The Polish Maldives

The Polish Maldives: Overrated or Underrated? A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

If you have been looking to travel to Poland recently, you may have run across articles mentioning the “Polish Maldives,” describing a stunning lake with colors reminiscent of the actual Maldives many thousands of kilometers away. I was one of those people who ran across such an article, except from Polish media. For a place seemingly so beautiful, this spot seems to go quite under the radar. So, I decided that on a recent trip to the beautiful city of Katowice, I would journey to the Polish Maldives myself.  

What exactly are the Polish Maldives? This is a nickname for a series of ponds in a former quarry found in Park Gródek, a natural park found in the medium-sized Polish city of Jaworzno, which is a part of the greater Silesian metropolitan area centered around Katowice. The quarry was in operation for over a hundred years creating cement, only shutting down in the 1990s, leaving behind rugged rock walls and a few small ponds.  

Since then, the city of Jaworzno has worked to transform the once-industrial area into a beautiful park to visit. In the process, this park has become quite popular amongst locals, and due to advertising campaigns, such as the one I found, it has become popular amongst other Polish people, and even some international tourists. But are the Polish Maldives worth a trip for themselves?  

In this article, you will find my recommendations for visiting the Polish Maldives. My general conclusion is that they are certainly not worth a trip just to visit them but are a great day trip to take from either Katowice or Kraków. If you choose to visit after reading a further description of what there is to do, this article also holds information on how to get there, and what services are available. Read on to learn more! 

Best Things to Do at the Polish Maldives

A field perfect for picnics by the Wydra pond
A field perfect for picnics by the Wydra pond. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Park Gródek hosts a variety of activities to enjoy. Of course, the main draw of visiting the park is to see the beautiful pond with wooden walkways as all the pictures show. However, there is also a great opportunity for hiking, hosting a barbeque or picnic, and even scuba diving and motocross! 

Wydra Pond 

Wydra Pond is the star of the show in Park Gródek. This is the pond that gives the park its nickname. This pond is near the eastern end of the quarry, with the beautiful quarry walls towering above the lake to the east side. The trail to Wydra Pond takes you around the rim of the quarry so that you can admire the pond from above before descending to get a closer look. Once you have entered the quarry, you can take a walk on the famous wooden walkway that goes along the western edge of the pond. Here is where many people take their photos or just admire the views.  

In the surrounding area, there is also a large field, perfect for setting up a blanket or towel and getting some sun on a warm summer day. There are also a few benches set up near the edge of the pond, so you can admire the pond and the towering cliffs above it if you can get there early enough to snag a spot. In general, the purpose of visiting Wydra Pond is to visit the pond itself. Beyond hanging out, there is nothing to do. However, the views are worth it, in my opinion.  

There are two important things to note about visiting Wydra Pond. Firstly, the walkways are often flooded, especially during the winter and early spring, but this can happen year-round. Thus, depending on when you visit, you might not get a chance to walk along the boardwalk unless you are planning to get your feet wet, and maybe even muddy. So, do not be disappointed if this happens, and expect this to be true from October until May.  

view of wydra pond
The Wydra Pond is the star of the show in Park Gródek. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

A second thing to notice is that as of recently, there is only one path to Wydra Pond! There used to be a staircase down to the pond from the north side of the quarry, but it has either been demolished or destroyed naturally. You can try to scale the hill without the staircase, but it is very dangerous, and not recommended. The location of this former staircase is here, which still shows an existing trail on Google Maps, but this trail does not exist! 

Rather, you will need to enter the pond from the south side of the quarry. There is both a staircase, found here, which may have flooding by the entrance in the winter, and a paved road a little bit west of the staircase, both of which are still usable as of my visit at the end of March 2024. So, if you choose to walk around the north side of the quarry, which is highly scenic, you will then need to walk about 15 more minutes around the quarry to get to the staircase down.  

Okra Pond & diving 

The former quarry not only houses the famous Wydra Pond but also hosts another small pond called Orka. Orka is much different from Wydra, in that it is surrounded by a fence, and is not publicly accessible. However, it is still stunning with clear blue colors and can be admired from a variety of viewpoints high above the pond and one in the area near Wydra Pond. In general, this will be the only access you will have to Orka Pond.  

However, if you are more adventurous, Okra Pond is open to people interested in Scuba diving. A company called Via Sport offers year-round diving in the clear waters of the pond. With depths of 10-15 (33-49 ft) meters, this pond is good for both beginners and experienced divers. The unique part about diving here is the remains of the quarry, including two excavators, and some large mining buckets.  

The view of the diving area at Orka pond
The view of the diving area at Orka pond. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Based on the website (which may be outdated, so call ahead), the pond is open for diving 7 days a week except holidays, from 8 AM to 4 PM, with night diving also available upon request. It is unclear if they have lessons for beginners, but this seems to be the case, although the website mentions it is not the easiest place to learn to Scuba dive. But, if you are experienced, it could be a cool place to visit! Additionally, the company is hoping to expand this area to add more water sports, so maybe in the future, you can also visit for activities other than Scuba diving! 

Explore one of the many beautiful hiking trails 

Park Gródek, being a nature park, also has an abundance of trails to explore. While you will have to walk on some of them to get to Wydra Pond, there are many trails to explore if you would like. Along the way, you will find a variety of nature, from dense forests to bubbling creeks, to large grassy fields. The forest especially is dense, spreading quite a way south from the quarry, which can result in a couple of hours of walking if you want. Generally, the hiking trails away from the quarry should also be very quiet.  

There are also quite a few places along the way with picnic tables and even some with spots meant for grilling. If you want to live like a local, buy everything you need for a barbeque, find one of the pits in the forest, and grill some sausages as you enjoy nature. This is a popular pastime amongst Poles and a delicious one too. If a barbeque sounds like too much, you can always just find a quiet picnic table and enjoy a cold lunch.  

Hiking trail in park
Park Gródek has an abundance of trails to explore. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

The hiking trails are also suitable for wheeled activities, especially mountain biking, with many trails of different terrains around the park. While I visited, I even saw some locals trying to do some motocross activities on some of the hills in the park. Regardless of what your preferred outdoor activity is, Park Gródek is a great place to experience it. All you must do is take a trail and get lost in nature.  

My Experience at the Polish Maldives

While I write very positively about the Polish Maldives, is it worth it? I decided to visit for myself so that I could write this article, as most of the articles you will see were written by people who have not been to Park Gródek, nevertheless Poland in some cases. My conclusions? It is worth visiting the Polish Maldives. But it is certainly NOT worth it as the headliner of a trip to Poland, but rather as a supplementary activity on your itinerary on a trip to Poland.  

The journey itself to the Polish Maldives was very simple, taking just over an hour from Katowice, with a combination of trains and walking (more on that later). While I was there, Park Gródek was quite empty, with only a few locals taking a Saturday morning stroll on a warm day in late March. The walk to the quarry was picturesque, with quite a few places to stop to take some pictures. Since I was there so early, I snagged a seat on a bench, since the boardwalk was flooded.  

However, while it was a perfectly quiet place to sit other than the other people visiting with me, there just was not anything else to do but sit. I had only planned to stay for about an hour, so I did not get bored of admiring the view. But, if you were to plan a whole day trip to the pond, you would need to bring a picnic meal, and maybe some activities to enjoy on the lawn, or a good book. Without those things, there just isn’t much to do but snap a few pictures, admire the view, and then leave. 

A nice pavilion with seats
A nice pavilion with seats. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

However, my impressions were still very positive. The ponds were stunningly beautiful, and some of the best natural features I had seen in Poland. You are not going to see water colored like at the Polish Maldives in Poland, nevertheless most of this part of Europe. But I think much of my enjoyment was that it was not very crowded, it was sunny, and I had a bench to sit on. I imagine in the summer, it can get so extremely crowded with people seeking photos, that it may not be the sublime experience I had.  

So, Poland has many awesome things to do, from cultural landmarks to interesting cities, and beautiful winters. Nature is certainly an underrated part of Poland, and Park Gródek did impress me. However, it is not a place of natural beauty like Zakopane worth visiting on its own. Park Gródek is a few beautiful small ponds in a quiet part of Poland, and that is it. It will be a great day-trip activity from either Katowice or Kraków. But do not plan your whole trip based on this, or else I fear you will be disappointed.  

In sum, I think the big articles touting the Polish Maldives are overrating the experience quite a bit, mostly due to the authors not having visited themselves (it could also potentially be a paid tourist campaign). The nature found there is better than the pictures they show in these articles, but depending on when you visit, your experience may not be as pleasant as mine. Take all these things into consideration when planning your trip to the Polish Maldives.  

When is the Best Time to Visit the Polish Maldives?

If you have decided to visit the Polish Maldives as a key day trip from either Katowice or Kraków, when is the best time to visit? As mentioned previously, if you want to use the boardwalk, visiting during the summer will guarantee that it is easily accessible, although you may still get your feet a bit wet. However, this is also, unsurprisingly, the busiest time of the year, so expect a crowded experience. However, if you get there early enough in the morning, around 8-9 AM, you should avoid the crowds for at least a little bit.  

If you are visiting in the offseason, it is only worth visiting the Polish Maldives and Park Gródek when the weather is decently warm. While the winter months may have fewer people, this is for a reason, the Polish winter is not kind, and without the sun, the ponds will not have the same vibrant blue color. But, if you can get a nice sunny day, even during the early spring you should have the area mostly to yourself. But, getting there early is still advised.  

One final thing to note is that Park Gródek is open 24-7, with no admission fee. The only fee you may have to pay is for parking (more on that later) and any transport to and from. However, there is no point in visiting at night, as you cannot truly admire the colors of the ponds, and due to the high cliffs in the area, it can be quite dangerous.  

How to Get to the Polish Maldives?

There are two possible ways to get to the Polish Maldives, by public transport or by car. I used public transport and found the experience extremely easy, but a car may provide more comfort and allow you more flexibility in the activities you pursue while visiting the Polish Maldives. Read on to find out more.  

By Public Transport 

Getting to Park Gródek by public transport is not too difficult. Whether you are arriving from Kraków or Katowice, one choice is to take the regional train between the two cities offered by Polregio. Polregio offers a train between Katowice and Kraków almost hourly throughout the day, which makes stops at Jaworzno Szczakowa train station, the closest station to the Polish Maldives. It takes about 25 minutes to get there from Katowice, and just over an hour from Kraków. Koleje Slaskie also offers an occasional train between the two cities that may be convenient for you as well, with the journey then taking 40 minutes from Kraków and 25 minutes from Katowice.  

Jaworzno train station
Jaworzno train station. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Either way, you look at it, a ticket should cost you no more than 10-15 PLN per person, with the more expensive ticket if you are coming from Kraków rather than Katowice. I would recommend buying your tickets ahead of time at the websites you can reach by clicking on the name of the train company. Jaworzno Szczakowa train station is pretty much a wasteland, with no ability to buy tickets there*, so it would be easier to buy online, as you can have flexibility in buying your ticket on the platform as you wait.  

Once you get to the train station, you have two options. You can either walk about 20-30 minutes to the entrance of the park (with further walking to the ponds) or use a local city bus. Buses leave pretty consistently from the Szczakowa Dworzec PKP bus stop right outside the train station. However, not every bus goes to the park. Google should be reliable, but if you are not sure, ask the bus driver “Do Parku Grodeckiego,” and he will either say tak (yes) or nie (no). Tickets should be purchasable onboard, or via the PKM Jaworzno app, available in all app stores.  

I walked to the park, and I enjoyed my walk quite thoroughly. I got to admire this beautiful and quiet neighborhood of Jaworzno, with people that day heading to church to get their Easter baskets blessed. The walk has one small hill (something you will have to endure anyway later at the park), but there were wide sidewalks to the park. It is a perfectly safe walk, and if you do not want to deal with the hassle of figuring out how to buy a bus ticket, I recommend walking instead.  

*Other opportunities for purchasing tickets include from the ticket office at the respective train stations, and the conductor when leaving from the Polish Maldives, as they will sell a ticket to you at the normal price if the train station does not have a ticket machine, but you need to find the ticket inspector right away to make this purchase (card is accepted). Some trains will also have ticket machines onboard at either the back or the front of the train.  

By Car 

If you would like to have a large picnic, a barbeque, or maybe bring some activities to enjoy on your trip to the Polish Maldives, hauling it all on the trains and buses might not be ideal for you. Especially since the park is in the middle of nowhere, a car can come in handy! However, I would not rent a car just for this experience; but, if you were planning to go to multiple places by car in the area, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, renting a car could be worth it.  

If you choose to drive, the park has a parking lot located here by the arboretum at the main entrance. During the offseason, and maybe on weekdays during the summer, you might be able to park here for free. However, I would expect you will find a parking attendant there throughout the summer, and maybe weekends in the spring and fall. You should not have to pay more than 15-20 PLN to park (but it could be higher this summer). You will need cash on hand for payment. There should be plenty of parking available due to the massive fields in proximity, but getting to the Polish Maldives early is still advised, as so to get a prime parking spot.  

Services Available at the Polish Maldives

A final few points you may be interested in are the services available at the park. Read on to find out more.  

  • Food: You will need to bring your own food to the park. In the summer and on sunny spring and fall weekends (as was the case on my visit), there might be an ice cream cart by the main pond. But, if you want to eat anything else, you will need to bring it in with you. If you are coming by train, there are multiple stores right near the train station to buy some quick and easy lunches for a good price.  
  • Restrooms: When I visited, there were NO restrooms on-site. This will mean the only place to use the restroom is in the forest. This may change in the summer due to the high number of people, but even then, the restrooms would all be portable non-flush toilets. There are also no public toilets available in the town as far as I know. Your last chance to use the toilet would be on the train if you are coming this way.

Conclusions About Visiting the Polish Maldives

In sum, the Polish Maldives may be a little over-hyped by the international media talking about it recently. However, it is still a beautiful spot worth visiting, but only if you are already going to be in the area anyway. The Polish Maldives make a perfect day trip from either Katowice or Kraków, with access in less than 2 hours for less than 20 PLN using public transport. So, bring your camera, a blanket or towel, and enjoy this beautiful sight of Poland. Safe travel! 

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