Vaidotas Grigas

Lithuania Allures Visitors With Contrast-Filled Vacation: From Deserted Sand Dunes to Urban Cinematic Spots

Having lifted pandemic traveling restrictions for many international visitors, Lithuania offers a chance to star in one’s own movie by visiting a plentitude of contrasting sites: from romantic getaway to emerald likes to haunting wanderings in a hill full of crosses.

Lithuania has already lifted COVID-19 restrictions for many foreign travelers. Given that over 56% Europeans are considering neighboring countries for their summer vacation, this Baltic gem offers a chance to experience its multitude of contrasts—from vast deserted sand dunes on the seaside, to the lush greenery of the country’s 6,000 emerald lakes.

To help tourists find themselves in sites worthy of a cinematic feature, Lithuania Travel, the national tourism development agency, has just released a video clip encouraging the visitors to be the heroes of their own adventurous movies and explore the country’s allure which lies in natural and urban contrasts similar to many of the favored movie genres—romance, horror, and comedy.

Modernity intertwined with traditions in a dramatic urban scene

Vilnius, the capital city, embodies the confluence of Lithuanian contrasts. Its Old Town, recognized as a UNESCO heritage site, features cobbled streets which spill into narrow alleys between Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Classical style buildings. Old secrets lurk in hidden corners, reminiscing of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while the red roofs reveal open views to many of the city’s churches.

However, the upbeat cosmopolitan life flows throughout the entire Vilnius, manifesting in its buoyant gourmet scene, incessant nightlife, and vibrant street art. For example, Užupis District embodies the bohemian spirit of the town and has statues, murals, and art installations all around it.

Zooming in on Lithuanian cultural contrasts, Kaunas, the second-largest city and a former temporary capital, leads the country’s yearning to fuse the modern with the traditional. As the European Capital of Culture 2022 and a testament to modernist and Art Deco styles, the city greets the visitors with plenty of art, educational, and cultural activities—exhibitions by Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovič, William Kentridge, festivals, and performances.

However, visitors can leave the dramatic city buzz and return to the olden days in Rumšiškės Village, located mere 30 km away from Kaunas. The ethnographic open-air museum depicts the buildings from all Lithuanian regions, dating back to centuries 18 through 20. A stone-paved market, craftsmen and tradesmen houses give way to a nobleman’s home at the Aristavėlė Manor House which was first mentioned by the crusaders as early as 14th century.

Romantic getaway to remote sandy beaches and verdant forest lakes

Although compact in size, Lithuania presents ample opportunities to sneak away in a myriad of swoon-worthy spots that differ greatly from region to region. Lithuanian Baltic seaside offers rejuvenating fresh air, restless sea, and remote hideaways for a romantic getaway. Uninhibited views crown the vast solitary beaches in the Curonian Spit, a UNESCO-listed peninsula which has a strictly protected nature and is a nimble ferry ride away from Klaipėda, the nonchalant port town. One of its most enchanting spots is Parnidis Dune in Nida. Towering at 52 m, it is one of the highest dunes in Europe, unveiling an awe-inspiring panorama of boundless sandy beaches which blend into fragrant pine forests.

The country’s lakes pose a sharp contrast to the seaside. Visitors craving to surround themselves in rich green pine forests and sparkling waters, might find a peaceful spot in one of the 279 lakes in Molėtai District. The longest one, Asveja, stretches for over 21 km and plunges 50 m deep.

On the other hand, those longing for a more fast-paced leisure time might consider visiting Zarasai Lake District. Over 300 clear lakes boast of open-air pools, diving trampolines, water-board parks, catamarans, and see-through boats for a glimpse of an exuberant underwater life. At the same time, Vilnius has a number of charismatic beaches just a step away from a bustling city life—ideal for a quick dip before continuing to wander its cobbled streets.

Thrilling fairytale grounds peppered with sacred objects

Adventurous wanderers might be tempted to visit Trakai Island Castle—a charming medieval city close to Vilnius. Not only does it offer a chance to roam its old-timey streets surrounded by waters, but also to find oneself in site favored by filmmakers: the Castle was chosen for 2005 movie Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, and the recent Norwegian adaptation of Three Wishes for Cinderella. Visitors can soak up the full fairytale effect of the island by taking a boat, a kayak, or a canoe around it.

But the cinematic thrills do not need to end there as Klaipėda is a home to a ship worthy of a feature in a pirate-themed movie. Meridianas is a sail-boat and a restaurant docked right in the city center. The old fishermen settlements and a modern marina of a nearby village of Dreverna also reinforce the illusion of a historical reenactment in modern times.

Unlike the cinematic attractions in the seaside region, the Hill of Crosses, nestled among the sweeping fields of Šiauliai District in the northern part of the country, holds thousands of crosses. Although a ghostly site at first glance, the hill bears witness of Lithuanian’s perseverance and strength, and hope glimmering even in the darkest times. Now visitors from all over the globe may leave a cross on the Hill to guard their prayers and wishes.