With its gently undulating countryside interspersed with dramatic castles and pretty old towns, Lithuania is an essential part of any tour of the Baltic region.

Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, is undoubtedly a highlight of any trip to the region and you should definitely allow a couple of days at least to get to know its picturesque charms. Not only does it have one of the oldest towns in Eastern Europe, with the requisite winding narrow streets lined with medieval buildings and some fantastic Gothic churches, the city's modern history of Soviet and German occupation is - albeit traumatic - admittedly fascinating and well worth investigating.

Lithuania, as a whole, is small enough to see many of the highlights within a couple of weeks' stay, though you could quite easily spend much longer here. Outside the capital the smaller cities of Kaunas and Klaipeda have many of the charms of Vilnius but move at a slower pace. The lack of foreign tourists in these cities really gives you that feeling of "discovery" that you will struggle to find in other destinations.

The verdant countryside is even further away in atmosphere from busy Vilnius and here you'll find some beautiful scenery, much of it unspoilt. The Curonian Spit in the north of Lithuania is a case in point: an almost deserted peninsula jutting out into the sea which is great for walking and birdwatching. Further down the coast, Lithuania has its own beach resorts, which not quite like the Caribbean, are nonetheless very pleasant in the summer.

All in all, Lithuania has a lot more to offer than just a beautiful capital city and it would certainly be a shame to visit this attractive country without seeing some of its rural attractions.



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