Miles of deserted and pristine white sandy beaches await families looking for a European holiday destination with a difference. With its relaxed locals and plenty of history, culture and fine hospitality to boot, Lithuania’s Baltic coastline is waiting to be discovered. Junior writer Rebecca Hay spent five days exploring the region, to see what delights are in store for the intrepid traveller.
DAY ONE: What’s so great about Palanga?
With eleven miles of unspoilt beaches and sand dunes mean this small town becomes Lithuania’s busiest summer resort. The coastline is as beautiful as Northumberland and Palanga has a lovely pier to rival Southend. The L shaped walkway was built in the 1800s and is a great people watching spot, with rows of benches for you to stop and drink in the scenery. It joins the lively traffic free Basanavičiaus Street, crammed full of bars, restaurants and stalls selling locally caught fish.
The neo-renaissance style Tyszkiewicz Palace can be reached from the beach through the immaculately maintained Birute park. Built in 1887 for the Tyszkiewicz family, it now houses a fascinating amber museum with 28,000 pieces of the gem, 15,000 of which have insects, plants or spiders inside them. Europe’s third largest specimen of amber , the Sun Stone is also on display, despite having been stolen twice!
The former fishing village is upmarket and meticulously clean and tidy and surrounded by pine forests. So good is the sea air, that the town is now renowned for its spa hotels, with one of the best, The Gradiali, just 500 metres from the beach. The 162 bedroom hotel caters for all, with spa facilities and luxury accommodation and restaurants on the lower floor and a medical suite where you can receive specialist treatments to help the mind and body.
For real family fun, the Atostogu Parkas is the biggest health and recreation complex in Western Lithuania and has 15 in and outdoor swimming pools, including the only geothermal mineral water facility in the country. Set in the forest and only a short ride from Palanga Airport, it is a great base to explore the area. Both hotels serve Lithuanian specialities such as deep fried breadsticks which go down well with a cool light beer and more exotic fish and meat dishes.
Fun Fact: Lithuanian amber is like gold and famed for its magic and value. Pieces of art including a giant amber “scotch egg’’ and “fried’’ fish are two of many impressive pieces to be found near the seafront.
Plan your trip via > Visit Palanga
DAY TWO: A Visit to Kretinga
Just a few miles from Palanga is Kretinga, a great place for a day off from the beach. One of the oldest towns in Lithuania, it is beautifully kept, with pot hole and litter free streets.
Home to a centuries old church, originally made from wood and replaced by brick, the building has remnants of its origins with ancient wooden doors, a secret crypt and a wonderful view from the tower if you make it up the windy stairs. Next to the church is a working Benedictine monastery, with the friendly monks keen to show visitors around.
A short walk from the monastery takes you to The Museum of Kretinga in The Winter Garden, a beautiful 16thcentury manor house which now serves to show you the history of the area. With lovely grounds and a botanical hot house, it’s a lovely spot to explore. It also has a great café with scrumptious home-made lollies and chocolate ready to tempt you.
An oriental treat awaits just outside the main town in the shape of a peaceful garden created by Japanese Master Hajime Watanabe and Lithuanian doctor Šarūnas Kasmauskas. Based on the Kyoto gardens, the massive greenspace is an oasis and the biggest in Europe.
Oriental food with an Asian twist can be found at a man made wake boarding park 20 minutes from the Kretinga. The Briusly Bar is relaxed and has a good young vibe and an excellent place to watch the water sport in action. Accommodation is available around the lake and it is a popular spot in the summer.
Fun Fact: Inside the church is a magnificent marble organ and altar , made from wood but cleverly disguised as rock.
Plan your trip via > Aplanky Kkretinga
DAY THREE: A walk in Klaipėda
With German style, 18th century wooden framed buildings and a beautiful old square, Klaipėda is a wonderful place for walking around. There is plenty to see and do in Lithuania’s third largest city and seaport. And as you make your way around, you may be lucky and be treated to the sounds of the carillon ringing out.
The 48 bells ring out each weekend and on important dates and are played by experts on an organ style type of instrument, but instead of using their fingers to hit the notes, the fists are used instead and it creates a unique sound. With cobbled streets, the old town meets the new and you can spot some unusual sculptures on the way.
One beautiful way of seeing the city is by Wet Weim’s torchlit wooden canoe trip of the River Dane through the centre. As you peacefully paddle through ancient bridges, currently lit up in support of Ukraine, it’s a lovely way to admire the architecture.
Tucked away by the seaport is the castle museum, based in the 16th to 18th century underground defensive galleries. The interactive museum is great for families and tells the colourful history of the city and exhibits interesting artefacts including a rare 16th century gold ring found on site.
The modern part of town has a great outdoor area for festivals and music and is home to The Švyturys Brewery, the country’s second oldest and which serves up lots of beers of different tastes and strengths.
Newest addition to the city is the swish Victoria Hotel, ultra modern accommodation in an old building, with lovely rooms and breakfasts. The hotel is a short hop from Smiltynės Beach, popular with the locals and buzzing with seafood restaurants and sunset seekers.
Fun Fact: The most popular sculpture is the cat with the gentleman’s face, a street away from the golden mouse and a bit spooky looking!
Plan your trip via > Klaipeda Travel
DAY FOUR: The National Park of Neringa
This national park is part of the Curonian Spit , a 61 mile long thin curved sand dune spit which separates a lagoon from the Baltic Sea. With UNESCO World Heritage Site status, shared between Lithuania and Russia and engulfed in forests, it is home to small communities of pretty wooden coloured houses and a large colony of cormorants.
Its beauty was much admired by famous German author Thomas Mann who wrote Death on the Nile and his former summer home is now a museum in his honour. Locals earn their money from fishing and food and you can find the freshest and most delicious treats straight from the lagoon in small traditional restaurants amongst the houses.
Nida is the biggest community and its pleasant seafront is adorned with colourful weather vanes , marking its close connection with the sea and enabling fishermen to identify the owners of boats. The close by beaches are ideal for finding amber washed up from the sea.
A holiday haven, the town has plenty of accommodation including the rustic Nerija Hotel, which is famed for its cuisine.’ The best views in town come via the Parnidis Dune observation deck, where you can see sand for miles and also the Russian border flag . A 53 metre high sundial proudly stands at the top and the mighty sand dunes cover the area for an intoxicating feeling.
A fascinating modern day amber collection lies in the tiny Mizgiriai Museum, where artists have cleverly created such delights as amber telephones, drinking fountains and even a chunk of amber cheese for a mouse trap!
Fun Fact: Watch out for the amber energy wheel in the museum. The owners Virginija and Kazimieras Mizgirs will zap you with a real surge of voltage as you spin the wheel!
Plan your trip via > Visit Neringa
DAY FIVE: The Fishing part of Dreverna
This holiday and entertainment port holds the key to many family adventures. With accommodation, restaurants and activities all on one site, it is a great place for a base.
Transformed from a fishing village, this upmarket complex is the place to be if you want to join in the tourist board’s impressive cultural folklore programme “I Will Become A Fisherman’’, which enables visitors to sample local life, with Lithuanian traditional dancing, tasting of the local Memel wine and tours of traditional housing and villages on offer.
From here you can explore the pearl of the Baltic and The Dutchman’s Cap, the highest cliff on the Lithuanian Baltic sea shore, a glacier formed dune and from where you can see magnificent views and indulge in some wave crashing surfing.
Fun Fact: Pike fish balls are a Lithuanian delicacy and a speciality at Dreverna and are delicious.
Wizz Air and Ryan Air fly direct from London to Palanga and touring the area is easy by hire car or public transport.