Hiking, rambling, trekking and other ways of nature exploration have grown popular among European travellers, who are used to well-maintained trails, breathtaking scenery and comfort along the way. With its 200+ nature trails, Lithuania always had something to offer to visitors wanting to escape the city for a day or two. But starting this season, the Baltic country has a newly marked 747-kilometre forest trail added to one of the longest hiking trails in Europe – the E11. True to its name, the Miško Takas (Forest Trail) passes through some of the greenest spots in the country, including several national parks.
Lithuania’s Miško Takas trail forms a part of not just the E11 (Hoek van Holland-Tallinn) hiking trail but also the longer Forest Trail that goes through all the three Baltic states. After finishing the Lithuanian trek that takes 36-38 days, hikers can continue on the E11 routes in Latvia or Poland. The trail in Lithuania is divided into newly-marked segments of approximately 20 kilometres, with accommodation spots available at the start and end of every section. Each of the sections has a difficulty designation of either easy, medium or hard.
What can seasoned hikers expect in Lithuania?
When mapping the trail, both geographic and ethnographic variety of Lithuania were taken into account. Thus, the Forest Trails features sparsely populated woodland and river valleys, tiny villages, Lithuania’s mineral water resorts and the Modernist architecture of Kaunas (this year’s European Capital of Culture). A through-hike features the following segments:
Dzūkija ethnographic region – Lithuania’s most forested area
Length/duration: 140 km, 6 days.
Starting at the Polish-Lithuania border, this segment of the Forest Trail takes hikers through the ethnographic region of Dzūkija, known for its deep connection to the woods. The area is popular among foragers, who come here to pick berries and mushrooms (Varėna, a small off-trail town, even hosts an annual Mushroom Picking Festival). The trail passes through Dzūkija National Park and Veisėjai Regional Park, with many opportunities to take a dip in one of the region’s many lakes and rivers. Hikers are also welcome to explore the resort town of Druskininkai, known for its mineral water springs, SPAs and one of the world’s largest indoor skiing slopes.
Along Nemunas river loops
Length/duration: 111 km, 5-6 days.
The Forest Trail meanders along the wooded banks of river Nemunas through the Nemunas Loops Regional Park. Even the most seasoned hikers will be impressed by the 40 m-high outcrops that provide a spectacular view of the serpentine-like river, the longest in Lithuania. The trail also passes through Birštonas, a resort town popular with mudding enthusiasts that features multiple mineral water springs and a garden set up on the basis of the teachings of Sebastian Kneipp, one of the founders of naturopathy.
Kaunas and Kaunas District – the heart of Lithuania
Length/duration: 79 km, 5 days
The most urban segment of the Forest Trail introduces visitors to this year’s European Capital of Culture – Kaunas. The city, which served as Lithuania’s capital between the two world wars, hosts some of the finest examples of Modernist architecture in Europe. Situated at the confluence of Lithuania’s two longest rivers Nemunas and Neris, Kaunas is surrounded by forests, meadows and floodplains.
Along the banks of the Dubysa river valley
Length/duration: 141 km, 6-7 days
The Forest Trail passes through Dubysa Regional Park, where castle-mounds, churches and other cultural and historical sites dot the riverbanks. The Dubysa is a beautiful river favoured by kayaking and rafting enthusiasts because of its rapid flow. The Forest Trail passes through the historic settlements of Betygala, Ugionius and Šiluva and finally reaches Tytuvėnai Regional Park, the wetlands of which are home to many rare bird species. Šiluva, a site of an apparition of the Virgin Mary, is an important Catholic-pilgrimage site that sees tens of thousands of believers gather every September for the Indulgence Feast.
Žemaitija ethnographic region
Length/duration: 276 km, 14 days
The longest section of the trail passes through the ethnographic region of Žemaitija (Samogitia), which has its own distinct traditions and a dialect of Lithuanian that some linguists even call a separate language. Passing through quaint Samogitian towns and along the region’s most picturesque lakes, this section also showcases the country’s pagan past, as it features many ancient castle-mounds and the Hill of Šatrija – a meeting point for Samogitia’s witches, according to local legends. The section ends at the Latvian border where the trail continues for another 674 kilometres in Latvia and 720 kilometres in Estonia.
Detailed information about all the sections can be found on the BalticTrails.eu website available in English, German, Russian, Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian. The website also provides downloadable GPX maps and lists available accommodation options, as well as cafés and resting areas along the way. More than 100 service providers along the trail have also received a Hiker-Friendly badge, which guarantees the best possible service to visitors.