Overview

Vilnius Old Town
Vilnius Old Town © Sarunas Burdulis

The Republic of Lithuania, on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, boldly became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence in 1990. With a restructured economy, it joined the EU in the spring of 2004, and the gates of this fascinating country are now wide open for tourists and pleasure-seekers.

Relatively small, with only 62 miles (100km) of Baltic coastline, and hemmed in by Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and part of the Russian Federation, Lithuania has a wide variety of offerings for visitors, including around 2,500 lakes, 18 sizeable meandering rivers, and forests covering a third of its territory.

The country also boasts of being smack in the centre of Europe: travellers can stand in the official centre of the continent at a now popular tourist attraction 15 miles (24km) northwest of the capital, Vilnius.

Vilnius itself is an ancient and atmospheric city, founded in 1323, with a beautiful old quarter declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just a few miles from Vilnius lies Trakai, capital of Lithuania in the Middle Ages, on the shore of the scenic Lake Galve.

A little farther west, visitors can revel in the peaceful Birstonas mineral water spa resort. Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, is a cultural centre boasting numerous museums and a number of renowned theatres among its attractions.

On its Baltic coastline, Lithuania lures travellers with pretty seaside resorts such as Palanga, with unspoilt white sandy beaches backed by pine forests. Easily accessible by air and road from the main centres of Europe, an ever-increasing number of travellers continue to savour the delights of this Baltic State.

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