French geographers claim that the exact geographical center of Europe is near the capital Vilnius. It’s about the most famous point of interest of this tiny Baltic state. Vilnius is one of Europe’s most delightful cities and a gateway to a land of medieval castles, lush forests and plenty of lakes.
Lithuanian dinners typically include meat, potatoes and an ‘unusal’ curd sauce. Adding imagination to food, the cepelinai, or zeppelin, is a meat or cheese-filled potato blimp. Wash it down with some midus, a mild alcoholic beverage made from honey. Lithuania is also famous for its amber, and locals like their amber liquid, which is of superior quality. Vilnius and the other main centers in the country offer an adequate range of decent accommodation including large hotels and small pensions.
When to Go
The Lithuanian climate is comparatively mild, bordering on the continental as you move inland.
From May to September, daytime highs normally range between 57°F and 72°F. July and August are the warmest months, with days of unrelenting showers.
Winter (November to March) is long and dark, with heavy snowfall and temperatures rarely topping 39°F and often dipping below 32°F, particularly in January.
Spring and fall are brief, intermittent affairs.
Getting There & Away
The main airport is in Vilnius, while ferries serve Klaipeda from Sweden, Germany and Poland. Domestic flights are limited, but inexpensive trains serve main cities. Buses are more frequent and faster than trains and serve almost every town and village. Public transport options in urban areas include buses and trolleybuses, which usually run from 05:00 to 23:00.
Health & Safety
Lithuania is generally a safe country for visitors and you’re more likely to get held up in a queue at the border than in a dark alley. Racially motivated attacks are mostly verbal, but can easily escalate to violence. Water is safe to drink in major cities, but stick to bottled water in the countryside. Tick-borne encephalitis occurs in forested areas and vaccination is highly recommended. Rabies is also present.
Vilnius’ Old Town: is Europe’s largest medieval quarter and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dominated by Baroque architecture, it is gradually being restored to its former splendor. It offsets the drab soviet era development of other parts of this lesser known capital.
Trakai: was a former capital of Lithuania, located on the shore of the scenic Lake Galve, with a castle dating from the 14th century.
Kaunas: is Lithuania’s ‘city of museums’ and includes the Devil Museum and a monument to the victims of the Nazi occupation. There are also three theaters and some 11th century castle ruins.
Hill of Crosses: is a two-humped knoll covered with thousands of crosses – big and tiny, costly and cheap, wooden and metal.
Curonian Spit: dominates Lithuania’s Baltic coast. This secluded 60-mile stretch of sand is made up of dunes and pine forests, and populated by elk, deer and wild boar.
Three days in Vilnius
Two days in Trakai
Three days in Kaunas
A daytrip to the Hill of Crosses
A week in Curonian Spit
Hiking: despite the distinctive lack of mountains, trails criss-cross the country. Trakai National Park has many lakes, while Aukstaitija and Zemaitija national parks offer hills, lakes and highlands.
Sailing, windsurfing, paragliding and kiting: are popular in Nida, the last village on the Lithuanian half of the Spit, encircled by endless stretches of fresh white sand.
Extreme sports: include hot air ballooning, gliding or jumping off Vilnius’ TV Tower, the highest bungee jump of its kind in Europe.
International Folklore Festival: in May features craft fairs, traditional cuisine tasting, joining song and merriment parties and listening to psalms, concerts and various exhibitions.