As the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, this obscure tract of fairy-tale Europe – replete with medieval castles, primeval forests and quirky pagan traditions – has been enthusiastically rejuvenating its national identity, shedding its image as a dour former Soviet enclave. Once the largest empire on the European continent, Lithuania’s history reads at time like a Game of Thrones episode and presents much for those looking to discover a new side of Europe. With architectural splendours spanning the gothic to renaissance to baroque to bohemian, a hearty national cuisine, and – would you believe it – a stunning stretch of sand dune coast, Lithuania bewitches those who visit by its merging of old world Europe with full-blown Bohemian bizarro.
Lithuania Tours & Travel
All our Lithuania trips
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Vilnius (population 535,000)
- 3 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius
- Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Lithuania
The warm summer months of May through to September are the best time to visit Lithuania, although it often rains a lot during July and August. From November to March it gets very cold, with temperatures often dropping below freezing and heavy snowfalls from December to April.
Geography and environment
Top 5 Quirky Attractions in Lithuania
1. Hill of Witches
On a small rise just outside Juodkrante, covered in fir pines and offering pretty views over the Curonian lagoon, is the fantastical and fun ‘Hill of Witches’. A collection of more than 70 wooden carvings and statues sit mischievously, depicting ghoulish witches, devils and other characters from Lithuanian lore and fairy tales. Some of the larger constructions can move and be clambered about on for entertaining photo opportunities. Each year master carvers from around the country converge on the hill to restore the statues, build new ones and possibly – though probably not – drink goat’s blood.
2. Hill of Crosses
A couple of hours drive from Vilnius is the Hill of Crosses, an arresting and poignant testament to Lithuania’s various struggles against foreign powers. Although it’s believed that the first cross was brought to the hill sometime in the mid-19th century, the practice of ascending the hill and leaving behind crosses, crucifixes and Catholic effigies gained considerable momentum during the 1970s and 80s as an act of peaceful defiance against the Soviet occupancy. On three occasions the Soviets razed the hill and destroyed the crosses, only to find them quickly replaced. Also a popular site of pilgrimage, the hill attracts thousands of Catholic faithfuls each year and there are now an estimated 100,000 crosses at the location.
3. Devil's Museum
Adroitly playing on humanity’s fascination with evil incarnate, The Devil’s Museum in Kaunas holds what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of all things diabolical. The exhibition opened in 1966 and is really more amusing than it is creepy. With the museum’s long-time tradition of accepting and displaying artworks gifted by visitors from across the globe, you’re just as likely to come across his royal Prince of Darkness depicted in an intricate wood carving as a nut-cracker, or in disguise as various political dictators. And for those looking to further descend into the underworld, a bar in the basement provides devilishly enticing vodka libations.
4. The Frank Zappa Statue
When Lithuania achieved its independence from the Soviet Union, the population rapidly set to tearing down all relics and reminders of their period under communist rule – thus leaving an abundance of headless pillars where Lenin and Stalin’s busts had once perched. Whatever was to be done with these? The situation looked hopeless. That is until civil servant and avid Zappa fan Saulius Paukstys came forward with the suggestion of a homage to his musical idol. Given that Zappa had no Lithuanian ancestry, or had even visited the country, local authorities weren’t sold on the idea – not initially, anyway. But when it was argued that Zappa did, after all, have Jewish features and because Jewish history was important to Lithuania… well, the rest is history. Funnily enough, it’s the only Frank Zappa effigy in the world.
5. The Uzupis Constitution
On 1 April 1997, the self-declared Republic of Užupis became Europe’s latest, and most bizarre, breakaway province. The announcement, which took the rest of Lithuania completely by surprise, was thought to be a rather amusing April Fool’s Day joke; however, with the launch of an official constitution, it quickly became apparent that the Republic was here to stay. Visitors can now have their passports stamped and pore over its 41-article constitution, which includes such oddities as ‘Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity’, and ‘A dog has the right to be a dog’.
FAQs on Lithuania
Domestic beer = 6 LTL
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant = 15 LTL
Meal at a mid-range restaurant = 70 LTL
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Feb 16 Independence Day
Mar 11 Restoration of Independence Day
Mar 31 Easter Sunday
Apr 1 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
May 5 Mother's Day
Jun 2 Father's Day
Jun 24 Jonines (St John's Day)
Jul 6 Anniversary of the Coronation of King Mindaugas
Aug 15 Assumption
Nov 1 All Saints' Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Boxing Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to:
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Lithuania Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Lithuania
1. Be considerate of Lithuania’s customs, traditions, religion and culture. It’s important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be in another.
2. Be cautious when mentioning Lithuania in the context of the former USSR. Even an inferred praising of Soviet practices is not likely to be appreciated.
3. The tap water is considered safe to drink, so for environmental reasons try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill and refill a reusable water bottle or canteen instead.
4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
5. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice.
6. Shop for locally-made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.
7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|The Jungle||Upton Sinclair|
|The Seasons||Kristijonas Donelaitis|
|Between Shades of Gray||Ruta Sepetys|
|Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II||Prit Buttar|
|A White Shroud||Antana Skema|