Ahti Arak Tours

Private Tours in Belarus for groups, small parties and solo travellers
by
Ahti Arak Tours

Dear visitor!

Thank you for your interest to so exotic country like Belarus. Ahti Arak Belarus is Terra Incognita, undiscovered country in Europe where you can find:

  • probably single country of market socialism in Europe,
  • Soviet monuments,
  • well maintained cities,
  • good roads,
  • over 4,000 historically important sights,
  • good looking arable and pasture lands,
  • large rivers by European scale,
  • relaxing nature, incl large forest massives in certain regions,
  • natural parks and numerous other protected areas,
  • few tourists from developed countries.

All these exciting places, historical and natural sights and country as a whole can be discovered during your private and tailor made tour in Belarus organized by historian Ahti Arak and his company Ahti Arak Tours.

Please find more detailed information about Belarus, sights, tour options and our company's background in other sections of this website.

We will look forward to your mail or fax.

Yours
Ahti Arak

Special thanks to Mr Alan Cole from UK for his great input to work out the content of this site.

Belarus - a really unique country

Industrial company in Grodno regionThe Republic of Belarus is located in the eastern part of Europe. In the west it borders Poland, in the north-west - Lithuania, in the north - Latvia, in the north-east and east - Russia, in the south - Ukraine.

Belarus is probably single country of market socialism in Europe and in the territory of former Soviet Union.
Namely after the failure of the Soviet Union Belarus chose its own way opposing to "wild capitalism" of neighboring countries including Russia and Ukraine. Combination of private initiative and competition with an active role of state, economic efficiency with a high level of social security for population has been adopted as a national development model.
Active role of the state means: Important elements of the central-planning system are still in place. As in the Soviet Union, a "five-year plan" targets critical areas and dictates what percentage the gross domestic product will increase by. More than two-thirds of the economy remains in government hands. Most of large industries are state-owned and operated.

1,600 large commercial farms - descended from the former Soviet Kolkhozes and Sovkhozes farm 86.3 percent of the agricultural land in the country. But unlike in Russia and Ukraine, the large majority of Belarus' large commercial farms has remained under state control The average size of Belarusian farms is nearly 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres). At the other end, over one million household plots with an average size of just below one hectare continue to show an exceptional productivity, with 34.6 percent of gross agricultural output produced on 12.5 percent of all agricultural land. Production that requires considerable investments in infrastructure and machinery (dairy and pigs, also poultry) is mainly undertaken on large commercial farms, whereas labor intensive products, such as potatoes, vegetables and sheep (wool) are produced on household plots.

Role of independent private farms is modest. About 2,000 private farms (with an average size of 53 ha) farm only symbolic 1.2 percent of the agricultural land in Belarus.

Belarus is supporting agriculture heavily by more than 20 state programs.
Agriculture Minister of Belarus Semyon Shapiro told in July 2009 total sum of agricultural subsidies is around 4 trillion Belarusian rubles, so public expenditures for agriculture account for 9-10 percent of governmental budget expenditures. This is main reason why you can not see chaos and misery in Belarusian villages unlike provinces of many other former Soviet countries.

A large part of the national budget is deployed in a variety of subsidies to hold down living costs. For example housing subsidies cover the major part of the maintenance, repairs, reconstruction and utility costs connected with housing (e.g. heating, gas, maintenance, capital repairs).

The main source of state revenues are the large industrial companies. Belarus was heavily developed after WW II and numerous industrial companies were established. Only some names:

  • MAZ - one of the largest state enterprises of Belarus for production of heavy-load vehicles as well as buses, trolley-buses, trailers The MAZ plant covers an area of 100 hectares (250 acres). the plant employs 23 000 people.
  • Minsk Tractor Works - develops, manufactures and exports wheeled tractors and spare parts, nearly 20,000 employees work at the enterprise (8-10% share of the world market of wheeled tractors).
  • BelarusKali - the world's largest potassium fertilizer manufacturer.
  • Large refineries in Mozyr and Novopolotsk.
  • Lida Optical plant - is the second largest optical plant in Europe after Carl Zeiss.
  • Minsk Motor Plant - large producer of diesel engines.
  • Byelorussian steel works - Manufacture of steel tubes, wire products,
  • builders carpentry and joinery of metal. It employs over 12,000 people. Michelin, one of the world's largest manufacturers of automobile and aircraft tires, has named Belarusian Steel Works the best supplier of metal cord and bead wire of 2009.
    And many other.

Tractor BelarusThe government views large industrial enterprises as vehicles to provide employment and incomes, rather than simply as economic entities. Privatized control of these enterprises remains the exception, There are private industrial enterprises in Belarus. But in terms of output and employment fully private companies are fairly small, representing only 13 % of the total output and 22 % of total employment.

This is why Belarus sometimes seems like an updated and idealized version of the old USSR but without the Communist Party, for that matter. Belarusian people can travel freely. Their poverty level is the lowest in the former Soviet sphere, as is the gap between the richest and the poorest. Soviet social protections remain largely intact, and the population is guaranteed almost 100 percent employment.

So it really is fascinating to see how an economy so heavily influenced by the state functions, and how such an economy manifests itself in the everyday life of the Belarusian people.

What to see in Belarus?

Soviet heritage

Monument to the Red ArmyBelarus is where the Russian Social Democratic Party, later to become the Soviet Communist Party, had its inception; the house in Minsk where the first party meeting took place still survives. In December 1922 the Belarusian (or Byelorussian) SSR became a constituent, founding republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). And years later from a hunting lodge in a Belarusian forest, former presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus announced to the world on Dec. 8, 1991 that the USSR,  as a subject of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists.

So given that Belarus was a part of the Soviet Union for some 70 years, the enormous influence of the USSR on its history just cannot be ignored.

A milk lorry - Made in the USSRNow that the communist era has passed into history in most Eastern European countries, monuments of Lenin or other former communist leaders are generally restricted to the occasional museum. But this is not at all the case in Belarus, where many streets and squares still retain names from the Soviet period.

You can find monuments all over Belarus dedicated to the Red or Soviet Army. Belarus suffered gravely during the WW II, with over two million people (20% of her population, including most of the Jewish community) perishing, but it is almost impossible to find any memorial to the one million victims of Stalin's brutal repression. Soviet influence also rears its head in the choice of public holidays.

Amongst national holidays like Easter or Christmas, several of the holidays celebrated in the former Soviet Union are still observed. Attendance at the May Day parades honoring workers was once compulsory, but now most people observe this occasion quietly staying at home or visiting their families. February 23, which was once the Soviet Army Day, is now Men's Day, but it is not an official holiday. On this day men receive presents much as they do in North America on Father's Day.

Cities and villages

Outdoor cafe in MinskPeople who have visited the former Soviet Union might reasonably expect to encounter in Belarus the same kind of negative traits that were once a byword for the former Soviet republics, such as: huge, grey and ugly apartment blocks, badly paved or potholed roads, dirty and neglected streets, a dearth of supplies in the grocery shops, and poorly dressed people, denied the opportunity to acquire fashionable apparel.

But Belarusian cities are very different from the above misconceptions; indeed it can be a very pleasant and perhaps wholly unexpected surprise to observe just how well maintained Belarusian cities are. There are good, paved roads, clean streets, attractive parks, often adorned with floral displays, and smartly dressed people.

Of course the residential areas do have more than their fair share of ugly Soviet tower blocks, though these are offset by trees and lawns. Also, it is quite normal to see old Soviet cars, trundling along the streets, but then Belarus is country of contrasts, so that surprisingly many nice vehicles from Russia, France, Germany, or Belarus itself, can be found cheek by jowl with these older models.

Belarusian cities are mercifully lacking in any large-scale or excessively overt commercial advertising, with local products instead promoted by low-key ads. There is no lack of choice or supplies with grocery products, though their sales outlets have not changed much in style since the Soviet times. By other side more and more Western style supermarkets or groceries began appearing more and more every year. Food is well packaged and the prices for this are reasonable or cheap for visitors from developed countries.
Now some words about the largest cities.

Minsk

Minsk by night. One of the towers in front of the modern railway station - gate to the cityMinsk is the capital of Belarus. The population of 1,8 million people makes this the largest city in Belarus. Minsk suffered 95pc destruction during WW II, with very few buildings surviving, and currently there are but 3 very limited areas of Minsk which one can consider to be surviving vestiges of the Old Town.

Minsk was rebuilt after the war to urban Soviet standards, in a style known as Soviet classical or Stalin style, which is far from unattractive.

The central part of Minsk, particularly the layout of Prospect Nezavisimosti (Independence Avenue), is a marvellous example of mid-20th century Soviet architecture, and can be considered amongst the finest and most elegant examples of Stalin's urban design, anywhere in the territory of the post- war Soviet Union. Some people have suggested that the most interesting stretch of Prospect Nezavisimosti, between the Independence and Victory Squares, is worthy of consideration for a place on the UNESCO world heritage list. We are agreeing with this.

Minsk in general, and the central area in particular, is well maintained. The calm waters of the Svisloch River meander lazily through the capital, and the green zone on either bank forms a protected park, popular with city dwellers for walking, as well as other outdoor pursuits.

Gomel

Gomel is the second largest city in Belarus. Gomel is the centre for Gomel region, situated on the Sozh River, 301 km southeast of Minsk. 481,000 people live in the city. The principal attraction here is the palace and park ensemble established by two sets of aristocrats: the Rumyantsevs and the Paskeviches, dating from XVIII-XIX centuries. In central Gomel, there are also surviving buildings from the XIX-XX centuries, which gives a picturesque feel.

Brest

Monument to the Soviet heroism in the Brest FortressBrest is the main city and administrative centre of the Brest region. Population in the city - 300,000. Brest is also a large transport and industrial centre, and is the traditional "Western gateway" into the country. Both the main highway and railway from Russia to Poland and thence Western Europe cross Belarus, passing through Brest. During the Soviet time Brest was the most important transport hub on the Western frontier of the Soviet Union.

Brest fortress is the main attraction of the city. The history of this defensive construction started in 1842 when the entire city of Brest was moved 3 kilometers east, and on this new site, a massive fortress was inaugurated. Brest's fortress received universal acclaim during the WW II, because it saw the first action when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in summer 1941. Later Brest Fortress and its defenders became a symbol of Soviet heroism.

Grodno

Grodno counts 309,000 people, and is the administrative seat of the Grodno region, in the north-west of Belarus. Grodno lies on the Neman river has now evolved into a modern city, whilst still preserving the largest number of architectural monuments (beginning from the 12th century) in Belarus. Grodno's Old Town is one of the most interesting sights, where the city reveals architectural styles from different epochs. The Orthodox Church of St. Boris and Gleb (one of the oldest churches in Belarus, surviving from the 12th century), remains of the Old Castle; the New Castle; Catholic churches and cloisters of the 17 to 18th centuries and numerous other old buildings give the city a real historical ambience.

Mogilev

Administrative building in Mogilev with monument of LeninMogilev is the centre of the Mogilev region in eastern Belarus, on the Dnieper River, 200 km east of Minsk. The population of Mogilev is 371,000 people. It is an important rail and highway junction, a river port, and an industrial centre where metal products, machinery, and artificial fibres are produced.

By the 18th century Mogilev was transformed into a large trade and handicraft centre. It is a pleasure to see how many buildings from the 18 and 19th centuries still remain in the City, and many of these cluster along either side of a lengthy and attractive, European-style pedestrian street in the Old Town. The central administrative buildings radiate the graceful, classic style of Stalin's civic architects. Mogilev is seldom included in classic tourist itineraries routes, but a visit there certainly repays the effort.

Belarusian villages and small towns

Belarusian village in Minsk regionAbout 70% of Belarusian people live in 104 towns and cities, and 108 other urban creations. But nobody should miss the opportunity to visit, or at least to drive through the local villages, so as to better appreciate the authentic and traditional lifestyles, the historical and ethnographical heritage, and the national values of the Belarusian people.

There are 24,222 village-populated areas in Belarus. Very few of the rural population live in individual farms; the majority have houses erected along the main through roads.

Traditional Belarusian village houses are single storey wooden buildings with decorative exterior features, small gardens and usually some outbuildings for cattle, other animals or log storage. It is not uncommon to see cows wandering from their yards on to the road. Meanwhile, geese are a common sight near small ponds or river banks. Horses are employed, not only for transport but also sometimes in a working capacity.

Home-produced vegetables and fruits, milk and other products including moonshine, are important sources of revenue for many families, although the moonshine is illegal. Here we can see another phenomenon from Soviet times, where despite the miniscule size of most individually farmed plots, their productivity vastly outstrips, in proportion, that of the lumbering large farms.

Most Belarusian villages are well-maintained, and the thoroughfares along which they lie are well-paved and surfaced, providing the motorist with a comfortable ride. The houses have nicely painted facades, in a variety of pleasing color combinations. Roadside picket fences are of uniform style from one end of the village to the other, usually incorporating some kind of consistent pattern, but colors differ in each village according to local choice. And how can one miss the ubiquitous flowerbeds, sometimes extending for a mile or more. Indeed, flowerbeds are not only a feature of the villages, but are very much in evidence in the cities too. It is really amazing how many flowers and flower beds you can encounter in Belarus!

Historical sights

There are countless historical sights in Belarus, and although a sizeable proportion are now just ruins, there are still plenty of interesting places to enjoy.

Castles and palaces

The Mir castle is the world heritage sightThere are several castles in various states of preservation, in Lida, Krevo, Novogrudok and Grodno. That at Lida is perhaps the most impressive, owing its inception to the Grand Duke of Lithuania in the 14th century.

But one of the most renowned tourist sights in Belarus is the castle at Mir. Construction of this stronghold spanned several centuries. The defensive walls and towers were first to appear, followed later a three-storeyed palace. Thus by the 17th and 18th centuries Mir Castle provided a most imposing combination of palace and castle.

Nezvish palace and castle, 25 miles from Mir Castle is another place of great interest. The locally famous and influential Radzwill family were once in residence here. Now attempts are underway to restore the complex to its former splendour, a task that will take some years to complete. Meanwhile, the moat and surrounding parklands make for a very attractive walk, and all around are the sparkling waters of Nesvizh Lake.

The ruins of the once massive palace in Ruzhany are well worth a visit: once, the estate included a main building flanked by arcades linking with two auxiliary buildings, and a monumental entrance gate in the style of a triumphal arch.

Churches

Wedding ceremony in BorisovIn around 990 AD Orthodox Christianity found its way from Kiev to Belarus. Kiev was one of the most important political centres in the Old Russia and capital of Kiev principality.

From the 1230's to the early 15th century Lithuanian dukes gradually established increasing numbers of principalities in what is now Belarus. In the 14th century, these Lithuanian grand dukes had adopted Roman Catholicism. To strengthen its power, Lithuania joined with Poland to form the new state of Rzeczpospolita, which introduced a second wave of Catholic influence into Belarus, this time from Poland.

After acquiring part of the Russian Empire from the second half of 18th century, the role of the Russian Orthodox Church started to increase, though for a long time Russian Old Believers dominated among the Russians. Once the Russian period (late 18th century) was under way, there was a significant reduction in the number of Catholic and United churches built. Mostly Orthodox Christian Cathedrals were built during this time.

To somewhat simplify history, we can say that the religious history of Belarus has been like an unending struggle between Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity, going back 600 years.

But there are other communities too.

The Jewish community constituted about 10% of the Belarusian population at the beginning of 20th century, so we can see synagogues in Belarus.

During the time of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy some thousands of Muslim Tatars arrived, and so you can find their religious buildings too.

During the 70 years of Soviet rule, the Church in Belarus experienced a dark chapter in its history. Under the communists (who were officially atheists), the activities of these communities were severely restricted. Many religious communities were destroyed and their leaders exiled or executed; but perhaps something which would surprise the visitor in Belarus today, is too see the renaissance of the Church. Numerous churches are being restored and refurbished, and new ones are taking shape too. Currently over 100 churches, mostly Orthodox and Catholic, are under construction. And not only churches; there are at least 10 practising monasteries. The most famous of these are perhaps Spas-Ephrosinie monastery in Polotsk, founded back in the 12th century by abbess Yefrosinya, and later ranked sacred. And we cannot forget the 17th-19th century Zhyrovitchy Orthodox monastery not far from Slonim. Now it is the premier institution of higher religious education, where students from all former republics of the USSR are entitled to enrol.

Other historical sights

  • The houses built by handicrafts people in PostavaThere are numerous other culturally valuable buildings in Belarus, including some fine civic examples such as the beautiful Town Hall in Shklov, and the Theatre in Mogilev.
  • Centres of several small towns have been tastefully restored in pre-Soviet style or they retain interesting, original elements, such as the central square in Novogrudok, or the houses of handicrafts people in Postava.
  • Orsha battlefield. In 1514 Lithuanian and Polish troops defeated the army (80,000 men) of Muscovite duke Ivan III close to Orsha: The Battle of Orsha was one of the biggest battles in Europe in the 16th century.
  • Historical battlefields related to Napoleon (e.g. Soltanovka village in Mogilev province) where forces of Russian marshals Bagration and French marshal Davout fought, Berezina - the river crossed by Napoleon's army.
  • Vitebsk where Kazimir Malevich worked as a director of the art school , and counted amongst his students one Marc Chagall, who later also became head of the local art school in Vitebsk for some years (you can visit small museum in Vitebsk dedicated to Chagall). M. Chagall is one of the foremost representatives of surrealism.
  • Dastejevo, a small village in Brest province, where the ancestors of Dostojevski lived before leaving for St Petersburg. (But a lot of famous people have been born in, or have had roots in Belarus - composer I. Berlin, general W.  Clark, film actor K. Douglas, composer M. Glinka, ice hockey player W.  Gretzky, former ministry of foreign affaires of Soviet Union A.  Gromyko, broadcaster of CNN L. King, former prime minister of Israel Y. Rabin, Soviet Marshal K. Rokkossovski, cellist M. Rostropovich, mathematician N. Wiener and many others.)
  • Man-made canals (August Canal, Dnieper-Bug Canal, Berezinsky Canal System, Oginski Canal).

Nature

Territory and Landscape

Belarussian landscapeThe territory of Belarus has an area of 207,600 square kilometres (80,000 square miles), which is approximately equal to the area of England + Scotland, about 20 per cent larger than Washington State in the USA, or for Australians, some 3 times the size of Tasmania.

Minsk, the capital which may be considered as the geographical centre of Belarus, lies roughly on the same latitude as Hamburg, Dublin or York. From east to west Belarus extends 650 km, from north to south 560 km.

Elevated regions occupy a major part of Belarus.

The Minsk highlands are the highest part of the watershed on the Eastern-European plain. Many small rivers originate on the elevation and flow in all directions from there.

The largest lowland area - the Polesje lowlands - lie mainly along the Pripyat River. Polesje occupies 80,000 sq. kilometres.

Forests

The forests cover a third of the land, but forest distribution throughout the territory of the country is far from uniform, percentage of forestland in individual administrative districts varies from 10% to 62%. Forests of Belarus are mainly formed by pine, spruce, oak, alder, birch, aspen, and ash.

Lakes

Naroch is the largest lake in BelarusBelarus has over about 11,000 lakes, 470 of them exceed an area over 0.5 km2 each. Water bodies cover 2% of the country's area. The largest lake in Belarus is the Naroch Lake, in the north-west of the country (79.6 km2), but it is amazing that the man-made Vileiskoye reservoir built in the Soviet era is almost the same size (75 km2). The Vileisko-Minsk water system, by which the waters of the Viliya River are channelled to the Belarusian capital Minsk, originates at this lake.

Rivers

Belarus is a landlocked country, but it has several major rivers. In the early Middle Ages waterways played a key role in trade, which is why all the oldest cities were established beside rivers.

On the Western Dvina RiverThe fabled ancient trade route linking the Vikings with the Greeks was instrumental in the rise of the first land routes s in Belarus - so-called "volocks" (portage), the places with the least distance between two neighbouring, navigable rivers, and where vessels and their attendant cargoes were dragged along the surface from one water basin into another. There were about 20 medieval "volocks" in Belarus known at that time. Usually, the distance between the final points of "volocks" didn't exceed 20-30 km.

The Dnieper is the largest river in Belarus and third largest river in Europe; it rises in Russia and flows southwards through Belarus, towards Ukraine, where it form as a 100-km stretch of the border, before sweeping across Ukraine and finally discharging into the Black Sea. The largest tributary of the Dnieper within Belarus is the Pripyat.

The Western Dvina River rises in Russia, flows westwards and exits Belarus in the north-west, where it enters Latvia to become that country's largest river. In Latvia, it assumes the name Daugava, and ends its journey in the Baltic Sea.

The Neman River rises in the heart of Belarus, near the capital Minsk. It flows westwards into Lithuania, where its name changes to the Nemunas River, the largest in Lithuania, and it too empties into the Baltic Sea.

The Bug river is one of the main trans-boundary rivers in Central and Eastern Europe; this river rises in Ukraine, and forms the border, first between Ukraine and Poland and then between Belarus and Poland, before entering Poland.

There are 10 river ports and the total distance of the navigable rivers in Belarus is 1,840 km.

Tourism and infrastructure

Belarusian road and forestBelarus is still an undiscovered country in terms of its tourism. Most of its visitors come from the CIS countries, which are all former Soviet republics. About 100,000 tourists arrive from the Western world annually. But please remember - over 10 million people live in Belarus. So it is quite customary to encounter few if any other foreign tourists during a visit there, which can make a very pleasant change from the situation in many other lands. There is no high-season as such for tourism numbers, just a perennial low season.

Belarus is a perfectly safe country if you respect the local laws and customs.

Belarusians can often be somewhat reticent, even surly, in the initial contact with foreigners, largely because they encounter so few, but if you are able to make some favorable comments or remarks about their city/ village or country, they will warm to you quite readily. Most of people are friendly, but knowledge of the major local languages, essentially Russian or Belarusian, or the presence of someone who is conversant in these, is essential for ease of traveling around, there still being very little English spoken.

They have good tourist class hotels in most, but not all major cities. Once outside the major conurbations, however, the visitor must be prepared to accept Soviet-standard hotels, which whilst they are still equipped with all facilities - TV set, shower, WC, etc - these furnishings tend to date from the Soviet period, and fixtures and fittings such as the furniture, windows, doors etc do look rather tired and dated. In essence, these Soviet-style hotels have seen little if any renovation in the past 20- 30 years. The alternative, otherwise, is to use Minsk or certain other large cities with higher quality tourist hotels as starting points for side trips.

Few hotels provide buffet breakfasts, instead they have breakfast menus, but sometimes the choice is rather limited. To avoid disappointment we recommend that you inform us in advance of the kind of breakfast you would prefer, and we can try to make special arrangements for you where possible, though these can never be guaranteed.

Another alternative to utilizing large hotels is to overnight in private homes. This is a wonderful way to experience at first hand how a local family lives, and to sample the local ambience, but on the other hand, sanitary arrangements may be quite rudimentary, such as a very basic outside WC, or the lack of a shower. It is therefore very important, to avoid any disappointment, that you inform us up front of the type of accommodation which is acceptable for you.

There are no problems to procuring food in Belarus. They have European-style restaurants, cafes or bars in large cities, but these can sometimes be quite well concealed! The easiest way to take lunch in a smaller city or town or maybe village is to visit a self-service "stolovaja" or eatery, which is a very simple, no-frills canteen-like establishment offering a hearty and cheap meal. These do not serve fast food, but instead ordinary meals (soup, main course, desert etc), which is generally quite tasty and satisfying.

As previously mentioned, roads are good or very good, most of the roads are well-paved. However, there is not so much tourist infrastructure like in developed countries along these roads, so do not expect to find too much evidence of roadside cafes or bars.

There are very few developed tourist areas (sites with parking area, cafe, signs, tourist information, souvenir shop etc). Most of the sights/sites are without any tourist embellishments, and often are not even well signposted, so you must know where to go. But this adds to their charm.

Our tours in Belarus

Below you can find a brief listing of our private sightseeing tours and activities. But please remember these are only samples for orientation to make it easier for you to tell us where you want to go or what do you like to do! We will make a tailor-made offer, according to your preferences.

  • Sidetrip from Lithuania to Belarus (as an extension to the Baltic Tour covering Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).
  • Around Belarus (about 7 - 10 days by car, van or bus - major cities + some additional sightseeing).
  • Combined tour around Belarus by train and or car, van, bus. Duration 7- 10 days.
  • Sightseeing tour of Belarus with some activities (boating, trips by train or boat, short hikes, fishing).
  • Cultural tour to Belarus (tour with visit to well known Minsk Opera, or circus, or cultural event, festivals).
  • Tour to explore Belarusian nature, inc. natural parks in Belarus - National Parks "Belovezhskaya Pushcha", Berezinsky Biosphere Nature Reserve, Narochanski National Park, Braslav Lakes National Park, and Pripyatsky National Park.
  • Grand Tour of Belarus - the comprehensive tour to really discover this extraordinary country: duration 2 weeks or more.
  • Tour combining various elements described above.
  • Your own ideas for a tailor-made itinerary...
Landscape Festival Belarussian landscape

Our enterprise

Ahti Arak Tours is an enterprise founded by a sole proprietor Ahti Arak and belongs to him.

Ahti ArakWe commenced our activities in the summer of 2000, offering tour guide services in Estonia; but given the needs of our visitors, we soon expanded our operations into Latvia, Lithuania and Finland. Since Belarus is almost adjacent to Estonia, in summer 2004 we began to provide our services throughout Belarus to cater for those previous guests who, having sampled our programmes in the Baltic countries, wished to avail of us again to help them discover the attractions of Belarus.

As the owner of the company, I would introduce myself in the following manner:
I am a native Estonian historian, teacher. I speak Estonian fluently, and have a good working knowledge of English and Russian, and have participated in many courses for tour guides. Most importantly, I enjoy meeting people and sharing cultures and would love the opportunity to show you Belarus, a land full of surprises.

Ahti Arak Tours is registered in the Estonian Commercial Register, No. 10789460, and in the register of travel companies within the Ministry of Economic Affairs, No. TRE000219.

The number of groups and tourists using our services has increased almost every year. To a large extent, this growth has been facilitated thanks to our guests, who have recommended us to their friends and acquaintances. We are working on expanding our activities in the future, and therefore we are looking forward to cooperation with tour operators and travel agencies from other countries. We are interested in discussing any suggestions you may have.

Why to choose our service in Belarus?

We know Russian. Russian is the dominant language in Belarus, though most people living in Belarus have a Belarusian background.

We have personal experience about life in the former Soviet Union. So we can help you to discover the many legacies and influences of the Soviet heritage in Belarus, and we can enlighten you as to the contrasting experiences of both Belarus, with its ongoing communist way of life, and the three Baltic States, with their radical business and consumer-orientated reforms, as both progress through the continuing transition from Soviet control. The Baltic countries are now the most successful former constituents of the Soviet Union, and are the only parts of Russia's once huge empire to have left that political sphere and to have joined, instead, both NATO and the EU.

We believe that we offer much more comprehensive tours than do most other travel agencies. We do not wish to just show you the well-known sights, but also the many other facets of Belarusian society. As such, we can make use of private homes, we can hire local tour guides, and above all, we can stop and explore the remoter areas where few foreign tourists will ever set foot.

Our tours are customized and tailor-made. We are flexible and we can adjust the tour route, itinerary, budget etc according to your interests and needs.

Contact

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us:

   Contact information:
   PO Box 937, 13402 Tallinn, Estonia / 
   Ploomi 30, 71017 Viljandi, Estonia
   Fax: +372 43 43 157
   Cell phone: +372 53 420 361
   E-mail: