|Tourism in Poland|
|Poland's top ten urban destinations|
Poland is a part of the global tourism market with constantly increasing number of visitors. Tourism in Poland contributes to the country's overall economy. The most popular cities are Kraków, Warsaw, Wroc?aw, Gda?sk, Pozna?, Szczecin, Lublin, Toru?, Zakopane, the Salt Mine in Wieliczka and the historic site of Auschwitz - A German nazi concentration camp in O?wi?cim. The best recreational destinations include Poland's Masurian Lake District, Baltic Sea coast, Tatra Mountains (the highest mountain range of Carpathians), Sudetes and Bia?owie?a Forest. Poland's main tourist offers consist of sightseeing within cities and out-of-town historical monuments, business trips, qualified tourism, agrotourism, mountain hiking (trekking) and climbing among others.
Poland, especially after joining the European Union in 2004, became a place frequently visited by tourists. Most tourist attractions in Poland are connected with natural environment, historic sites and cultural events. They draw millions of tourists every year from all around the world. According to Tourist Institute's data, Poland was visited by 15.7 million tourists in 2006, and by 15 million tourists in 2007, out of the total number of 66.2 million foreign visitors. In 2012, Poland was visited by 13.5 million foreign tourists (those who came during Euro 2012, but did not stay overnight, were not included in official statistics). In 2013, Poland was visited by 15.8 million tourists. In 2016, the number of arrivals to Poland amounted to 80.5 million. 17.5 million of this number are arrivals considered for tourism purposes (with at least one night's stay).
Poland has a diversified natural environment, which is relatively unaffected by human development. Visitors are attracted by mountains, sea-coast, forests and the lake reserves. Among the most popular destinations are: Tatra Mountains, in which is the highest peak of Polish (Rysy) and the famous Orla Per?; Karkonosze, Table Mountains, Bia?owie?a Forest, Lower Silesian Wilderness, Bieszczady, Dunajec River Gorge in Pieniny, Pojezierze Mazurskie, Kampinos National Park, and many others.
The first Polish tourists were pilgrims traveling to shrines both within Poland and abroad. The development of commercial tourism began in the 19th century. The most popular regions were mountains, especially the Tatra Mountains, explored for example by Tytus Cha?ubi?ski. In 1873, the Polish Tatra Society and in 1909 the Polish Sightseeing Society were established to organize and develop tourism. The 19th century was also the time of the rapid appearance of spa resorts, mostly in Sudetes, Beskids and along the Baltic Sea coast, with some of them associated, since 1910, with the Polish Balneology Association. After Poland regained independence in 1918, Polish tourism boomed, and was encouraged by the government. The first professional Polish tour operator, Orbis, was founded in Lwów in 1923, followed in 1937 by Gromada tourist organization and tour operator.
After World War II all tourist organizations were nationalized by the new communist government. The Polish Tatra Society and Polish Sightseeing Society were combined into Polish Tourism-Sightseeing Society (PTTK) and most of the tourist infrastructure was handed over to the newly created Workers Vacations Fund (FWP). Tourism was limited to the Comecon countries. This was the era of governmentally-founded tourism, characterised by mass but low-standard tourism. A typical sight was a holiday campground with small bungalows managed by one of the state-owned companies. Holidays for children and teenagers were organized by Juventur. After the fall of communism much of the infrastructure was privatized, although many company-owned resorts were downgraded because of their unprofitability. The early 1990s saw the foundation of many new tour operators. Some of them prevailed and strengthened their position on the market, being able to compete with multinational tour operators like TUI, or Neckermann und Reisen with branches in Poland.
There are dozens of sea resorts on the coast of Baltic Sea like Wolin Island, located close to the German border and the coast of Pomerania. In southern Poland there are resorts for skiing and hiking in the Karkonosze mountains, which is part of the Sudetes mountain range. Karkonosze includes the tourist centres of Karpacz and Szklarska Por?ba. Other famous resorts for skiing and hiking include in Carpathian Mountains: Zakopane in the Tatra mountains; Szczyrk, Krynica-Zdrój, Ustro?, Wis?a in Beskides or Szczawnica and Kro?cienko in Pieniny mountains.
It's estimated that 13% (of the 1.8 million in 2005) of visitors of the Basilica of Our Lady of Liche? arrive from abroad.Jasna Góra Monastery was visited by 3.6 million of pilgrims from 78 countries in 2014.
Since the fall of communism transport in Poland has improved significantly. There is acceptable tourist infrastructure, especially in larger cities and in major tourist resorts. Most major Polish cities (e.g. Kraków, Wroc?aw, Pozna?, Gda?sk and Szczecin) have international airports with connecting services with the Frédéric Chopin International Airport in Warsaw. Intercity connections are offered by PKP Intercity, Przewozy Regionalne, local trains (Koleje Dolno?l?skie, Koleje ?l?skie, Koleje Ma?opolskie, Arriva RP, Szybka Kolej Miejska (Tricity), Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna, Koleje Mazowieckie, ?ódzka Kolej Aglomeracyjna, Koleje Wielkopolskie, ) and PKS's, PolskiBus as well as many smaller companies. There are also coach connections to other countries provided by various companies (inter alia Eurolines). Connections by ferry to Sweden and Denmark through the Baltic Sea are for example from Gda?sk, Gdynia and ?winouj?cie (inter alia Polferries).
Travelers' Choice 2014 Update: 1.Krakow, 2.Warsaw, 3.Wroclaw, 4.Poznan, 5.Bialystok, 6.Sopot, 7.Zakopane, 8.Lodz, 9.Szczecin, 10.Gdynia.