10 Best Attractions in Lithuania That You MUST SEE
Lithuania, the country with a small coastline, but a long history is a delight for travellers. From nature lovers to history enthusiasts to artists to pilgrims, there is something for everyone in this Baltic destination. A country full of spirited and friendly people, you will never have a dull moment while you are here. So you can easily plan a solo trip to this country too! And if you are an artist, there is no better place for you to find inspiration. Let the numerous breathtaking churches and cathedrals the country houses motivate you.
Not just manmade structures, Lithuania is famous for its flora and fauna too. Here, you will find plant species that cannot be found anywhere in the world. And believe it or not, Lithuania has close to 15,000 pairs of white stork. The country was recently declared among the top 10 places to visit in 2015. Surprisingly, and fortunately, it is still untainted by commercial tourism. Lithuania has everything – from some lovely places to some downright mysterious ones. There’s lot of things that Lithuania has to offer. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous attractions here.
How to reach Lithuania
Best Lithuania Attractions
1. Curonian Spit
Absolutely unspoilt by tourism, the Curonian Spit is a haven for nature lovers. Some of the biggest sand dunes in the whole of Europe can be found here. There are many activities that one can take up here from cycling to hiking to walking on the beaches, and of course swimming. The people of Lithuania love coffee and this is evident from the number of cafes you can find here. Don’t be surprised to find someone selling coffee on a deserted road!
Surprisingly, while one side of the coast is cold, the other is great for soaking up some sun. It is one of those perfect spots where you can curl up with your favourite book while sipping on some beer. The beautiful dunes against the forest make for a beautiful backdrop.
The Dancing Forest, or the Drunken Forest as the locals call it, is one of the most intriguing spots in the Curonian Spit. The trees here are twisted in strange shapes. While there are many theories suggesting the reason for this phenomenon, the most common one is that the strong winds have caused the pine trees to form such shapes. If you are lucky, you might spot some animals in this forest too, including wild boars.
The best time to visit this spot is June as during winter most of it is covered with thick snow. If you can find a guide who speaks English, be sure to take one along to know more about how the natural spot was formed and other such interesting facts. The area is easily accessible from Neringa.
2. Hill of Crosses
One of the most astounding sights in Lithuania is the Hill of Crosses located near Šiauliai, which has come to represent a “place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice” as declared by Pope John Paul II. The unique hill, which holds a special importance for pilgrims, has crosses, crucifixes, carvings and statues made of everything, from wood to metal. And every year their number grows as more people plant crosses here. Some of these carry personal messages and even photographs, of people they have been left by.
The tradition started in the 19th century when family members of dead rebels, in the 1831 uprising against the Tsar, planted crosses in the hill, as there were no bodies to bury. Over time, the area started to represent a place associated with peace and hope. Today, a visit to the Hill of Crosses will leave you with a sense of calm. It is almost like a shrine, where one can marvel about spirituality and faith. This manmade monument evokes sentiments that cannot be described in words but only experienced in person.
3. Aukštaitija National Park
Lithuania’s own paradise is how one can best describe Aukštaitija National Park. With 100 settlements inside the area, numerous ancient fortification mounds (known locally as piliakalnis), a church, bell tower and even a water mill, there is quite a lot to do in the grounds of this natural wonder, apart from appreciating the beautiful lakes, flora and fauna. There is also a wooden sculpture trail which is a splendid narration of traditional Lithuanian folklore.
One can also marvel at the hundred years old pine trees in the Ažvinčiai Forest Reserve and Trainiškis Wildlife Sanctuary inside the national park. Getting a breathtaking and panoramic view of the labyrinth of lakes, from the top of the Ice Hill, is a marvelous experience.
4. Gate of Dawn
Housed in the capital of Lithuania – Vilnius, the Gate of Dawn holds a place of religious importance to not just locals but people on vacations too. Interestingly, this is one of the only standing five gates built in the 16th century to protect the city of Vilnius.
The most important feature of this place not, just from a religious point of view but also from a historical point of view, is the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy. Copies of the painting can be seen all over the world. The place wears a serene look all through the day, but at night it transports you to a magical world, especially due to its lit up façade.
5. Trakai National Park and Trakai Castle
The Trakai National Park houses the Trakai Castle. This is a spot where you can easily spend more than half a day. The only national park in the whole of Europe, it houses as many as 32 lakes. The Trakai Castle which can be found inside the Trakai National Park is favoured by travellers all through the year. In fact, this can easily be called the most famous spot in the whole of Lithuania. Interestingly, the castle which is surrounded by water on all sides was first built as a residence for the royalty but then turned into a prison.
You can visit the Trakai History Museum inside the castle to see some archaeological finds from the castle. The Trakai Island Castle also hosts weddings, so if you are lucky you might just get to be part of one. Or you can go ahead and plan your own here! Trakai Castle which was in shambles till a few years ago was recently restored to its former glory. However, the rooms of the dukes still wear the old look to give visitors a feel of the original ambience.
6. St Peter and St Paul’s Church
St Peter and St Paul’s Church is a testimony to the city’s freedom from Russia. It is rumoured that the baroque-style church replaced the temple of Mildo, who is the Lithuanian pagan goddess of love and matchmaking. The country was mainly a pagan nation before the 13th century. While the church does hold religious importance, it is also famous for its breathtaking interiors.
The painting of St Mary housed here is particularly believed to be miraculous by the locals. The all-white décor punctuated with intricate sculptures reflect the artist’s genius. And don’t let the simple exteriors fool you as the interiors are exactly the opposite. This is believed to be one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. If you take the Vilnius city tour bus, it will stop at the church, but not more than a few minutes.
7. Vilnius Castle Complex
Housed in the city of Vilnius, which was favoured by the royalty as much as the city of Trakai, is the Vilnius Castle Complex. As the name suggests, this is a complex of many structures located near the confluence of the rivers Neris and Vilnele. Originally consisting of three castles – the Upper, the Lower and the Crooked, today only the former two stand here. Housed in the National Museum of Lithuania, the complex offers tourists a brief glimpse into the history of this country. The museum on local costumes and houses is said to be the most interesting section here. However, you are not allowed to take any photographs.
8. Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
A few hours wouldn’t be enough to explore the beauty of this palace now housed in the National Museum. Opened only a few years ago, the palace displays archaeological finds that will give you a peek into the life of the royalty. We strongly suggest taking a guide who can tell you more about the history of this place as the audio guide provided here has not proved to be too helpful to many. And finding a guide who speaks English is fairly easy.
The palace also has a bookstore where you can find literature about Lithuania. This tourist attraction in Lithuania however shuts down pretty soon in the day so make sure you plan your itinerary accordingly. If you are lucky, you might also get to attend one of the city’s cultural festivals which is sure to give you a taste of the colourful local life here.
9. Vilnius Old Town
A place that is unmarred by tourism, yet one of the most visited places in Lithuania, is the Vilnius Old Town. Dotted with quaint cafes and friendly restaurants, this is the one place where you are bound to meet locals and travellers alike. If you want to discover the true beauty of this town, the best way to do is on foot. You are sure to encounter many friendly locals while walking down cobbled streets in this medieval town.
In the town, you will also come across many souvenir shops or find locals selling handmade foods and handicrafts. When you are tired, just take a break and sip on some cold beer or coffee. The dark rye bread is a must try here. The Old Town of Vilnius is home to many cathedrals and churches that are not as huge as some of their other counterparts in Europe, but are definitely a treat to the eye.
The town also hosts a street festival during spring where you will find musicians, artists, dancers, street performers and all. The whole town comes even more alive during the festival. Make sure you plan accordingly if you wish to witness the festivities here. Whether you love to shop or just love to while away your time, this place is the ideal stop for you. The town also has a synagogue, which is the only one that still stands from the original hundred built here.
10. St Anne’s Church
Another church on the list, you might say! But this one here is a must visit even if you are not religious. The church looks extremely mesmerizing at night, especially due to its lit up exteriors. St Anne’s Church is unlike any other as it is made up of red bricks on the outside. Interestingly, even though the Roman Catholic Church is not very ornate from the outside, it is among the most beautiful ones in the whole of Europe. It is said that when Napoleon saw this church, he was so mesmerized by its beauty that he wanted to pick it up and take it to his wife as a gift.