Voyages > Europe > Poland > Olkusz and the Bledowska Desert for beginners and intermediates.
Olkusz and the Bledowska Desert for beginners and intermediates.

Olkusz and the Bledowska Desert for beginners and intermediates.

We always knew that there was a desert in Poland, but somehow we never managed to find it until now. In June 2023, we were returning from the Polish Historic Rally and realised that the desert was waiting for us to return home.

Despite the fact that we were travelling in an auto-rickshaw with a rally car on the back, we drove up to a viewpoint in Klucze. Here we could see the Bledowska Desert from above.

There are two information boards at the site: one tells the history of the desert and the other has a map of the main tourist attractions in the area. The site is also bike friendly. Important information: there was also a toilet!

This year we decided to take our Niva on a weekend tour of Poland. Our first destination was the Bledowska Desert. We also wanted to see Olkusz and the surrounding area.

Day 0 – arrival

The day was complicated. Firstly, we were driving the rally car to Błonie, where the Światowid Rally of the Automobile Club of Poland was taking place. Secondly, we were driving on a Friday evening, after an intensive week of work.

We went to sleep in the car park next to the Pazurek Reserve. There was a large, comfortable car park with shelters and tables just off the road, but the forest effectively muffled the sound of the cars.

Day 1 – Olkusz

Our days began with a delicious breakfast outdoors. As planned, our first stop was the Olkusz Market Square. We started our tour with the underground of the square. The museum looks fresh. We recommend using the audio guide, which gives a very good overview of the exhibitions. The exhibition tells the story of the “Silver City” from its beginnings.


The second part is located in the basement of the Mayor’s Office. It focuses on lead and silver mining and smelting. The exhibition is also devoted to the Olkusz Mint from the 16th and 17th centuries.

You should allow at least three hours for the whole thing. We took a half-hour break between parts at the Sofa Café in the market square for cake and coffee.

After the museum we went to St Andrew’s Basilica, famous for its Olkusz lead organ. There are workshops there for young organists. Interestingly, they are organised by a friend of Mum’s from her days in Krakow.

The day was coming to an end and we had a couple of sites picked out for the night. The first was very good, but occupied by camping tourists. The second was just as good (or better in terms of facilities), but had barking dogs behind the fence. Finally we chose the third site, which was opposite the forester’s lodge near Ogrodzieniec. Interestingly, the forest was managed by a woman forester.

We tracked these three sites using the website

Day 2 – castles, palaces, desert

After an efficient breakfast and an even more efficient assembly of the tent, we set off towards the Bledowska Desert. First we visited the castles at Rabsztyn, Ogrodzieniec and Olsztyn.

We then visited Pilica, where there is a palace that used to be a castle. The castle is surrounded by a huge park.

Despite the Swedish flood and other wars in the area, the castle suffered the most in the 20th century. Immediately after the war it became an orphanage for girls. In the 1980s it housed a prison. The castle then fell into disrepair. In 1989, Barbara Piasecka-Johnson bought it from the State Treasury. She intended to make it her home and open it up to the public as an art gallery. Unfortunately, after several years of renovation, the heirs of the last pre-war owner, Kazimierz Arkuszewski, came forward and questioned the contract for the sale of the castle. Work on the castle had to stop until the case was settled in court. Unfortunately, Barbara did not live to see the verdict. Since then, nothing has happened at the castle and the building has deteriorated.

Next to the castle, under the columns, there is a restaurant that is well known to rally participants. Interesting fact: the restaurant prepares a riddle every month and the first person to solve it correctly gets a free hamburger.

After a tour of the castle, we realised the car wouldn’t start. Shock and disbelief, the lights left on had drained the battery. While waiting for the roadside assistance we went to the restaurant at Rysiek’s. You can have a good meal for reasonable money (we had pork chops and broth, which we recommend). Once we had a working car, we drove to the source of the Pilica River.

Despite the odds, we made our final journey to our main destination, the Bledowska Desert. We decided it would be best to park at a viewpoint called “Rose of the Winds”. And it turned out to be a good idea.

Tourist infrastructure has been built there. There are pavilions by the desert, connected by footbridges over the sand. In addition, the presence of toilets raises the tourist level of the place. There are also stalls selling food and drink. The pavilions are full of life. We witnessed traditional martial arts training.

For those willing, with a bottle of water and about three hours free time, there is a nature trail that runs along the edge of the desert for about 3km. This is a small section of the desert rim. The rest of the walk is along the sand. The whole walk is about 10km.

Just outside the forest is a military training area. This area has been used by the military for over a century. If you are lucky, you might come across paratroopers from the 6th Airborne Brigade. Aircraft from the nearby flying club can be seen in the sky.

The desert location attracts many famous and successful rally drivers. Grzegorz Baran or Rafał Sonik train here before the Dakar Rally.

The charming area attracts many photographers with young couples or Instagram stars. The highest concentration of them occurs during the golden hour.

On our way back across the desert we came across a wigwam camp. The inhabitants were communicating in English and were clearly not from here. An interesting way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


Going back to the start of our tour, the desert was created by the construction of a canal system to drain the Olkusz mines.

I found the trip successful and would recommend a weekend trip to this part of Poland.

Another suggestion for a weekend trip.

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