The Baltic country of Lithuania is a popular stop on our Northern Explorer tours. And for good reason! This Northern Europe vacation destination has it all: history, scenery, a buzzing capital, beaches and real charm.
Where is Lithuania, you wonder? It is in Northern Europe, bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and Poland to the southwest. It was formed in the 13th Century. It was once part of the Commonwealth along with Poland. It became part of the Russian Empire in the 18th Century. Lithuania gained independence from Russia in 1918. This was after hundreds of years under Russian rule. The victory following the First World War did not last long. In 1940, the country was forced into the Soviet Union. It was only until the early 1990s that it gained independence.
The symbol of Lithuania’s freedom is the country’s national sport, basketball. It is more than just a game, it is loved by all. During its Russian rule, the country was forced to play basketball for the Soviet Union. Years later, after gathering enough funds, Lithuania sent players to the first Olympics since the country’s independence. The Lithuanian basketball team won bronze medals! They beat Russia and other countries to achieve this honour.
With a strong sense of pride, a love for their country, basketball and freedom, this country has plenty to be proud of and much to offer travellers.
Now that you have a sense of the country’s identity, you have a greater understanding of its battle for independence over a long and difficult history. Let’s delve into some of the top things to see, do and try on your holiday in Lithuania.
1. Vilnius. The capital should be first on your list of city tour things to see on your trip. This city is a popular choice for city breaks and weekend breaks. It offers a range of attractions, ancient buildings, busy streets, shops, restaurants and other highlights.
2. Castles. In the capital, there are many ancient castles to visit. Most of them date back a very long time. Top picks for these UNESCO wonders include Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle), Royal Palace (Lower Castle), Crooked Castle and the Presidential Palace.
3. Churches. The capital also has many beautiful old churches that are wonderful for day trips. These include St. Anne’s Church, Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, St. Casimir’s Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Catherine’s Church and the Orthodox Monastery and Church of the Holy Spirit.
4. Parks. While you’re exploring Vilnius, be sure to stop at one or more of the parks. Our top picks include Park Vingis, Bernardine Garden, Tuskulėnai Peace Park, Balsiai Mythological Park, Verkiai Regional Park and Hill Park. Entry is generally free, unless there is an event or concert taking place.
5. Hill of Crosses. In the northern central part of the country lies Šiauliai. Here, you will find a sea of crosses that spans over the hills. Make sure to add this to your holiday itinerary. Pilgrimages are made by locals and visitors frequently, with each visitor bringing a cross. The result is a hill full of crosses of various sizes… big, small and somewhere in between. (You will see this famous site on board our Northern Explorer Tour!)
6. The Republic of Uźupis. A self-proclaimed ‘independent’ republic. It is often compared with Montmarte in Paris. Uźupis is a bohemian quarter in one of the older districts in Vilnius. Uźupis means “place beyond the river”. It has its own cabinet of ministers, president, flag and constitution. The Republic is one of the most expensive districts in Vilnius. It revolves around art and culture. Make sure to stop by on your trip. The Republic of Uźupis hosts alternative festivals, concerts and poetry evenings all year round.
7. Palanga. Equally beautiful as far as coastal regions go, this area is popular with visitors. It can get rather busy over summer, but with its great beauty, the natural forests and tranquil beach are still idyllic even when they are shared with fellow beach goers.
8. Molėtai Lakeland. Home to a large number of homesteads and resorts. There are over 200 lakes of different sizes. This area is a haven for holidaymakers who want to enjoy a peaceful time out on the water.
9. Lithuanian activities. You can expect to find anything and everything here. There is adventure for all. Some of the options available are hot air ballooning, shooting ranges, go karts, basketball games. It is worth watching or joining, to enjoy the huge passion Lithuanians have for basketball! There’s more on offer, opera, ballet, tai chi, theatre and plenty of other equally fun pursuits.
10. Food. Lastly, we have something for the foodies! With Russian and Baltic roots, this country has a cuisine that is fairly typical of this part of Europe. There are many restaurants, cafes and eateries throughout the capital and the rest of the country. Foods to try include epelinai, or zeppelins, which are meat filled potato-starch based masses slathered in a sauce. The sauce includes sour cream, butter and pork cracklings. Another dish to try is Kibinai, which are small turnovers filled with spiced lamb. And Cheburekai (Russian snack),which are large doughy folds with a filling of meat, cheese or apples.
You will be able to visit this country and many others on our exciting Northern Explorer tour. This gives you the benefit of a Lithuania tour package, which also includes many other world-class destinations in Northern Europe!