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Lovely, laidback Lithuania, with its beautiful baroque little capital Vilnius, must be Europe’s most underrated destination. Yet its rich history and folk culture, compact size, moderate weather and natural beauty make it an absolute delight to explore. Located on the Baltic Sea, its neighbours include Latvia to the north, Belarus in the east, Poland in the southwest, and Russian Kaliningrad to the west.
While the name Lithuania was first mentioned in 1009, it didn’t begin to develop until the 13th century, however, by the middle ages Lithuania stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, becoming Europe’s largest state. It also became one of its most prosperous; Lithuania’s wealth built upon trade and crafts and boasted one of Europe’s first important learning institutions, Vilnius University, established in 1579. After uniting with Poland to form a commonwealth in 1569, by the 16th century Lithuania had created an enviable legislative system that would influence other European states. Adopted in 1791, the Constitution of Poland-Lithuania, along with the French Constitution, would become Europe’s first constitutions.Read more
Lithuania remained part of the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth until the 18th century, when it was annexed into the Russian Empire. After the Tsarist monarchy was dissolved in 1918, Lithuania became independent – until 1940 when it was first occupied by the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany and then the Soviets again. Once more, Lithuania declared its independence in 1990, one of the first Soviet republics to do so and boomed once more, becoming one of Europe’s fastest growing economies and a member of the European Union, of which it will hold the Presidency in 2013.
Lithuania’s fascinating ethnic differences – there are five distinct ethnographic areas, each with its own dialects, customs, traditions, stories, architecture, costumes, music and dance – reflect its complicated political history. Lithuanians are rightly proud of their heritage and folklore and for travellers interested in culture, crafts and food, the rich diversity makes travelling around the country extremely compelling. While town museums provide informative introductions and the best opportunities for experiencing Lithuania’s heritage are festivals, especially during spring and summer.
Most visitors come for the outdoors and the country doesn’t disappoint with a natural, pristine beauty that’s enviable: emerald green rolling hills, fragrant pine forests, serene lakes with island castles and windswept beaches with towering sand-dunes. Western Lithuania is exceptionally beautiful with its highlight the UNESCO World Heritage listed Curonian Spit, with impressive sand dunes on a slither of land separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. For kicking back on the beach, Palanga, with white sands backed by pine forest, is unbeatable.
Places of interest in Lithuania
Lively Kaunas, 100 kilometres west of Vilnius, is Lithuania’s second largest city. Some people find it to be an...
Lithuania’s little capital has a population of just over half a million people and is simply captivating. At its...
Activities in Lithuania
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