Braslav Lakes National Park - A view from our expert author

This bird-rich national park is home to no fewer than 189 species, including osprey, tern and bittern.

With the sprawling town of Braslav within its boundaries, this beautiful park of 70,000ha is located close to the border with Latvia, about 250km north of Minsk and the same distance northwest from Vitebsk, through Polotsk along the A215. Established in 1995 and famed for the unique nature of its aquatic ecosystems, the southern part of the park is mostly lowland marsh and forest, while the central and northern parts consist of beautiful blue lakes interconnected by a labyrinth of hundreds of rivers and streams, set in picturesque rolling hills. No fewer than 189 species of bird live here, including black stork, osprey, tern, bittern and ptarmigan. It is also possible to spot elk, wild boar, roe deer, beaver, fox, racoon, badger and wolf roaming free in their natural environment, although all are of course shy and evasive. There are also complexes consisting of large pens for closer study, although do bear in mind that these are enclosed spaces. Animals are not free to wander without boundaries and, as a matter of principle, the difficulties of this concept speak for themselves. Inhabiting the lakes are 28 species of fish, such as eel, whitefish, whitebait, zander, pike, catfish, carp, bream, chub, turbot, tench, perch, gudgeon, loach, ruff and stickleback. The park is rich in flora of more than 800 species. The areas of forestry include birch, pine, fir, black elder and aspen. All in all, the march of time has largely bypassed this delightful area and, as a sanctuary to step off the world in search of some inner peace and calm, there are many worse places to choose.

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