The beauty of sailing in the Mazurian Lake District is that the interconnecting waterways allow you the freedom to waltz from one lake to another. In summer, however, it gets congested around Gizycko and Mikoajki. Spend a day sailing from Mikoajki to Okartowo (in the east) and you escape to relative isolation. Be sure to moor at Lake Tuchlin, a bird sanctuary. Similarly, you have nature to yourself (more or less) once you pass the lock at Ruciane-Nida into Lake Nidzkie. Serene, too, is the southeasterly Lake Ros. You get there by passing the lock in Karwik and slipping into the 6km (3 3/4-mile) Jeglinski Canal. The lakes reward you with parades of grey herons, cormorants and ospreys, and storks galore. On the banks, elk skirt by, belting out their mating tunes. You won't be bored by the bays and peninsulas of Lake Dobskie (northwest of Gizycko). Here, you find the peculiar Cormorant Island (Wyspa Kormoranów), where trees cannot grow, and Gilma Island, which reportedly was the site of an ancient pagan temple. Lakes Dargin and Sniardwy can be challenging for novices.
The sailing season lasts from May to late January. To avoid rubbing helms with other enthusiasts, May to mid-June and after August are the best. But in July and August, the weather is sunnier, and in the evenings, you'll find merry beer-imbibing at all of the resort towns. To enjoy the lakes without the hassle of renting a boat, hop on a ferry. But if you want to command your own vessel, yacht rentals abound. Some pop up and fold up just as quickly. The www.mazury.info.pl portal has an updated list of rentals. It is advisable to browse through local sailing magazines such as Jachting (www.jachting.pl) or Zagle (www.zagle.com.pl), where you'll find many advertisements for outfitters. In July and August, advance reservations are a must. Locals sometimes book at two different outfitters and, on the day of the trip, check out the vessels before selecting one. Caution: When picking up a boat, look for any damages and report them before setting sail to avoid complications later.
One of the biggest marinas and outfitters is Sailor (Czartery Jachtów Sailor, Piekna Góra; tel. 87/429-32-92; www.sailor.com.pl) in Piekna Góra, situated just outside Gizycko. Another is Tiga Yacht and Marina (Sztynort 11; tel. 87/427-51-79; www.tigayacht.pl) in the lovely marina of Sztynort (northwest of Gizycko), complete with a derelict heritage manor house, restaurants, hotel, and campsites. mJacht (tel. 791/141-331; www.mjacht.pl) has yachts scattered in marinas around the district. The friendly, English-speaking Daniel Zuchowski is ever ready to answer questions and make accommodation recommendations.
Note: If you don't have a sailor's license, the rental company will try to help you locate an English-speaking skipper. The going rate for skippers is about 200 z to 250 z per day, plus meals. Depending on the size of the boat, expect to place a deposit of 500 z to 2,000 z. The smallest boat for four could cost as little as 70 z per day. On the other end of the scale, a luxury yacht for eight, fitted with creature comforts, can command 650 z per day. Before setting out, check with your rental agency to obtain local emergency numbers, water safety information, and local sailing customs.
Canoeing & Kayaking
The Krutynia River wins hands down as the loveliest lowland kayaking route in the country. The route starts in Sorkwity (35km/22 miles west of Mikoajki). The 102km (63 miles) will have you paddling from lake to lake via streams, moving east by zigzagging from north to south. Along the way, you pass the Mazurian Landscape Park. On the whole, it is rated as an easy route, but from Zgon to Krutyn, you paddle along Lake Mokre, a sizeable lake that requires care. If you're going solo or have kids in tow, a carefree and manageable route is from Krutyn to Ukta (about 4 hours). Most outfitters deliver both you and the equipment to the set-off point and then pick everyone up at any of the stopover or finishing points. The season begins in May and continues through October; July and August are the busiest.
For multi-day tours, there are various overnight options. Along the route, campsites run by PTTK (www.mazurypttk.pl) are located in Sorkwity, Bienki, Babieta, Krutyn, Zgon, and Kamien. The chalets cost about 25 z per person. To pitch your own tents, the fee is 15 z per person. If you don't care to rough it, look for outfitters like Hotel Habenda (Krutyn 42, Piecki; tel. 89/742-12-18; www.habenda.com), which will pack you out for the day and ferry you back to the hotel's comfort at day's end.
There are many outfitters in Krutyn, a one-main-street town. Note: There are no ATMs here -- the nearest is in Piecki, 11km (6 3/4 miles) away -- so make sure you have enough cash with you to cover rental, food, and accommodation expenses. As a guideline for rental costs, refer to AS-Tours's website (Krutyn 4, Piecki; tel. 89/742-14-30 or 601/650-669; www.masuria-canoeing.com), which has been in the business for over 20 years.
Nature-loving biking fiends could spend a week zigzagging the Lake District. Pick up the cycling routes from the tourist information office and a 1:50,000 map of Wielkie Jeziora Mazurskie by Tessa. For newcomers, a popular choice is the 60km (37-mile) Gizycko-to-Sztynort round-trip. Dismount at Sztynort to see the 300-year-old oak trees in the park of the derelict 16th-century palace of the Lehndorf family. Pressing on, it's storks galore. The historical Red Route takes you westward from Gizycko to the Wolf's Lair. You can push on westerly to Ketrzyn to see a mid-14th-century Teutonic castle. Puff on another 13km (8 miles) on Road no. 594, and you'll come to the celebrated baroque church in Swieta Lipka.
Locals lug their bikes with them. Most hotels have bikes for rent for about 40 z per day. For well-maintained wheels and the gear needed for longer trips, contact Techmet TC (Zwyciestwa 38, Piecki; tel. 89/742-21-04 or 607/132-314; www.rowery-mazury.com). Their bikes go for 25 z per day. There are no charges for delivery up to 20km (12 miles) from Piecki. Otherwise, it's 1 z per kilometer. When you're done, they'll pick them up from anywhere you've landed. Ask for Monika; she speaks English.
The wide expanse of woods and meadows is fertile ground for big- and small-game hunting. Most common are wild boar, deer, and birds. Hunting in Poland is strictly regulated. As such, it has the reputation as one of the top hunting grounds on the continent, attracting hunters from Scandinavian and other European countries. Dzikie Mazury (Wyszowate 44; tel. 87/421-15-50 or 604/636-691; www.dzikiemazury.eu), 16km (10 miles) from Gizycko, is a licensed hunting office that organizes outings in the northeastern region. The autumn-to-winter season is from October to February, while the spring-to-summer season starts in May. Contact the office to sort out the paperwork for firearms and hunting permits prior to your arrival. The company is affiliated with Hotel Mysliwski (Wyszowate k/Gizycka 44, Miki; tel. 87/421-15-50; www.hotelmysliwski.pl), which does full-board lodging for hunters.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.