A true hidden gem of Europe, Lithuania offers travelers a taste of the best of the continent – from vibrant cities to scenic wilderness – all while keeping the crowds and tacky tourist traps to a minimum. This is your chance to get out there and discover one of the best-kept secrets in Europe before everyone knows about it! So without further ado, we’ll cover where to travel in Lithuania, how to get around, when to go, and how much it’s likely to cost.
How do I get around?
Unlike much of Central and Western Europe, you’ll find that buses are a more reliable option for travel than trains. That being said, trains are still available for longer distances, just be sure to book ahead of time and be prepared for a sometimes slow and uncomfortable journey. In the largest cities (namely Vilnius and Kaunas), you won’t have any difficulty making your way around on the well-run public transport.
When should I go?
If it’s the weather and warm waters of the Baltic Sea or Curonian Lagoon you crave, late spring or summer is going to be the best time for a visit. Early fall (September) can also be a pleasant time to travel to Lithuania thanks to some absolutely gorgeous scenery. Just be sure to get out before too late as once the winter hits, it hits hard. Of course, there’s a stark beauty to the snow and frozen lakes but roads can be poor and you’ll have to contend with frigid temperatures – so plan a winter trip at your own risk.
Where to travel in Lithuania
The beating heart of any country is often the capital. In the case of Lithuania, this is quite obviously true. The continental atmosphere of Vilnius is sure to appeal to both those looking for a classic European experience and a slightly different Eastern vibe. The Baroque Old Town stands as the most impressive and first must-see attraction while the churches, cobbled streets, and village aesthetic only add to the magic of the city. Of course, there are historical reminders of tougher times with KGB relics but this serves as a poignant counterpoint to the energy that now permeates Vilnius – especially evident if you take to the streets at night.
This thin stretch of land smack dab between the Baltic Sea and Curonian Lagoon can be found in both Lithuania (the north) and Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia (the south). No matter where you are though, you can’t go wrong. The ecosystem is absolutely fascinating, with sand dunes and pine forests making up most of the land. There is also a smattering of villages collectively known as Neringa on the Lithuanian side, with Nida the standout resort of the bunch. All you have to do is kick back, relax, and enjoy the beaches, sights, smells, and sand of the Curonian Spit.
The largest and most important port in the country also serves as a worthy seaside stopover for those visitors looking for a different side of Lithuania. There’s a distinct German flavour to the city thanks to a history of Prussian ownership. Throw in the multitude of cruise and cargo ships and you have nations of all sorts passing through Klaipėda for work or just a taste of the atmosphere. Be sure to pay a visit to the National Sea Museum – found within an imposing 19th century fortress.
Found at the junction of two of the country’s most important rivers, Lithuania’s second largest city of Kaunas offers yet another example of the differences in urban life. While Vilnius has many Polish influences and Klaipėda reminds travelers of Germany, Kaunas is distinctly Russian. Great museums and decades of Soviet military history are still found amongst the picturesque fortresses and churches. The residents also know how to let their hair down, with the young population taking to the clubs and bars long after the sun goes down.
Found within spitting distance of Vilnius, this historic city is worth a trip for the beautiful lakeside location alone. However the crown jewel in the Trakai cap is without a doubt the red brick castle that can be found on a nearby island and dates back to the 1300’s. Beyond this required sight, you’ll find an intriguing mix of cultural traditions at play including Tatar, Russian, Jewish, Polish, Turkic, and more.
Aukštaitija National Park
In the northeastern part of the country you can find a national park that serves as an excellent counterpoint to the seacoast and dunes of the Curonian Spit. Dominated by forest and populated by boars, deer, storks, and more – you can lose yourself (literally if you’re not careful) in the beauty and peacefulness of Aukštaitija. Take some time to wander amongst the many lakes (126 in fact) as you traverse the numerous trails and paths. Head over to the town of Ignalina to get your journey started and go from there.
How much does it cost?
Flights between Pearson and Vilnius are all connecting affairs (no non-stop options) and can usually be found around the $1000 Canadian mark. We definitely recommend visiting multiple countries on a trip to Europe to get the most out of it, so you also have budget air and rail options for entering the country depending on where you are coming from. Be sure to shop around and adjust your itinerary if possible to find the best rates available.
Having just recently adopted the euro, you can expect some fluctuations in price when visiting Lithuania as the country adjusts. However, you’ll also find that prices here are cheaper than many other, better traveled, eurozone countries. On average, you can expect to spend about $98 per day with a budget of $48 for accommodation and $39 for food. If you really push it, you can survive with closer to $40 per day while throwing around the cash will put you around $230 per day.
Health and Safety
Like much of Europe, Lithuania is a relatively safe country with the government of Canada recommending normal security precautions throughout. While the crime rate is low, you should always be aware of petty crime especially in bars, restaurants, and on public transport. Avoid walking alone after dark in parks, side streets, or other out of the way areas (especially in Vilnius). Roads are generally good, if not always marked clearly, however you should be extremely careful during winter.
These are just a few examples of where to travel in Lithuania, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments. Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about Lithuanian history and culture as well as our Currency Spotlight for information on the euro.
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