A whole bucket of different experiences in a short time – that’s what Lithuania can offer. Although the country isn’t a mass tourism destination, most first-time visitors agree that it exceeded their expectations. Getting here is easy, and travelling around and experiencing its highlights is even easier thanks to short distances.
So, welcome to Lithuania! Here are some must-sees and must-dos during an independent trip to the southernmost of the three Baltic states:
- Baroque-filled Old Town of the capital Vilnius, UNESCO heritage;
- Medieval castle on an island in the middle of a lake at Trakai;
- SPA pleasures and local wellness traditions at the Druskininkai health resort;
- Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022. From medieval Old Town to modernist architecture, nominated for UNESCO Heritage;
- Charming maritime lifestyle and Fachwerk buildings in port-city Klaip?da;
- Picturesque landscape of the Curonian Spit dunes, often called the Baltic Sahara, UNESCO heritage;
- The only in the world Hill of Crosses, a unique place to witness the masterpiece of Lithuanian cross-crafting - UNESCO heritage.
Feel so much difference in so little time!
The capital city Vilnius
The key to getting to know Lithuania’s capital is its Old Town, the largest in the Baltics. What makes Vilnius stand out...Read More
from other capitals is an abundance of Baroque architecture and green areas (thus the “city in the forest” title locals gave it). Walking around the Old Town, you’ll get a 360° view of the symbol of Vilnius – the Gediminas Tower (Gedimino pilis). It soars over the Cathedral square (Katedros aikšt?), the city’s main, telling the story of how Vilnius was founded. Take a break at the Church of St Anne (Šv. Onos ba?ny?ia), whose intricate Gothic façade impressed Napoleon so much he wanted to bring it back to Paris on his palm. On the other side of the Vilnel? river is U?upis, the smallest quarter of the capital, declared an independent republic by the resident artists. It even has its own constitution! To find out more about the Cold War period, head to the former KGB prison that currently hosts the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights (Okupacijos ir laisv?s kov? muziejus).
TOP experiences in Vilnius
Coffee & art break
From the oasis of modern art in the middle of the city at MO Museum to an open-air sculpture gallery near the geographical centre of Europe at Europos parkas – the choice is yours. The Vilnius Pass card will help to plan your visits and save on both museum tickets and lattes.
You can get to know Vilnius on a bus, on foot with a guide or an audio guide, and even on a bike. Interested in following the traces of world-famous TV shows in the capital? Don’t miss the tour of the filming locations of HBO Chernobyl series – an unexpected look at Vilnius is guaranteed.
Above the clouds
Vilnius is one of the few European capitals that allow hot air balloon flights over them. The birds-eye view of Vilnius is a panorama of sloping red roofs, narrow streets, and church towers – all perfectly Instagrammable.
Find out more about Vilnius here.
Trakai Medieval Castle like from the Fairytale
Just a half an hour car trip away from Vilnius lies Trakai, the historical capital of Lithuania. It...Read More
is also home to one of the most spectacular Medieval castles in Europe, built on an island in the middle of a lake back in the 15th century. Once a residence of Lithuania’s Grand Dukes, today, the Trakai Island Castle (Trak? pilis) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lithuania. And perhaps the most photographed, too!
TOP experiences in Trakai
Trakai is the home of Karaites – a small Turkic speaking minority that settled in Lithuania at the end of the 14th century. The town is known for preserving their heritage, including their gastronomic traditions. Traditional savoury Karaite pastry, called kibinas, is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike, and is served in numerous lakeshore cafes.
Back to nature
You can discover Varnikai trail (Varniki? pa?intinis takas), Trakai Island Castle (Trak? pilis), Angels’ Hill (Angel? kalva), U?utrakis Manor (U?utrakio dvaras) and other beautiful spots in and around Trakai on a one-of-a-kind electric walking bike! Add a picnic to this unusual yet fun experience for a particularly memorable afternoon.
Around the castle, across the lake
The legends of the Trakai castle (Trak? pilis) are best told while paddleboarding at night. In the dark, the fascinating stories get a magical edge, and you can admire the underwater world illuminated by the lights attached to the board. Not in the mood to paddle? Opt to sail around the castle on a yacht instead.
Find out more about Trakai here.
SPA & Wellness Experiences in Druskininkai Resort
Located among the hills and valleys of the Dzūkija region in southern Lithuania, Druskininkai is one...Read More
of Lithuania’s oldest and most popular resorts. This year-round SPA town is the perfect recreation destination, where wellness treatments are based on natural elements and local traditions. Holidaymakers looking to improve their health have been flocking to the town since the 19th century. A network of biking trails spreads across Druskininkai and the picturesque surrounding area, perfect for some active sightseeing. There is also a singing fountain at the main square, and you can pick the song and set the lights yourself.
TOP experiences in Druskininkai
A pinch of salt
There is a reason why the name of the resort – Druskininkai – comes from the Lithuanian word for salt – ‘druska’. Among other natural treasures, such as amber and herbs, mud and salt-rich mineral water from local springs are used for refreshing health rituals. If you’re visiting a SPA in Druskininkai, this salty experience is simply a must.
Summer & winter at once
Druskininkai is home to Lithuania’s biggest waterpark (Druskinink? akvaparkas). With more than 20 steam houses for various tastes, the waterpark is a spot to enjoy some tropical heat before diving into a refreshing pool. Afterwards, you can use the cable car next door to fly over the Nemunas river, where winter fun awaits in the only covered snow arena in the Baltics.
Cold War weirdness
Right next to Druskininkai is Grūtas Park (Grūto parkas), undoubtedly one of the weirdest museums in the world. This open-air space is a gallery of many Soviet-era sculptures taken off pedestals across Lithuania. This peculiar spot also has a café serving Soviet-era dishes.
Find out more about Druskininkai here.
Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022
Kaunas has a lot to tell from its rich past with medieval heritage, interwar buildings to street art...Read More
in unexpected places and 2022, the year when the city becomes the European Capital of Culture. The highlight of the Kaunas Old Town is the oldest stone castle in Lithuania (Kauno pilis), built in the 14th century at the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris. Today, it hosts the Kaunas City Museum (Kauno miesto muziejus). In Kaunas, you will also find the world’s only Devil’s Museum (Velni? muziejus), a swan-shaped Town Hall (Kauno rotuš?) and the Ninth Fort Museum which introduces the architectural and military history of the site that once served as a labour prison.
TOP experiences in Kaunas
Visitors of the Monte Pacis hospitality complex are in for a unique experience that’s both gastronomical and Baroque. Located on the grounds of Pa?aislis Monastery (Pa?aislio vienuolynas), an exquisite pearl of 18th century Baroque, Monte Pacis offers a menu that’s inspired equally by historical tradition, the seasonality of Lithuanian nature, and the best of contemporary Lithuanian cuisine.
Back in time
One of the most striking Art Deco buildings in the city is open for visitors. They are invited to take a look at a flat with authentic interior décor from the interwar period. The space is a true time machine, transporting you to the days when Kaunas served as Lithuania’s temporary capital. The rich and well-preserved heritage of the city’s modernist architecture is on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list.
Lithuania’s second religion
If you have the chance, go to a game of Kaunas ?algiris, Lithuania’s most successful basketball club. Hearing the chants of die-hard fans decked in green and white, you’ll get to truly understand why this sport is often called Lithuania’s second religion. The stunning location of the ?algiris arena – the island on the river Nemunas – is a nice bonus to the experience.
Find out more about Kaunas here.
Klaip?da, the Gate to the Sea
Lithuania is very compact, so you can reach the seacoast in several hours from any spot in the country...Read More
Klaip?da, Lithuania’s only port, is the country’s gateway to the Baltic sea. Wander around the cobblestoned Old Town, spotting interesting sculptures and German architectural influences. The best place to take postcard-worthy pictures is by Meridianas – a sailboat-cum-restaurant moored in the Dan? river in the city centre after two decades of sailing the seas. Midsummer brings the annual Sea Festival (Jūros švent?), a celebration of the city’s maritime traditions. Thirty kilometres to the north of Klaip?da is Palanga, Lithuania’s summer capital.
TOP experiences in Klaip?da
On two wheels
Klaip?da is a bike-friendly city, and you can explore it from a different angle from your saddle. There are four itineraries for a ride that will take you to different parts of the city: around the Old Town and central Klaip?da; to the northern part of the city and the picturesque areas of Melnrag?/Giruliai; across the central and southern quarters of Klaip?da and their parks; and to the city’s best beaches.
A dragon, a girl blowing a kiss, a fisherman, a mermaid, a black ghost – these and other sculptures tell the stories of Klaip?da. Scattered across the city, some of them can literally talk! Just scan a QR code next to the sculpture, and they will tell you about themselves in Lithuanian, English, or German.
World under the sea
On a sunny day, fun-seeking locals opt to take a ferry to Smiltyn?, the greenest corner of Klaip?da. Technically part of the city, Smiltyn? is located on the other side of the Curonian Lagoon (Kurši? marios) and boasts white sand beaches, pine forests and plenty of spots for a walk down the waterfront. On the northern side of Smiltyn?, you can find a display of veteran ships and an ethnographic fisherman’s homestead that will transport you back to the 19th century. For some underwater discoveries, head to the Lithuanian Sea Museum, the country’s most popular. During the summer months, you can enjoy dolphin performances there daily.
Find out more about Klaip?da here.
The Curonian Spit – a Kingdom of Water, Sand, and Wind
This narrow sandy peninsula nestled between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon is...Read More
UNESCO-listed site full of unique natural wonders. Visitors of the Curonian Spit (Kurši? Nerija) admire the picturesque lagoon-side towns, the stunning sand dunes, the old fishermen settlements, and the views from the Nida lighthouse. One of the spookiest yet most fun places on the Spit is the Hill of Witches (Ragan? kalnas), populated with wooden sculptures by local artists that portray various Lithuanian folklore characters. The Curonian Spit is also a paradise for birdwatchers as thousands of migratory birds pass the peninsula twice a year.
TOP experiences in Curonian Spit
Climbing the Parnidis dune (Parnid?io kopa) is a must for all visitors to the Curonian Spit. It’s the only spot in Lithuania where you can watch the sun both rise from and set into the water. Standing at over 50 meters tall, the Parnidis dune sports a sundial at the top.
Villages under the sand
One of the most mysterious places of the Curonian Spit is the Dead Dunes. The enchanting landscape of the Baltic desert and the history of villages swallowed by the shifting sands will accompany you along the trail in the Nagliai Nature Reserve.
Harness the wind
Ready to tame the elements? Land sailing across the beaches of the Curonian Spit is an experience you won’t forget. Hop into a three-wheeled vehicle and cruise along the seacoast at any point of the year – no prior sailing experience required.
Find out more about Curonian Spit here.
The Hill of Crosses
One of the most awe-inspiring places in Western Lithuania is the Hill of Crosses. With more than 200,000 crosses this sacral place is truly one of a kind. After Lithuania regained its freedom in 1990, the Hill of Crosses...Read More
became a popular site of pilgrimage, brought to international fame by Pope John Paul II, who visited the place in 1993. Praying for health, family well-being, and wish fulfilment, pilgrims leave crosses, rosaries, and other items at the Hill that has become a symbol of faith and hope. Crosses here are valuable example of traditional Lithuanian cross-crafting, which was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
TOP experiences in the Hill of Crosses
Right next to the Hill of Crosses stands a small chapel built for the visit of John Paul II; tourists and pilgrims are welcome to pray there. There is also a Franciscan monastery nearby, open to pilgrims who look for silence and peace.
A spiritual experience
Every year, the traditional Indulgence Festival of the Hill of Crosses is held on the last Sunday of July. During this celebration of absolution from sin, pilgrims carry a cross from the Šiauliai Cathedral to the Hill of Crosses, where mass is held.
A night among crosses
Those seeking more profound experiences wait for dusk when the lighting of the Hill of Crosses is switched on and the Hill becomes even more mysterious. It’s no surprise that the Hill of Crosses is said to be one of the most mysterious places in the world.
Find out more about the Hill of Crosses here.
7 days and 700 kilometres to visit the must-sees and experience the must-dos on a single trip. This route will take you to Lithuania’s top attractions, so download our map and get ready to experience so much in so little time!