This is probably the last place you would expect to find a desert. And yet it is! The Błędowska Desert, straddling the border between the Silesian and Małopolska Voivodeships, is the largest area of shifting sands in Poland and one of the largest in Europe.
Błędowska Desert – origin
The Great “Jura Sandpit” stretches about 18 kilometers, from west to east – from Błędów to Klucze. The width of the desert is about 4 km. In the middle, the Biała Przemsza River flows through it.
The formation of the Błędowska Desert is related to human activity. Its area was once overgrown with dense forest. Since the 13th century, it has been extensively mined for silver and lead in the area of the nearby town of Olkusz.
Logging and groundwater extraction have led to the creation of desert areas. In the early 20th century, the phenomenon of fatamorgana and sandstorms were observed here. Old photographs featuring the Błędowska Desert show high dunes.
Almost like the Sahara
During World War II, the desert was used as a training ground for Nazi troops. Troops that were part of the famous Afrika Korps unit that led Hitler’s invasion in Africa practiced here. Remnants of command posts are located in the area of Klucze and on Dąbrówka Hill. Movies were also shot here, in which the desert played… Egypt (the 1965 film adaptation of the classic Polish novel Pharaoh).
In the post-war years, the desert area began to overgrow. The Communist government planted parts of the desert with willow and pine trees. An attempt to restore the desert to its former character has been underway for more than a dozen years. Today, the desert is an area stretching over about 33 square kilometers.
The sands area is crisscrossed by a number of well-marked hiking trails. Recently, 10 kilometers of convenient bicycle paths were also built around its grounds.