- Tour the medieval city of Vilnius
- Visit Trakai Peninsula and see the island castle
- Explore the white-sand beaches of the Curonian Spit
- Stop at the Hill of Crosses, a famous Catholic pilgrimage site
|Day 1||Arrival & City Tour of Vilnius - Trakai Castle||Vilnius|
|Day 2||From Vilnius to Kaunas - Stop in Kernavé||Kaunas|
|Day 3||From Kaunas to Klaipėda - Stop in Palanga||Vilnius|
|Day 4||Day Trip along the Curonian Spit||Klaipeda|
|Day 5||Klaipėda to Hill of Crosses - Transfer to Vilnius - Departure||Vilnius|
Day 1: Arrival & City Tour of Vilnius - Trakai Castle
Welcome to the capital of Lithuania! Like many European capitals, Vilnius has a rich history.
This city, which sits on the Neris River, dates to the 14th century and in its heyday was a melting pot of cultures. People flocked here from as near as Poland and as far as Eurasia, many coming to attend Vilnius University. Founded in the 16th century, this was one of the premier learning institutions in Europe. Over the next few centuries, Lithuania was conquered by everyone from Napolean to Hitler, and it fell under Russian rule after WWII until it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1990.
Spend the morning on a guided walking tour of Old Town, the medieval heart of Vilnius. One highlight is Vilnius Cathedral. Consecrated in 1783 and sitting on the expansive Cathedral Square, this is Lithuania's premier Roman-Catholic church. Moreover, its mausoleum is the final resting place of some notable figures throughout history including grand dukes of Lithuania and even King Alexander of Poland.
Other stops include Gediminas Tower, a 15th-century defensive castle on the banks of the river; the Church of St. Peter and Paul, a 17th-century Lithuanian Baroque cathedral; the 15th-century St. Anne's Church, another Baroque gem; Vilnius University, which, having been founded in 1579, is the oldest university in the Baltics; and the Gate of Dawn, the city's medieval defensive fortification, which was built around a chapel that remains a major catholic pilgrimage site in Lithuania.
Afterward, you'll transfer a half-hour west of Vilnius to the town of Trakai. Situated on a peninsula on Lake Galvė, this village, home to about 5,000 people, is as much a scenic national park as it is a town. Here, amid the unspoiled woodlands and lake islands, rises medieval Trakai Castle, the star landmark of the area. You'll visit this handsome fortification, which was built in the latter half of the 14th century out of red brick and stone and is done in the Gothic style.
Afterward, you'll return to Vilnius and will have the evening free.
Day 2: From Vilnius to Kaunas - Stop in Kernavé
In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel for the 1.5-hour drive west from Vilnius to Kaunas. En route, you'll stop in the village Kernavė, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating to the 13th century when it was the medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The area is also an archeological site, as here there are ruins of ancient human settlements dating back to 9000 BCE.
After visiting Kernavė, you'll continue on to Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania. Upon arrival, you can take a walk around Old Town and visit landmarks like Town Hall Square and the House of Perkūnas, a Gothic merchant house that dates to the 15th century. You'll of course also visit Kaunas Castle, a Gothic fortress built on a hill overlooking the Nemunas River and which dates to the middle of the 14th century.
Day 3: From Kaunas to Klaipėda - Stop in Palanga
In the morning you'll leave Kaunas on a 2.5-hour drive west to the Lithuanian coast and Palanga, Lithuania´s most popular seaside resort town. Besides its wide beaches, Palanga is known for its Amber Museum, which you'll visit. Located in a 19th-century palace, it features a collection of about 28,000 amber pieces, many of which contain insects, spiders, and plants.
Afterward, you'll continue the drive a short way south to the port city Klaipėda. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and then embark on a sightseeing tour. It begins in Klaipėda's Old Town, known for its old cobblestone streets lined with medieval guild houses. You'll then visit landmarks like Theatre Square and the Ann from Tharau Fountain, which is dedicated to Simon Dach, a famous German poet born in Klaipėda and which features a sculpture of his muse, Ann.
Day 4: Day Trip along the Curonian Spit
In the morning you'll leave from Klaipėda and head south along the Curonian Spit, a long, thin sandspit that runs 62 miles (100 km) between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. Dotting this narrow strip of land are sleepy fishing villages, isolated pine forests, and endless sand dunes.
The first stop on this route will be at the Hill of Witches, located at the lagoonside village of Juodkrantė. Despite the spooky name, this landmark is actually a collection of wooden sculptures atop a forested sand dune. There are over 80 sculptures here done by local artists that depict themes of paganism and Lithuanian folklore.
After that, you'll continue south towards the border with the Russian province of Kaliningrad. Here you'll stop at another resort town, Nida. It's a popular summer vacation spot home to high coastal sand dunes and Thomas Mann’s summer house. You'll take a stroll around town and enjoy dinner at a traditional Lithuanian restaurant before driving back to Klaipėda.
Day 5: Klaipėda to Hill of Crosses - Transfer to Vilnius - Departure
In the morning you'll leave Klaipėda, we continue to Šiauliai. Just north of this city lies the Hill of Crosses, one of the holiest Catholic sites in Lithuania. Pilgrims have been leaving crosses on this small rural hill since 1830 when the site was a pivotal landmark in Lithuania's resistance against Russian aggressors. In the intervening years, the arrival of pilgrims has been so regular that today the hill has over 100,000 crosses, crucifixes, and statues of the Virgin Mary.
After touring the Hill of Crosses, you'll continue to nearby Naisiai. This village is notable for its public park featuring wooden sculptures of Lithuanian pagan gods. From there you'll continue on to Vilnius. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport and catch your flight home. See you soon!