Tourists worldwide are getting in their vehicles and booking road trip vacations in record numbers despite inflation and hikes in gas prices. In a recent survey by The Vacationer, 80% of respondents stated they plan to take some sort of road trip this year.
Lithuania, with its captivating natural landscapes — around 33% of the country’s territory is covered by woods — and affordable, sprawling urban metropolises, has become a favorite among travelers looking for a short-term visit with their vehicle. The ease of traveling in one’s own vehicle allows visitors to explore both Lithuania’s most famous cities and what lies beyond them.
In fact, Lithuania was ranked as the third best overall country for road trips — according to car rental prices, parking, hotels, and other factors — by KAYAK in the Road Trip 2022 Index. Among the considered factors, road trips in Lithuania were ranked as third-best in sustainability, with a low level of air pollution and ample EV charging stations that help preserve the locations one may visit. It is also the only country in the top three to fully allow wild camping, opening up a plethora of opportunities for unique nights out on the road.
Here are some routes that serve as an immersive alternative for travelers who still want to go on an adventure this summer and those planning future trips to Lithuania.
Journey through three capitals: Vilnius, Trakai, Kaunas
For those who want to rent a car when they arrive in Lithuania, it is likely that the journey will start in Vilnius — home to a UNESCO-recognized old town full of cobblestone streets, centuries-old architecture, and a thriving cultural and gastro scene. Easily reached by both plane and car — which can be rented for a relatively small price of EUR 35 per day, on average — it serves as a lively start for further exploration of the country.
Before heading out on the long journey ahead, travelers looking to park their vehicle for the night in a site that feels otherworldly may look no further than Lavender Village. Only 28 km away from Vilnius, the quiet retreat is situated amongst fields of purple flowers and features a glimmering pond for fishing or a refreshing swim.
The drive from Vilnius to Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, actually takes a little over an hour, but there’s a reason to keep this day’s driving so short. Lying just 30km outside of Vilnius on this route is the town of Trakai — the country’s historical capital and a seeming time-portal to medieval times. The highlight of the town looms over Lake Galvė — the gothic Trakai Island Castle.
After walking the paths of 15th-century Grand Dukes and cooling off with a bout of paddleboarding in the lake, the trip towards Kaunas may continue with a stop at a fuzz-filled Alpaca Farm — the first of its kind in Lithuania. For groups looking to experience nature firsthand, get up close to the South American creature, and even come away with an alpaca wool souvenir — this peaceful oasis is a must-visit.
Before journeying into the final capital on this route, Kaunas, it is a wise choice to halt the trip and rest at the serene Pažaislis Monastery — a baroque diamond from the 17th century. Sitting right next to the glimmering waters of Kaunas’ reservoir, the monastery features a Sacral Heritage Museum located in the southern section. Its neighbor, Monte Pacis, is a distinctive food and hospitality complex where you may sample modern takes on traditional foods.
Finally — Kaunas, Lithuania’s temporary capital from 1919 to 1940, retains somewhat of a claim to the title by being the European Capital of Culture 2022. After a short drive from the monastery, travelers arrive at a one-stop-shop of all things culture and history — from UNESCO heritage Modernist architecture to an exhibition by world-famous artist Yoko Ono.
Towards the seaside through a symbol of freedom
In the Northern part of Lithuania sits one of the most mysterious parts in all of the Baltics — the Hill of Crosses. The hill, which is located close to the city of Šiauliai, is home to hundreds of thousands of crosses left by pilgrims under Soviet rule. It serves as a profound representation of freedom, faith, and hope that continues to grow today despite being desecrated and set on fire in the past.
The trip may then continue on through the cognitive walkway of Mūša tyrelis a mere 40km away. Being Lithuania’s longest boardwalk, the 3.6 km route at Žagarė Regional Park is special. For those who are interested in the ecosystems of bogs, such a long elevated trail is a real discovery because it allows them to get to know the bog’s vegetation and wildlife in their natural habitat and to enjoy the peace and quiet that is only broken by the bog’s wildlife, such as the black grouse, gray cranes, and geese.
Also near Šiauliai stands the 19th-century Pakruojis Manor, another historical landmark with an impressive hexastyle portico. Guests of the manor can visit the ornate Neoclassical stone watermill, the only one of its kind in Lithuania. Going behind the scenes to the apiary, the garden, the dairy, and the laundry room reveals glimpses of how Lithuania’s old aristocracy functioned. The nearby hippy-themed Sunny Nights Hostel & Camping, which evolved from a century-old post office to a farmstead with a lush apple garden, offers visitors a chance to relax after a long day of travel.
Road trip enthusiasts can head further down to the Lithuanian seaside en route to Klaipėda — the country’s sole port and gateway to the Baltic Sea. Nowadays, the city is abuzz with a fresh seafood gastro scene and lively bars that are filled with chatter and music well into the night. Vast beaches hug the city along the western side, perfect for catching a breath of refreshing sea air before the next location.
Winding past timeless sand dunes and fishing villages
Onwards to Lithuania’s western-most part and the untamed beaches of the Baltic seaside, travelers can witness the country’s diverse landscape once more at the Aukštumala Educational Trail. The route that has been built along the kūlgrinda, an old underwater road of stones that ran through the marshes, makes it feasible to go more than a kilometer over the elevated bog’s surface. This feat would otherwise be impossible. It used to be a covert method to flee from enemies, but today it offers visitors a chance to learn about the bog’s thriving vegetation and to take in its distinctive beauty up close.
A small glimpse into what seaside villages have to offer can be found in what has been named Lithuania’s Venice, Mingė — the only village in Lithuania where the main street is replaced by the river Minija, and where neighbors opt to visit each other in their own boats or speedboats. Those looking for a switch-up to their usual mode of transport may be delighted to learn that in recent years, Mingė has seen a rapid development of water and rural tourism, with a marina for yachts and motor boats. The village is well connected by water to Rusnė, Cape Ventė, Dreverna, Nida, and other Curonian Spit resorts.
The finale of a Lithuanian road trip may take visitors to the UNESCO-recognised Curonian Spit peninsula and unwind after days of fruitful exploration out on the road. There are several tranquil oases to discover among the 98 km of the Lithuanian Sahara’s endless dunes and peaceful pine tree forests. Included in those oases are the towns of Smiltynė, Juodkrantė, and Nida — laid-back yet luxurious former fishing villages. Even though Lithuanians from all over the nation go there during the summer, the town nevertheless has crystal-white beaches, breathtaking scenery, and well-known restaurants.