Historically a forest country, Lithuania has much to offer travellers looking for sustainable outdoor adventure. Under-the-radar wonders of nature draw into new experiences. Visitors may try herb picking, dragonfly watching or forest bathing.
With discussions over climate change and world health gathering pace, ever more people express support for sustainable travel. In the recent survey 42% of respondent travellers indicated their willingness to prioritize sustainability.
For those seeking sustainable under-the-radar experiences, Lithuania is a destination of peaceful respite. Its natural forests offer aesthetic pleasure of colour and sound. Not long ago these woods hid military secrets as well. The remnants of Soviet ballistic missile base may still be found in the forests of Central Lithuania, such as the ground-based medium-range nuclear missile base in the district of Ukmerge. But with the end of the Cold War, the forests of Lithuania have been returned to back people to enjoy, camp, hike, and so on.
"We are a forest country," explained Indrė Trakimaitė-Šeškuvienė, Head of Marketing at Lithuania Travel. "Forest is an important symbol of Lithuanian history and culture. Despite industrial development of the 19-20th centuries, we have preserved large spaces of natural forest. With the rise of eco-tourism these locations are turning into sites of meditation, natural health practice and other ways to achieve the deeper sense of unity with nature."
She listed 7 opportunities to explore Lithuanian forest green in all its depth. Several sites can be combined in one tour taking one of the suggested camping routes or developing a route of your own.
1. Herb picking
Using herbs and herbal tea as a cure is an established tradition in Lithuania. Most Lithuanians know the basics of herbal medicine: herbs that help digestion, ease coughing or other symptoms of cold and flu. But some go much deeper than that. In North-Eastern Lithuania, in the forest-surrounded town of Anykščiai, professional herbalist Ramūnas Daugelavičius combines traditional Lithuanian experience with knowledge of other cultures and scientific methods to provide unique experience of herbs. From herb picking for spices to special tea ceremonies, fire rituals and seed root coffee - all possible ways to enjoy the original gifts of nature.
2. Butterfly and dragonfly watching
Butterfly and dragonfly watching may be as interesting and rewarding as bird watching. Lithuania is the only place in the world where dragonflies are professionally monitored and marked. These small animals travel thousands of kilometres, as the scientists have found. At Ventė ornithology station the secrets of dragonfly migration are only now being uncovered. Not far from the station, in the Western part of Lithuania, ecotourism enthusiast Daiva Stanislovaitienė offers butterfly, dragonfly and bird watching trips combined with cosy stay in a comfortable villa.
3. Forest bathing
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is a way to heal and restore the human spirit, which tires of work and rush of the technology-dominated world. The slow immersion into the forest through sight, sound, smell and even taste helps to relax, regain intellectual focus and strengthen health. A certified guide of shinrin-yoku Mila Monk gives private and group tours in different Lithuanian forests.
4. The largest dreamcatcher in the world
Dreamcatchers are said to protect from bad dreams. Those with serious nightmares should visit the pine forest in Asveja regional park in Eastern Lithuania. The largest dreamcatcher in the world is almost 13 metres high and 10 metres of diameter. It is made of more than 1 kilometre of rope, 700 hundred wooden parts, 319 beads and weighs 156 kilograms. The dreamcatcher is located in the territory of the eco resort Golden Forest. The resort also houses a forest labyrinth of four elements which can be passed only using the intuition, and holds the annual Masters of Calm festival for active and conscious community.
5. The forest gramophone
The forest sound catcher may be found in the Curonian Spit - the natural seaside reservation in the Western Lithuania. 3 metres high gramophone-like construction enhances the natural sounds of forest. The visitors should spend about half an hour inside to experience the peaceful flow of the forest symphony.
6. The forest dunes
Sand dunes are the usual sight of the Baltic seaside. But some of them are located far from the sea and deep in the forests. In the pine forests of South-Eastern Lithuania the dunes totally transform the landscape and provide unique experience of the raw nature.
7. Meteorite crater
165 million years ago a huge meteorite landed near Vepriai in Central Lithuania. The explosion and fire extinguished all life in the territory of Lithuania and left a crater of 50 square kilometres. The best way to explore the site is to take one of the many bicycle routes across the crater.