The Budget Savvy Travelers

How to Visit Wolf’s Lair | Self-Guided Tour of Hitler’s Headquarters

Learn how to get to and visit Wolf’s Lair in Poland. Take a self-guided tour of Hitler’s former headquarters with this guide. Wolf’s Lair (Polish: Wilczy Szaniec; German: Wolfsschanze) was constructed in anticipation of the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The massive compound was fabricated deep within the Masurian Lakes region of what is today northeastern Poland.

Considered to be one of several secrets Führerhauptquartiere (Führer Headquarters), it represents the precise location where Operation Valkyrie nearly killed Hitler with a suitcase bomb on July 20, 1944.

A commemorative plaque identifies the location (on bunker #3) where Colonel Stauffenberg attempted to take Hitler’s life.

Visiting the Wolf’s Lair

Up until November 20, 1944, Hitler spent about 800 days at the Wolf’s Lair over a 3½-year period. There’s a reason why Hitler felt so safe here. It’s in the middle of nowhere.

Therefore, planning a trip here can feel overwhelming. After all, the location was carefully chosen to be away from all important transportation routes and towns. As you begin researching your visit, you’ll probably discover the same difficulties that we did in figuring out how to get to the lair and where to stay.

The entrance to the Wolf’s Lair.

After coming all this way to visit the Wolf’s Lair, you’ll quickly realize that there’s much more here to see then maybe you thought. The last thing you want to feel here is rushed so plan accordingly.

The second you see Hitler’s bunker in person and begin to walk closer to it you feel like you’re walking in the devil’s footsteps. Unfortunately, with most travelers’ short holiday schedules, the majority of visitors may only be able to explore Wolf’s Lair on a day trip.

This is usually done by hiring a tour agency to drive directly to the lair or by taking the express trains from Gdansk or Warsaw to Kętrzyn, which will usually take about four hours from both cities. Just the idea of sitting in a car for eight hours made us nauseous (not to mention the expensive price) so we decided to make visiting the historic location a priority during our “slow-travel” tour of Poland.

Our Itinerary

Lake Niegocin off the coast of Giżycko.

Our itinerary started in Warsaw and then led us to Białowieża→Ełk→Giżycko. We used Giżycko as our home base for visiting the Wolf’s Lair. Giżycko is a beautiful, lakeside city with wonderful canals, the Boyen Fortress, and a large selection of nice Airbnb apartments.

Where to Stay When Visiting the Wolf’s Lair

We stayed three nights in an apartment in Giżycko with a wonderful terrace and decided to dedicate one full day to visit Wolf’s Lair, which is a short 25-minute train ride away. We were contemplating staying in Kętrzyn, but we couldn’t find a decent place to stay at a reasonable price. Also, Wolf’s Lair is about 5-minutes from the Kętrzyn train station by taxi.

Giżycko is a beautiful city with lovely canals and an impressive fort. It’s a good idea to add this city to any tour of Poland!

Both towns have their charm, however, if we’re going to recommend only one place to stay it would be Giżycko, because of the wonderful Lake Niegocin. Another option is to visit the two towns separately—this will depend on how much time you have built into your schedule.

If you’re able to find somewhere to stay in Kętrzyn it will make visiting the Wolf’s Lair much easier because it’s only a 5-minute taxi ride from the city center (and the train station). We’ll get into this a little later, but there’s actually a small and reasonably priced hotel at the Wolf’s Lair where guests may stay.

Best Places to Stay

Regardless, below are the best places to stay in both Giżycko and Kętrzyn.

Giżycko
Budget: Zielone Studio (washing machine) or Apartamenty Turystyczne WillkasSen (numerous options)
Mid-Range: Hotel Giżycko (spacious rooms) or Hotel Masovia (great food)
Luxury: Hotel St. Bruno (onsite spa, indoor pool with hot tubs)

Kętrzyn
Budget: Hotelik Corner (BBQ area)
Mid-Range: Hotel Koch (buffet breakfast)
Luxury: Pałac Nakomiady (jaw-dropping, Kętrzyn Train Station is 5.3 mi away)

Best Guided Excursions

  1. Wolfs Lair and Swieta Lipka Private Tour from Warsaw with Lunch
  2. Wolf’s Lair and St. Lipka Private Tour from Gdansk
  3. Elblag Canal Tour from Gdansk

How to Get to the Wolf’s Lair

We decided to take the train from Giżycko to Kętrzyn as there are numerous departures every day. There are also buses available too, directly next door to the Giżycko train station. Upon arriving in Kętrzyn, we departed the train station and took the bus to the Wolf’s Lair in Gierłoż.

Departing the train station we turned left and walked about 100 feet to the #8 bus stop. This is where you can catch the #1 bus (Kętrzyn – Węgorzewo) to the Wolf’s Lair. It will drop you off directly in front of the lair in Gierłoż. The ride will cost about USD 1.

The bus to the Wolf’s Lair arrives at stop #8, directly outside the Kętrzyn train station.

There are only two #1 buses during the day that will take you to Gierłoż, they depart the train station at 14:15 and 16:15, and take about 20 minutes to arrive just outside the lair (54.078835, 21.493664).

Bus #1 to the Wolf’s Lair states in the window that it’s going from Kętrzyn to Węgorzewo.

Across the street from the Kętrzyn train station is a taxi stand. When we got off the train there were no taxis in the stand. At the time of our visit, there were billboards showing telephone numbers of local taxi services. With the help of some locals, I would imagine it would be pretty easy to arrange a taxi directly from the train station to Gierłoż.

The bus will drop you off right in front of the Wolf’s Lair.

Simply tell the bus driver you’re going to Gierłoż, pronounced “gear-wersh,” or Wilczy Szaniec, pronounced “vilcha sha-knee-yets.”

Should You Hire a Guide?

From our experience, it’s not necessary to hire a guide to thoroughly tour the Wolf’s Lair. Guides will cost about USD 15 per person and are extremely hard to get a hold of through email. For example, we contacted four guides and only heard back from just one. At the end of the day, we couldn’t get our schedules to align with any of the guides, and therefore we were forced to tour the complex alone.

The map in Stanisław Siemiński’s Wolf’s Lair guidebook makes the solo tour easy and informative to enjoy!

After much research, we found out that there’s a gift shop near the entrance of the complex that sells amazing guide books for about USD 3. The guided tour is only about one hour long. The guidebook is pretty detailed (64 pages), so I’d imagine that you’d get a lot more information solely out of the book.

However, if you do feel like you want to receive as much information as possible, and if you have the time and the ability to set up a guided tour, I would suggest going on the tour and purchasing the book. It makes for a great souvenir too!

How to Hire a Guide?

From our personal experience, it was difficult to organize a guided tour of the Wolf’s Lair. But remember, there are two ways to hire a guide:

  1. Arrive at the lair and hope that there’s a guide available at the entrance.
  2. Contact one of the guides below and see if you can schedule a tour.

A list of all tour guides is here. As previously stated, we contacted the four English-speaking guides below and only Korowaj Jadwiga responded to our inquiry:

Korowaj Jadwiga – a guide with a license
tel. 601 677 202, email [email protected]
foreign language: English
work area: Warmia and Mazury
– in particular: Wilczy Szaniec Accommodation in Gierłoż,
other permissions: tour guide, instructor

Michałowski Waldemar – a guide with a license
tel. 604 878 825, email [email protected]
foreign language: English
work area: Warmia and Mazury,
in particular: Wilczy Szaniec Accommodation in Gierłoż

Puciato Czesław – a guide with a license

tel 666 288 261, email [email protected]
foreign language: English, Russian, German
area: Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship

Puciato Marcin – a guide with a license
tel. 500 799 154, email [email protected]
foreign language: English
work area: Warmia and Mazury

How Long Does it Take to Tour Wolf’s Lair?

Building #2 was the site for Hitler’s personal SS security. Upon passing this building you begin to sense that you’re truly entering the Wolf’s Lair.

The entire complex consists of about 80 buildings. About 50 of the buildings are well-camouflaged bunkers. Some of the more significant bunkers have walls that are up to 20 feet thick!

Please keep in mind that most of the buildings and bunkers were blown up by the Nazis before they departed the area. However, most likely in a hurry and also needing to save their explosives, they did a poor job blowing up the structures. Therefore much of the site has been preserved.

Bunker #10 indicates an underground warehouse. Notice Martin Bormann’s bunker (#11) in the background?

The entire lair is split between the north and south sectors. The old railroad tracks divide the complex in two. Most people will only tour the north section of the lair, mainly because the most interesting sites are located there: Hitler’s Bunker (#13), Göring’s Bunker (#16), Bormann’s Bunker (#16), Conference Barracks (the site of the assassination attempt #3), and the Guests’ Bunker (#6). Also, please keep in mind that the guided tours only visit the north section too.

Hitler’s residence bunker is unmarked.

Touring the lair is a remarkable experience. It will go down for us as one of the most significant historical experiences of our lives. With that in mind, it took us about 2½ hours to tour just the north section. The guidebook recommends about 70 minutes for the north section and another 50 minutes for the south section. In our opinion, visitors looking to take their time should allocate about four hours for both the north and south sections.

Must-See Bunkers

When visiting Wolf’s Lair, the most important thing to remember is that the large bunkers were built as protection from a significant air raid or bombarding. Therefore, the Nazi leaders had a residence bunker next to their air raid bunker, and this is where they spent most of their time. The must-see bunkers include the conference barracks #3, guests’ bunker #6, Hitler’s bunker #13, Göring’s Bunker #16, and the officers’ casino #18.

Operation Valkyrie (#3)

The conference barracks, the site of the attempted assassination have almost been destroyed. All that remains is the foundation of the building.

Building number three is the conference barracks and it was here on July 20, 1944, that Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A small commemorative plaque now acknowledges the actions and sacrifice of Colonel Stauffenberg.

Guests’ Bunker (#6)

Hitler lived in the guest bunker for a few months in 1944 while his main bunker was being constructed.

The bunker was supposed to be used primarily to host foreign guests. However, from July 16 to October 1, 1944, Hitler lived here while his bunker was being rebuilt.

Hitler’s Bunker (#13)

The second you see Hitler’s bunker you’ve known you’ve arrived. It’s the largest bunker in the entire complex.

The largest bunker in the complex, of course, belonged to Adolf Hitler. He spent very little time in this specific bunker. Instead, he spent most of his time in his residence bunker, which is located directly behind the massive structure. Please note there is no sign anywhere indicating the building is his residence structure.

Göring’s Bunker (#16)

Göring’s bunker has a variety of interesting nooks to explore.

It’s easy to find many hiding spots within the remains of Göring’s massive bunker. It’s probably one of the most interesting bunkers to walk around based on how the bunker was blown up. Many visitors will climb a rusty iron ladder to get views from the top. Once there make sure to take note of the flak towers that once housed anti-aircraft machine guns.

Göring’s residence bunker (#15) is located next to his main bunker (#16).

Officers’ Casino (#18)

 #18 – Officer’s Mess Hall

Now, just an old decrepit brick building, the officer’s kasino (building #18) would have been a place for Nazi officers to dine, imagine a lively cafeteria. As the main mess hall, the officers’ kasino is an eerie place to walk through because you know the Nazi officers were mainly eating, drinking, and swapping stories in this now empty space.

This is one of the few buildings visitors are allowed to walk through. To think that the genocide of millions of people was occurring, and people were starving to death across Europe while these Nazis were effortlessly dining in this building makes this site one of the most disgusting and abhorrent stops along the tour.

Accommodations at Wolf’s Lair

The old officers’ hotel (building #1) is now a small modern-day hotel and restaurant where visitors can stay and dine. Had we known about this hotel, we most likely would have stayed here based on its convenience. Rates run about USD 32 per night for a double room and include sightseeing and parking.

The officers’ hotel (building #1) is now a hotel and restaurant.

In terms of making a reservation, I’d attempt to contact the Lair directly here. There’s also an on-site campsite. Rates currently run about (in USD):

  • Camper/caravan $5
  • Passenger car/bus $1
  • Motorcycle $0.50
  • Adult $4
  • Children/students $2.50

How Do You Depart Wolf’s Lair?

To save as much money as possible, we arrived at Wolf’s Lair by taking the 13:13-13:43/train from Giżycko to Kętrzyn. From the train station, we took the #1 bus from Kętrzyn to Gierłoż at 14:15-14:35. When we departed the lair we stopped at the front gate and asked the security guards to call us a taxi. We then took the 17:54-18:23/train from Kętrzyn back to Giżycko.

General Information

  • General admission is about USD 4 per person, all others here.
  • Parking is about $7 per vehicle.
  • Hours:
    • April through September (daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
    • October through March (daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • The official website for the Lair is here.
  • Bring a flashlight.
  • The Wolf’s Lair guidebook is currently only available at the gift shop and n[checklist_in_post][/checklist_in_post]ot online.
  • They recovered 55,000 land mines in the area surrounding the lair, so don’t plan on straying too far from the marked paths.
  • Bus/Train Schedule, Local Taxi Phone Numbers:
We received this schedule from the Giżycko tourist center and it came in extremely handy. Please note the only bus departing Wolf’s Lair leaves at 10:21 a.m. daily.

Conclusion

If we were to do it all over again, we would have taken the 14:15 (#1) bus from Kętrzyn to Gierłoż and stayed overnight in the onsite hotel. That way we could have explored the site until 8 p.m. and not rushed through our tour of the lair.

Remember, the entire complex is an immense 32 acres. Depending on your passion for the subject at hand, spending 6-8 hours exploring the area is not unreasonable. The following morning we would have had some additional time for some early morning photography. Then we would have departed on the 10:21 a.m. bus back to Kętrzyn.

If considering a tour to the Wolf’s Lair, we hope this guide helps make your visit easy and enjoyable. Although the logistics may seem daunting at first, independently exploring the historic site is completely possible. Additionally, we were glad we took on the adventure because the Wolf’s Lair was one of the eeriest and fascinating experiences during our tour of Poland.

Any questions? Feel free to reach out in the comments section below. We’d be happy to try to help.

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8 thoughts on “How to Visit Wolf’s Lair | Self-Guided Tour of Hitler’s Headquarters
  1. I was in going to be in Warsaw so before leaving the USA I booked a private tour from Warsaw to Wolf’s Lair. The trip was 3 hours each way and the tour was 3 hours …worth the price $300 did the tour twice once in December 2016. No one was there and the second tour the tour guide arranged a private tour of the airstrip used by Hitler. It is closed to the public but felt lucky I got the tour

  2. Thanks for the feedback, we appreciate it. We’ve updated the post to reflect your assessment. In regards to photos, we mainly focused on video (https://youtu.be/4hcyz2uG6YM) while touring the lair and therefore included any worthwhile photography in the post. Thanks again!

  3. This is fantastic, and the photos are excellent! Great details. If I might be so impertinent as to suggest a small correction, a ‘Casino’ (Kasino or Offizierkasino) was an officer’s mess, IE a dining hall, not a gambling den. I’d be interested to know if you have other photos of the area.

  4. Below are personal observations designed not to supplant but merely to update the extremely helpful and painstaking work carried out by the authors of this site.
    I visited Wolf’s Lair, alone, on 16 Sept 2020.
    It costs 15PLN to enter per person and 5 PLN to park.
    As I arrived (at 9am) a lady in the car park offered to guide me for 120PLN, she said it would take 1h 20m
    My view is you do not need a guide. The paths (paved) are very clearly laid out and it is very easy to find your way around. Each building now has an information board in front of it and it is easy to establish which building is which.Almost all the buildings are clearly numbered. A guide may have more information or stories to tell but, with great respect to the guides, as the whole place was so secretive many of the stories may be apocryphal rather than strictly factual.
    There is a large information board near the entrance which has a comprehensive site plan. I simply took a photo of it on my phone and referred to it on my way round.
    Building no 4 not far beyond the entrance towards the left has a shop. You can buy guide books or site plans in a variety of languages. There is also a small exhibition and a film theatre (when I was there a film was running in German).
    There is also near the railway line (near building 22) a building that contains a static reconstruction of the assassination attempt with various other information boards and artefacts on display around the room which is very interesting.
    In terms of time, I would say 2 hrs is easily enough to see everything on the north side.
    There is very little to see in comparison in the south section, there is only one large bunker designated ‘general purpose bunker’, fewer paths and some of the buildings are in quite dense woodland. You wouldn’t be missing much if you didn’t go. 30-40 minutes is enough to see it all.

    There were over 300,000 visitors in 2019 so on the busier days probably around 2000 or so. Unquestionably it is better to be there without crowds. There are hotels quite close by including one on Booking.com that is less than 2 miles away.
    I drove the night before in a hire car (about 225km or 3hrs from Modlin airport) and I’m glad I did. I was there by 9am (it opens at 8am) and had the place pretty much to myself for a good hour. By the time I left at 11.45 there were several tour groups going round and 2 buses just coming into the car park, about 300 people in all (a quiet day almost certainly because of Covid19) but it is far more eerie and atmospheric without other people.

    Enjoy! It is well worth a visit and although there’s not a great deal to see beyond mountains of cracked concrete and twisted metal it is fascinating and has an important story to tell.

    1. Thanks, we appreciate the feedback. We were trying to answer all of the questions we had when we began researching the trip. As WWII enthusiasts, visiting Wolf’s Lair was one of our travel highlights. We’re sure you’ll find it absolutely fascinating.

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