On my first full day in Belarus, I was eager to get out of Minsk and explore some of the beautiful nature that the country has to offer. When researching Belarus, I came across the Braslav Lakes National Park.
This national park consists of 300 lakes, over 100 islands and many hectares of pine forests. This unique landscape was shaped by the latest glacial period when it was covered by vast ice fields that were several hundred metres thick. The national park also has interesting flora and fauna with over 1,900 species of plants and a diverse wildlife with over 300 species of vertebrate animals.
The main town in the national park is Braslav, located 240 km from Minsk. Travelling around Belarus isn’t the easiest thing to do, but by asking around and learning just a bit of cyrillic it was doable! Getting to Braslaw from Minsk is quite simple; BUT it took four hours each way! And I only spent three hours in the area, and while many people would probably think it wouldn’t be worth it with all the travel time, I definitely thought it was! It’s better than just staying in the capital for the entire stay, that’s for sure, because Belarus is so much more than just Minsk.
I went on a marshrutka, a mini bus of sorts, which I’d also tried in Central Asia and Mongolia, but thankfully it wasn’t as cramped in Belarus!
But but but I’d forgotten how horrible they are to drive in! It was jumping up and down the entire 4-hour ride! It’s a wonder no one was sick!! It’s not even because the roads are that bad in Belarus, their vehicles are just outdated.
But, after four hours of bumping, I finally arrived in the small town of Braslav in the very north of Belarus.
I hadn’t had time for breakfast before leaving for Braslav, so I went to a cafe immediately after arriving there at 12.40 PM. I went to the Kafe Suzorye near the bus station and had a small salad, some bread and a plate of french fries. All of that cost me just 1,80 BYN! 1,80!!!! That’s less than 6 DKK – even less than a pack of chewing gum costs in Denmark!! I loved how cheap everything in Belarus was!
After finishing up my breakfast/lunch, it was finally time to explore one of Belarus’ four beautiful national parks!
Lake Drivyaty is located right in front of the village, so it was the first lake I saw. This is the largest lake in the region and the 5th largest in all of Belarus. I spent some time walking from one end of the beach to the other and into the orange forest, snapping hundreds of pictures on my way.
It was significantly colder up there in the north of Belarus. If i had planned to stay there for any longer i definitely would’ve needed gloves and more warm woolly clothing. I definitely wasn’t dressed for the weather, as I hadn’t imagined it could be so much colder than Minsk.
I walked through the quaint town full of colourful houses and orange autumn trees to another lake, Lake Biareza. The town is home to 9,500 people, many of whom I met out on walks with their dogs and fishing at the lake, enjoying their nature-surrounded town. What a beautiful place to call home.
By now, I had spent a few hours exploring the two lakes, taking in the immense beauty of the national park. I had started to get really cold, so I headed back through the town again, coming by the Lenin Statue in the center of the town.
On my way back to the bus station, I met a friendly grey cat, the first one of many I saw in Belarus. The cat was eager for kisses and tummy rubs!
Two lovely elderly locals came over to talk to me while I was cuddling the cat. We couldn’t understand each other, but they pointed to the cat and said something, then I made a heart with my fingers and they laughed.
I wanted to catch the bus already at 4.30 PM and got to the bus station at 4, but the lady told me it was sold out, so I had to wait for another bus at 5.30 PM, which then took 5 hours to get to Minsk
When I finally got back to the hostel at 11.30 PM, I was exhausted by the long day of travelling through the country, but I still let myself be persuaded into getting some beers at the local pub with the bunch of Danes who I’d met at the hostel the day before. I’ve got to make the most of it, when I finally meet some Danes in an off-the-beaten-path location
How to travel from Minsk to Braslav Lakes National Park:
- Braslav is the gateway to the national park, and getting there from Minsk is easy. There are marshrutkas running several times every day. You can go to to the central bus station in Minsk and ask for th times there, or ask at your hostel. Braslav is Браслаў in Belarusian, and Minsk is Минск. The ride takes about 4-5 hours and the tickets cost 12 BYN one way.
- Once you’re in Braslav, you can easily walk to some of the lakes. I didn’t see any bike rental in town, but you might find some, if you ask around!
- There are plenty of nice guesthouses and hotels in Braslav, if you fancy staying for a night or two. You can look them up at booking.com.
- Getting back to Minsk is just as easy as getting to Braslav. Again the marshrutkas run several times every day, and you can ask for the timetable at the bus station, where you were dropped off.