Lithuanian winters are cold
Bring your eiderdown jacket. Don’t forget a hat and a scarf as well. Warm, waterproof boots are also a good idea. You can get some gloves or mittens here, if you like. Woollen ones, decorated with colourful handmade ornaments. Sometimes there’s so much snow here around Christmas time that children have to go to Santa Claus on their sledges and pick up the gifts themselves. In winter, you can go skating, ride sleighs pulled by horses with bells jingling, go ice fishing or roll around the snow naked after a boiling woodscented sauna. When nights become longer than days, we go into the countryside to spend some time in the frost-sparkled peace and quiet, dance all night in clubs filled with music and heat, admire art in galleries and do a lot of sports. Because winter is still winter here.
In Lithuania, winter mornings are the most mystical time: the earth is covered in frost and shrouded in a light fog through which the sun’s rays try to penetrate, and it is so quiet that you can almost hear how dancing snowflakes slowly settle on a snow bank. The most interesting way to observe, listen to and feel this is from above. Hot air balloon rides in winter are lovely on their own, and all you have to do to prepare is put on warmer clothes.
Famous for its mineral water, this resort offers more than just relaxation at one of its many spa centres – you can also splash around with joy at the water park, or look for winter in summer at the indoor skiing complex. Or you can take the aerial lift from one centre to another and take in the impressive bends of the Nemunas River and the green panorama of the surrounding pine forests.
We get a lot of snow in winter, so skiing becomes a great pastime and even a serious sport. The elevation is offset by the extraordinary natural beauty and the opportunity to go directly from the four Kalita Hill trails to the mineral springs pool, recover in a traditional Lithuanian sauna, or enjoy a relaxing massage. Kalita Hill has five ski lifts, and there is a rental where you can get everything you need to have fun coming down the slopes.
Ignalina has long been famous for its skiing traditions – it is home to the Lithuanian Winter Sports Centre and has four ski runs, and you can easily bump into one of country’s best skiers on the trails in the forest. If you ski to Samogitia, look for Mortos Kalns, a small but cosy ski centre in the Plungė district. Meanwhile, in Vilnius you can have fun from morning till night at Liepkalnis. Even if the weather doesn’t seem good for skiing, you will always find snow here since they have a powerful snowmaking system. Well, and if you can’t live without snow even in summer, go to Druskininkai, where you can kill two birds with one stone, first getting a bit of winter at the indoor Snow Arena, and then enjoying summer in Druskininkai’s pine forests and spa centres.
The 3D Christmas Tale demonstrated on the façade of the Vilnius Cathedral, the traditional Christmas town fragrance of traditional Christmas sweets, the special Christmas train, and the stunning Christmas tree are just a few reasons why international tourism experts have many times recognized Vilnius as one of the best places to visit at Christmastime.
Skating on a frozen lake, enjoying its snowy shores and the bright winter sun in the neighborhood of Lithuania’s medieval rulers’ castle – what can be more romantic? Let’s hope for a cold winter!
Join the hundreds of winter sports enthusiasts who go on massive cross-country ski trips every winter. The trails go past the most beautiful neighborhoods in Lithuania and woody areas.
On the first Saturday of February, visit the horserace with very deep traditions, where the teamsters compete on ice! All this at the Dusetos Hippodrome from the water from the nearby lake Sartai.
After heating up in a Lithuanian steam bath, the temperatures way below zero, dare to jump into the ice hole made in the nearby lake. Unforgettable sensations, great emotions, and self-congratulation – guaranteed!
When the frozen ground is covered with a blanket of snow, we run outside and make snowmen. True, powdery snow is good for snowboarding or taking pictures, but a good snowman needs moist snow – the kind that sticks together and serves as a great building material. This kind of snow is usually available when the temperature is around freezing. If you want to make your little ones happy, try this activity yourself!
Have you ever heard of an ice boat – a sail boat on runners? Maybe this will be the winter that you dare to try it out? The only condition is that the cold has to lock in the Curonian Lagoon or other body of water with at least 10 centimetres of ice. And then all you need is a few minutes of instruction and you’re set to wrestle with the wind.
Dogs bring an immense feeling of happiness and joy. You can go for an enjoyable ride through the forest paths around Kernavė in a sledge pulled by friendly Alaskan huskies. What fun it is to go sleighing all bundled up!
The Liepkalnis (Vilnius) and Kalita (Anykščiai) alpine coasters invite you to catch the wind. Filled with turns and hills, the coasters are perfect people who love speed – they can get up to 50 km/h. There’s no reason to worry though, since the sleds are easy to control. And impressions are guaranteed! So fasten your seat belts and... go!
If there is a time in the year when the absolute majority of Lithuanians are at home with their loved ones, this is definitely Christmas Eve (December 24). Families scattered in different cities and countries sit down together at the Christmas table, eat at least twelve traditional dishes, share the traditional Christmas wafer, and enjoy each other’s company. Christmas Eve is the most mysterious night of the year. It is believed that on this night, at midnight, animals can speak, water in the wells turns into wine, and prophecies and dreams come true.
Following the peaceful Christmas Eve and magical night, comes the joyous, happy and generous Christmas Day (December 25-26). Under the Christmas tree in every house, the big and little ones find Christmas gifts, noses are tickled by the scents of meat dishes and traditional cakes, and the doorbell announces the arrival of guests – it’s time to celebrate the most important festival of the year! The Christmas spirit permeates every home, the streets and squares, where many concerts, performances, events for the whole family take place. International tourism experts recommend Vilnius as one of the best cities to visit at Christmas time.
On the day marking the end of the Christmas season (January 6), the streets of Lithuanian cities fill up with parades carrying the effigies of the Three Kings (the Magi), Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, on their way to visit baby Jesus. Look around and you will find the initials of their names and the signs of the cross + K + M + B, signifying the blessing of God, on many front doors. On the day of Epiphany, it is customary to say goodbye to the main attribute of the holiday period – the Christmas tree.
Have you heard about the fish that smells like fresh cucumbers? There was a time when fishermen used to lure them into their nets under the ice with songs. These days, the songs are sung on the shore of Palanga, where the Smelt Festival takes place every year for people who love to fish them or eat them. Everything there revolves around smelt – a fish that is small and homely, yet extraordinarily tasty. During the festival, smelt abounds in various forms: fresh, fried, marinated, smoked, or even made out of clay or carved from wood. The traditional fishing competition on Palanga Pier, the smelt-eating contest, and the food, music and games attract crowds of people to our largest seaside resort.
Shall we meet at the book fair? This is a very popular question in early February. The Vilnius Book Fair is a place where writers and their muses, and readers and protagonists fly, drive, walk and sail to come together. It is a place where characters come to life and you can ask all of the questions that you had while reading. At the Vilnius Book Fair, it seems like there is nothing more important to Lithuanians than a book. And if anyone tries to tell you that printed books are disappearing, take them to the book fair in Vilnius and show them that this is not the case. A children’s literature hall, creative workshops, a discussion forum, autograph, cinema and music halls, art exhibitions, a second-hand bookseller arcade – there is so much of everything that you might just come on Thursday and leave on Sunday.
Žemaitija National Park offers an abundance of natural and cultural heritage sites, biking and walking paths, tours, and workshops. Situated on the west bank of Lake Plateliai, Plateliai is one of the most beautiful towns in Samogitia with such a celebrated past. The town is known for its celebration of Užgavėnės(Fat Tuesday) – one of the biggest and most traditional holidays that is impossible to imagine without people in costumes and the bustle they make.
The most important accessory for the celebration is the “lyčyna” (mask). In the Plateliai region, masks were traditionally carved from wood or crafted from natural fur, then painted and decorated with sheep or goat horns, horse tails or manes, and pieces of fur. If you are interested in the characteristic Užgavėnėsmask characters, you can stop by the Užgavėnėsexhibition that is on display in the stables at Plateliai Manor. There are at least a dozen craftsmen in Samogitia who carve Užgavėnėsmasks and sell them year-round.
Treating a guest is an old Lithuanian tradition. And we adhere to it with sincerity. The custom of heaping people’s plates with food without asking if they want any is slowly fading, but our traditional holidays still involve gatherings around the table, heartfelt conversations with family, and lots and lots of food.
When Helen Mirren walks into her home as Catherine the Great in the new HBO mini series named after the famous Russian Empress, she’s not really in the actual rooms of the famed Tsarskoye Selo palace just south of Saint Petersburg. She’s actually in the historical Vilnius University Library in Vilnius, Lithuania. This and many more secrets are shared in a new guide entitled Vilnius On Screen. It’s a perfect read for those interested in what goes on behind the scenes of the latest productions by the likes of HBO, Netflix, National Geographic, Sky TV, and many more. The guide invites readers to take a deep dive into renowned film and television titles like War and Peace, Jack the Ripper, the Conductor, and more – and shows them how Vilnius provided the setting they needed to bring their stories to life.
Lithuanians drink amber tea, nettle wine, blueberry kvass and dandelion coffee, and they extract so much mineral water they can bathe in it. And, every spring, they drink juice from the trees.
Seasonal food is the main characteristic of Lithuanian cuisine. The sap from maple or birch trees has for a long time been the first natural treat of the year. The time to enjoy this slightly sweet nutritional drink, one sip of which embraces an entire waking forest, is the month of March.
Last year was a record one for the Lithuanian tourism sector. In 2018, 3.6 million tourists travelled in our country and spent at least one night here: of these, 1.7 million were people from abroad, while 1.9 million were from Lithuania.
It is now possible to travel back in time to when Vilnius was known as the Jerusalem of the North. Unlocking the Jewish cultural heritage deeply embedded into the city’s streets, buildings, and history has just become a lot easier thanks to the new free guide entitled, Discover Jewish Heritage in Vilnius.
Your urban birding can start right in the centre of the old town, that is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. While admiring the medieval architecture, also dish out equal admiration for the Black Redstarts that adorn many of the city’s pinnacles.