It’s striking that Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius, has St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers on its coat of arms. On our Lithuania tours, you immediately feel that sense of welcome and the doors to its handsome landscapes are always open. They are also proudly protected, with five national parks peppered across its coast, forest and wetlands.
One of the most striking and unique national parks for walking in Lithuania, is Curonian Spit, a 98km sandy peninsula that resists destruction by the elements, by hook or by crook. This, and many of Lithuania’s other natural highlights are still well kept secrets to European travellers. Unless you’re a swan or a stork, that is, just two species of millions of migrating birds that have known about Lithuania’s welcoming shores since time began. If you are cycling in Lithuania in September, particularly around Nemunas Delta Regional Park, and indeed on any of our Lithuania tours, you will receive a welcome chorus like no other.
Where to go
Curonian Spit National Park
As you will discover on a walking holiday on the Curonian Spit, this 98km-long sandy peninsula is a very special place. It feels almost Pacific in its prettiness. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not surprisingly with its fragile ecosystem of pine groves, wetlands, vegetation-covered dunes and the drifting Parnidis Dune, is littoral Lithuania at its most lovely. The spit is topped and tailed by the traditional, and culturally rich port town of Klaipėda and the quaint fishing town of Nida, with the Curonian Lagoon on one side and fine sandy beaches of the Baltic Coast on the other. You can also visit the Spit on a Lithuanian and Latvian walking holiday combo.
With the ancient Old Town at its core, enveloped rather than enshrined by its growing modern metropolis, and the river Neris running through it, this is a delightful Baltic town to explore. You will get a great perspective from the tower of St John’s Church. Seek out boutiques and cafes in the Užupis district, fill your backpack at Tymo Turgus food market on Thursdays, and be a Vilnius vulture for culture at the Nacionalinė Dailės Galerija (NDG) or the Vilnius City Opera.
Trakai plays such an important and architecturally impressive role in Lithuania’s cultural heritage, that it has earned protected status as an Historical National Park. It’s also a wonderful stop-off while cycling or walking in Lithuania, just 25km west of Vilnius, this small town with just over 5000 residents, packs a pretty punch, with Trakai Island and Castle, and the Old Town, all located on Lake Galve, just one of three lakes that envelop this former capital city. There is a wide array of rich woodlands and restorative lakeshore walks, such as out to Varnikai Nature Walk, just 3km from the town.
Nemunas Delta Regional Park
Pull yourself away from the coast while cycling in Lithuania to explore the Nemunas Delta, with Rusnė Island at its beating, green heart. This wetland is enriched by an array of intertwining rivers, with Krokų Lanka lagoon creating meadows and waterways that are perfect for canoeing on. Park your bike for a while to enjoy the charming Rusnė village, lighthouse and harbour, or the collection of waterways around the small fishing village of Minija. And definitely bring your binoculars, as this is one of Europe’s top birdwatching areas, with over 200 species being nurtured by Nemunas.
Things to do
- Birds of a feather stick together on the Curonian Spit, coming in every year during spring and autumn to relax in the dunes and pine forests. A good bird watching spot is Nagliai Nature Reserve, where species include peregrine and red-legged falcons, brown kites and pink starlings, as well as gaggles of geese, swans and ducks during September. At Nemunas Delta, Ventė Cape is billowing with binocular wearers during the autumn migration, as millions of birds such as Golden Oriole and yellowhammers, cuckoos and corncrakes head south. Visit the ornithological museum and observation tower for a fine view of all the incoming birds’ habitats.
- Meet Lithuania’s wonderful neighbours in Latvia and Estonia, as we offer several Baltic beauties in one pretty passage. Combine capitals and coasts on this Lithuanian and Latvian walking holiday, or tri-cycle your way through three Baltic beauties of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia which also takes in three national parks: Lahemaa National Park in Estonia, Gauja National Park in Latvia and Curonian Spit National Park in Lithuania.
- Try Lithuanian beer which, although not known internationally, has boasted the real deal when it comes to artisan and craft beer for centuries. In true Lithuanian tradition they also concoct their own brews, and don’t seek to emulate other pilsners or porters of the world, trusting their ancient handed down recipes. There are around 80 breweries in Lithuania and, with names ranging from Tanker Father Midnight stout to Green Monster IPA, you are going to have fun in the pub learning about one of Lithuanians finest traditions.
Responsible travel tips
- Fall in love with Lithuanian’s pride of place. They are patriotic and proud, in the best way possible and, consequently, the most wonderful hosts. So, learn a little Lithuanian, one of the oldest languages in the world, starting with labas (pronounced ah-bahs) meaning hi, ačiū (pronounced ah-choo) for thank you, and prašau (pronounced prah-show) meaning please. Also, it’s great to acknowledge that Lithuanians’ pride of place has also emanated from their progressive outlook. They are traditional in that they value foraging and folk traditions, nature and literature, but they are also forward-thinking technological giants relative to the size of their country, a start-up central bursting with ideas.
- Buy local gifts such as traditional knitwear, especially multi-coloured winter socks and hats, or Lithuanian honey, with bees playing an important role in the country’s agricultural heritage. You will also find plenty of beeswax products such as candles or lip balms. Hand carved wooden gifts are very popular, and seek out the artisans who have kept alive the secret of Lithuanian black ceramics which, although they date back centuries, look contemporary and cool with a metallic black finish.
- Rewilding Europe has earmarked the Nemunas Delta region, which is still intensively farmed in parts, to make sure that it protects its fragile ecosystems. Read up on its work in Lithuania, not only in the Delta, but also around the restoration of rare bison habitats. You can donate to Rewilding Europe’s vital work in these regions where they keep much more than an eagle eye on things.
- Ticks can be a problem in Lithuania, so you do need to take precautions. Wear long sleeves and trousers, and tuck your trousers into hiking socks when possible. Lyme disease and Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) are both tick-borne, so always check yourself fully after hiking and carry a tick remover with you too, so that you can catch them quickly. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint pains and body aches, often with a red rash.