Travelers who visit Lithuania rank it high on their travel memories’ top 10 lists for several reasons. Sure, it’s a small country that, compared with well-advertised Western European destinations, relatively few people visit. It has neither the outstanding landscapes of Iceland, the food culture of France, nor the art and architecture of Italy. And yet, travelers regularly indicate Lithuania and the Baltic region in general remain special in their travel memories. Here’s why.
Pristine Natural Beauty
Lithuania is a flat country marked by birch trees, pine forests, fields of flowers, and a lovely, pristine seacoast. You may even be reminded of the midwestern region of the US as you drive through Lithuania, the countryside of which has plenty of farmhouses tucked into copses of trees, tractors plowing seasonal crops, and a softly rolling landscape across that, unencumbered by hills or trees, allows you to see for miles.
But Lithuania isn’t without its surprises. Its national forests and animal sanctuaries are home to rare and protected species of plants and animals, including the local bison species, which you can see at Pašiliai European bison sanctuary—these bison were once hunted by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and only a small number remain. The Curonian Spit is also a protected area where rare birds come to nest and where wild plants are allowed to grow undisturbed. One of the most popular species of animals to spot is the stork, which is the Lithuanian national bird and returns to its nest year after year.
Whether you’re driving through Lithuania as the birches are sprouting their leaves or in the winter as the snow sugarcoats the evergreens, there’s just something about the Lithuanian natural landscape that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you feel like you never want to leave.
It’s Easy to Explore, Whether By Private Car or Public Transportation
Lithuania is a surprisingly easy country to get around. It has extensive bus coverage and a domestic train service, and long straight highways crisscross the country. Travelers don’t actually need a car to get to, for example, the coast from the capital. However, as anywhere, you can explore much more of the country and see even those sights not accessible by public transportation if you have your own vehicle.
Within its cities, Lithuania has also good public transportation networks. For example, in Vilnius, you can take a bus, trolleybus, or a taxi, or you can use a ride-sharing service. Additionally, if you live or are staying in the center, you will find much of what you need within walking distance, including groceries, dentists, shopping, and restaurants.
As everyone knows, and as Lithuanians will remind you, Lithuania is a small country. That means travel distances are short. You can go from Vilnius, the capital, to Klaipeda on the coast in about four hours. One of the favorite travel destinations of travelers is Trakai, and that’s only about 45 minutes by car or bus from Vilnius.
If you want to go to Siauliai, where the Hill of Crosses is located, you’ll need about two hours by car or a bit longer by bus. Furthermore, if you want to go over into Latvia, you’ll drive east from Vilnius for about four hours before reaching the border. Taking a Lux Express or other bus service will require about the same amount of time. From there, you can visit Rundale Palace or go on to the capital, Riga, and explore Latvia from there.
Proximity to Other European Countries
Lithuania is bordered by Poland, Belarus, Latvia, and the Kaliningrad region of Russia. You can get to any of these countries easily from Lithuania particularly if you fly from Vilnius or Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city. You can, of course, also drive, take a bus, or in some cases, use the train service. Vilnius Airport is also increasingly seeing better connections with these and other countries, and very good connections exist with Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Italy, Spain, Germany, Israel, Denmark, and Sweden.
Relatively Low Cost
Lithuania, while not as inexpensive as it used to be, is still considered one of the budget destinations of Europe. While Vilnius is the most expensive, which almost goes without saying, and you’ll see some higher prices in the coastal cities, staying in a hotel, getting around, and dining out are all relatively cheap.
This means that you can spend more time in Lithuania than you would be able to for the same amount of money if you were to go to a more popular, crowded, and larger destination in Europe. The highest cost you’ll see if you’re flying from, for example, the United States, is your airline ticket, particularly if you are not flying directly from one of the large hubs, such as Chicago or Dallas. However, if you are on a budget and you really want to enjoy your vacation, as well as treat yourself to nicer hotels, fancier meals, and spa treatments, Lithuania and the rest of the Baltic states may fit the bill.
Related: The Benefits of a Long Stay
Temperate Summer Weather
When people think of good travel weather, they don’t typically think of northern Europe. Granted, Lithuania is known for its hard winters. On the other hand, the climate is changing, and the winters are becoming increasingly milder. Summers, while they are getting hotter, are still much more enjoyable and temperate than the southern countries of Europe in the summer, which are seeing temperatures above 100 degrees also due to climate change.
On the other hand, Lithuanian weather can be unpredictable. For example, cold weather may last until April or May, or May might herald in the hot weather of summer. June and July often fluctuate between bright, sunny, and hot, and cool and rainy. In fall, an unexpected burst of hot weather may make staying indoors difficult before the cold sets in for many months. If you love winter and Christmas, December is a beautiful time to travel to Lithuania because of the Christmas trees and Christmas markets that pop up in town centers everywhere.
Lithuania is Safe for Travelers
Lithuania is a safe country for travelers. Even in Vilnius, the capital city, crime rates are low. You can feel safe walking along the street in the center at any time of the day or night. Of course, you should always use common sense when using public transportation and be sure not to be taken advantage of in a state of inebriation, and some neighborhoods away from the center are known for being less friendly, so you should make sure to be aware if you must enter an unknown part of the city.
Lithuanians are quiet and reserved people who rarely get in others’ way and don’t want to be bothered themselves. While this reserve means that service in restaurants and shops is not typically up to American standards, it also means that you can enjoy your time without harassment or hassle.
During the high season on outdoor terraces, beggars will sometimes go from table to table asking for loose change, but for the most part they are not aggressive and they move on quickly when they realize you have nothing to give them. Beggars on the street are also unobtrusive and often kneel by church entryways with palms cupped rather than approaching you for a handout.
The Baltic Sea Coast
Most people who visit Lithuania center their travels in Vilnius, which is inland. Because Vilnius is the historic capital and the largest city in Lithuania, this is where you will find the most to do and see. You can also enjoy day trips from Vilnius that will allow you to use the city as the center of your travels. But those people who know a little bit more about Lithuania understand but the coast is one of Lithuania’s jewels.
Klaipeda and Palanga welcome summer travelers and those with summer houses by the sea year round. But Nida and the Curonian Spit should not be missed. The Curonian Spit is strip of land separated from the mainland by a lagoon, and as you travel along it, you will pass through National Forest protected by UNESCO and small fishermen’s villages where you can pick up smoked fish for your lunch.
At the end of the Lithuanian side of the spit (because the western side of the spit belongs to Russia), is Nida, one of those historic villages full of colorful cottages, many which are rented out months in advance. Here you can also see the elegant white sand dunes that make this area so famous.
Related: Nida and the Curonian Spit
Lithuania Is Relatively Undiscovered
Lithuania is welcoming more visitors every year, especially those who group the three Baltic states into one trip. However, it is still relatively undiscovered. Many first-time travelers to Europe focus their efforts on more popular and more known countries and cities such as Italy, France, Spain, and the UK. It’s typically those travelers who have already seen Europe’s top 10 that want to see something different, and they have often gotten recommendations from friends, family, or social media that the Baltics may be a good choice.
Rarely do travelers leave disappointed. The Baltics and Lithuania in particular make a strong impression for the reasons listed above. Moreover, most people often want to come back and want to show this country to their friends and family.
So, if you are trying to find your next destination, you may consider Lithuania as a part of your next European journey.