European Destinations of Excellence
We invite you to visit Lithuania’s seven most attractive tourist destinations, which have been being selected as European Destinations of Excellence since 2008. These sites will astound you with their unique nature and delight you with a wide range of entertainment. So relax at one of Lithuania’s incredible lakes, or experience what life used to be like at one of its beautiful manors. These destinations give you a chance to taste our national cuisine, birdwatch, or try your hand at ice fishing – and these are just a few of the many unique things Lithuanian tourism has to offer.
Nemunas Delta Regional Park is an exceptional combination of nature, culture, and sustainable tourism. A unique part of Nemunas Delta is Rusnė – an island surrounded by bogs and swamps that is located between Atmata and Skirvytė, which are distributaries of the Nemunas River. The unique landscape is created by the intertwining rivers, Krokų Lanka (a lake/lagoon), the delta flood-meadows, and the village of Minija (Mingė), which is known as the Venice of Lithuania.
Nemunas Delta is an important rest stop for travelling birds, as well as a breeding ground for many rare species. Also worth a visit is the Ventės Ragas Ornithological Station, where you can see how birds are banded. Especially during the big spring floods, this can be an unforgettable experience, since this is when the huge delta meadows are full of rare water birds. Nemunas Delta Regional Park is equipped with educational trails, observations towers and information stands. A favourite among tourists, the Aukštumala Educational Trail provides a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the raised bog and experience its distinctive and inimitable beauty.
Situated among more than 300 bodies of water, Zarasai is one of Lithuania’s most impressive lake districts. It deservedly takes pride in Drūkšiai, which is the largest lake in Lithuania, Lake Luodis, which is called a fisherman’s paradise, Sartai, which is the lake that the traditional horse races are held next to, and Lake Avilys, with its many bays, peninsulas and inflows. A lot of people go to Antalieptė Reservoir to relax – this is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the Zarasai region.
The Šventoji is a favourite among tourists looking for romance, and the upper reaches of the river is popular with water sports enthusiasts. Meanwhile, those in the mood for quiet relaxation opt for the shore of Lake Šventas. Zarasai offers a wonderful opportunity to take in Lake Zarasas and its islands from the 17-metre-high observation deck that has become the town’s calling card. One of the most complex architectural structures in Lithuania, the circular deck provides a breath-taking panoramic view of the lake and Didžioji Island. This, the largest island in Lake Zarasas, is home to the largest wake park in the Baltic States.
The Pakruojis manor site was first mentioned in the mid-16th century, but the current manor ensemble began to be built in the late 18th century, at the initiative and cost of Baron Wilhelm von der Ropp. It was thanks to him that the two-storey manor house – which stands out for its magnificent hexastyle portico – was erected in the early 19th century. Pakruojis Manor has been included in the Book of Lithuanian Records as the manor that has preserved the most buildings, with 34 on more than 48 hectares of land. The manor ensemble features a restored dolomite arch bridge, which is one of only two in Europe.
Guests of the manor can visit the ornate Neoclassical watermill that was built of stone. It is the only one of its kind in Lithuania. They are also welcome to go behind the scenes and visit the manor’s apiary, the garden, the dairy, and the laundry room. It is interesting to watch a cinema film in the windmill or participate in the Beer Road educational programme. The Living Museum programme is held on weekends, where you can see how pots are thrown, how sheep are shorn, and how perfume is made.
The architectural solutions at Rokiškis Manor reveal the change of architectural styles in Lithuania – from Neoclassicism to the Modernism that can be spotted in the palace interior. Rokiškis and the manor flourished in the late 18th century when Ignacy Tyzenhaus became owner of the estate. This is when the new Neoclassical palace and the adjacent stone masonry servants’ quarters was built, the park was landscaped, the ponds were put in, and the square in the old town of Rokiškis was revamped. After Ignacy Tyzenhaus died, Rokiškis was inherited by his son, Constantine Tyzenhaus, who was a well-known ornithologist. Befittingly, he turned the town into a science hub in the 19th century, setting up a nature research centre and planting many tropical plants in the conservatory and greenhouses.
Today, the manor has become a centre of attraction and an exhibition space, and during the Christmas season – the place where Santa Claus lives! At the Rokiškis Regional Museum, be sure to see Judita, a painting by the renowned High Renaissance era painter Andrea del Sarto, the only collection of authentic gentry clothing in the Baltic States, the exhibition of nativity scenes, and the wood carving sets.
Telšiai is called the “Town of Seven Hills” as well as the “Bear Capital”. Bears hold the “Globe of Samogitia”, decorate the bridges on the shore of Lake Mastis, and dot the town in the form of sculptures. They say that if you rub the nose of the Samogitian Legendbear, your dream will come true. There is even a huge black bear perched in the clock tower that stands tall in Market Square. In Cathedral Square, people who are visually impaired can get to know Telšiai by touching the only scale model town in Lithuania.
There is an elevator next to the modern amphitheatre that takes you down to the shore of Lake Mastis, which features biking and walking paths, playgrounds, and a sculpture park. The Žemaitė Drama Theatre, the Samogitian Museum, and the Telšiai Cultural Centre accommodate all visitors, regardless of physical capacity, disability or age.
Šakotis(Lithuanian spit cake) is the centrepiece of the Lithuanian holiday table. In 2015, upon baking a record-breaking šakotis, the first and only šakotismuseum in the world was opened in Jaskonys Village. This is where the Guinness World Record holder, which is 3.72 metres high and weighs 86 kilograms, is on display. The museum also features various šakotisbaking tools, as well as samples of other spit cakes that are baked around the world.
Educational programmes are held in Jaskonys Village where you can learn more about this delicacy and even take part in baking one. You will be able to pour batter on the rotating spit and form the “branches”, and taste different types of šakotis. The museum also hosts the “Dairy Road” and “Subtleties of Lithuanian Cuisine” educational programmes.
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.
The Paliesius Manor, dating back to the eighteenth century, has recently been brought back to life. The turbulent times that destroyed the manor buildings and wiped out the carefully hoarded riches of their owners, are over. Today, the house of the former manor supervisor features a hotel, a spa and a restaurant, while the old stables covered by a large glass roof have become a special concert venue, including performances by the most famous Lithuanian and foreign artists.