Varėna is located a little aside of the Vilnius - Grodno railroad. The town was founded in 1862 when Warsaw - St. Petersburg railroad was built. The road Varėna - Druskininkai is a special place known for wood carved totems and their groups, all in memorial of Lithuania's most beloved artist and composer M.K. Čiurlionis. At that time it was a small settlement, but developed little by little and in 1950 eventually became the centre of the district. Following industrialization in the 1970s, the town grew rapidly. Varėna residents like spending their leisure time in various places: Žiežulis path, sports stadiums, lakes, rivers, etc.
There are 160 lakes, many streams and rivers in Varėna district. The bigger part of Varėna district is covered by forests. They occupy about 65.7% of the area. One third of Varėna district is covered by the Dzūkija National Park and the Čepkeliai State Strict Nature Reserve. The biggest swamp complex of Lithuania and the woods surrounding it are preserved in the Čepkeliai State Reserve. There are many cranberries in Čepkeliai. There are 72 protected landscape objects and 12 landscape reserves in Varėna district.
Varėna district is the most wooded district in Lithuania. The largest forest Dainava is also known as Druskininkai-Varėna woods. Each tourist is charmed by unique nature of this land, which is full of pines. The Dzūkija National Park and the Čepkeliai Nature State Reserve stretch out for miles and miles. There are small villages and individual farmsteads scattered among pine groves. Each of them is distinctive due to its people and traditions. Dzūkai are the ones who preserved the old Lithuanian customs and traditions, handcrafts, and original way of life till today.
Senoji Varėna (Old Varėna) is situated at the point where the river Varėnė interflows with the river Merkys. Two important roads are passing through it: Vilnius - Druskininkai and Varėna-Alytus. Senoji Varėna was mentioned in historic sources for the first time in 1413. The famous Lithuanian artist and composer M. K. Čiurlionis was born in Senoji Varėna in 1875, and oak pillars by the road Varėna -Druskininkai were carved to honour his memory.
Perloja is situated 19 km west of Varėna, by the river Merkys and by the road Vilnius-Merkinė. Perloja village is known since 1387. The castle, which was here at those times, beat off many attacks of crusaders. Perloja was granted the Magdeburg rights in 1792. The Republic of Perloja existed from 1918 to 1923. Perloja is famous for its monument to Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, which was built in 1930 and preserved till now. The mini art gallery of local artist Juzefa Bagdonienė was opened in Perloja, too.
Merkinė is one of the oldest Lithuanian settlements. It was mentioned for the first time in 1359. The castle was built in the 14th-15th centuries by the rivers Nemunas and Merkys. In 1569, the Magdeburg rights were confirmed for Merkinė settlement. The history of Merkinė is related to the names of Grand Dukes of Lithuania Vytautas and Jogaila, Vladislav Vaza, the King of Poland who died here, and czar of Russia Piotr I. Merkinė is a town with famous and glorious past.
The family of ceramic artist Elvyra Petraitienė lives in small Maksimonys village, not far from Merkinė. In their home yard, visitors' eyes are attracted by the modern forms of wooden sculptures and by the works of ceramics. Works made applying black ceramic technique from local Dzukian clay are the most valuable.
Liškiava village was established in the 15th century. On the mound not far from Liškiava there are still ruins of the old castle, which was just started and not finished at the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century. A mountain, which is called Church Mountain, is near the village. The Liškiava church and Dominicans abbey are the monuments built in the late baroque style.
Dubičiai castle and even Dubičiai town were mentioned in the Description of Crusaders Ways at the end of the 14th century. A former mound was called the 7th castle of queen Bona (Zamkovo Mountain). There is a monument and a nicely arranged small park of wooden sculptures for the memory of participants of revolt in 1863.
Zervynos ethnographic village is situated by the railway Vilnius - Gardinas. The development plan of the village was set in the middle of the 18th century. All its buildings are made of wood and have typical southeast Lithuanian architecture. There are hollow pines and a hundred year old oak grows here, too.
Margionys village, with the cold water river Skroblus flowing through it, is famous for its barn theater. The beginning of Margionys Barn Theater is considered to be the year 1929, when its director was self-taught villager Juozas Gaidys from Margionys.
Marcinkonys is one of the largest Lithuanian villages. It is mentioned in historical sources since 1637. With intentions to preserve traditions of Dzukian culture, originality of nature, ecological balance and to propagate traditional occupations and agriculture methods, and to create conditions for the educational tourism, the Čepkeliai State Reserve (in 1975) and Dzūkija National Park (in 1991) were founded.
Valkininkai town is situated not far from the road Vilnius-Druskininkai. Valkininkai was already mentioned at the end of the 14th century in the Description of Crusaders Ways. The town rights for Valkininkai were first granted by Žygimantas Augustas in 1571. Today the town has a typical infrastructure, including shops, drug store, ambulatory, coffee bar, and school.
While driving along the road Vilnius-Druskininkai we can see a great monument Mother of Pirčiupiai, which is made by the sculptor G. Jakubonis. It reminds us that in 1944 fascists burned up the whole village and 119 of its residents.