Poland’s best-kept secret: Hel
Looking for a fabulous summer getaway that your budget can afford – yet fed up with crowded beaches that look like this…?
When planning a relaxing beach holiday in Europe, you don’t need to limit your options to the usual Mediterranean tourist destinations. Think outside the box, think… Poland!
Hel is the name of a peninsula in Northern Poland that reaches into the Baltic Sea. The pensinsula, essentially a giant sand bar, is only 100m wide at its most narrow point. Both the inner coastline (facing the Bay of Puck) and the outer coastline are lined with beautiful white sand beaches and bathing areas.
I first came to Hel in the summer of 2006 with low expectations. I associated Poland with a lot of positive memories, ranging from hiking in the lake districts to sight-seeing in Warsaw and even skiing in Szlarska Poreba, but certainly I did not expect heat, glaring sunshine and cute surfer boys! Well, turns out that the Hel Peninsula is not only a popular vacation spot for Polish youths and young families, but also a prime location for kite- and windsurfing.
The major towns located along the peninsula are Wladyslawowo, Chalupy, Kuznica, Jastarnia, Jurata, and (at the very tip, after which the peninsula is named) Hel. All of these are primarily holiday destinations, offering a variety of accommodations. The many camp sites are most popular with young travellers due to their immediate proximity to the beach and cheap rates, however there are also guest houses, appartments and hotel rooms for the less adventurous. I personally prefer the campsite in Chalupy, but whichever town you end up in, you’re bound to find restaurants, bars, small supermarkets, surf shops and (for those who like to blog about their holidays) internet cafes nearby. Some of the camp sites have websites, but since they are only partly translated into English, I would suggest you just drive down and decide spontaneously about which of the little towns you prefer (this is what I’ve done in the past and it worked out perfectly fine every single time).
photo by Marcin Kumarcek
When you get bored of lounging around in the sun, opt for a game of beach volleyball with the locals or take a crash course in kite- or windsurfing. Most camp site have their own surf schools and make great deals for renting material.
At nighttime, cross the main street/train tracks to get to the other coastline: here you can dance the night away at one of many beach clubs. Being a girl will get you a lot of special drink deals – try the blue kamikaze shots, which are served in a pyramid of shot glasses. Since the posters advertising parties are usually in Polish, the best way to find out about good nights out is to just ask the locals. We did this quite a lot and it always worked out perfectly.
The best way to get to Hel is probably by car, as you will be flexible getting around the area. If you’re coming from further abroad, you could take the train or fly to any major Polish airport and then continue via train to Wladyslawowo. A lot of European bus companies also offer trips to the area for very reasonable prices.
Small warning: If you’re looking for adventure, Hel might not be the place for you. However, anyone in need of an inexpensive summer getaway will find what they are looking for: warm temperatures, white sand beaches, good food and friendly locals.
Now, when you’re enjoying the beautiful sunset at the beach – who cares about the difference between Poland and the Philippines?
Recommendable camp sites: