitals of the Hitler army. The concept of the memorial was inspired by children’s paintings.
Afterwards, drive to Gomel – one of the oldest towns of Belarus with many cosy parks, small fountains and peaceful corners. (B,L).
Overnight at Amax Vizit Hotel or similar
Today, you will visit the Polesie State Radio-ecological Reserve (PSRER) – a unique and fascinating place both for Belarus and the whole world. This is the biggest Belarusian nature reserve established in the Belarusian part of the Chernobyl Disaster Zone of Alienation. Although the Belarusian part of the Exclusion Zone lacks such landmarks as Pripyat and Chernobyl itself, it has its own distinct features: the human influence factor has been minimised compared to that on the Ukrainian side, and nature has claimed the abandoned settlements. A visit here is quite remarkable to see both the dissipated time frozen villages which were evacuated in 1986, as well as the picturesque and pristine nature. From here, drive to Mozyr. (B,L)
Overnight in a local guest house
After breakfast, you will depart for an orientation tour of Mozyr city – the capital of the Belarusian oil refinery industry and also home to beautiful landscapes along Pripiat river.
From here, you will drive to Pinsk. Along the way you will see a lot typical settlements of the South Belarus Polesie region, famous for it’s ancient beliefs, unique culture and impressive nature. This is a land where stone crosses seem to be growing from the ground, old traditions are alive, and people are incredibly warm and hospitable.
Lunch today is in a village on the way to Pinsk. On arrival in Pinsk, enjoy a sightseeing tour. The city is the non-official capital of Polesie, and is very little known not only by foreign travellers, but also by Belarusians. It has unique and ancient attractions which simply surprise all who visit. The town has a cosy atmosphere to it and an array of colours decorate the buildings’ facades making it a lovely pedestrian walk through the city centre. (B,L)
Overnight at Pripyat Hotel or similar
This morning you will explore Pinsk via a boat trip along the Pina River.
After lunch, you will depart to Brest. Along the way, you will visit the museum of traditional medicine in Strelno village where you will learn how local people were once treated for diseases via traditional methods using natural resources, rewrite old recipes and drink delicious herbal tea. Upon arrival in Brest, enjoy a city tour. Brest has a wide range of attractions related to the history of Belarus including the famous Brest fortress. Your hotel this evening is located in the historical district where there are many quaint bars and cafes in the old town that are worth exploring. (B,L)
Overnight at Hermitage Hotel or similar
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before you drive to Kossovo.
One of the most famous and respected heroes of Belarus and Poland, is Tadeusz Kosciusko. His contribution to the historical development of Belarus, Poland and the United States is immortalised in different parts of the world. Mount Kosciuszko, the tallest mountain in Australia, was named after him. He was born on February 4, 1746 at the Merechevschyna estate, very close to Kossovo town, located just in the middle of fields and meadows of Western Belarus. Now his birthplace is the Kosciuszko museum.
From here, drive to Mir. Along the way a few stops will be made to visit some of the more untouched villages and to source some fresh water, chat with locals, buy some local berries, apples, dried fresh water fish, eggs. Sometimes these stops lead us to the green houses of local people, their barns and houses! Where will today’s journey lead us?
In Mir, you will visit Mir Castle – an outstanding example of 16th century local fortification and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your accommodation this evening is a former ‘ieshiva’, a Jewish religious school housed in a 19th century historical building. (B,L)
Overnight at Mirski Posad or similar
Today you will explore the capital of Belarus, Minsk. Together with your guide you will visit places in the city where Minskers usually spend their time walking, chilling out and shopping for fresh and tasty food. Be immersed in the local Belarusian way of life as you get to know some of the cities important historical moments and how they have influenced today’s life.
Enjoy a traditional snack, a glass of beer or maybe a shot of vodka at Central bar in Minsk, just near the GUM store. It is an ideal place decorated as it was in 1950’s, and where plenty of bright local characters gather all the time.
After lunch, you will visit Alivaria brewery which is the number 1 local brew in Belarus. Your tour passes through the historic part of the production site and it is accompanied by the fascinating story of the 150-year old history of the company and the main stages of brewing. Enjoy a tasting of two types of beer. (B,L)
2 nights Monastyrski Hotel or similar
Following breakfast, visit the memorial museum-workshop Zair Azgur. Here you will see statues of different famous characters of 20th century including Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Winston Churchill and many others created by Zair Azgur. After your tour with a modern Belarusian architect, you will have the chance to create a sculpture yourself!
Enjoy a tasty lunch and some free time to discover Minsk at your own pace.
This evening, enjoy a Belarusian national dinner on a rural estate. Explore the nearby village before meeting your hosts.
Here you will have the opportunity to not only relax, but to get acquainted with Belarusian folk culture and learn how to cook a traditional local meal. Belarusian “Kalduny” is a meal of grated potatoes with meat, cooked in clay pots in an oven Once you have prepared your meal, whilst it is cooking, take a tour around the rural estate which is dedicated to bee keeping and honey production.
After your Belarusian cuisine workshop, you will meet a local folklore music group and enjoy the sounds of village music and Belarusian folk dancing. It will help you burn all those calories from the delicious meal you cooked! (B,L,D).
Today is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.