Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic countries that also include Estonia and Latvia, and it was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence. Lithuania is a quirky, beautiful, and affordable vacation destination, and its tourism statistics back that up with well over a million annual visitors. The Hill of Crosses in Siaulai, Trakai Island Castle in Lake Galve, the pagan sculpture garden of Curonian Spit National Park, and Gediminas’ Tower, a symbol of Vilnius with stunning views of the city await the curious traveler.
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Alytus is an ancient town that dates back to the 14th century featuring beautiful forest covered hills surrounded by an almost ten-mile-long bend of the Nemunas River. The town is a cultural and natural oasis with a rich yet saddening history. Monuments like the obelisk that was built over a mass burial ground of civilians and war prisoners killed during the horror of World War II tell of a tragic past. The broken Star of David and the Old Garden of the City with its Freedom Monument should also be visited. Regional Parks, Meteliai, Dzukija, and Nemunas, as well as the Zuvintas Reserve, are ideal stops for naturalists.
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Anyksciai is a beautiful and historic town with unique natural areas, interesting museums, and a wealth of attractions and intriguing sights. The Angel Museum, a center for sacred art, the Horse Museum, the Forest Museum, and the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum are excellent choices for getting to know the town and its varied culture. Observation decks are located throughout Anyksciai, providing picturesque views of pinewood forests, Lake Rubikiai, and various monuments and churches. The Traupis Botanical Garden, Slave Exposure, Variaus Exposure, and Zazumbris Oak showcase the wondrous and unique natural attributes of this city. There are also several architecturally magnificent churches well worth a tour.
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Birzai is one of Lithuania’s oldest cities, dating back over five centuries and located in the northern region of the country. The city lies at the junction of the Asascia River and the Agluona River, and on the shores of Lake Sirvena and Lake Kiluciai. It is a culturally rich area with several gorgeous churches, including the Evangelical Reformed Church St. John’s the Baptist Church. Birzai is also naturally unique with several sinkholes featuring over 9,000 karst formations. These cherished caverns are used by the locals as a resource for healing practices and brewing beer. The city’s top attractions include, Rinkuskiai Brewery Butautu Manor Brewery, Birzai Regional Park, and Birzai Castle.
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4.Curonian Spit National Park
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The Curonian Spit National Park is considered the gem of the Baltic Sea. The windblown 61-mile stretch of sand dunes separates Curonian and the Baltic Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site beautifully displays the gentle balance between marine life and agriculture. The Curonian Spit boasts the largest sand dunes in Europe at an average height of 115 feet. In the 19th century, the area underwent a reforestation where pine and green forests serve as protection to this magnificent natural formation. The park offers various outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking the dunes, and cycling the pathways. An interesting outdoor pagan sculpture garden with 80 characters is near Juodkrante.
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Druskininkai is Lithuania’s largest resort town located in the southern region of the country, a wonderful natural oasis well-known for its healing practices. The area is famous for its curative peat mud and mineral waters that work in tandem with modern technologically advanced treatments to assist visitors in healing numerous ailments of mind, body, and soul. Additionally, there are a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy; these include beautiful pine forests, the Raigardas Valley, and the Ratnycia River. Various villages and towns in the area such as Svendubre, Vieciunai, and Liskiava offer a multitude of cultural experiences and historic monuments.
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6.Dzukija National Park
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Dzukija National Park is Lithuania’s largest protected area and the most extensive forest in the country, with a stunning 91% of the area covered in forest, a majority of which is pine trees. There are more than 50 mammal species and almost 200 bird species that call the park home, as well as several small villages that have landmark status including Zervynos, Dubininkas, Lynezeris, and Musteika. Anglers and kayakers will enjoy the 30 streams and rivers in addition to the 48 lakes found within the park. For those who prefer to explore on land, there are six bicycle paths and six footpaths that wind through the Dzukija.
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Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and lies at the juncture of the two largest rivers in the country, Nemunas and Neris. It boasts historic and culturally rich attractions such as their medieval Old Town, which is dotted with churches at City Hall Square, as well as the beautifully restored Kaunas Castle. The Pazaislis monastery located near the hydroelectric dam is a stunning representation of the baroque-style of Northern Europe. The Museum of Devils pays tribute to Lithuania’s pagan history and is worth a visit. Another major highlight is the protective Russian fortress, batteries, forts, and barracks from the 19th century that surround the city; they are revered as the most well-preserved of their kind.
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Kedainiai is an ancient town with an extraordinary and historically unique area within its borders, the Old Town, an urban monument protected by the state. This is one of seven Old Towns that withstood the centuries and remains relatively intact in Lithuania. It occupies over 200 acres and dates back to 1372, perfectly preserving multiple architectural, cultural, and historical monuments. Among these national monuments are The Town Hall, only one of three that still remain in the country, the Renaissance-style Evangelical Reformed Church boasting four baroque towers, and an exotic structure entrenched in mysterious stories known as a Minaret.
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9.Kernave Archeological Site
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The Kernave Archeological site is situated in eastern Lithuania, roughly 20 miles northwest of Vilnius. It serves as documentation of human settlements of over 10 millennia located in the Neris River Valley. The site is a diverse collection of archaeological properties, unfortified settlements, forts, and burial sites, as well as additional cultural, archaeological, and historical monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. Kernave was a crucial ancient town during the Middle Ages, and much of the ancient land has been preserved, including the discovery of the remains of five extraordinary hill forts, part of a considerably large defense system.
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Klaipeda is the third largest city in Lithuania, offering visitors a unique blend of old-world charm and new-world modernity. This former Prussian capital has maintained much of its German-style architecture with the cobblestone Old Town and one remaining tower of the former redbrick castle. Its rich history is only overshadowed by its importance as Lithuania’s singular port for passenger and cargo ferries as well as massive cruise ships. The Dane River flows through the town, naturally cutting it into two distinct areas; north of the river is the contemporary side, and south of the river is Old Town. They each offer their own collection of hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions.
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Marijampole is the seventh largest city in Lithuania and the informal capital of Suvalkija. It’s located a little over 30 minutes from Kaunas. Marijampole has a unique landscape due to the Sesupe River cutting it into two, with six bridges used to connect each part of the city to the other. Its historic places of worship, such as the parish of Marian Fathers, the monastery St. Jurgis, and a Russian Orthodox Church, serve as prominent fixtures and attractions. Ten museums, including one that is dedicated to the Lithuanian partisans of the Tauras District, the country’s oldest sugar factory, Arvi Cukrus, and the center of culture, are among their top attractions.
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Nida is the largest community on the Curonian Spit’s Lithuanian half and the biggest tourist town for those looking to visit the spit. It offers an old-world feel with its remains of an ancient fishing village featuring wooden cottages and a harbor filled with maritime vessels. Its natural beauty is its biggest draw with white-sand beaches, pine forests, and sand dunes, including Parnidis Dune, the largest on the peninsula, which boasts incredible views of unspoiled dunes spanning into Russia. Additional attractions include the Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead, the Avenue of Stars, and The Lighthouse on the Hill of Urbas, as well as various museums, sculptures, churches, and monuments.
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Palanga is a seaside resort village with two distinct personalities; during the summer months it’s an energetic party town, while in the winter it serves as a tranquil, retirement community. It features just over six miles of a white sand beach with pine forests and sand dunes serving as its backdrop. This charming community of pedal-powered taxis and wooden houses might be on the small side, but it packs a big punch with its attractions and the vibrancy of its people. Top attractions include the Amber Museum, the Amber Processing Gallery, Antanas Moncys House Museum, Dr. Jono Sliupas Memorial House, the Exile & Resistance Museum, and a Botanical Park.
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Paluse is the capital city of the Aukstaitija National Park and where the majority of the park’s events take place. The city and the National Park have been revered as the mecca of water tourism since the mid-20th century. Visitors can tour the park by foot, by bicycle, or from rented canoes and boats during the summer and ski during the winter. There are several camping locales and boat houses available to rent for those who would like to stay within the park. Outside of the park, the numerous attractions include an ancient wooden sanctuary, the church of Paluse, the Stripeikiai Beekeeping Museum, and the Mill of Ginuciai.
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Panevezys is the fifth largest city in Lithuania and the largest in the Aukstaitija Region. It is a city that was devastated during the World Wars, and today only a few of its original ancient buildings remain. The Old Town area of the city is unlike others in Lithuania with only half of the buildings belonging to the pre-1940s era, while the rest are contemporary structures, giving it an odd mix. In the central area of the city, visitors will find Lake Sevage, Laisves Square, the quaint 1808 Holy Trinity church, and two theaters. The Panevezys Cathedral and the neo-gothic style St Peter and Paul church are also prominent attractions.
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Plunge is the cultural heritage hub of northwest Lithuania. Visitors can expect to see six protected natural landscapes, 40 architectural monuments, 29 artistic sculptures and monuments, and three mythological stones in the region. Zemaitija National Park is the largest protected area in Pluge with three notable reserves – Gandinga, Minija, and Ruskys. The “Whetstone” (Galastuvas) and “the god’s table” (Dievo Stalas) in Zlibinai Forest and Keturakiai Forest respectively are two natural stones located within the park. Numerous mounds and burial graves depict the rich history of the region. Alsedziai and Zemaiciu Kalvarija reflect the region’s urban architecture. Various farmsteads, manors, barns, and manors are also part of the region’s cultural heritage.
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The small northeastern city of Rokiskis was once home to Prince Kroszinski. The elaborate neo-gothic St. Matthias church – the most valuable monument in the country – sits in Independence Square. A nearby castle, built by Tyzenhaus counts, houses Rokiskis Regional Museum, which is one of the largest and culturally richest museums in Lithuania. One of the country’s premier cheese manufacturing companies is in Rokiskis, a major contributor to the local economy and a key player in community initiatives. There are several festivals, concerts, and other lively events throughout the year in Rokiskis, including the Hunters’ Festival.
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Rumsiskes is an open-air museum that is a microcosm of Lithuania’s history laid out in a vast collection of buildings and artifacts. Country life is depicted via complexes of villages, towns, and farmsteads. Artifacts from entire villages and farmsteads dating from about 1750 to 1950 have been brought to Rumsiskes and reassembled here by the Lithuanian Republic Ministry of Culture. They’re displayed in a simulation of their natural environments with fences, sacred monuments, and green spaces. Fifty-one of the buildings present period characteristics of that building, including furniture, tools, kitchenware, and clothes. Other buildings feature Lithuanian everyday items using clay, metal, amber, wood, and weaving.
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Siauliai is Lithuania’s fourth largest city. The nondescript city has a handful of sites for visitors to see when passing through. Vilniaus gatve is the city’s tree-lined pedestrian walkway with the most popular cafés and bars. The Chocolate Museum is worth a visit where visitors will experience the history of chocolate from the Aztecs and Mayans to Lithuania’s first chocolate factories. The museum provides visitors with interactive attractions like the “Sweet Lab” where they can make their own chocolates. By far the most remarkable sight in Siauliai is the Hill of Crosses, a manmade monument of over 100,000 crosses from elaborate crucifixes to simple crosses; it is an awe-inspiring sight.
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The small resort town of Sventoji is often referred to as Palanga’s little sister, and the focus here is on family fun. Visitors can spend the morning strolling Kopu Street, meandering off to Juros and Sventosios streets to peruse the main tourism area, and have breakfast or lunch before heading off to Monkey Bridge. This pedestrian suspension bridge crosses the Sventoji River connecting Kopu Street and the beach. Our Lady of the Seas Church with its 62-meter tower is worth a visit, as is Zemaiciu Alkas, a neo-pagan shrine on the north side of town. It is a group of wood poles representing gods and goddesses based on local archaeological finds.
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Trakai is the cultural gem of Lithuania. Once the nation’s capital, the small town is encircled by five lakes. The preserved capital with its medieval castles, wooden architecture, and stunning scenery is juxtaposed against adjacent modern Vilnius. Trakai Castle, the 14th and 15th-century summer home of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is the highlight of this cultural tourism destination. Numerous knights’ clubs use Trakai’s medieval heritage as a backdrop to tournaments and battles. There are knights in armor competitions and other dramatic events like the staging of the Pilenai opera. Trakai Historical National Park will leave visitors feeling like they’ve gone back in time.
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Utena is one of Lithuania’s oldest towns, first mentioned in writing in 1261. The historic city is nestled amid Dauniskis and Vyzuonaitis lakes in eastern Aukstatians. Utena is a tourist destination year-round with the big summer draw being recreational activities on Lake Alausas. Racing fans flock to the small town in winter for the popular Halls Winter Rally. Another highlight is the Lithuania Museum of Ceramics – the only one of its kind in the country – where visitors can try their hand at pottery and enjoy the museum’s displays. Utena’s old post office shows Utena’s history as a way station between Warsaw and St. Petersburg where many distinguished guests stayed during their travels.
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Vilnius is located in northeastern Lithuania near the Belarus border. It’s a city filled with old-world charm, and it is home to the largest baroque Old Town in Europe. It boasts cobblestone alleyways, numerous Catholic and Orthodox churches, majestic hilltops, modern skyscrapers, world-class restaurants, and an energetic nightlife. The city seamlessly blends the old with the new. Saddening historical sites like the torture cells used during World War II are countered by The Road to Freedom, a sculpture that represents the long road Lithuania took to regain their freedom from the Nazis. The city features a diverse collection of cultural, architectural, historic, and contemporary attractions. Gediminas Tower’ is a revered symbol of both Vilnius and Lithuania.
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Zarasai is a tranquil and popular resort town situated on Lithuania’s northeastern border, an area characterized by unspoiled and picturesque nature, and it is home to rare flora and fauna. The area is made up of two regional parks, Sartai and Grazute, along with over 300 lakes of various sizes, eight rivers, and pine wood forests. Four of the country’s ten largest lakes are located within the town Drukscai, Sartai, Ludois, and Avilis. Aside from being a natural wonderland with an array of outdoor recreational activities, it is also a cultural epicenter with sights and attractions like Zarasu Krasto Muziejus, Independence Monument Zarasai, and the Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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25.Zemaitija National Park
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Zemaitija National Park is situated in northwestern Lithuania, offering visitors a beautifully picturesque oasis with Plateliai Lake acting as its focal point. The park features a variety of one-of-a-kind historical, natural, and cultural highlights, including a former Soviet nuclear missile base. The area covers an astounding 53,671 acres of wetlands, woodlands, farmlands, meadows, pastures, water, and settlements. It is separated into four zones (conservation, protection, recreation, and farming) and is home to two small towns and over fifty villages. A variety of outdoor recreational activities include boating, sailing, yachting, windsailing, fishing, swimming, hiking, cycling, and camping. Additionally, there are several historic monuments, churches, chapels, museums, and art galleries here.
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25 Best Places to Visit in Lithuania
- Alytus, Photo: Courtesy of Birute Vijeikiene - Fotolia.com
- Anyksciai, Photo: Courtesy of bokstaz - Fotolia.com
- Birzai, Photo: Courtesy of Alis Photo - Fotolia.com
- Curonian Spit National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Anton Gvozdikov - Fotolia.com
- Druskininkai, Photo: Courtesy of R.Babakin - Fotolia.com
- Dzukija National Park, Photo: Courtesy of gintarine - Fotolia.com
- Kaunas, Photo: Courtesy of dinozzaver - Fotolia.com
- Kedainiai, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Kernave Archeological Site, Photo: Courtesy of Modestas Stragys - Fotolia.com
- Klaipeda, Photo: Courtesy of Shmel - Fotolia.com
- Marijampole, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
- Nida, Photo: Courtesy of grigorylugovoy - Fotolia.com
- Palanga, Photo: Courtesy of Ludmila Smite - Fotolia.com
- Paluse, Photo: Courtesy of Flavijus Piliponis - Fotolia.com
- Panevezys, Photo: Courtesy of bokstaz - Fotolia.com
- Plunge, Photo: Courtesy of vladuzn - Fotolia.com
- Rokiskis, Photo: Courtesy of Birute Vijeikiene - Fotolia.com
- Rumsiskes, Photo: Courtesy of Raimundas - Fotolia.com
- Siauliai, Photo: Courtesy of sergei fish13 - Fotolia.com
- Sventoji, Photo: Courtesy of Flavijus Piliponis - Fotolia.com
- Trakai, Photo: Courtesy of krivinis - Fotolia.com
- Utena, Photo: Courtesy of Jolita Marcinkene - Fotolia.com
- Vilnius, Photo: Courtesy of Scanrail - Fotolia.com
- Zarasai, Photo: Courtesy of Geraldas - Fotolia.com
- Zemaitija National Park, Photo: Courtesy of eweleena - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com