True Lithuania

Kernavė Castle Hills

This UNESCO inscribed scenery consists of several small round hills near the banks of river Neris. Until the 14th century Teutonic attacks every one of them was crowned by a wooden castle as Kernavė was the capital of Lithuania until 1321 and the home for Grand Dukes Traidenis and Vytenis. None of the castles remain today.

The surrounding town of the era had up to 5000 inhabitants. However, it has also turned into dust. The area is now best known for its lovely scenery, a nice background for a short summer hike. There are four castle hills next to each other, whereas beyond them an access path to Neris river and the branching paths pass through various historically important locations of the former town, cemeteries and the first wood-paved road.

Castle hills at Kernavė. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

To better imagine that old pagan town, start your visit by checking out the refurbished archeological museum. Its atmospheric dimly-lit halls offer a nice selection of Stone Age, Iron Age, and Medieval tools, jewelry and weapons, well explained by interactive screens and 3D graphics. After all, Kernavė is a real treasure-trove for Lithuanian archaeologists.

A reimagination of pre-historic Kernavė has also been constructed in the form of a wooden village near one of the castle hills (Pilies kalnas).

Reimagined fragment of a Medieval Lithuanian town in Kernavė. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Given its past importance, Kernavė is an important location for various Medieval-related or ethnic festivals. "Medieval days" are held every year, whereas arguably the prime festival at Kernavė is Joninės / Rasos. While it is celebrated across Lithuania, Kernavė celebration puts the most attention to the Pagan traditions. However, the mysterious atmosphere provides a great background to the Joninės bonfires, attracting not only the neo-Pagans.

The nearby modern Kernavė village is very small (population 350) but it has a church (1920) and a chapel near the archaeological site.

Kernavė has been a pagan town throughout its 1300s golden age. It received one of Lithuania's earliest churches in 1430. Limits of that church are now marked by stones. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.