Arriving from the Mazury to the Suwaki (Suwalszczyna) Lake District, you can't help but notice how much wilder the terrain seems. You are not wrong. This most northeasterly part of Poland, whose borders touch Russia, Lithuania, and Belarus, has the lowest population density in the country. Even for Poles, this is uncharted territory.

The Suwaki region boasts the most talked about kayaking routes. The Rospuda, Czarna Hancza, and Biebrza rivers are linked by the Augustów Canal, resulting in over 100km (62 miles) of connected waterways. With the Schengen Zone agreement, you are free to wander into neighboring countries (except Russia) without a visa.

Augustów (pronounced aw-goos'-stoof) is a good stepping-off point into the region due to its strategic location amid lakes and parklands. Founded in 1550, the town lost most of its architectural beauty to battles ranging from the 17th-century Tatar invasion to World War II, when 70% of the town was reduced to rubble. The regional capital is Suwaki, 30km (19 miles) to the north of Augustów. But the main roads and railway reach Augustów first before trundling northward to Suwaki and beyond. To the north of Augustów is the Wigry National Park, while Biebrzanski National Park spans the southern rims. In the east is the Augustów Forest, one of Poland's largest continuous woodlands. Augustów is the finishing line for the Rospuda and Czarna Hancza water routes. Via the Augustów Canal, you can access the Biebrza River.

The tourism infrastructure here is not as extensive as in the Mazury, but many outfitters are based in and around Augustów.