Republic of Belarus

Government type: presidential republic
President: Alexander Lukashenko
Capital: Minsk (1 million 901,1 thousand)
Population: 9 million 463,8 thousand
Major languages: Belarusian, Russian
Monetary unit: Belarusian ruble (Br)

Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia in the north and east,the Ukraine in the south, Poland in the west and Lithuania and Latvia in the north. With a complex history and rich architecture Belarus is a wonderful place to explore no matter what time of the year. With a diverse geography and a passion for natural history and wildlife Belarus would be an outdoor enthusiasts' dream. Whether this is your first visit to Belarus or your fifth, come explore all it has to offer.

Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is located in the centre of the country.

Minsk today is a modern international city. The first recorded mention of the city goes back to 1067.

Over the course of its chequered history, Minsk has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, most recently after World War 2, when it was almost completely destroyed.

More than 1.9 million people live in Minsk today. It has excellent transport links including Minsk airport, several major train stations, the Minsk metro underground network, and a well-developed road system.
Climate and weather in Belarus. Belarus has a moderate continental climate, with cool humid winters and warm summers.

Most foreign visitors to Belarus require one of a range of available visas: Belarus transit visas, short or long-stay visas, single or multi-entry.

Who needs a visa for Belarus?

Most foreigners visiting Belarus require a visa. Exceptions are: passport holders from CIS states (except Turkmenistan), Cuban citizens (for visits up to 30 days), citizens from Serbia and Montenegro (for visits up to 30 days), Mongolian citizens (for visits up to 30 days), Venezuelan citizens (for visits upto 90 days), Macedonian citizens (for visits up to 30 days). There are also some exceptions for diplomatic passport holders from: Argentina, Brazil, Chinese People's Republic, Hungary, India, Iran, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Vietnam. All other foreigners need visas to travel to Belarus.

What kind of visa do you need?

The most commonly used visa is the short-term visa. These are valid for up to 90 days and suitable for: business travellers, students, private travellers on family business. Short-term visas can be single, double or multiple entry, depending on requirements. Tourists usually receive a short-term group visa via their travel agency. Long-term visas are usually valid for one year and allow multiple entry to Belarus. They are suitable for: frequent business travellers, private travellers wishing to stay longer in the country. Transit visas for Belarus are valid up to one year and allow the holder 2 days to travel across Belarusian territory.

How do you get a visa?

Visas are issued by the following bodies:

  • Consular sections of Belarus
  • Diplomatic Representative offices of Belarus
  • Consular Centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Minsk Airport (for nationals of countries without Belarusian representative offices)

In order to receive a visa, you must submit the following documents to your local Consular Section or representative office:

  • a completed visa questionnaire
  • 1 passport photo
  • supporting documents (original letter of invitation, with the signature and, if a business, seal of the inviting party)
  • other documents stipulated by the Consular office (depending on nature of visit and type of visa required.)
  • passport (with an expiry date at least 90 days after the expiry of the visa)

Can you get your visa after you arrive?
Foreign nationals arriving in Belarus via Minsk National Airport can get a visa at the airport.
Before arrival a foreign national needs to submit in advance (not later than the established timeframe) the documents to the Foreign Admissions Division (FAD) of the Consular Directorate of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Belarus, which is located at the airport:

  • for short-term visas – not later than 3 business days before the expected arrival date;
  • for long-term visas – not later than 5 business days before the expected arrival date.

Visa support documents may be submitted by the inviting company or person or by post taking into account the delivery time.

Address: Foreign Admissions Division of the Consular Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus,
National Airport Minsk, Minsk, 220054.
Phone: +375 17 279 20 58
In case of serious illness or death of a close relative (family member) visa support documents can be submitted at the time of application for a visa.

How long does it take to get a visa?

Successful applications will be processed within 5 working days of receiving the request.

How much does a visa cost?

Visa charges vary according to:

  • nationality of applicant
  • age of applicant
  • type of visa

Thus, consular fees are

  • transit visas (type B): single-entry visas – €20, single-entry visas for groups – €10 per person, multiple-entry visas – €40
  • short-term visas (type C): single-entry visas – €60, single-entry visas for groups – €10 per person, multiple-entry visas – €120
  • long-term visas (type D) – €150.

For issuing visas to UK citizens:
transit visas – $78/ £50 (5 business days)
short-term visas – $114/£75 (5 business days)
long-term visas – $366/£235 (5 business days).

For issuing visas (5 business days) to USA citizens:
transit visas: regular - $160
short-term visas: regular - $160 (single entry), $ 190 (double/multiple entry)
long-term visas: regular - $270.

Consular fees for citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Estonia stand at €25 for single-entry short-term visas and €60 for multiple-entry short-term visas.

Consular fees for citizens of Hungary, Malta, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic stand at €60 for single-entry and for multiple-entry short-term visas, at €150 – for the long-term visa.

Visas for Serbia citizens (for 30 days and over) and Japan citizens are free.

Visas processed at Minsk National Airport usually cost double the standard tariff.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus provides a regularly updated list of consular fees.


The President of Belarus signed a decree № 8 "On establishment of visa-free entry and exit of foreign nationals." The document establishes visa-free entry to Belarus for a period not exceeding 5 days at the entrance through the checkpoint "National Airport Minsk" for citizens of 80 countries.

What documents need to be in possession of foreigners for entry to Belarus without a visa?

For entry into the visa-free mode, you must have a valid passport or other equivalent document for traveling abroad, cash (for each day of stay in the amount of currency or Belarusian rubles, equivalent to not less than two base units, 1 base unit = 23 BYN), a medical insurance policy for an amount not less than 10 thousand. euros, operating in Belarus.

The goal - to activate travel and leisure business. But foreigners on official trips on diplomatic and service passports, visa-free regime will not be affected. Not touch it, and those who arrives in Belarus from Russia or vice versa. These flights are considered to be internal, as there are no border controls between countries.
Belarus Foreign Minister in his Twitter-account has published the list of countries from which tourists can visit Belarus without a visa:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Albania
  • andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Barbados
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Republic of Vanuatu
  • Vatican
  • U.K.
  • Hungary
  • Vietnam*
  • Haiti*
  • Gambia*
  • Germany
  • Honduras*
  • Hong Kong (Hong Kong) - a special administrative region of China **
  • Greece
  • Denmark
  • Commonwealth of Dominica
  • India*
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • China*
  • The Republic of Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia***
  • Lebanon*
  • Lithuania
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau (Macau) - Special Administrative Region of the PRC **
  • Macedonia
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Order of Malta**
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Monaco
  • Namibia*
  • Netherlands
  • Nicaragua
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Samoa *
  • The Republic of San Marino
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Seychelles
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • USA
  • Uruguay
  • Finland
  • France
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Chile
  • The Swiss Confederation
  • Sweden
  • The Republic of El Salvador
  • Estonia****
  • Japan

* - In the presence of a valid document for travel abroad valid multiple countries visa - members of the European Union or the States members of the Schengen area with a note on the entrance to the territory of a member of the European Union or a State party to the Schengen area, as well as tickets with confirmation of departure date from National airport "Minsk"
** - Is not a state.
*** - Including those having the status of non-citizen of the Republic of Latvia
**** - Including stateless persons permanently residing in the Republic of Esto

VISA-FREE ENTERING BELARUS (“Awgustow Canal” park and Grodno)

Tips for visa-free visitors of Grodno

Foreign visitors can enter Belarus visa-free if they plan to visit the territory of a special tourist and recreational park “Avgustov Channel”, and its adjacent territories.
One can enter Belarus through crossing Belarus State Border at the checkpoints Lesnaya (Rudavka), and Bruzgi (Kuznitsa Belostokskaya) which border on Poland; at the checkpoints Privalka (Shviandubre), and Privalka (Raigardas) which border on Lithuania. Comment: it is obligatory to have visa if you enter Belarus by train.

Visa free territories are:

  • Grodno city;
  • Sopotskin region;
  • Gozha region;
  • Podlabenie region;
  • Koptevka region;
  • Odelsk region.

In order to enter the visa-free territory a foreign visitor should possess the document which is issued by Belarusian tourist agency.
In order to obtain the document a foreign visitor is:

  • to address Belarusian travel agency which has the right to issue such documents;
  • to receive confirmation approving a foreign traveler’s right to enter Belarus visa-free, and to obtain tourist service which should be booked in advance.

Before entering Belarus a foreign visitor is to get a health insurance for staying in Belarus.

A foreign visitor entering Belarus visa-free is to present the following documents at Belarus State Border checkpoint:

  • a valid document which allows to cross State Borders of foreign countries (passport);
  • the document issued by Belarusian travel agency which allows to enter the above mentioned territories visa-free;
  • Health insurance.

*A migration card is to be drawn up at the checkpoint of Belarus State Border. Comment: in case of migration card loss, a tourist will be fined.
More information

The largest number of hotels can be found in Minsk. Belarus is a relatively small country with good transport links. There are 43 hotels in Minsk which can accommodate over 9,000 guests. The best hotels in the Belarusian capital are the five-star President Hotel , Europe , Crowne Plaza , Beijing , and the four-star Victoria , Minsk , Victoria Olymp , Monastyrskaya, Na Zamkovoi, Renaissance. One-, two- and three-star hotels offer comfort and good service. Among them are three-star hotels Belarus , Garni , Arena , BonOtel , Sputnik , Planeta , Yubileinaya , two-star hotel Zvezda and one-star hotel Voyazh … New economy-class hotels such as Sport Time , East Time , Halt Time , IT Time have opened in Minsk ahead of the 2014 IIHF World Championship. The aparthotel Comfort is the first of its kind in Belarus and one of the first in the CIS. The 135 apartments, with a varied amount of rooms, are fitted with kitchenettes and other basic amenities one would need to feel at home. The service of the apartment hotel corresponds to that of a three-star hotel. Today, up to 40 projects of Belarusian and foreign hotel operators are in progress in the country.

Minsk hotels offer various types of comfortable stay. Here you will find:

  • family-type rooms and other opportunities to accommodate children
  • romantic suites

There are also exclusive options for those who prefer mini-hotels with a special atmosphere to high-rise complexes. For example, the 11-room boutique hotel Gubernsky housed in a 19th century building in Minsk, offers genuine luxury. Big hotels are complete with facilities for business meetings, conferences and other high-level events.

Minsk also provides a wide choice of budget stay:

  • unrated hotels
  • hostels

The network of hostels in the Belarusian capital has been steadily expanding. Today there are 11 of them with a total of nearly 450 rooms. They not only feed the demand for much needed budget accommodation but also offer special terms for visitors. For example, there is an art hostel in Minsk where guests can admire works of contemporary Belarusian artists and meet interesting people. The hostel organizes special evenings, film screenings…

Hotel prices in Minsk.
Hotel prices in Minsk vary from $15 (a hostel) to $320 per day (a standard room at the five-star hotel). The price for a room in a four-star hotel averages $180-190. A room in an economy class hotel will cost $40-50 per day. Luxury apartments are more expensive. The room category Apartment Superior in the President Hotel costs $770 per day.

Belarus is a country with a well-developed transportation system therefore if you intend to go to Belarus without the assistance of a travel agency, you can put together your own route and choose the most convenient way of transportation.

Railway transport in Belarus. Travelling by railroad is one of the most comfortable and reliable options. Railroads inside the country can get you to over 2,100destinations. Belarusian Railways offers a convenient format of passenger transportation:

  • Urban lines – within limits of Minsk or an oblast capital and up to stations in satellite towns.
  • Regional lines – within limits of an oblast or up to the nearest oblast subordination city in a neighboring region
  • Interregional lines – between Minsk and oblast capitals, between oblast capitals
  • International lines – connect Belarus and other countries

Depending on the speed of trains, the time spent at stops in populated communities regional and interregional lines are divided into business class and economy class.

You can buy train tickets personally in ticket offices at stations, and also book by phone or online with delivery (in Minsk, Gomel, Mogilev) and without delivery (you have to pick up tickets in ticket offices before the deadline).

For domestic and some foreign lines you can get digital tickets by paying for tickets online using bank plastic cards, digital money systems EasyPay and WebMoney. If you opt for digital registration, you only have to produce your passport to board the train.

The cost of travel along Belarusian railways is not high and depends on the line, class, and category of the railway car. For instance, a ticket from Brest to Vitebsk – virtually across the entire breadth of the country – on an interregional line train costs:

  • reserved seat – about Br104,000 (USD10-11)
  • compartment – about Br144,000 (USD14-15)

Commercial and free services are rendered in trains of Belarusian Railways.
For free you can:

  • get bed linen delivered and taken away, get your bed prepared if you need aid (you have to pay to use bed linen unless the cost is covered by the ticket)
  • get table games
  • get first medical aid
  • get safety belts
  • get helpful information

Smoking is not allowed in railcars except for international trains, which have dedicated smoking areas.
In Belarus there are 20 major railway stations with a well-developed infrastructure and services for passengers. You can also get good service at stations in cities and towns. Ticket offices and vending kiosks operate at small stations.

Automobile transport of Belarus

You can travel about Belarus on a bus or a minibus.

You can buy tickets for international and suburban buses online using digital systems WebPay and iPay.

There are bus stations or bus stops in all the cities and towns of Belarus where you can buy tickets, wait for your bus, or have a snack.

In Minsk there are several bus terminals (Tsentralny, Vostochny) and bus stations (Yugo-Zapadnaya, Avtozavodskaya).

In addition to bus operators of the Transport and Communications Ministry there are multiple private bus companies operating in Belarus.

Air transport in Belarus

Belarus is a comparatively small country, therefore there are no regular domestic air flights. The National Airport Minsk welcomes international flights that connect the Belarusian capital with many countries across the globe.

Existing airports in oblast capitals welcome charter flights, cargo aircraft, and airliners that need an emergency landing. Apart from that, airports in Gomel, Grodno, and Brest offer regular flights to the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

Water transport in Belarus

In Belarus there are ten river ports, waterways are open on the rivers Dnepr, Berezina, Sozh, Pripyat, Zapadnaya Dvina, Neman, Mukhavets, and the Dnepr-Bug canal. However, nowadays the demand for passenger transportation by water is low. During the navigation period journeys from ports of Rechitsa, Gomel, and Pinsk are offered several times a week.

However, during the warm season water sightseeing tours are hugely popular. Travels on motor ships are arranged in:

  • Brest (Mukhavets)
  • Vitebsk (Zapadnaya Dvina)
  • Grodno (Neman, Augustow Canal)
  • Gomel (Sozh)
  • Mogilev (Dnepr)
  • Bobruisk (Berezina)
  • Mozyr (Pripyat)
  • Pinsk (Pripyat)
  • The national park Pripyatsky
  • The national park Narochansky (Naroch Lake)
  • The national park Braslavskiye Ozera (Drivyaty Lake)
  • Zaslavl reservoir (Minsk Sea)
  • Vygonoshchanskoye Lake

You can travel along the famous Augustow Canal on board of a 12-passenger water bus: it is faster than a motor ship, can handle sluicing easier, and produces less noise.

The floating hotel Polesie has cast anchor on the Pripyat River in the town of Turov. This comfortable hotel with eight suites offers travels along six waterway routes that last for up to three days. The motor ship Pripyat also has five cabins for holiday makers.

Urban transport in Belarus

In Minsk and other towns and cities of Belarus you can use mass transit systems:

  • buses (nearly in all towns and cities of the country except for the smallest one where you can reach the stop you need using intercity transport)
  • trolleybuses (Minsk, Gomel, Mogilev, Vitebsk, Grodno, Brest, Bobruisk)
  • trams (Minsk, Vitebsk, Mozyr, Novopolotsk)
  • private buses (in Minsk and major cities)
  • taxi (in Minsk and major towns and cities)

Belarus’ only metro is located in Minsk.

Tickets to pay for your passage in public transport you can buy in a vending kiosk at the stop, from the conductor or from the driver.

At present in Minsk the cost of a public transport trip (by bus, trolleybus, tram, metro) is Br4,000. In other towns and cities of the country the cost of passage is lower, as a rule.

For multiple travels in a city you can buy a seasonal ticket for one or several kinds of transport for 10, 15, or 30 (31) days.

Taking into account international experience, a new system to pay for passage will be introduced in all the kinds of surface urban transport in the Belarusian capital in 2014.

Kossovo Palace and Park Ensemble, an example of 19th century architecture, Brest region

Influences of both eastern and western cultures are reflected in the diverse architectural styles of Belarus churches, castles, palaces and fortresses

Belarusian architecture through the ages

Despite its turbulent history of war and destruction, many architectural treasures and attractions of Belarus have survived to tell the history of this fascinating country.

Some of the oldest buildings of Belarus date from the Middle Ages.

Artistic movements and religions have played their part in shaping the architecture of Belarus, with fine examples of Romanesque and Gothic, Baroque and Classicism, Modernism and Eclecticism to be found across the country.

Architecture in the Brest region

Brest fortress is the main architectural tourist attraction in the city of Brest. It dates back to 1830s. Other noteworthy buildings include:

  • St Simeon’s Orthodox Cathedral, an example of architecture of pseudo-Russian style (1865)
  • Roman Catholic Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Vozdvizhenie Sviatogo Kresta) (1856)
  • Railway station, an example of architecture of the Pseudo-Russian style (1886).

Architectural monuments in the Brest area include:

  • Kamenets tower (Belaya Vezha), a fine example of defensive architecture (13th Century)
  • Charles Baramesha's Church in Pinsk, an example of baroque architecture (18th Century)
  • Butrimovich Palace in Pinsk, an example of late baroque architecture (1784-1790)
  • The Palace complex in Ruzhany (17th – 18th Century)
  • Kossovo Palace, which shows elements of classicism (19th Century).

Architecture in the Gomel region

The main attraction of Gomel is the palace-park ensemble centred around the classical-style palace of Rumyantsev-Paskevich (1799-1819).

Architectural attractions of the Gomel area include:

  • Mozyr church and Bernadine Cloister, an example of baroque architecture (1648)
  • Cistercian Cloister (1743-1745)
  • Petrikovsky Nikolaev church, an example of the Pseudo-Byzantian style architecture (2nd half of 19th Century)
  • Chechersk town hall, classical style (2nd half of 18th Century).

Architecture in the Grodno region

The Grodno region offers the visitor a wealth of ancient and beautiful buildings to discover and enjoy.

The unique architectural monuments of Grodno include:

  • Borisoglebsky (Kalozhskaya) church, an example of Old Russian architecture (2nd half of 12th Century)
  • Royal Palace, an example of rococo architecture (1734-1751)
  • Church of St. Franziska Ksaverij, an example of baroque architecture (late 17th – 18th Century).
  • Franciscan monastery, an example of baroque architecture (18th Century).

In the Grodno the most prominent remaining ancient castles are:

  • Mir Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site – one of the famous castles in Belarus and an outstanding example of defensive architecture (16th Century)
  • Lida Castle (14th – 15th Century).

Historical religious monuments include:

  • Piously-Mikhailovsky church in the village Synkovichi (Zelva area), an example of defensive architecture with gothic features (late 15th to early 16th Century).
  • Church-fortress in the village of Murovanka (Schuchin area), an example of defensive architecture (early 16th Century)
  • St. Uspensky Zhirovichi Monastery (17th – 18th Century)

Architecture in the Minsk region

Although many important buildings and monuments in the Minsk region were destroyed by war, those that have survived include:

  • Petropavlovskaya Orthodox Church, an example of architecture with elements of renaissance and baroque (1611)
  • Deva Maria Catholic Church (1798)
  • Alexander Nevsky Church, an example of the retrospektiva-Russian style (1898)
  • Kalvarijsky church, an example of neo-gothic style (19th Century).
  • The Church of St. Simon and Elena (Red church), a neo-gothic building with modernist features (1908-1910).

The main attractions in the Minsk region are architectural monuments found in the town of Nesvizh:

  • Nesvizh palace - park complex (16th – 19th Century).
  • Nesvizh church of the Divine Body, an example of baroque architecture (1584-1593).
  • Slutsk Brahma, an example of baroque architecture (17th – 18th Century)

Other architectural monuments of the Minsk region:

  • Bernardin Church in Budslav (Myadel area), an example of baroque architecture (18th Century)
  • Voskresensky Cathedral in Borisov, an example of the Pseudo-Russian style (1874)
  • Spaso-Preobrazhenskaya Church in Zaslavl (late 16th to early 17th Century)

Architecture in the Mogilev region

Surviving architectural monuments of the ancient city Mogilev:

  • Nikolaevskaya Tserkov, an example of baroque architecture (1669-1672)
  • Stanislavskiy Kostiol, an example of baroque architecture (1738-1752)
  • Archiepiscopal palace, an example of architecture of classicism (circa 1780)
  • Mogilev town hall (17th – 20th Century).

Mogilev region:

  • Shklov town hall, an example of classical architecture (late 18th Century)
  • Preobrazhensky church in Shklov, an example of the neo-Russian architecture (early 20th Century).
  • Sviato-Troitskaya Tserkov in Bykhov, wooden style (mid-19th Century)
  • Synagogue in Bykhov, an example of architecture of the late Renaissance (mid-17th Century)
  • Bobruisk Fortress, an example of defensive architecture (1st half 19th Century).
  • Bykhov Castle, an example of palace-castle architecture (late 16th to early 17th Century).
  • Palace in Zhilichi (Kirov area), an example of classical style (1830s)

Architecture in the Vitebsk region

Orthodox and Catholic churches of the Vitebsk area represent various styles of temple architecture. Surviving buildings in Vitebsk include:

  • Blagoveshchenskaya church, an example of Old Russian architecture (mid-12th Century)
  • Kazan church, a specimen with elements of baroque and early classical architecture (1760)
  • Varvariansky church, in the neo-Romantic style (1785)

Ancient architectural sights in the town of Polotsk include:

  • St. Sofia Cathedral, (11th - 18th Century), one of three Old Russian temples devoted to St. Sofia. (The others are in Kiev and Novgorod.)
  • Spaso-Evfrosinievsky church, an example of Old Russian architecture (1152-1161). Unique ancient frescos are still visible on its walls and columns.

Original examples of temple architecture in the Vitebsk region include:

  • St. John Krestitelja Church in Kamai (Postavy area), a monument combining forms of defensive, Gothic and Renaissance architecture (1603-1606)
  • Church in Sariya (Verkhnedvinsk area), an example of neo-gothic architecture (1852-1857).
Belarus’ unique natural environment is host to a fascinating selection of rare plant and animal species, plus several National Parks and a range of significant conservation projects.

The Belarus landscape.

Belarus is a very green landscape. Natural vegetation covers 93.1% of the land, and 1/3 of all green landscape is forest. In Belarus forests, 28 types of trees as well as around 70 types of shrubberies can be found. There are many lakes in the northern regions of Belarus, and the Polesye marshland around the Pripyat River in the south. Several areas of land in Belarus which contain unique landscape, rare plants and animal species have been designated as National Parks and are protected by the State.

Belarus wildlife.

Belarus is home to a huge array of wild animals and birds, many of them rare species. Around 76 species of vertebrate animals have been recorded in Belarus, including: elks, deer, wild, boar, beavers, wolves. There are also around 300 species of bird in Belarus. The Belarus Red Book was created to protect rare and vanishing species of plants and animals. Currently protected and recorded within the Red Book are: 17 mammal species, 72 bird species, 4 amphibian species, 10 types of fish, 72 types of insects. A large number of wildlife reserves and sanctuaries have been set up across Belarus to protect its rich diversity of wildlife.

National Parks and conservation

There are five National Parks in Belarus, protected by the State. Their work has been recognised and supported by UNESCO.

Belavezhskaya Pushcha

The Belavezhskaya Pushcha park is in the Brest region, 340km to the south-west of Minsk. There are records of reserve work in the locality dating back centuries. UNESCO granted the park World Heritage Site status in 1992, and Biosphere Reserve status in 1993. Belavezhskaya Pushcha park is home to many ancient oak trees dating back more than 500 years, as well as venerable ash, pine and fir trees. There are also significant animal and bird populations here, including the world’s largest population of the rare European bison and the greater spotted eagle.

Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve

This park lies in the Vitebsk region of Belarus and was set up in 1925 to protect rare animal species in the north of the country. Just 120km from Minsk, it forms part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves World Network. The reserve is made up of forests, bogs, reservoirs and meadows. More than half of the known species of Belarusian flora can be found here, including: 56 mammal species, 220 bird species, 9 amphibian species, 5 reptile species, 34 types of fish.

Braslavskiye Ozera National Park

This park was established in 1995 among the beautiful lakes of the Vitebsk region in the north-west of Belarus. The park’s 69,000+ hectares host more than 800 species of plant, 20 of them close to extinction. It is also home to: 30 species of fish, 189 species of birds (85% of all nesting birds in Belarus), 45 mammal species, 10 amphibian species, 6 reptile species. The ancient town of Braslav, which dates back to the 11th century, is scenically sited in the middle of the park.

Narachansky National Park

Narachansky National Park, in the Minsk region of Belarus was established in 1999. More than a third of its 94,000 hectares are forest, home to the majority of the country’s pine trees. The park is a recreational reserve, popular with anglers for its large, well-stocked lakes. It’s also famous for its natural springs and has 18 sanatoria and recuperation centres.

Pripyatsky National Park

This park lies in the Gomel region in the south of the country, 250km from Minsk. There has been a reserve on the flood plains of the Pripyat River since 1969 and the park today covers more than 85,000 hectares. In 1987 European bison were introduced to the park, which is also home to: 51 mammal species, 11 amphibian species, 7 reptile species, 37 types of fish, 246 types of birds.

Chernobyl: what are the risks?

The Chernobyl disaster in neighbouring Ukraine in 1986 was the world’s worst nuclear accident. More than 60% of the fallout from the plant affected Belarusian territory.

The worst affected region of Belarus was the Gomel region in the south-east of the country.

While travellers to Gomel or Belarus may understandably have some concerns about radiation, it is now scientifically accepted that the danger to health for visitors to Belarus is minimal.

There are strict controls over the most contaminated areas, where entire Belarus villages remain deserted and which cannot be visited without official approval.

Belarusian zakuski

Belarusian national cuisine has evolved over the centuries. Belarusian culinary traditions represent a mix of simple recipes used by commoners and a sophisticated cuisine of the nobility, an extensive use of local ingredients and unusual way of cooking. Old Belarusian recipes have survived to the present day, and the county’s visitors show an increased interest in them. Restaurants serving Belarusian traditional food offer not only peasant cuisine of the Belarusian countryside but also elaborate dishes served to Belarusian magnates.

Traditional dishes are served at farmsteads that use only fresh farm produce to make the dishes which are often common only for a particular area. Here they bake bread to old recipes and technologies, cook homemade meat delicacies, cheese from cow or goat's milk, and sweets made of honey, apples and cranberries. Today’s diet of Belarusians includes many traditional dishes. The most popular are pork stew (machanka) and vereshchaka, homemade sausages, draniki (thick potato pancakes), kolduny, kletski (dumplings), babka (baked grated potato pie), cold sorrel soup, mushroom soup...

Old Belarusian Cuisine

Belarusian cuisine was influenced by two main factors:

  • active farming and extensive use of local produce;
  • influences from neighboring countries and migrant settlers

Since the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the national culinary traditions have been a mix of Baltic, Slavic, Jewish and partly Germancuisines. Therefore, the Belarusian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the continent. It is similar to the Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, but is unique in its own way, is hearty and delicious. In the old days, each social class had its own gastronomic traditions. Therefore theBelarusian cuisine was divided into peasants and bourgeois, shlyakhta and high nobility cuisines. The Belarusian cuisine widely uses local produce:

  • vegetables and greens (cabbages, turnips, beets, carrots, parsnips, pumpkins, potatoes, cucumbers, onions and garlic, sorrel, nettle, quinoa, orpine roots)
  • pulses (beans, peas, lentils, kidney beans)
  • grains (rye, barley, oats, buckwheat)
  • mushrooms (pickled, dried, powdered)
  • fruit and berries (apples, pears, plums, cherries, currants, blackberries, blueberries, red bilberries, raspberries, ashberries, high cranberries, canker berries)
  • spices and dressings (caraway, coriander, linseed, horseradish, calamus, mustard, juniper, cherry and oak leaves)

Potatoes deserve a special mention: being introduced to the diet of the Belarusians in the 18th century they have formed the basis of many Belarusian dishes for hundreds of years. Among them are famous draniki, kolduny, pyzy, potato sausage, kletski, babka…

For centuries Belarusians consumed limited amounts of meat. Meat was usually served on festive occasions in the form of salted and sun-dried products. With time, the meat diet expanded. The most frequently used meat included: pork, mutton, beef, poultry (chicken, duck, goose, turkey), game (elk, roe, boar, beaver).

The Belarusian cuisine is a variety of meat and poultry dishes (pyachysta, kumpyachok, machanka, vereshchaka, tushanka, smazhanka), all sorts of home-made sausages, salty salo, byproduct dishes (vantrabyanka, rubtsy – pork belly stuffed with meat and buckwheat porridge), smoked meat…

The Belarusian cuisine is also rich in fish dishes. As a rule, it is river fish (tench, sturgeon, pike, eelpout, bream, eel, trout, perch, carp). Belarusians used to make yushka, dumplings, salt and smoked fish. Today restaurants serve famous "Pike Perch a la Radziwill."

Common dairy products included curd cheese (made of cow and goat milk), sour cream, and butter. Milk is a regular ingredient in many Belarusian recipes, including all kinds of soups, porridges, mokanka.

The diet of Belarusian villagers was always hearty, relatively simple in cooking (many dishes were prepared in the oven over low heat for a long time), but always fresh: chilled or warmed food was not served!

Nobility cuisine was more exquisite, with a bigger variety of products and spices, including exotic ones, and, of course, and with the use of more sophisticated cooking technologies. The nobles had an opportunity to indulge themselves in such dishes aselk lips in sugared vinegar, stuffed eel, rooster broth...

Peculiarities of the Belarusian cuisine.

There are special features that distinguish the Belarusian cuisine from culinary traditions of many other countries, give it a local color and a peculiar charm. For example, the Belarusian cuisine is characterized by quite complicated and lengthy processing of products. It includes such methods as braising, stewing, baking, cooking, blanching and roasting, with several of them being used in some recipes. Many national dishes require various kinds of flour made of oats, buckwheat, peas, rye and their mixtures. Flour can be used as the main ingredient of some foods (flat cakes called perepecha, special Belarusian pancakes from various kinds of flour, thick pancakes made of peas). However, it can also serve as an additive for thickening ("zakolota" for soups). Traditionally yeast was not used in Belarus to knead dough. The Belarusian cuisine offers a great variety of dishes made from vegetables. Many of them are unique despite the fact that they are based on traditional Slavonic recipes. The examples are the soup zhur (cooked prior to Lent and can be alternatively made of milk or meat) based on oat water, polivka (thin soup made of cereals and vegetables),morkva (carrot soup), gryzhanka (turnip soup), garbuzok (pumpkin soup) and other kinds of dishes. The pride of the national cuisine is traditionalBelarusian bread baked with the use of rye flour. Instead of yeast Belarusians used a special leaven. This is a very healthy product. Belarusian bread is heavier and is a bit sour. In old recipes different additives were used like caraway seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds. Bread was sometimes baked on the ‘pillow’made from birch and oak leaves.

Belarusian cuisine today

The contemporary Belarusian cuisine is eclectic. It has preserved old traditional recipes which are gradually being revived. Meanwhile dishes from other countries are becoming increasingly popular, too. Today’s restaurants offer modern intake on traditional Belarusian dishes which reflect original ideas of chefs and principles of Grande cuisine, which takes into account the diversity of products and seasonal changes. You will definitely appreciate such delicious dishes as:

  • Marinated white mushrooms with vegetable oil, hot potatoes, pieces of toasted wheat bread and leek
  • Zhur with eggs, smoked meat and sour cream
  • Cutlets from buckwheat and chopped meat (grechaniki) with sour cream and leek sauce
  • Draniki with apple and sour-cream sauce
  • Meat sauce (vereshchaka) with buckwheat pancakes
  • Bigos (a dish from sour cabbage) with smoked meat, mushrooms and prunes
  • Pyachisto (large pieces of gammon)
  • A pear roasted in honey with spices (the recipe of the Radziwill family)

In the 20th century, in the times of the Soviet Union, the Belarusians were widely exposed to the culinary traditions of other countries, like Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In those times many West European meat dishes appeared on the menu of Belarusian restaurants and canteens.

The main changes that the Belarusian cuisine underwent in the 20th century were:

  • wheat flour and dishes from it became very popular (for centuries the Belarusians used mainly rye flour)
  • salads became quite common

Today the menu of Belarusian restaurants features dishes of the Belarusian, European, and Asian cuisines, and modern culinary trends (wellness, fusion).

But if you are in Belarus, you must taste the national cuisine, the dishes that can be “Belarusian” only in Belarus.

You will see how delicious, interesting, sometimes even exclusive and unpredictable the Belarusian cuisine is!

Belarusian desserts

The recipes that are famous in Belarus include sweet pancakes with cottage cheese gravy and pears a la Radziwill.

Today the most popular desserts are:

  • ice-cream, whipped cream
  • cakes
  • fruits and berries (apples, pears, bilberry, cranberry, strawberry)
Belarusian traditional drinks

The oldest Belarusian alcoholic beverages were based on honey and beer. The technology of making drinkable honey from usual bee honey is similar to beer brewing, while many recipes included hop.

Grapes were grown only on small vineyards of wealthy estates, therefore wine drinking was not common and wine was used only in church rituals. Imported European wines were a luxury that only the nobility could afford. The most common drinks served in the houses of Belarusian gentry were liqueurs, nastoikas and nalivkas (sweet and strong alcoholic beverages based on vodka and enhanced with herbs, berries, honey, spices and sugar). The most popular of them were called krupnik, zubrovka, krambambulya and troyanka. Today these ancient beverages are offered in restaurants and rural tourism estates.

Belarusian liquor producers offer a great variety of vodkas, including classic vodkas and vodkas with various additives like spices, buds, nuts. The most popular varieties are: vodka made from bread, vodka with extracts of birch buds (leaves), cranberry vodka, vodka with pepper and honey.

Nastoikas and balsams are very popular, too. These are strong alcoholic beverages with extracts of herbs, buds, berries, spices and honey. The most famous Belarusian liquors include:

  • zubrovka – classic bitter nastoika with vanilla grass from Belovezhskaya Puscha.
  • Belovezhskaya Pushcha nastoika
  • balsams with various herbs, berries and fruits like Belorusky, Charodei, Polesie.

Belarusian vodka is sold at shops, supermarkets, and hypermarkets. Many Belarusian alcohol brands have their own retail outlets. You can buy alcoholic beverages in decorated souvenir bottles: unusual bottles from glass and clay, canvas bags, leather bags, and designer boxes and wrappings. You can taste the original alcoholic beverage – samogon (moonshine) – at Belarusian ethnographic museums and complexes.

Popular Alcoholic Beverages in Belarus

Wine and brandy, champagne (sparkling wine), other types of strong alcoholic drinks (vodka, whisky, rum, tequila) imported from other countries are also popular with Belarusians today. Belarusian companies and joint ventures produce their own brands using wine-making materials from the best European wine-growers or bottle ready-made alcoholic drinks.

Belarusian Beer

For many centuries Belarus has had breweries - brovars – producing delicious malty drinks made to original recipes. The brewing traditions are continued by Belarusian breweries that produce licensed brands and original Belarusian beer brands many of which have been recognized at different prestigious competitions. The oldest Belarusian brewery – Alivaria – was founded in 1864. Today the 19th century building of the enterprise houses the Museum of Beer. The exposition of the museum features a collection of beer bottles and tags from different years and antique pieces of beer-making equipment. The visitors can also learn about the modern production technology and taste beer. Mini-breweries and brewing restaurants offering tasty unpasteurized and unfiltered beer are becoming increasingly popular in Belarus. In the future, more and more mini-breweries will be opening at Belarusian culture and ethnography centers, national parks and reserves, farmsteads, and hotels…

Belarusian Kvass
Belarus’ traditional beverage – kvass – is made using natural fermentation of bread or cereal (barley, rye). In the old days it was a popular summertime refreshment. Kvass according to traditional recipes can be made at home. In summer you can buy this naturally fermented tasty drink from mobile street vendors. Vendors offer kvass made by Belarus’ leading producers. Bottled kvass, available in stores all the year round, enjoys high popularity today. The beverage made to traditional and original recipes is offered by several big companies. Kvass festivals are a usual thing in Belarus with a variety of tasting and entertainment shows held during these festivals. The biggest of them takes place in the city of Lida(Grodno Oblast).

Soft Drinks in Belarus

A well-known traditional drink of Eastern Slavs is sbiten. It is a hot drink based on honey or molasses mixed with herbs, spices, and sugar. The drink was mainly used in winter while kvass was widely used in summer. Belarusian sbiten has its peculiar features. The recipe includes birch leaves, calamus, lime flowers. On the christening celebrations Belarusians added radish to the drink. Today sbiten is served in restaurants and farmsteads. Belarusians also like drinks made of wild berries – cowberries, cranberries. Among popular spring drinks are byarozavik and klyanovikbirch and maple saps, and birch and maple-based drinks. One more favorite homemade drink is compote. It is made of local berries and fruits which are boiled in a great amount of sugared water.

Mineral water enjoys high popularity as well. Mineral wells are found in pristine areas of Belarus, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Almost every health resort in Belarus makes use of mineral water from local sources for drinking, inhalations, and baths.