Belarus is still opening up to tourists, and many of the cool experiences it can offer remain out of the spotlight – because they are hard to reach or only available on request.
Still, there is a number of bucket list things you can try, especially if you’re looking for something more than the standard tourist pastimes.
1. See Minsk from an unexpected angle
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What could be more romantic than seeing off the sunset over the city from water?
In Minsk, you can go kayaking, rent a catamaran or an ordinary boat. The catamaran and boat rental points are located right in the city center at Nemiga, Yanki Kupaly Park or Victory Park. For rent, you will need a passport or other identity document.
If you prefer a less ordinary experience, check out Kayak Minsk weekly tours. Every Wednesday evening, they arrange group tours, popular with both locals and tourists. The route is ideal for beginners and will be a relaxed option for advanced kayakers.
2 Take a beer tasting tour
If you are a beer fan, then it’s definitely worth a look at the local breweries. One is located right in the center of Minsk. At Alivaria brewery tour you will learn more about the process of brewing, the history of the enterprise (for example, find out the greatest historical injustice connected with the first woman manager of the plant). But the most interactive part of the excursion is, of course, beer tasting!
In case you want a day trip out of Minsk, then take a look at Lida town. There is a Lidskae brewery, where the tour will be more informative (in addition to closed beer tanks, you will see a spill line), and tasting at the end will not disappoint you either.
3. Become a chocolate sommelier
In Lida, in addition to beer, there is the only chocolate craft production in Belarus.
Prime Chocolate produce chocolate using the bean-to-bar technology – beans are brought from South America, Africa, and other countries suppliers, grinding and preparation are done without additives and preservatives. And this year they have launched tours with a chocolate tasting!
Did you know that in addition to wine sommeliers there are also chocolate sommeliers? Turns out they also have numerous refined epithets like “a light aftertaste of bitter wood” or “with a touch of coconut in the final part of the taste”. Just a friendly warning: you might want to change your profession after visiting Prime Chocolate!
4. Spend the night at a 9000-years-old bog
Some imagine a bog is as a place of horror stories, where goblins are trembling at every turn.
On the more realistic side, it is a territory with a high oxygen content (a hectare of bog produces 10 times more oxygen than a hectare of pine forest), a sweetish wild rosemary smell and a soft sphagnum moss that has a meditation effect when walking. The bog is also decorated with a kaleidoscope of peat lakes a bath in which makes your skin silky!
You can visit Yelnya, Belarus’ biggest bog, on your own, if you have/rent a car. Here is the link to an eco-path. Or you can join one of the scheduled tours by Walk to Folk – a 2-day adventure, guided by charismatic locals, with lodging at the tourist hostel. Or check out scheduled trips by Belpohod – a great experience of hiking for a weekend and spending a night in a tent in the middle of the bog.
5. Watch Europe’s rarest bird Aquatic warbler
Unlike many tourists, Aquatic warbler preferred Belarus to Europe – 70% of the European population of the species is nesting here, in Sporovsky reserve in the south of Belarus. Sporovsky is a complex of lowland and transitional bogs. If you get to travel there in the bird season (spring), then the Aquatic warbler is a must see!
In addition to bird-watching, do not forget to enjoy the flavor of Paliessie, which is the unique part of the south of Belarus. In some villages of Paliessie roads appeared only in the 60s of the past century – before that, the land was fully covered by the bogs.
6. Take a trip into an apocalyptic world
The territory of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is the largest part of the world with no human activity for more than 30 years. During the tour, there will be only you and your group at the territory of over 2000 km. sq.
You will see with your own eyes how nature takes over civilization – multi-storey buildings are almost entirely hidden behind the trees, there are native plants here and there, the population of wild animals is increasing. For example, in the reserve, you can see one of the largest populations of free-living bison, and Przewalski’s horse, which has migrated from Ukraine.
7. Walk along Milosz Alley in Belarus’ most culturally loaded town
Modern cultural Renaissance in town Cherea and village Belaya Tserkov is perhaps the busiest among all Belarusian towns.
Creative beau monde, after buying houses at that picturesque area, they soon realized that this beauty should be shown to others. Every year there is an atmospheric festival Sprava, the so-called festival of the place.
A walk along the Cherea, a small town where there are more than 30 cultural and historical sites, is now available to English-speaking tourists as well. All information boards have the English description, and the guys have developed an online guide for this place.
8. Ride like a stalker
Only here that would be a moto railcar, which means that you will not push it forward, but will just look around and enjoy the scenery. Needless to say, that the territories where the narrow gauge roads pass, are usually closed industrial complexes where you most likely will not meet anyone except deer and moose.
9. Buy farm products
In Minsk, there is a seasonal market of farm products “Use Svaje“. Here you can buy delicious and ecological food, meet like-minded people, listen to music.
While such markets are quite usual for Europe, in Minsk it is an emerging trend. For a more authentic market experience, visit the legendary Kamarouka or Zhdany. A trip you won’t forget!
10. Walk with locals
Another emerging trend in Minsk, as compared to popular tourist cities, are the tours guided by locals. We recommend joining one of Minsk Free Walking Tours, which are always carried out by fans of the city, who love to bring tourists to the most interesting places.
Great opportunity to have the first sight at Minsk and meet other visitors!
Text by Karina Sitnik, head of a local tour operator. Photo: Viktar Malyschits, TUT.BY, 750mm.by.