The Republic of Belarus, located at the crossroad of trans–European transport and communication corridors “West–East” and “North–South”, has an exclusively rich natural, historical and cultural potential favourable for international tourism. Belarus is a country with an ancient and rich history and unique culture. It has a significant number of historical towns and cities — Novogrudok, the first capital of the Great Principality of Lithuania, Russia and Jemoit; Polotsk — the historical capital of the Principality of Polotsk with its valuable architectural monuments like the Sofia’s Cathedral and Saviour Transfiguration Church with unique frescoes of the 11th century; Turov and Grodno — centres of Slavic principalities of the 9th and 12th centuries; Mstislavl — the centre of large waywodeship of the 16th century. Many towns and cities have preserved ancient temples and cloisters, palaces and castles of magnates of Rzecz Pospolita and of the Russian Empire, as well as valuable architectural, historical and cultural monuments.
Urban and rural areas include over 20,000 monuments of history and culture and about 100 centres of artisan arts. Beside natural reserves and national parks, there are settlements and towns that represent complex memorials preserving their historical environment and traditional way of life (Motel, Gorodnaya, Ivenets, Neglyubka, etc.).
The most valuable for the development of tourism in the Republic of Belarus are:
Brest Oblast: 250 monuments of history and culture, 92 rest facilities, 34 resort areas, the national Park, national reserves, 21 special reserves, hunting facilities “Telekhanskoye” and “Shereshovskoye”, over 20 specialised facilities for accommodation and meals catering of tourists.
Vitebsk Oblast: 30 hotels, 30 health facilities, 26 reserves, 500 monuments of history and culture, 18 estates, 46 tourism and expedition routes. For environmental tourism and active types of tourism — on foot, by bikes, by waterways, for hunting and fishing — there are nice conditions in the vicinity of the Lepel and Ushachi lake groups (Barsuki hinting facility), the Braslav Lakes national Park, the Beloye, Berezovskoye, Voronech, Zhuravno, Meredezh, Meshchetskoye, Glubokoye, Devinskoye, Dolzha, Ives, Losvida and Sosna lakes, as well as the Lukomskoye water reservoir; for health tourism there are 30 tourist and health facilities, rest homes and other facilities in the rest location of Ushachi, Ozernaya, Dnepr, Devinskoye and Ostrovno; festival tourism with good prospects for development — 18 festivals: international festivals of modern choreography, old and contemporary music, organ music, open–air pain- ting festivals named after Chagall and Repin, the international arts festival “Slavic bazaar”.
Gomel Oblast: 34 rest facilities, including Tery- ukhi (over 20 institutions, including 50% for children), Sozh (14 institutions mostly as sanatoria), Pribor, Belyiy Bereg, Klenki, Pripiatsky National Park, reserves Mozyrskiye Ovragi, Strelski, Zhitkovichi, Chechersk, Buda– Koshelevo, etc.; 14 landscape and biological reserves of the republic’s importance with the total area of 114,100 has for specialised and foreign groups along ecological tourist lines, photographic hunting, water and bike tourism, 2 reserves, 3 memorial estates, and the Liaskovichi hunting reserve.
Grodno Oblast: the regional programme for tourism has been developed, which provides for development of perspective centres of tourism such as Avgustovskiy Channel, Lida, Slonim, Zhirovichi, Synkovichi, Diatlovo and other historical places, the Sorochanskiye lakes reserve as the single natural facility integrated with the Naroch National Park in the north of the Oblast within the framework of the European region called Neman.
Mogilev Oblast: the Svisloch–Berezina National Park, the reserves Dyleby Lakes and Zaozerye, the Teterinskoye hunting facility, the festivals “Golden Hits” and “Mighty God”.
Minsk Oblast: Naroch and Krinitsy resorts; over 60 resort areas, sport facilities Raubichi and Stayki, the Naroch national Park, the Berezina Biosphere Reserve, the Seliava reserve, the Krasnoselskoye hunting facility, state historical and cultural reserves Nesvizh and Zaslavl, the Belarusian State Museum of Popular Architecture and Household Menka, the Production and Museum Complex Dudutki, the Kupala Memorials Vyazynka and Yakimovshchina, the Kolas reserve, the Loshitsa park and estate complex, the Minsk historical centre Troitskoye Predmestye, the Upper Town ensemble, the monuments of architecture in Nesvizh, Miadel, Budslav, the state memorials Khatyn, Mound of Glory and many other.
For development of various types of and forms of tourism different tourist resources are used: landscapes of high aesthetic value; natural ecosystems minimally changed by human activities; curing mineral waters, peat balneology, sapropels, single estates and villages with traditional people’s architecture and household located in environmentally clean regions, territories rich in hunting facilities and possibilities for hinting (elk, spotted deer, wood and great grouse, wolves, etc.), and water streams with rich fish stocks. Sport tourism purposes can be met by natural landscape for walking tourists, by horse, kayak, sailing, and sport events. Belarus has over 10,000 lakes, about 3,000 rivers of 5 km or more in length (Dnepr, Western Dvina, Neman, etc.) and about 20,000 small rivers. The most aesthetically valuable and diverse natural landscapes are located in the north and in the centre of Belarus. National and international centre of environmental tourism include the national parks Naroch, Braslav Lakes, Pripet and Berezina Biosphere Reserve.
National parks are the pride of Belarus. They are of the world importance. They represent specially protected natural areas, unequalled by their beauty, having no analogues in Europe.
To provide for a rational use of national cultural heritage and of the most valuable natural complexes for tourism purposes, the State investment programme has been developed for revival of the historical, cultural and natural heritage of the Republic called "The Golden Ring of Belarus". The draft programme provides for organisation of a multi–point specialised economic zone “The Golden Ring of Belarus” designed for tourism and recreation.
The tourism market is a dynamic sector of the Belarusian economy. The Republic of Belarus was visited, annually, by about 100,000 tourists; during the same period about 12 million people went from the country as tourists.
The most popular among the visitors are: Minsk City — 40% of visitors; Grodno Oblast — 32%; Brest Oblast — 22%, Vitebsk Oblast — 5%. Mostly, tourists are coming from Poland, Great Britain, Russian Federation, Latvia, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Cyprus, and Ukraine.
The average annual turnover of the tourism sector, over the last three years, has exceeded $US 20 million and is incremented by 8% every year. Profitability of tourist organisations, by official data, depends on the competition on the market and constitutes 10–20% annually.
From 1990, international tourism has become one of the forms of foreign economic activities. The main partners in the field of international tourism are CIS countries, Germany, Poland, England, Turkey, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Sweden, and Netherlands.
In Belarus, about 500 firms have the right to engage in tourism. Most of them (86%) are private companies.
Over 250 hotels are rated to receive, at the same time, 30,000 visitors; the average rate of use of the hotels does not exceed 40%. There are 14 tourist hotels (over 6,500 places), 9 tourist bases (4,300 places), and motor vehicles.
Hunting tourism is becoming all the more popular in the Republic. The territories of hunting facilities are suitable for organising commercial hunting of different species of game.
At the current stage, the Government attributed great importance to establishing bilateral and multilateral relations with other states in the tourism sphere and promoting cooperation with international tourist agencies. Belarus has expanded the range of services provided to foreign tourists: hunting and fishing tourism, tourist recreation, various tours related to sport and cultural activities and congress tourism. Currently, tourist facilities are being constructed and rehabilitated at a large scale, and an enabling environment for operation of tourist companies and advertising/information support of the country’s tourist industry is being created. Mountain skiing resorts Logoisk and Silichy, residence of Uncle Frost in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and tourist facilities in reserves have been built, the Augustovsky and Dnieper-Bug Canals are being restored, etc. The new hotels are intensively being built and old ones are being reconstructed, the best of them are located in Minsk, Vitebsk and Gomel and are certified as 3 and 4-star hotels. The mountain skiing/sport/rehabilitation complex Logoisk is located 30 km north of the capital of Belarus in Minsk District. The most attractive natural feature of this area of Belarus is its relief for which it was named the Belarusian Switzerland. Owing to the natural landscape, the mountain skiing resort of the international level was built. The resort offers a comfortable 50-room hotel, a billiard room, a bar-cafe, wooden rest houses, a restaurant, a sauna, a hiring post, a children’s playground, a 800-m long lighted route with an elevation difference of 80 m equipped with a ski lift, tubing, a parking and a lot more to the visitors.
For information on hotels, visa requirements, transposrtation and more please visit the National Tourism Agency