The Vistula Lagoon and its wide environs are more and more often referred to as the Vistula Lagoon Region. The Region comprises the northeastern communes of the Pomeranian Voivodship and northwestern communes of the Warmian and Masurian Voivodship. It is roughly identified with the operations area of basic local government units with their seats in
Elbląg, Braniewo, Frombork, Tolkmicko, Nowy Dwór Gdański, Stegna, Sztutowo and Krynica Morska. With a total area of 1,534 km2, the Region is inhabited by about 208 thousand residents. The inhabitants and local governments of the areas along the Vistula Lagoon are connected by the local natural environment, economic ties and plentiful service functions.
Taking into consideration physiographical aspects the Vistula Lagoon Region consists of four mesoregions: Vistula Spit, Vistula Marshland, Elbląg High Plain and Old Prussian Coast.
The Region is characteristic of extremely valuable nature, rich water resources, healthy coastal microclimate, and precious material culture objects. Over a past few years the Region has been undergoing a profound transformation. Communal, transport, environmental and social infrastructure has been built, extended or modernized. Higher education has been developed. A modern Technological Park is under construction in Elbląg. The boarder crossings in Elbląg, Braniewo, Gronowo and a large crossing being built in Grzechotki will facilitate international exchange of goods and passenger flow. The Elbląg seaport has already been enlarged and a marina has been built in Nadbrzeże, while ports in Kąty Rybackie, Krynica Morska, Tolkmicko, Frombork and Nowa Pasłęka are still being modernized. Soon the modernization of the Elbląg Canal (to Ostróda) is scheduled to begin. Owing to these investments the existing conditions for stationary recreation and active tourism are going to be improved and an economic development of the area stimulated. Thus, the Vistula Lagoon Region is attractive in regard to its unique nature, but also its tourist and economic assets.


The Elbląg High Plain Landscape Park covers an area from Elbląg to Święty Kamień - a little settlement between Tolkmicko and Frombork.
It has been created to preserve the great natural values of this charming area with abundant wildlife and spectacular landscape. Numerous swift torrents have carved ravines and gorges even 60 m deep and uncovered many erratic boulders. The biggest boulders can be found in the Elbląg High Plain Beeches Reserve (14,5 m in girth) and in coastal waters of the Vistula Lagoon in Święty Kamień (14 m in girth). In several places the area has surprisingly mountainous character. Geologically speaking, it is a rolling morainic high plain, rising up to 197 m above sea level (Góra Maślana near Milejewo). Owing to the local microclimate, there are birds and vegetation typical for mountainous regions. The High Plain forests abound with old-growth trees (oaks, beeches), including the 800-year-old Bażyński Oak in Kadyny, which is 10 m in girth. A great many rare species of birds and mammals can be found in the forests and the area alongside the Lagoon (e.g. Sika Deer near Kadyny). In order to preserve the most precious nature resources of the Elbląg High Plain Landscape Park, almost 400 monuments of nature (mainly trees and erratic boulders) have been designated. Moreover, the following nature reserves have been created: Elbląg High Plain Beeches, Kadyny Woods, Elbląg Bay, Stradanka Valley and Nowinka. One can admire and explore the assets of the High Plain wandering along numerous tourist routes.
A city wood "Bażantarnia," on the outskirts of Elbląg, shows well the character of the whole High Plain. Numerous hills and ravines, several torrents of mountainous type, old-growth trees (mainly beeches, oaks and lindens) and a rich world of fauna and flora turn out amazing not only for naturalists but also for local and incoming visitors. Well marked and attractively traced routes make moving around the wood much easier.
In view of its precious nature resources, the whole area of the Elbląg High Plain was included into the NATURA 2000 Programme. Plentiful rare species of wildlife occur in the area, yet the world of birds is the richest. There are almost 190 species of fowl, including the protected ones: Sparrow Hawk, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle, Black Stork, Grey Wagtail, to mention but a few.
The High Plain begins in the city of Elbląg, the largest one within the Vistula Lagoon Region. Its history dates back to 1237 and was granted its municipal rights in 1246. The contemporary Elbląg, with its 128.000 inhabitants, constitutes a significant industrial and higher education centre, an important transport junction, but primarily, a service centre for the sub-region on the border of two voivodships. The city is becoming a considerable tourist centre affecting the whole sub-region. Several water routes (e.g.: the Elbląg Canal), as well as road and bicycle ones originate here. Being elaborately restored, the Old Town is rated among the most interesting ones not only in Poland (especially, owing to its unique urban arrangement). It's the largest in Europe archeological "range' within old towns. The following sights will certainly attract visitors' attention: St Nicholas' Cathedral (13th century) with many valuable works of art, a building complex of the former Holy Spirit Church and Hospital (at present, the Elbląg Library), the former post-Dominican church under the invocation of Holy Virgin Mary (now it is the "EL Gallery"Art Centre), the Market Gate (14th century) as well as numerous old tenements. The city provides good infrastructure for the needs of sports, tourism and culture. Besides, a sea boarder crossing operates here.
The Elbląg High Plain means also a number of other settlements with plentiful material culture and nature resources. The town of Tolkmicko is definitely worth mentioning, along with such villages as: Kadyny, Łęcze, Suchacz, Nadbrzeże, Chojnowo, Kamienica Elbląska and Połoniny. Since its foundation, Tolkmicko has been linked with the sea. The following sights testify to the rich past of Tolkmicko: St Jacob's Gothic parish church (14th century), a Gothic tower, middle-class housing (17th-18th centuries), a Baroque chapel (18th century), railway station buildings (19th century) as well as a bulwark and a moat outside the town. These days it is an administrative and service centre with vegetable processing industry, a fishing and passenger port and a marina. Kadyny is a village of unusual charm. In the 13th century the Teutonic Knights built a mansion and a grange here. The village had a few owners in the past, Jan Bażyński and the German Emperor Wilhelm II Hohenzollern, among others. It is proud of possessing numerous objects of great historical and architectural value, such as a Baroque palace with a park, a complex of Franciscan Monastery buildings and unific brick development (characteristic both for the residential and public buildings). The village of Kadyny is surrounded by magnificent forests under protection. A lovely beach along the Vistula Lagoon, a marina and a horse stud additionally increase the existing tourism assets of Kadyny. Łęcze is a village of centuries-old history. A complex of arcaded houses (18th-19th centuries) and a Baroque church (1746) with a bell dating back to 1546 have remained from the past times. Other villages located on the Vistula Lagoon, such as Suchacz, Nadbrzeże and Kamienica Elbląska have also an exciting history, fishing ports and marinas, whereas Chojnowo is famous for its chapels.


The Old Prussian Coast is an area by the Vistula Lagoon, from Frombork through Braniewo as far as Kaliningrad (former Królewiec) in the Kaliningrad District, the Russian Federation. Southwards from the Frombork - Braniewo line, there is an area of the Warmia Plain, characteristic of a rich history, ample material culture resources and precious nature. The part of that area situated alongside the shores of the Vistula Lagoon resembles the Vistula Marshland and has amazing wildlife. The Lagoon beaches near the meadows called " Łąki Różańskie" are covered with a multitude of shells. The Pasłęka River constitutes a great value for tourism and natural science - in its estuary, near Nowa Pasłęka, there is a refuge for water fowl. The River, from Braniewo to Pierzchalski Lake, forms an ecological corridor. Right here, the Beaver Refuge on the Pasłęka River has been designated. Moreover, for salmon-like fish, the River is a part of their reproductive route. By the Vistula Lagoon, to the southeast of Frombork there is a beautiful grand cliff.
Numerous valuable monuments can be found especially in Frombork and Braniewo. Frombork is sometimes referred to as the "Pearl of the North". Just in this town Nicholas Copernicus lived and wrote his immortal work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium. Here, in quite a small area, there are plenty of world class objects of art and architecture. Among the most precious ones there is a complex of the Cathedral Hill, consisting of a Gothic cathedral from 1388 (today the Archiepiscopal Basilica), a bishops' palace, Copernicus and Radziejowski Towers, a complex of canonries, to mention but a few. In the cathedral there are twenty-three altars, marvellous Baroque organ, several sculpture stalls, tombstones, numerous paintings and sculptures. The Cathedral Hill offers various attractions that arouse visitors' interest, such as: organ concerts, shows at the planetarium, a Foucault's pendulum, exhibitions at the Nicolas Copernicus Museum or astonishing distant views from the top of the Radziejowski Tower. In the lower part of the town, it is well worth seeing a neo-Gothic evangelical church, old tenement buildings, a water tower, the Fisherman Tower, the Copernicus Canal and many others. An astronomical observatory operates on Crane Hill (Żurawia Góra), approximately 1,5 km from Frombork, whereas in the village of Wielkie Wierzbno there is a parish church from 1597, under the invocation of All Saints. Established in the 13th century on the Pasłęka River, Braniewo is proud of its Hanseatic and academic traditions. Since the 14th century, there had been a well-know Baltic port with its own fleet. For many centuries Braniewo had also been a significant culture and science centre. Nowadays, tourists may see several sights dating back to the town's times of prosperity, including spatial arrangement of the Old Town, a fragment of its defensive walls, a gate tower of the bishops' castle, a building complex of the St Catharine's Monastery, the marvellous St Catharine's Gothic Church (14th century), a post-evangelical church (early 19th century), the St Cross Baroque Church constructed on a Greek cross location (18th century), a granary of nogging construction (15th century), the former Collegium Hosianum building and many others. Contemporary Braniewo, inhabited by almost 20 thousand citizens, is the second - after Elbląg - administrative, service and industrial centre in the region. Out of smaller settlements along the Old Prussian Coast, Nowa Pasłęka deserves attention. This lovely village in the Pasłęka River delta has a fishing port, marina and a drawbridge.


The Elbląg Marshland (falling within the Vistula Marshland - a delta plain of the Vistula River) partly occupies the territories of the following communes: Stegna, Sztutowo, Nowy Dwór Gdański and Elbląg. Almost half of the Vistula Marshland area is a depression. Just round Elbląg, in Raczki Elbląskie there is the lowest point in Poland (1.8 m below sea level). The present-day Marshland is a work both of nature and a man. For thousands of years the Vistula and Nogat had accumulated river sediments to create a vast plain. Then, a man cut through the area with a dense grid of melioration ditches and supported them with earth embankments, built several pumps and, through a system of main canals, moved redundant water to the Vistula Lagoon, local rivers or Drużno Lake. As a result, the Vistula Marshland became a land of intensive settlement and agricultural development. The Dutch settlers called Mennonites largely contributed to that achievement. They erected their farmsteads on terps (in Dutch - hills of salvation). This seemingly monotonous landscape was varied by the numerous works of hydraulic engineering, such as drawbridges, pumping stations, locks and aqueducts. Initially, windmills were used to pump water and grind grain. Therefore the area was named the "Land of Windmills." Several bridges were built, including drawbridges and swing bridges. Nowadays, an intensive farming is carried out here, with the parallel development of services and tourism.
The Vistula Marshland wildlife is very rich. The most valuable wildlife resources (mainly water and marsh fowl), occur in the following ornithological reserves: Drużno Lake, Elbląg Bay and Nogat Estuary. The Drużno Lake Reserve (total area of 3,068 ha) is under protection in compliance with the RAMSAR Convention. It is a lake in a state of decline. As many as 210 bird species (with 110 nesting ones) have been recorded in this area. In the Nogat Estuary Reserve there are 185 bird species, while in the third reserve - the Elbląg Bay there are 222 bird species (with 86 nesting ones). In the Vistula Marshland a lot of valuable, often unique, material culture objects have survived until the present day.
Nowy Dwór Gdański, located on the Tuga River, is regarded as the capital of the Marshland. The town, commune and county authorities have their seats here and so have many institutions serving the County of Nowy Dwór. The town is situated by an important road junction connecting Gdańsk to Warszawa and the Vistula Spit to the centre of Poland. A number of significant industrial plants operate here, including a big milk processing plant - very important for the region. Among the most remarkable historic objects in Nowy Dwór, there is a water tower - dating back to 1909 (one of the first constructions of reinforced concrete in Europe), a new-Gothic church (from 1878), a drawbridge of steal and concrete construction (1936), a granary upon the Tuga (1878), a building of a former evangelical church, as well as one-storey wooden houses (19th century) with their gable walls facing the street - so characteristic for this region. There is also the intriguing Marshland Museum. Besides, the Marshland means plentiful villages within the communes of Sztutowo, Stegna, Nowy Dwór Gdański and Elbląg, with precious material culture resources, including: arcaded houses especially in Orłowo (1802-1847), Marynowy (1803), Żuławki (1797-1859) and Tuja (1875). In Tropy Elbląskie and Marzęcino one can see unique rural architecture (so called "ribbon development"). There are interesting sacred buildings in Kmiecin (1344), Orłowo (1350), Lubieszewo (1341), Żelichowo (1352), Marzęcino and Niedźwiedziówka. Some Mennonites' cemeteries have remained in Lubieszewo, Stawiec, Różewo, Żelichowo, Żuławki, Władysławowo and in Kępiny Małe. A post type windmill in Drewnica is definitely worth seeing. Several hydraulic engineering constructions contribute to the history of the Marshland. In Rybina there are three movable bridges: a swing bridge (1905) for its narrow gauge railroad and two road drawbridges over the Szkarpawa and the Królewiec Vistula (1936). Two impressive drainage pumping stations operate in Chłodniewo near Rybina and in Osłonka, whereas in Drewnica there is a lock called the "Gdańsk Head." One should also mention the touristically invaluable Jagiellonian Canal, linking Elbląg with Gdańsk.


The Vistula Spit is a sandy embankment between the waters of the Gdańsk Bay and the Vistula Lagoon. It stretches 50 km on the territory of the Lagoon Region communes, from the Polish-Russian boundary right behind Piaski, to the Vistula estuary. It has varied width; from 0,4 to 2.5 km. The embankment is a work of nature - sea waves and wind. The Spit dunes are mainly covered with pine and mixed forests. Over 240 bird species dwell here, including at least 107 species of breeding ones. On the Vistula Spit there are plentiful species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles (including a turquoise kind of blindworm lizards). The unusual natural values of the area have led to creating The Vistula Spit Landscape Park and four nature reserves: Gull Sandbank, Kąty Rybackie, Vistula Spit Beeches and Sea-Holly Dunes. Around 220 species of birds dwell in the Gull Sandbank Reserve, while in the Kąty Rybackie Ornithological Reserve there is the biggest in Europe colony of Great Cormorants (35-40 thousand birds, including hatches). In the Vistula Spit Beeches Reserve it is primarily Melic-Beech that comes under protection (nearly 200-year-old trees).
The Vistula Spit has specific healthy coastal microclimate. The arrangement of the Spit area is adjusted to tourism and stationary recreation. Its tourist base is varied and can satisfy almost all expectations of visitors. There are hotels, guest houses, rest houses, recreation and rehabilitation centres, sanatoriums, residences, apartments, private accommodation, vacation homes and camp sites. A scope of provided services is very broad. Various events of local, national or international character are organized here. Numerous tourist routes run through the great Spit area.
There are many localities on the Vistula Spit, including: Krynica Morska, Stegna, Sztutowo, Jantar, Mikoszewo, Kąty Rybackie, Junoszyno and Piaski. The area is divided into three units of local government with their seats in Krynica Morska, Stegna and Sztutowo. The town of Krynica Morska constitutes the biggest recreation centre of the Spit. As early as in the 19th century Krynica was a well-known resort and it has remained one up to now, yet its attractiveness, popularity and the number of visitors have increased enormously. Taking a passenger ship cruise one can reach Frombork, Tolkmicko, Elbląg, Kaliningrad and other ports. The town also incorporates Piaski and Przebrno. Piaski is a quiet Spit settlement situated the closest to the boundary with the Russian Federation. It is not only an ideal holiday destination but also a location of a year round Ecological Education Centre. Przebrno is another settlement with tranquil beaches and beautiful woods to rest and regenerate.
Sztutowo is an attractive recreation centre and an administrative seat of the commune. It offers wonderful sandy beaches, rich forests, varied tourist and leisure base and well developed services. One of its attractions is a narrow gauge railroad from Nowy Dwór Gdański, through Stegna and Sztutowo to Mikoszewo. There is also the Stutthof National Museum in the place of the German concentration camp, which functioned here during World War II. Among other historic objects that have remained in Sztutowo there are some residential buildings (from 1880, whereas in Łaszka even from 1780), the buildings of the former school and bakery, a parish church under the invocation of St Wojciech (20th century). These days, Sztutowo is a perfect holiday destination both for stationary recreation and active tourism. Kąty Rybackie and Skowronki belong to the Sztutowo Commune.
The village of Kąty Rybackie possesses excellent beaches, clean forests as well as a large selection of accommodation and services. There is the Vistula Lagoon Museum, a branch of the Marine Museum. Every June an exciting event called "Fisherman Days" is organized along with a boat pilgrimage. In the seaside forest the already mentioned reserve has been created to protect Great Cormorant and Grey Heron. On the verge of Kąty Rybackie there is a tiny tourist resort Skowronki. A shipping canal across the Vistula Spit will probably be constructed near here.
Stegna, the third Spit commune incorporates a number of attractively situated settlements, such as Jantar, Mikoszewo, Junoszyno, Rybina, Drewnica and Żuławki, to mention but a few. The whole seaside area of the commune has plentiful rest and relaxation facilities at its disposal, including sanatoriums, as well as private accommodation of varied standard. Additionally, a broad range of services is provided. Several cultural and sporting events take place during spring and summer. One can go hiking, cycling, canoeing and take a boat trip to enrich their stay here. Travelling along tourist routes, one can also admire valuable nature, culture and engineering resources, unique sacral monuments, and the remains of the Dutch and Mennonites' culture. In Stegna there are a few old buildings well worth seeing, such as a vicarage, the 19th century housing and farmsteads. Special attention should be paid to the most beautiful and interesting one, namely the Sacred Heart Church (1681-1683) with its precious decoration and the magnificent Baroque organ. Each year the International Organ Festival is held there. Besides, the narrow gauge railway route of Żuławska Kolej Dojazdowa runs through the Commune of Stegna. Jantar is a little resort on the Baltic Sea and on the verge of coniferous and deciduous forests. Pure, wide and safe beaches are an ideal place for swimming and sunbathing. Various facilities and attractions await tourists: an indoor swimming pool, an ostrich farm, a mini zoo or a horse-riding school. Moreover, the World Championship in Amber Finding is organized here every summer. Mikoszewo is another tourist resort and at the same time a fishing village. Here, one can take a ferry across the Vistula to get to Świbno. There are interesting arcaded houses along Gdańsk Street. Northwards from the village there is the Gull Sandbank Reserve. Junoszyno is regarded as one of the quietest seaside resorts of the commune. One can see several traditional Dutch homesteads, wooden houses and those of nogging construction beside modern architecture. Rybina is an unusual village owing to its two drawbridges and a swing railway bridge. In Drewnica and Żuławki there are unique architectural monuments from the 18th and 19th centuries, e.g.: arcaded and gburow houses, marshland homesteads or a post type windmill (1718). A big lock called the "Gdańsk Head", operating near Drewnica, links the Vistula River with the Szkarpawa.


The Vistula Lagoon is a vital binder that connects the interests of the communes situated along it, concerning chiefly flood control, transport, environmental protection, tourism, sports and numerous non-local services. After World War II the Lagoon was divided into two parts: a Polish part (the Vistula Lagoon) and a Russian one (known as the Kaliningrad Lagoon). The total length of the Lagoon is 90 km, whereas the Polish part is 35 km long. Its total area is 838 km2, while the Polish part covers 328 km2, with 11 km in width and 4.4 m in maximum depth (average of 2,4 m). In the recent years the quality of the Lagoon water has radically improved. There are 38 species of fish, including freshwater, saltwater and fish living in both habitats. The most valued species are eels, pike perches and breams. A considerable number of herrings is caught as well. This body of water is a refuge for plentiful species of birds, a big number of which permanently dwell here. The Vistula Lagoon (along with its surroundings) is on the list of preserved areas of the NATURA 2000 Programme.
Within the Polish part, the largest port is located in Elbląg (cargo and passenger terminals, a new international border crossing, nautical bases). The ports in Tolkmicko, Frombork, Krynica Morska and in Kąty Rybackie serve not only passenger traffic, but also fishermen and yachtsmen. The ones in Piaski, Nowa Pasłęka and Suchacz function as fishery bases and marinas. There are also several smaller Lagoon creeks: little fishing harbours (e.g.: in Kamienica Elbląska) or marinas (e.g.: in Nadbrzeże, Kadyny). A programme called the "Marshland Loop" (Pętla Żuław) is a great opportunity for the Vistula Lagoon and the neighbouring water routes. Within the framework of the programme, several new ports and marinas are going to be built and the existing ones modernized, together with their infrastructure. The rich, yet hardly used resources of the Lagoon provide a chance to develop tourism, ports and business activity related to water.


The Vistula Lagoon Region is open for tourism, with its exceptionally valuable nature and material culture resources, numerous hydroengineering objects, abundant infrastructure both for stationary recreation and active tourism, good quality hotels and gastronomy as well as a broad range of entertainment and cultural events. Visitors have at their disposal over 22 thousand beds in mass accommodation objects and many more - counting private accommodation, boarding houses or camping sites. The Region is well connected to the centre of Poland and the Russian Federation, Lithuania or Latvia. Several sea, railway and road border crossings, waterways and the road network undergoing fast modernization enable easy travel and taking advantage of additional tourist attractions awaiting in Malbork, Tri-City, Kaliningrad and other centres. Plentiful well marked tourist routes provide an opportunity to enjoy water, hiking, cycling, environmental or heritage tours. Sandy seaside beaches and those along the Lagoon welcome less active tourists. The Region is also open for business people. The Lagoon communes, Elbląg in particular, have large capital expenditures to facilitate economic development and create favourable conditions for investors. The execution of huge investment programmes is about to begin. The programmes will regard waterways, motorways and tourism infrastructure.
The Vistula Lagoon Region embraces amazing nature, great cultural heritage and impressive hydroengineering constructions. It is also a perfect rest and recreation destination and business-friendly environment.


Komunalny Związek Gmin Nadzalewowych, 82-300 Elbląg, ul. Portowa 1 e-mail:
Telefon: (055) 232-95-03 Fax: (055) 234-46-31