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National parks
 

DSC04181_1 The Trakai National Park was designated in 1992 to embrace the historic city of Trakai, some 25 kilometers outside Vilnius, and the forests, lakes and villages in its environs. The total area of the park is 82 sq. kilometers. The most valuable monuments in the park are the Trakai insular castle, the remnants of the peninsula castle and the ancient site of the Senieji Trakai (Old Trakai) castle with a church and village. It was to the castle of Senieji Trakai that, according to old chronicles, the capital of Lithuania was transferred in the 14th century by the Grand Duke Gediminas. It was also there that the greatest Lithuanian ruler if all times, Grand Duke Vytautas was borne. Later, the capital was transferred to the castle situated on a peninsula between the lakes of Lukas and Galve. The castle was presumably one of the largest in Lithuania of those times and served as residence for a number of Lithuanian rulers before the insular castle was constructed a short distance away on an island of Lake Galve. It became the stronghold and residence of a number of Grand Dukes of Lithuania, including Kestutis and Vytautas. It was there that Vytautas died in 1430. Ruined during the wars in the 18th century, the castle is nearing its restoration and houses an impressive History Museum at the present time.

Trakai is a small town, its main attraction being the old part, notable for the wooden houses built by the Karaites, a tribe of Turkic people who were brought to Lithuania by Grand Duke Vytautas from the Crimea and who served as his bodyguards. the Karaites' house of worship, a kinessa, and a museum of Karaite culture are places worth visiting.

In and around Trakai there are about 20 lakes, the largest of them being Lake Galve, an established centre of water sports in Lithuania. Almost one-fifth of the park area is occupied by lakes. Forests take up one-third of the park territory. Trakai is increasingly becoming one of Lithuania's busiest recreation zones, hosting a number of international events every year, like the hot air balloon festival of 1990.

The environs of Trakai, with old villages and ancient castle hills, attract not only those interested in history but also numerous lovers of nature. In the Varnikai - Ilgelis and Plomenai nature reserves one can find a number of rare species of birds and plants. The Trakai National Park is visited by over 300 thousand people every year.

Covering an area of 18 thousand hectares, the Kursiu Nerija National Park was designated to protect the unique scenic beauty of the Kursiu Nerija, a narrow peninsula separating the Kursiu Marios (Curonian Lagoon) from the Baltic Sea. The peninsula, a sandy stretch of land extending 98 kilometers, with the width varying from 400 meters to 3.8 kilometers, was formed some five to six thousand years ago, as sand accumulated in the shallower waters along the Baltic coast.

The sea winds shifted the sand, creating a range of large sand dunes stretching for about 70 kilometers from Smiltyne to Sarkuva. The largest of the dunes, such as the Sklandytoju, the Angiu Kalno, and the Urbo Kalno ones are up to 1000 meters high and provide a charming view of the sea, the lagoon and the green forests.

Up to the 15th century the spit was covered by both deciduous and coniferous forests. Later, however, large portions of them were felled by the axe. This lead to severe sand shifting. 14 villages were swallowed up by the moving sands. It was in 1825 that G.D. Kuvertas started the first reforestation project to try to stop the sand. At the present time life on the spit is protected by about 7 thousand hectares of forests, most of them pine-woods.

The settlements situated on the spit boast of original architecture, typical to this region. In Juodkrante, the first stop on the road from the northern tip Nida, the peninsula's administrative centre, one can see a number of old fishermen's houses that are protected as architectural monuments. The other settlements before Nida are Pervalka and Preila, typical fishing villages. Nida is the largest and most beautiful of the Lithuanian settlements on the spit. 37 rare plant species grow on the spit. Some of them are listed in the Red Book of Lithuania: Eryngium maritimum, Glaux maritina, Aster tripolium and Erica tetralix. Kursiu Nerija has 2.600 residents. All settlements contain etnographic architectural monuments, the old part of Nida has been pronounced an urbanistic monument.

The Kursiu Nerija National Park stands out among the other parks of Lithuania. Because of ecological concerns, access to the spit is restricted. Visitors can obtain information and book a guided tour of the park in Klaipeda.

Welcome to Zemaitija National Park with its majestic Lake Plateliai and picturesque landscape including a great variety of unique natural, historical and cultural values.

Establishment and Goals

Zemaitija National Park (ZNP) was established in 1991 with the aim of preserving, managing and sustainably developing those areas of Zemaitija in north-western Lithuania, that are most valued for their natural and cultural qualities.
The Park's goals are to:
· Conserve the main system of lakes and forests in Zemaitija;
· Conserve the existing cultural heritage and restore the damaged parts;
· Carry out scientific research, data collection and regular monitoring of the Park's environment and ethnic and cultural heritage;
· Cherish the cultural traditions of Zemaitija; disseminate ideas and knowledge of environmental protection; encourage traditional forms of farming; promote appropriate recreation activities, and primarily develop interpretation and education as sustainable tourism.

Dzukija National Park was designated in 1991 in the region of Varena. Its aim is to protect the landscape, the old villages, historical and cultural monuments, and forests of south-eastern Lithuania. The park's territory is 55 thousand hectares, 85 per cent of which is covered by woods. The pine stands make up 90% of the forest land. The park contains 12 historical, 25 archaeological, 10 architectural and 35 art monuments.

Among the historical attractions of Dzukija National Park, the ancient town of Merkine and the village of Liskiava are of greatest interest. Merkine dates back to the 14th century and is situated at the confluence of the Nemunas and Merkys rivers. Merkine castle hill which gave the rise to the town, offers an unforgettable view of the Nemunas valley and surrounding woodland.

Liskiava, which can be easily reached by boat or by bus from Druskininkai, is a settlement on the bank of the Nemunas, surrounded by numerous legends and folk tales. Most of them are connected with the Liskiava castle hill, on top of which one can still see remnants of the 14 century castle.

Besides Liskiava, there are a number of other old villages - some dating back to the 16th century - that have retained the traditional layout of forest villages and architecture of buildings. The inhabitants of many of them still excel in the traditional folk crafts: weaving, wood-carving and pottery.

Pinewoods, which dominate in the Dzukija National Park, abound in mushrooms and berries and have since long ago been a source of extra income for the local people. Among the mushrooms most sought after are edible boletus and chantarelle. The latter are gathered in large quantities and even exported abroad. Wild strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and red bilberries are the most widely spread kind of berries found on the territory of the park.

The park's birdlife boasts a number of rare eagles, including Haliaelus albicilla, Pandion haliaetus, and Circaetus galiccus, and the forests are the habitat of considerable populations of elks, deer, wild boars, foxes, wolves, and hares. A number of protected plant species are found in the park, too. The administrative centre of the park is Marcinkonys. It can be reached by bus or by train.

Lithuania's first national park - Aukstaitija National Park - was designated in 1974 and covers an area of 40570 hectares in the regions of Ignalina, Utena and Svencionys. Over 70 per cent of its territory is pine stands, including the ancient woods of Azvinciai, Mincia and Linkmenos. Some of the pine trees in Azvinciai wood are over 200 years old and the oaks of Trainiskis, Kaltanenai and Varniskiai are the remains of the ancient oak-tree forests that once covered large territories here. The park represents a picturesque forested and hilly terrain abounding in lakes and having ethnographic villages; it contains quite a lot of other cultural monuments.

Scattered among the woods and hills are some 100 smaller and larger lakes, often interconnected by rivulets and streams. The largest of them is Lake Dringis (721 ha). Lake Tauragnas, the deepest in Lithuania (60.5 m deep) is also here. The Baluosas features seven islands, one of which has a little lake of its own, feeding the Baluosas waters through a small stream.

Of some thirty rivers on the territory of the park, Zeimena is the most beautiful, although the smaller ones - Kriauna, Lukna, Buka, Sventele, Stregzda - are no less attractive to tourists, linguists and ethnographers alike.

The woods, marshes and meadows of Aukstaitija National Park abound in rare plant species, including a number of plants that are listed in the Red Data Book of Lithuania and are protected as endangered species. The woods of the park are the domain of elk, deer and wild boar. The lakes and rivers, too, are rich in wildlife, from Canadian mink to a variety of birds that can bring quite a few exciting moments to a devoted birdwatcher.

The park's territory embraces some 80 settlements and villages, some of which have retained not only their old original layout but also archaic wooden farm buildings and other structures. Paluse village, which is the tourist centre of the Aukstaitija National Park, was first mentioned in written sources in 1651. It still boasts an octagonal wooden church dating back to 1757. Paluse is the starting point of most of the tourist routes, both shorter and longer walks and a rowing-boat route along a system of lakes and streams connecting them.

Accommodation is provided in old wind mills turned into tourist centres.

Visit to Aukstaitija National Park

Half-day tour to Trakai

Trakai (4 hours tour) is one of the oldest Grand Duchy of Lithuania residence and capitals. Trakai is the second capital of Lithuania.

Tour to Kernave

Kernave village (4 hours tour) located on the banks of the river Neris (35 km from Vilnius) has been known as the capital of Lithuania before Trakai and Vilnius. 

Country life museum in Rumsiskes

Country life Open Air Museum of Lithuania (6 hours tour) is a unique and one of the largest (195 ha) open-air ethnographic museums in Europe.

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