Cycling Across the Napiwodzko-Ramucka Forest

Just beyond the southern border of Olsztyn is the largest forest in Varmia and Masuria – the Napiwodzko-Ramucka Forest. Spanning 1,170 km2, if offers unspoilt beauty and a wealth of attractions although it still remains largely undiscovered by tourists. Exploring these attractions from the saddle of a bike is great fun.

Where to go? What to see? There are oh-so-many choices!

This forest is relatively cyclist-friendly and within easy reach by rail, making transporting your bike to the desired location a breeze in order to head out onto the forest tracks and trails. Every station and stop on the Olsztyn – Nidzica and Olsztyn – Szczytno route is a good place to start your cycling adventure.

One can venture out in pursuit of the place of the suicidal death of General Samsonov – the commander of the Russian Army which was defeated by the German Army in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1914. It is also worth laying eyes on a unique river that disappears under the ground in the Koniuszanka 1 Reserve only to emerge in the Koniuszanka 2 Reserve. The lone church tower in Małga is also worth visiting to learn about the history of the displacement and resettlement of the village population for the requirements of the military training ground. It’s also a great idea to cycle along the tarmac forest tracks in the former Łańsk Empire, an area that once belonged to the government resort in Łańsk. There is also a wealth of other interesting and scenic biking destinations to explore. A good map will help tourists confidently find their way around and plan a cycle route.

We will focus on visiting the valley of River Łyna – the Queen of Varmian rivers, although its sources and upper stretch are located in Masuria, making it a perfect opportunity to cross the Varmian border (which was a state border in 1466-1772). The journey there can be started in several different spots and they can, of course, also be the finishing spots when heading out from Olsztyn.

It is also worth departing from Nidzica, towered over by the vast Teutonic castle. There is a cycling path that runs from there to the River Łyna Sources Reserve. One can also take a much shorter route and start the trip from the PKP Dobrzyń train station, riding along the green route (footpath and cycleway) to the sources of River Łyna. There are no words to express the charm of the picturesque valley with steep sides from where the water trickles out of the ground to form the river. In order to reach the most interesting fragment of the reserve, you must dismount and push your bike, leaving it at a certain point to walk the rest of the way following the green route. From Łyński Młyn, the green route takes you to the very heart of Olsztyn. The fact that this is a gravel trail should be taken into account when planning the excursion. On the way there, in nearby Orłowo, it is worth visiting the large and well-maintained First World War Cemetery. A short distance away, on the eastern side of the track, is the Orłowo Małe Lake Nature Reserve protecting the European pond turtle. On the way to Kurki, you will be accompanied by beautiful forest landscapes. The small village of Kurki lies almost midway. It is a great place to stop and rest and visit the Baroque church (formerly Protestant Church) with a plaque commemorating the stay of Karola Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II) during a kayaking trip.

Varmia starts just outside the village of Kurki. The track runs along the eastern shore of Lake Łańsk – one of the largest (almost 11 km2) and deepest (54 m) lakes of Varmia. On the way there, you will pass the lakeside government resort, which was the where the hunting lodge of the German emperors was from the end of the 19th century, and then a closed recreational facility for communist dignitaries (N. Chruszczow, W. Gomułka, L. Breżniew, E. Gierek and others) during the Polish People’s Republic. Circling picturesque Lake Ustrych, you will enter one of the largest nature reserves in Poland – the Varmian Forest. River Łyna, accompanying you on the section from the bridge by Lake Ustrych to Ruś, is sub-mountainous in nature and runs at the bottom of a deep valley several dozen metres deep. There will also be two old villages (founded in the 14th century) along the way – the picturesquely set village of Ruś with a pretty beach on River Łyna, and the village of Bartąg with an interesting church (as every village in Varmia is almost a cathedral), until you finally reach the southern border of the city. The cycle-friendly green walking route will take you to the city centre along the last kilometres of the Olsztyn Łynostrada.

There are also other tracks and trails in the forest, one of which runs parallel to the historic Gościniec Niborski (marked as red), from Olsztyn to the village of Napiwoda and Łyna, which can be an interesting alternative route back to Nidzica after cycling the route described above.

By: Marian Jurak

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