Hidden amongst the forests and marshes of Eastern Europe, Belarus has long been considered one of the continent’s ‘bit’ players. In recent years though that view has taken a decided turn, as the Belarusian heartlands have opened up to become one of Europe’s go to destinations. Home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, rare European bison and some of the most ancient woodlands left on earth, this captivating enigma is emerging as a destination worthy of further investigation.
Minsk, the country’s lively capital, is home to an impressive collection of churches, museums and Stalinist-style architecture that encompass a historical legacy that dates back to the late Middle Ages. Meanwhile its natural landscape plays host to some of Europe’s biggest and deepest lakes, four national parks and a staggeringly rich diversity of rare fauna and flora that include wolves, beavers and some 300 species of birds. Labelled by some in the past as the continent’s last dictatorship, Belarus seems to be embracing its new-found status as one of Europe’s emerging tourist destinations and its cafe culture, nightlife and traditional arts offer up intriguing contrasts in a country that seems happy to balance its bright new future with its old communist past.