Home to ancient pine forests, tranquil rivers, and hundreds of interconnected lakes, Lithuania's Aukstaitija National Park is a paradise for kayakers. On this week-long adventure, you'll get your bearings in the capital of Vilnius before heading to Trakai for an afternoon of paddling around its spectacular island castle. Then it's on to the country's oldest national park, where you'll spend four days kayaking through crystal clear waters and discovering a land of riverside villages, grassy islets, and unspoiled nature.

Highlights

  • Discover Vilnius' history & culture on a guided tour of the Lithuanian capital
  • Paddle along the shores of Lake Galve & Trakai Castle
  • Embark on a self-guided kayaking adventure in Aukštaitija National Park
  • Explore remote lakes, peaceful rivers & unspoiled forests
  • Spend your evenings in cozy village guesthouses within the park
  • Spot local landmarks like Ladakalnis Hill & the iconic wooden church of Paluse

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vilnius Vilnius
Day 2 Discover Vilnius on a Guided Tour Vilnius
Day 3 Castles & Kayaking at Lake Galvė, Transfer to Aukštaitija National Park Ginučiai
Day 4 Kayak the River Būka to Ginučiai Ginučiai
Day 5 Kayak the Chain Lakes to Palūšė Paluse
Day 6 Kayak Through Lakes & Rivers to Kaltanėnai Kaltanėnai
Day 7 Kayak the Žeimena River to Švenčionėliai, Transfer to Vilnius & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vilnius

Sunset over the Vilnius skyline

Welcome to Vilnius! The Lithuanian capital 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 Napoleon to Hitler, and it fell under Russian rule after WWII until it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1990.       

Get settled into your accommodations, then head to the Old Town for dinner, where you can toast your first evening in Lithuania with one of the country's famous craft beers.                  

Day 2: Discover Vilnius on a Guided Tour

The grand Cathedral Square in Vilnius

Spend this morning on a guided walking tour of Old Town, the medieval heart of Vilnius and home to 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 several grand dukes of Lithuania and even King Alexander of Poland. 

Other highlights 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, 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.  

You'll have the remainder of the afternoon free to explore at your own pace.

Day 3: Castles & Kayaking at Lake Galvė, Transfer to Aukštaitija National Park

Spend this morning exploring the island castle of Trakai

Head out of the city today with a 35-minute drive west towards 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.

Start by heading to the water's edge for a guided kayak tour. You'll paddle through tranquil waters around islands while enjoying great views of the castle, the Užutrakis Tyszkiewicz Mansion, and the ruins of Peninsular Castle, a fortification located on the south end of the lake and commissioned by the Duke of Trakai in the 14th century. After returning to dry land, see Trakai Castle up close with a tour of the historic fortification, built in the latter half of the 14th century from red brick and stone. 

In the afternoon, you'll get back on the road for the 87-mile (140 km) drive northeast to the spectacular Aukštaitija National Park—your base for the next three nights as you explore the forests and lakes of Lithuania's oldest national park by kayak. Get settled into a comfortable and cozy guesthouse in nearby Ginučiai and rest up for tomorrow's adventure.

Paddling distance: 7 miles (11 km)

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Day 4: Kayak the River Būka to Ginučiai

Paddle through tranquil reeds along the river's shore

The self-guided portion of your kayaking adventure starts today, as you hit the water to explore the River Būka. Paddling along one of the most picturesque rivers in Aukštaitija National Park, you'll pass remote traditional villages and enjoy the tranquility of the park's lush woods. After reaching a beautiful inner pond located on a small island in Lake Baluošas, you'll return to Ginučiai in the afternoon and have the rest of the evening free.

Paddling distance: 12 miles (20 km)                

Day 5: Kayak the Chain Lakes to Palūšė

A series of interconnected lakes lead you to the village of Palūšė

Set out from Ginučiai this morning and make your way through the heart of Aukštaitija National Park, paddling along a series of several chain lakes. Stop along the way to climb the remains of Ginučiai's ancient hillfort, and take in sweeping views across six lakes from the top of nearby Ladakalnis Hill. In the late afternoon, you'll arrive in the rustic village of Palūšė and get settled into your guesthouse. Spend the remainder of the day exploring the village and its idyllic surroundings. Don't miss a visit to the Church of Palūšė, a remarkable early 18th-century structure thought to be Lithuania's oldest surviving wooden church.  

Paddling distance: 11 miles (18 km)

Day 6: Kayak Through Lakes & Rivers to Kaltanėnai

Guesthouse Žeimenos vingis
Paddle to a rustic guesthouse on the shores of the Žeimena River

Set out from nearby Meironys this morning, as you paddle your way around the picturesque lakes of Lūšiai, Šakarvai, and Žeimenys. Entering the peaceful Žeimena River, you'll spot a stunning peninsula where the small town of Kaltanėnai is located and your riverside guesthouse awaits. After settling in, spend the afternoon exploring the surrounding village and the remains of its historic manor house and granary.

Paddling distance: 10 miles (16 km)

Day 7: Kayak the Žeimena River to Švenčionėliai, Transfer to Vilnius & Departure

Spend your final morning kayaking on the Žeimena River

Enjoy your final day of kayaking as you paddle down the Žeimena River—one of the country's most popular and picturesque waterways. Eventually, you'll reach a beach next to the bridge in Švenčionėliai, where your guide will be waiting to transfer you back to Vilnius for your onward journey. Safe travels!

Paddling distance: 11 miles (18 km)

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