Lithuania: a destination full of surprises
With its thriving art scene, its spectacular sand dunes and the fascinating Baroque architecture, Lithuania, is a fantastic place to visit in 2018 and it is absolutely a destination full of surprises. Rich in lakes, forests and beautiful national parks, the largest of the Baltic states is undoubtedly a paradise for nature lovers, yet it also has enough castles and museums to captivate culture and history lovers. The beautiful Spas and the delicious beer make the country a real stress-free place. Here then 5 places not to be missed when you decide to visit Lithuania:
A collection of cobbled squares and winding alleys, protected by UNESCO, flanked by beautiful baroque architecture, the old town of Vilnius is the largest and one of the most beautiful in the whole of Europe. But despite all the history that revolves around it, the capital is living a real rebirth. In recent years, stylish hotels, boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants have sprung up and also the cultural scene has exploded with a striking contemporary art center and an eclectic collection of private galleries. Thanks to the many students living in Vilnius, the city’s nightlife is surprisingly lively and glamour.
Castle of Trakai Island
Housed in the former KGB headquarters, The Museum of Genocide Victims (also known as KGB Museum) is the place to go if you want to know more about the dark Soviet era of the city. For some of the city’s best views, head to Upper Castle or take a sunset balloon ride. Surrounded by picturesque lakes, the Castle of Trakai Island (less than 30 km west of Vilnius) is a popular day trip, with a museum full of history. Furthermore, Trakai is a beautifully preserved medieval town with lots of activities.
Hill of Crosses
Located in the northern part of Lithuania, near the town of Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses is the country’s main pilgrimage destination and one of its most bizarre attractions. Symbol of the nation’s religious devotion, it contains over 200.000 crosses of various sizes and styles, most of which are brought here by relatives in mourning, whose bodies of loved ones were never found. Rosaries, huge crucifixes and statues of the Virgin also decorate the mysterious hill, which is believed to be a place of miracles.
Curonian Spit and Klaipeda
The Curonian Spit is one of the most famous and spectacular places in Lithuania, it is only 10 minutes by boat from Klaipeda and boasts the largest moving sand dunes in Europe. Shared with Russia, this UNESCO protected peninsula with its spectacular landscapes, its beautiful beaches and its fishing villages, is ideal for those seeking nature and tranquility; but in reality it is much more than this. It is a life-changing experience and, as the Prussian philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt once said, “The spit is so unique that everyone has to see it”.
Located along the lagoon, the pretty village of Nida has been a source of inspiration for many artists, including Freud and Thomas Mann. Nowadays, the picturesque tourist town, with a German flavor, is famous for its multitude of amber jewelery shops, its relaxed atmosphere and its characteristic wooden houses.
Known mainly as the getaway to the Curonian Spit, Klaipeda is the third largest city in Lithuania and its most important port. The Danė River divides the city in two parts, the old part and the new one, each with its own charm and its own attractions. The small old town is full of bakeries, shops and restaurants, and the Smiltynė district has beautiful white beaches and the Lithuanian Sea Museum.
Famous for its mineral springs, pure air and beautiful parks, the Druskininkai, near the borders with Poland and Belarus, is the oldest and most elegant Spa town of Lithuania. Once a place of care for the elderly and the rich, it retains much of its Soviet heritage with many examples of dull concrete buildings.
Fortunately, the city is turning into a trendy destination, attracting a clientele that is more and more in step with the times and well-to-do, which is accommodated in the various luxury hotels and in the avant-garde wellness centers. In addition to mud baths and mineral springs with healing properties, the Druskininkai houses a number of interesting museums, elegant buildings and one of the largest winter entertainment complexes in the world: the Snow Arena. Other attractions include the Druskininkai Aquapark; a beautiful adventure park for families; and the Grūtas Park, a strange Soviet-themed garden filled with 86 statues of socialist activists, located about 8 km east of Druskininkai.
Aukštaitija National Park
Wild forests, blue lakes and quiet villages make up the Aukštaitija National Park, a land of inestimable value in terms of nature and culture, situated in the north-east of Lithuania. A trip to this part of Lithuania will allow you to discover the fantastic biodiversity of the country and get to know its folklore visible in the numerous protected ethnographic centers, scattered around the area. Other attractions include the bizarre Museum of Ancient Beekeeping and the 18th-century wooden church of Palūšė.