Lithuania is the only Baltic country with more than eight hundred years of statehood tradition and its name was first mentioned one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival. Once in the Middle Ages (15th century), Lithuania was the largest state in the entire continent of Europe, where crafts and overseas trade prospered.
Lithuanians describe their land with the help of poetry. Poetry and songs are filled with romantic images of gently rolling hills, vast valleys and meandering rivers, somber forests rich in animals, meadows full of butterflies, and the birds singing in the sky. This embodies what the Lithuanian is looking for and is happy when he finds it. Locals would tell you that if you don’t want to make any effort you don’t deserve to step outside the city. But if some effort is not a big trouble to you, all those gently rolling hills, vast valleys and meandering rivers, somber forests, meadows full of butterflies, and the birds singing in the sky are almost every time guaranteed.
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LITHUANIA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Vilnius
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Area: 65,200 km²
- Population: 2,794 million (2020)
- Language: Lithuanian (official), English, Polish, Russian
- Religion: Roman Catholic (primarily), Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical Christian Baptist, Pagan
- Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (type C, European style plug, commonly 2-prong without earth)
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LITHUANIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 16 February, Independence Day (1918)
- 11 March, Restoration of Statehood Day (1990)
- 1 May, Labour Day (banks open)
- 1st Sunday in May, Mother’s Day
- 24 June, St. John’s Day (Midsummer)
- 6 July, Anniversary of the Coronation of King Mindaugas
- 15 August, Assumption
- 1 November, All Saints Day
Also, Easter Monday.
BEST TIME TO VISIT LITHUANIA
The best time to visit Lithuania is during late spring or summer when there’s usually enough fine weather to allow you to stroll around the cities and make significant forays into the great outdoors. On the whole, though, the only thing that’s predictable about the Baltic climate is the deep, dark winters – in all other seasons, the weather can be changeable in the extreme.
Summers are relatively short (roughly mid-June to late August), and although you may well experience a string of hot, dry days during this period, showers and chilly nights are equally likely. Remember to pack a waterproof jacket and warm sweater alongside your T-shirts.
Temperatures cool down rapidly from mid-September onwards, although autumn can be an extraordinarily beautiful season in which to visit, with the golden brown leaves of deciduous trees contrasting with the dark-green pines.
The first snowfalls can come as early as mid-November and by early to mid-December winter sets in with a vengeance. Average daytime temperatures can remain below zero right through until March, plummeting to minus 15–20°C in particularly cold spells. Even when the spring thaw sets in, the countryside can remain grey and barren until well into April (or even May in northern Estonia), when a sudden explosion of colour transforms the landscape. The countryside takes on a green lushness, drawing cattle and horses out from their winter barns, while city-dwellers indulge in a frenzied stampede for the pavement cafés.
April - Some of the world’s best jazz performers are at the Kaunas International Jazz Festival.
June & July - The loveliest time to explore the forests and sand dunes of the Curonian Spit.
September - Vilnius Capital Days, a celebration of the capital with street theatre, music, and fashion.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN LITHUANIA
The snow sports season in Lithuania can start early in December and last until the end of March.
HIKING & CYCLING IN LITHUANIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Lithuania is from May to September when the weather is somewhat more moderate.
BEACH OPTIONS IN LITHUANIA
Lithuania has some beautiful beaches with their short summer beach season stretching from the beginning of June to the end of August.
KITESURF IN LITHUANIA
Lithuania's best time for kitesurfing is from May to October with about 50% of days bringing suitable winds.
LITHUANIA TRAVEL COSTS
Prices in Lithuania are low compared to Western Europe and even some countries in Eastern Europe. Train travel is a popular option and tickets are much more affordable than they are in Western Europe. Litrail provides service to the major cities and they offer both seating and sleeping cars, although most trips are relatively short.
Buses are a convenient way to travel around the country. They stop frequently so trips may take longer than you originally anticipated. There are several different companies of varying quality that offer travel between the cities. Inquire into the reliability and efficiency of the bus company before you purchase tickets.
LITHUANIA TRAVEL TIPS
Accommodation throughout Lithuania can vary dramatically in price and style. It remains cheaper than accommodation in Western Europe and if you travel during the low or shoulder seasons you will save even more money. In smaller towns and rural areas, it may be difficult to find accommodation during the winter months as they generally expect few tourists during those times.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF LITHUANIA
Explore beautiful baroque Vilnius, with its cobbled streets, church spires, bars, and bistros.
Breathe the pure air amid fragrant pine forests and high sand dunes of the Curonian Spit.
Hear the wind whistle between thousands of crosses on the eerie Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai.
Wander wonderful Trakai, home of the Karaite people and a stunning island castle.
Experience a taste of Lithuania's communist past at the Grūtas sculpture park.
Take in the poignant WWII history of Kaunas' Ninth Fort.
Vilnius — Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, doesn't get the attention it deserves. The city's surprising Old Town is a dazzling assemblage of bright baroque houses, inviting alleyways, and colourful churches built around quiet courtyards. But this is no museum piece. The city's cosmopolitan heritage, enriched by Polish, Jewish, and Russian influences, lends a sophisticated vibe, and thousands of students keep the energy level high. Push through big wooden doors to find lively pubs and bars, hidden terraces, and romantic restaurants. Tumbledown buildings hide designer boutiques and high-end handicraft shops.
Trakai — With its picturesque red-brick castle occupying a small island in Lake Galvė, Karaite culture, quaint wooden houses, and pretty lakeside location, Trakai is a highly recommended day trip, within easy reach of the capital.
Kaunas — Lithuania's second city has a compact Old Town, an entertaining array of museums, and plenty of vibrant, youthful energy provided by its large student population. A good time to visit is in late April, during the Kaunas Jazz Festival (www.kaunasjazz.lt), when homegrown and international artists perform in venues across the city.
Klaipėda — Lithuania's main seaport, is known mainly as the gateway to the Curonian Spit, though it has a fascinating history as the East Prussian city of Memel long before it was incorporated into modern Lithuania in the 1920s. It was founded in 1252 by the Teutonic Order, who built the city’s first castle, and has served as a key trading port through the centuries to modern times. It was retaken by Nazi Germany in WWII and housed a German submarine base. Though it was heavily bombed in the war, it retains a unique Prussian feel, particularly in the quiet backstreets of the historic Old Town.
Hill of Crosses — site of religious significance, north of Šiauliai city.
Curonian Spit — a unique peninsula in the Baltic sea with sand dunes, seaboard forest, white-sanded beaches, and old ethnographic villages. A UNESCO World Heritage Site this magical sliver of land hosts some of Europe's most precious sand dunes and a menagerie of elk, deer, and avian wildlife. The fragile spit is divided evenly between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad region, with Lithuania's half protected as Curonian Spit National Park.
Paneriai - During WWII the Nazis – aided by Lithuanian accomplices – murdered 100,000 people, around 70,000 of them Jews, at this site in the forest, 8km southwest of Vilnius.
WHAT TO EAT IN LITHUANIA
Lithuanian dinners usually include meat, potato, vegetables, and sometimes a curd sauce of some sort. Pork is traditionally eaten, beef much less so. Needless to say, vegans will have a hard time eating out, although some large restaurant chains will have vegetarian dishes on the menu.
Potato creations - Try the cepelinai (potato-dough 'zeppelin' stuffed with meat, mushrooms, or cheese), bulviniai blynai (potato pancakes), or žemaičių blynai (heart-shaped mashed potato stuffed with meat and fried), or the vedarai (baked pig intestines stuffed with mashed potato).
Beer snacks - No drinking session is complete without a plate of smoked pigs' ears and kepta duona (deep-fried garlicky breadsticks).
Beetroot delight - Cold, creamy šaltibarščiai (beetroot soup) is a summer specialty, served with a side of fried potatoes.
Unusual meat - Sample the game, such as beaver stew or bear sausages.
Smoked fish - The Curonian Spit is famous for its smoked fish, particularly the superb rukytas unguris (smoked eel).
Beer and mead - Šytutys, Utenos, and Kalnapilis are top beers; midus (mead) is a honey-tinged nobleman's drink.
LGBTQ IN LITHUANIA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Lithuania face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT citizens. Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993 and same-sex sexual activity is legal in Lithuania, neither civil same-sex partnership nor same-sex marriage are available.
Negative attitudes against gay and lesbian men and women remain firmly entrenched throughout the country and opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general continues to be widespread in Lithuanian society. There are small gay communities in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda. Elsewhere in Lithuania, however, there is still a predominant hostility towards LGBT people.