Intriguing Ignalina: What to See and Do in the Region

Ignalina is a Lithuanian city often mentioned in connection with its power plant, located in Visaginas (see below for more information), but there are more reasons to visit the region besides the opportunity to take a tour of the nuclear power plant.

This region, located in Aukstaitija National Park, is one of beautiful lakes and parks, small villages, mighty oaks that have seen the centuries pass, and a few manor houses. It is perfect for hot summer days and exploring by car.

an aerial view of Ignalina, Lithuania
Ignalina is a green region full of forests and lakes. Photo 101804903 © Darius Strazdas | Dreamstime.com

When you look on a map of the Ignalina Region you’ll notice park areas and lakes galore. If this is your thing, grab your sunscreen, bug repellent, swimsuit, and a picnic lunch, and go! From Vilnius, this region is about an hour and a half by car—but if it’s a weekend and a particularly nice day, you’ll have to compete with others with the same idea, so go early and have a plan B and C in mind in case the spots you have identified are too full or you can’t find parking.

If, on the hand, you’d like to sightsee in the region, consider some of the following suggestions.

Things to Do in the Ignalina Region

The City of Ignalina

You can skip Ignalina itself unless you want to stop by a supermarket, fill up the tank, or try to find a restaurant for lunch. While it has a small villagey older section with wooden houses, you’ll see plenty of genuine villages everywhere in the Ignalina Region.

Parks

Aukstaitija National Park encompasses the region and hundreds of lakes as well as trails for hiking and cycling, beaches for swimming, observation towers, and hillfort mounds. Labanoras Regional Park overlaps some of Aukstaitija National Park and is the largest regional park in Lithuania. Whether you choose to center your exploration on the national park or regional park, you won’t be disappointed—the nature here is stunning, whether you like calm waters, expansive vistas, bird watching, identifying plants and trees, or learning about regional culture. You’ll find the visitor center for Aukstaitija National Park in Palūšė.

Villages

The villages in this region will give you a taste of traditional life in Lithuania. Wooden houses, some with thatched roofs, an agricultural lifestyle, and preservation of particular customs have put many of these villages on the map as important cultural monuments. For example, the village of Salos has been rebuilt to reflect original architecture and authentic building traditions. However, be warned—this village is found via a narrow dirt road, so you may want to make sure your vehicle is up to the task in the case of mud or other less-than-ideal conditions.

Other villages you may want to check out include:

  • Senosios Katinautiškės Village
  • Didžiasalis Village
  • Kudabiškė Ethnographic Village
  • Kukutėliai Village
A traditional village house in the Ignalina region of Lithuania
The Selos Ethnographic Village is one of the sights of the Ignalina region. Photo by The Northern Vox

Observation Towers

If there’s one thing that Lithuanians like, it’s observation towers, and Aukstaitija National Park has plenty of them. If you don’t mind heights or climbing flights of stairs and you enjoy seeing for miles over forests and lakes, make a stop at one or two observation towers during your discovery of the region.

Observation towers in the region include:

  • Didžiasalis (Sirvėta) Observation Tower
  • Šiliniškės (Ginučiai) Observation Tower
  • Vilkakalnis Observation Tower

Manor Houses

This region isn’t as rich in manor houses as other parts of Lithuania, but you’ll still find some charming examples in various states of (dis)repair.

  • Kazokine – No more than hollowed-out ruins, Kazokine Manor, or what’s left of it, is nevertheless beautiful and easy to reach. This short stop on your journey offers some intriguing photos and perhaps an encounter with a talkative cow.
  • Vidiškės – Vidiškės Manor is a manor in a very good state of preservation with a park and decorated interiors.
  • Paliesius – Paliesius Manor has been converted into a hotel and spa with a restaurant and bakery, but it’s still possible to get an idea about how it looked in the past.
  • Dūkštas – Dūkštas Manor and the grounds are open to visitors by appointment. This Classicist-style manor house situated between two lakes.
A white manor house with Classicist columns
Vidiskes Manor house reflects a Classicist style of architecture. Photo by The Northern Vox

Churches

Of course, most of the villages will have their own churches, some rustic wooden ones and others of stone or brick. Some of the most notable include:

  • Palūšė St. Joseph’s Church – Considered an important example of folk architecture, this reconstructed church is also decorated with folk art and contains an organ.
  • Mielagėnai St. John the Baptist Church – With its Neoclassical style and large statues in niches in the front façade, this church somewhat resembles Vilnius Cathedral.
  • Naujasis Daugėliškis St. Joakim and Ona Church – This large wooden church has a history dating back to the 16th century.
  • Church of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ignalina – Of a startlingly modern design, this church stands out among the many older styles of churches in the region.
The gate and buildings assocatiated with an old wooden church
St. Joseph’s Church is an old wooden church with loads of character. Photo 143487818 © Boris Breytman | Dreamstime.com

Other Attractions:

You may find your curiosity sated with the above options, but some other favorites of Ignalina and the Aukstaitija National Park include watermills, overlooks, and museums.

  • Beekeeping Museum – The Beekeeping Museum combines the preservation of pagan legends and beliefs with the longstanding tradition of keeping bees in Lithuania. Visitors, in addition to learning about beekeeping, will be introduced to protective pagan gods, be able to explore the pretty grounds of the open-air museum, and taste and buy honey.
  • Ladakalnis – This overlook offers beautiful views of the surrounding lakes. It is highly popular in summer.
  • Ginučiai Water Mill – This water mill proved to be an important facility for the surrounding region due to the fact that wartime damaged many local mills and this one, which remained standing, could mill their grain here from outlying areas. The mill is a protected object and visitors can take a guided tour to learn about the mill’s history and function. Ginučiai also has access to the water and a beach.
  • Ancient oaks – If you see a sign for an “azuolas,” note you’re being directed to one of the region’s ancient oaks which have been witness to more than any human alive. Some of these oaks are several centuries old, and their wizened stature and broad girth attest both to Lithuanians’ appreciation for such trees and how, even with the passage of time, some things in this region don’t change.
The ruins of a manor house in a green field
Kazokine Manor is nothing but ruins. Photo by The Northern Vox

Visit the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant

If you’re a fan of the Chernobyl miniseries or interested in nuclear power and its history and significance in the region, consider booking a tour to the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, located in the town of Visaginas.

Why would you tour the power plant? This power plant is the same type that suffered from the catastrophic meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine. (The power plant is now being decommissioned.) As a result, film crews used the Ignalina Power Plant for specific shots for the miniseries Chernobyl.

The building of the Ignalina Power Plant seen from the front
The Ignalina Power Plant is a popular regional attraction. The building of the Ignalina Power Plant seen from the front

Visitors to the power plant should book at least two months in advance—cost is around 70 euros. To enter restricted zones, you may have to provide personal information, such as a copy of your passport. A general tour will take visitors through the reactor room, control room and turbine room. Several tour companies provide these tours—they are not offered by the plant directly.

A simulator, used for training personnel in the event of an emergency situation, is also located in Visaginas. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.