Kaunas has been chosen as European Capital of Tradition for 2022
SINCE gaining independence in 1991, Lithuania is usually Sgrouped with sister Baltic states Estonia and Latvia.
Now, nonetheless, it’s breaking free and changing into a vacation spot in its personal proper.
Most guests persist with Vilnius however enterprise past the capital and what you’ll discover is an genuine, cheap, compact nation which has a lot to supply.
Listed here are our high picks.
Capital Vilnius sees Stalinist structure sitting side-by-side with Imperial Russian buildings and its beating coronary heart – Europe’s largest surviving medieval previous city – is all steeples, domes and pillars.
Fancy some music? A ticket to the opera home will set you again simply £eight, whereas mass within the 13th-century cathedral is free.
Alternatively why not bypass Vilnius for one in all Lithuania’s lesserknown gems. A burgeoning artwork scene earned second largest metropolis Kaunas the honour of being chosen European Capital of Tradition for 2022.
Its fortress, grandiose city sq. and riverside walks are main attracts.
The Hill Of Crosses in Siauliai which remembers uprisings in opposition to Russia in 1831 and 1863
Lithuania has a thriving people artwork scene with a smörgåsbord of conventional crafts, glassblowing, ceramics and papermaking, taught to locals and vacationers in a mission to maintain Baltic crafts alive.
Vilnius has the choose of the crop for workshops.
Watch stained-glass sculptures being made at No.6 Stikliu Avenue (a historic street famed for its glassmakers) or learn to make ceramic pots at close by Amatu Gildija.
Are luggage extra your factor? In that case, centrally situated is atelier-cum-shop Jurate whose free workshops will discover you sitting at a 120-year-old loom, studying to weave within the conventional manner.
Amber jewelry on the market at avenue market in Lithuania
TO THE BEACH
It’s little-known that Lithuania has a shocking Baltic Sea shoreline – a 60-mile-long finger of sand known as Curonian Spit. Lithuania owns the northern half of this peninsula, Russia the remainder and the spit’s large, drifting sand dunes (the tallest is 200ft) are a Unesco World Heritage Web site.
The spit boasts an countless stretch of near-empty Blue Flag, white-sand seashores and its most southern and prettiest resort is Nida, with its signature brown and blue clapboard homes.
It’s a two-mile seaside stroll from right here to the Russian border, or as an alternative keep put to wave-jump and scour the sand for washed-up speckles of amber.
Can’t discover any? Don’t fear. Nida’s Amber Museum presents hour-long workshops the place you possibly can study this stone’s therapeutic properties and make your individual amulet. Get fortunate and yours would possibly include a 50 million-yearold insect, like that above.
Sundown over Vilnius
Its Swedish and Finnish neighbours have extra well-known spa scenes however Lithuanians additionally like to soak and steam whereas whipping themselves with dried birch twigs.
Nineteenth-century Druskininkai is the nation’s oldest spa city.
To swank it up, nonetheless, head to resort Spa Vilnius within the hilly lake area of Anyksciai. Right here’s the place you’ll discover hip, rich Lithuanians indulging in a goat’s-milk-with-forestberries bathtub. Our suggestion is the 60-minute native buckwheat remedy.
A foot bathtub (in wheat, naturally) is adopted by mendacity on a buckwheat mattress the place your higher again, arms and toes are slowly massaged one after the other. You’ll go away relaxed and smelling adequate to eat.
Dramatic posters within the former Russian nuclear missile web site, now the Chilly Conflict Museum
Few folks know that Lithuania is dwelling to the final word cycle route – a motorbike path which follows the Baltic coast alongside the Curonian Spit.
Whether or not you pedal its complete 60-mile size or only a portion, remember to deviate from the principle path a minimum of as soon as, park your wheels and climb what seem like verdant mountains however are actually huge, undulating sand dunes.
If climbing and water sports activities are most well-liked pursuits, nonetheless, head to Zemaitija Nationwide Park, a fairytale panorama of lake and forest. Most actions centre spherical Lake Plateliai the place you possibly can rent boats or take a dip.
Bushes by lake in Trakai, Lithuania
The nation’s nationwide dishes of Cepelinai (stuffed potato dumplings) and Saltibarsciai (chilly beetroot soup) might be discovered on menus nearly in every single place.
Not tempted? Concern not. Lithuania’s exploding café and restaurant scene is changing into extra worldwide. Prime tip for lunch is Vista Puode in Kaunas which serves one of the best goat’s cheese salad we’ve eaten.
For dinner, strive the tasting menu at Vilnius’s new child on the block: Ertlio Namas. It serves connoisseur meals (and drink) Lithuanian the Aristocracy would have eaten a century in the past (assume quail, sorrel soup with beaver, raspberry mead) and each Lithuania’s President and Norway’s Crown Prince are followers.
A pair of Amber ladies in conventional costume
Lithuania is dwelling to a few distinctive wartime remnants.
One is a Russian nuclear missile base constructed throughout the 1960s. Now the Chilly Conflict Museum, whereas the missiles have fortunately gone, you possibly can nonetheless climb right into a silo.
The opposite is the Hill of Crosses outdoors the city of Siauliai. In all probability created after uprisings in opposition to their Russian rulers in 1831 and 1863, it grew to become a logo of Lithuania’s resistance, extra particularly after the Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1990.
The Soviets saved bulldozing the location (which has hundreds of crosses). Locals saved replenishing it.
Thought to have therapeutic properties, Pope John Paul II blessed the hill in 1993 and it now attracts pilgrims from throughout the globe.
Regent Holidays (020 7666 1244/ regent-holidays.co.uk) presents 9 nights self-drive in Lithuania from £925 (two sharing), B&B. Value consists of return Wizz Air flights from Luton to Vilnius, automotive rent and lodging. Lithuania tourism: lithuania.journey