News2023.04.29 12:00

Bear’s Rear and giantess tomb: Lithuania’s most spectacular landscapes 2023.04.29 12:00

Spring and summer are the best seasons to explore Lithuania. National and regional parks hold some of the most beautiful natural spots – and here are nine of them start off with.

All Lithuanian protected areas are now equipped with nature trails, signages and information boards, making visits easy, says Diana Rakauskaitė, spokeswoman for the State Service for Protected Areas.

More than 20 observation towers have recently been built in national and regional parks, as well as lookout points on mounds and higher hills.

This summer, the service is organising the “Protected Areas Passport” campaign. Visitors can trace their steps in a “passport” they can pick up at any visitor centre or print out themselves. Those who visit five national parks and 30 regional parks will receive a book about Lithuania’s protected areas, says Rakauskaitė.

1. Arlaviškės Juniper Valley (Kaunas Lagoon Regional Park)

The Arlaviškės Trail, also known as the Juniper Valley Trail, is located near the Kaunas Lagoon. The 1.3 km long boardwalk and natural surface trail leads through a picturesque forest, descends towards the Kaunas Lagoon and circles back to the Juniper Valley. In 2016, the trail, which was renovated in 2022, was voted the most beautiful trail in Lithuania, and for good reason, as the views from the trail are unforgettable: you can see not only the Juniper Valley below, but also the Kaunas Lagoon, the island of Dabinta, and the meadows of the village of Ručkakiemis on the other shore of the lagoon.

2. Lake Žuvintas (Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve)

The gem of the only biosphere reserve in Lithuania is the Žuvintas marsh with the Žuvintas lake – a swampy, shallow lake, with an average depth of only 0.6 m, and many floating islands of vegetation. It is the realm of wild birds of more than 240 species. It is home to large populations of waders, reed bunting, and wading hens, thousands of migrating cranes, geese, and other waterfowl and marsh birds, and one of Europe's rarest birds, the warbler. Lithuania is one of only four countries where this globally threatened bird still breeds. There is a visitor centre with an interactive exhibition and a nature trail to the lake.

3. Bear’s Rear (Dzūkija National Park)

Near the village of Marcinkoniai, there is a bog with a strange name, which is often the reason why people choose to visit it – Meškos Šikna (Bear’s Rear). It can be reached by following the Zackagiris trail. The marsh is covered with rare small pine trees, its surface is covered with bog moss, and there are also cranberries, chanterelles, hogweed, and cowslips. The bog moss grow slightly each year, and the lower part is gradually disintegrating into a peat layer with other plants, which is up to 5.5 m thick.

4. Preila Dune (Curonian Spit National Park)

The chain of dunes that stretches across the Curonian Spit is known as the Great Dune Ridge. Preila Dune is one of its peaks. A couple of years ago, the Curonian Spit National Park Authority installed a stairway that can be used to reach the top of the dune directly from the village of Preila. The 53-metre dune offers a wide panorama of the Curonian Spit, with green forests, the tops of the dunes covered with pine trees, and the water lapping the sandy strip on both sides. Here you can watch the sun rising from the lagoon and setting into the sea.

5. Kačėniškės Castle Mound (Sirveta Regional Park)

The hilly terrain of the Švenčionys Upland clearly reveals the landscape of the Sirveta Regional Park, the jewel of which is the Kačėniškės Castle Mound by Lake Mergežeris. The steep slopes of the mound stand out clearly against the backdrop of the surrounding forest, with one slope ending at the lake and the other in a lowland meadow through which a nature trail winds. The slopes reach 22 m from the water at its highest point. From the top of the mound, you can see not only the lake, but also the hills of the Švenčionys Upland on the other side. As the mound is located far from settlements or roads, it offers perfect tranquility.

6. Sprūdė Castle Mound (Varniai Regional Park)

Sprūdė Castle Mound is one of the most beautiful castle mounds in Samogitia, rising 216 m above sea level. From the top there are excellent views of lakes Biržulis and Lūkstas, and the Šatrija and Medvėgalis castle mounds are clearly visible. Legend has it that Duke Sprūdeika built this mound with three bands of ramparts, four metres tall, and built a mighty wooden castle with huge dungeons.

7. Mūšos Tyrelis Nature Trail (Žagarė Regional Park)

The Mūšos Tyrelis Nature Trail is located in the valuable natural territory of the Mūšos Tyrelis Telmological Reserve. This unique natural complex in Northern Lithuania consists of a high marsh, an intermediate marsh, a low marsh, peat bogs and wet forests. The southern part of the wetland is the source of the Mūša and Juodupis rivers, while the eastern part of the wetland is home to the natural lake Miknaičiai and many small lakes. The 6.7 km-long nature trail encircles the entire Mūšos Tyrelis Marsh and is the longest boardwalk in the marshes, and is included in the Lithuanian Book of Records.

8. Meironai Nature Trail (Aukštaitija National Park)

Aukštaitija National Park is a land of deep hollows winding between spectacular ridges and hills, glistening with lakes and streams. It is home to the deepest lake in Lithuania, Lake Tauragnas, as well as fragments of the oldest forests in Lithuania. The park is home to more than 4,500 species of plants, animals and fungi, 195 of which are listed in the Lithuanian Red Book. You can get to know some of these natural treasures by following the nature trail between the villages of Palūšė and Meironiai, near Lake Lūšių. You can choose from three circular routes of different lengths, covering different natural highlights and introducing you to their treasures: the relief ring for those who want to climb hills, the wetland ring leads you through a boggy ravine, and the Taramas Lake ring reveals the beauty of the lakes.

9. Girnikai Hill (Kurtuvėnai Regional Park)

Girnikų Hill or Sanctuary Hill is the highest hill in Šiauliai District, rising 183.4 m. The hill offers magnificent views of the regional park, with the Kurtuvėnai Church whitewashed in the south, the ponds glistening like a mirror in the sun, Šiauliai to the east, and the Šatrija Mountain, 30 km to the west, with its steep slopes, in the chain of hills of the Samogitian Uplands. Legends mention a sacred place here. There are stories of Kurtuova, the mother of giants, buried on the hill, of a burnt-out church, and of a stone at the top of the hill on which a sacred fire burned.

Information prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment, the Environmental Project Management Agency of the Ministry of the Environment, and financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

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