True Lithuania

Lithuania by unusual transport: top 10 ideas

You may see Lithuania the way most people don't by using uncommon forms of transportation ranging from historic trains to scenic ships. Here are top 10 ideas:

1.See the Neringa dunes from the lagoon using the Klaipėda-Nida regular boat. The service may be more expensive than a bus, but it offers a unique opportunity to see the entire length of picturesque Neringa shoreline without hiring a boat. The vistas will include Nagliai reserve "dead dunes", pine forests, resort villages, fishermen boats, and lighthouses.

2.Ride the Lithuania's only cable car in Druskininkai. While Lithuania is an extremely flat country that sees limited snow, Druskininkai resort has built an indoor Alpine skiing track for local skiing enthusiasts. In order to complete the image of "mountain resort", a cable car connected downtown to the skiing track, offering great vistas of Dzūkija region forests and Nemunas river en-route.

3.Experience the Lithuanian railroad history in Aukštaitija narrow gauge railroad. Opened in 1899 and once ~400 km in length it slowly faded into obscurity, leaving it incredibly authentic. Many wooden stations are seemingly never renovated (complete with wooden external squat toilets), the rolling stock includes Soviet 1950s diesel locomotives and 1980s carriages (they look older than the date implies due to Soviet technologic backwardness). Closed in 2001 the railway was saved by enthusiasts who now offer trips from Anykščiai to nearby villages (lakeside Rubikiai and Troškūnai famous for a baroque church) every weekend day (May to October). The experience of slow countryside ride includes some reenactions of the era's railway traditions and explanations (Lithuanian only), while more could be learned at the Anykščiai station museum.

4.Silently glide over the Lithuanian cities in a hot air balloon. Ballooning is a popular hobby, with some claiming Lithuania leads the world in balloons-per-capita. There are few restrictions and every summer morning and evening the urban skies fill with these colorful lighter-than-air contraptions.

5.See the Trakai Island castle from every side by taking a Lake Galvė boat trip. Additionally, you will see Užutrakis manor in its prettiest and the peninsula castle from a unique side.

6.Follow the steps of interwar Kaunas residents: ascend the local hills in two funiculars. Originally built to help inhabitants of the hill districts to descend into valley downtown, they were now restored. Both top stations have great viewpoints nearby (a free one at Aleksotas and a paid church tower at Žaliakalnis). Funiculars are convenient even if you have a car: parking uphill is mostly free, so leaving your car there and descending by funicular may save you money. Žaliakalnis funicular operates every day while Aleksotas is Monday-to-Saturday.

7.Traverse the entire Lithuania by riding Vilnius-Klaipėda trains, Lithuania's longest passenger route. During the 4-4,5 hour trip, they stop at or near many famous locations: capital Vilnius, Kėdainiai historic town, Šiauliai (near Hill of Crosses), Telšiai, Plungė (famous for a manor and located next to Samogitian National Park), Kretinga (with easy access to Palanga resort) and Klaipėda. The frequency is 3-4 trains per day so it is the best to space out the journey over multiple days, hopping on-and-off en-route. Lithuanian railways may be less popular and slower than in many developed countries, but they still have some charm and more predictability (it is much easier to find rail timetables online than bus timetables).

8.Cross the flooded Minija-Rusnė road using the ferry tractor. A high clearance tractor uses a high-clearance trailer to move low clearance vehicles across what becomes a deep ford every springtime. Unique floodplain where farmsteads have been built on hills (which turn into inaccessible islands every spring) may also be explored.

9.Rent kayaks in Dzūkija rivers to enjoy the forested banks and pristine nature.

10.Use one of the numerous out-of-the-beaten-path weird crossings of the Neris river (second largest in Lithuania). The amateur-built rope footbridge at Strapa is so rickety that it may be hard to believe it is regularly used by villagers without collapsing. A similar rope bridge upriver near Buivydžiai is of better quality, but still with weight heavily limited. In Čiobiškis there is no bridge, so locals cross the river (with their cars) by a reaction ferry that reminds of a floating engine-less platform. Lastly, in Vilnius it is possible to cross Neris by a zipline.

Map of the top 10 ways to see Lithuania by unusual transportation. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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