The average distance a regular person could hike in a day is somewhere between 20 and 25 kilometers. So it’s fair to say that it could take you all day to travel east to west by foot from one end of Zawoja to another. However, you could achieve it within just a few minutes if you want to cross it from north to south. This phenomenon, known as linear settlement, has a handy word in Polish: ulicówka (street-village). And Zawoja, which holds the record for the longest village in Poland, is far from the only one.
Picturesque and peculiar
Located near the border with Slovakia, Zawoja is a great base camp for ski lovers and mountain hikers. Babia Góra, located nearby, is the highest Polish mountain outside of the Tatra massif. It’s also a place of cultural heritage, giving insight into the fascinating culture of the Babiogórcy Highlanders.
But the uniqueness of Zawoja lies in its peculiar shape. With a length of 18 kilometers and an area of over one hundred square kilometers, it’s both the longest and the largest village in Poland. Where usually, in Poland, one or even several villages form one „sołectwo,” the smallest administrative unit, Zawoja, alone, consists of six of them. However, on that note, it’s worth mentioning that the village is not among the largest by population, with 7,700 inhabitants and the record being in Silesian Kozy, having some 12 thousand inhabitants.
Zawoja: one long mountain valley
Why did people decide to live in such an inconveniently long village? There are several reasons. To some extent, it was a matter of access to the land they cultivated. It was simple to divvy up the land, with each house along the only road taking the land directly behind it. This gave better access, facilitated work, and easily marked people’s right to use certain areas. But in the case of Zawoja, being a mountain village, the shape of the mountain valley is perhaps the most obvious reason.
However, Zawoja faces competition for the title of the longest village in Poland. Ninety kilometers away in the Gorce Mountains, there is a village called Ochotnica. It could technically count as being as long as 25 kilometers; however, since the 19th century, it has been divided into two separate villages – Upper and Lower Ochotnica.
Both are picturesque – excellent destinations for a quick trip. But if you want to hike the longest single village in Poland – Zawoja is the place to be.