Lithuania among Top 10 destinations

ethicaltraveler.org has listed Lithuania and Latvia among The Worlds' 10 Best Ethical Destinations since 2013, emphasizing such points as many examples of environmental proactivity and strong culture of historical preservation and preservation of natural resources among others and also noting countless, diverse tourism opportunities.

 

Lonely Planed has named Lithuanian as one of the top 10 destinations

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/countries 


Main Facts about Lithuania

Geography: Lithuania takes up 65,300km², a similar size to Ireland, a bit more than Switzerland or Denmark, but a bit less than Austria. It is situated in the northern part of Eastern Europe. Lithuania borders four countries: Latvia to the north (588 km), Belarus to the east and south (660 km), Poland to the south (103 km) and the Kaliningrad region of Russia to the southwest (273 km).

Seashore: The Baltic Sea washes the lovely 99km coastline in the west of the country, which is covered with majestic pines, long beaches and dunes.

Population: 3.04 million (84.2% Lithuanian, 5.8% Russian, 6.6% Polish, 1.2% Belarusian; there are also Ukrainians, Germans, Latvians, Jews, Tartars, Armenians, Roma and other nationalities).

Religion: According to the most recent population census, 77% of Lithuanian citizens consider themselves Roman Catholics. Other faiths are also to be found, including Russian Orthodox, Evangelical Reformers and Lutherans. Karaims and Tartars, who were originally brought to Lithuania as guards and fighters for the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 15th century, have kept their Muslim-based religious identity. Jews, persecuted across Europe throughout the Middle Ages, found shelter in Lithuania, as did many of the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox faith.

Language: Lithuanian is an archaic language derived from Sanskrit, with 32 letters. Some people in the larger cities also speak Russian, Polish, English and German as their native tongue.

Capital: Vilnius (535,630 people)

Other cities: Kaunas (316,000), Klaipėda (162,000), Šiauliai (109,000), Panevėžys (100,000), Alytus (60,000), Marijampolė (61,000). Administrative divisions: 10 regions, 60 municipalities.

Ethnographic areas:
Aukštaitija (in the centre and north of the country),
Dzūkija (south), Suvalkija (south-west),
Žemaitija (north-west).

Climate: Summers are generally warm and sunny with an average temperature of +17 C. The highest known temperature, +37.5 C, was registered in 1994. Winters, however, are white and cold. The average winter temperature is – 4.9 C, but the lowest recorded temperature was a bone-shattering – 42.9 C in 1956.

Local time: GMT+2 hrs.

Currency: The litas (LTL) consists of 100 centas. The currency rate is connected to the euro at 3.4528 Lt = 1 €.

State system: Lithuania is an independent, democratic republic. The main principles of modern democracy and the country’s political and social system are sealed in the Constitution, which was ratified on 25 October 1992. The Lithuanian Parliament is called the Seimas. It is the highest body of state power and consists of 141 members of Parliament. The head of the state is the president, elected directly by the citizens. The prime minister is appointed or dismissed by the president with the approval of the Seimas. The government consists of 13 ministers.

National flag: Three horizontal stripes equal in width – strong yellow, rich green and crimson red. The yellow symbolises prosperity, the green means hope, the red represents life.

State emblem: Known as the Vytis – a mounted knight in silver armour holding a sword with a golden handle. This was the old flag of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy until the 18th century.


NATIONAL PARKS OF LITHUANIA

Aukstaitija National Park of Lithuania

Aukštaitija National Park was established to preserve and restore natural and cultural heritage of Aukštaitija ethnical region, as well as to organise a sustainable use of it’s resources, to spread environmental ideas and raise eco-awareness.
Headquarters are located in Palūšė, Ignalina dst. About 40 employees take care of nature and culture reserves, monuments and other valuable objects. They organise scientific researches, collect data and information about natural and cultural values within the area and provide it to visitors in the Palūšė and Labanoras visitor centres or in publications. Main task for them is to create conditions for visiting the park without making harm to nature as well as environmental education.

Nature
Due to its geomorphological past the Aukštaitija National Park distinguishes for the diversity of natural conditions. Here you can find almost all kinds of natural habitats and soil types which are described in Lithuania. Vegetation varies from steppe to tundra species, many rare bird and animal species finds a sanctuary here. For an example, 59% of all Lithuania’s native plant species were found in the park, while it covers less than 1% of the country. Representatives of almost all Lithuania’s species of vertebrates constantly reside in this area and some beetle species haven’t been found in other places of Lithuania.

Location
Aukštaitija National Park covers 4,050 ha of a hilly wooded area in East Lithuania, 100 km North from Vilnius and 170 km North-Eats from Kaunas. Three administrative districts meet there. 50% of the park’s area belongs to Ignalina District, 25% - to Utena and Švenčionys respectively. National Park Headquarters are in Palūšė, Ignalina district.

Waters
Water floods 15% of park’s area. There are 126 lakes from 0,5 to more than 800 ha in size. The largest Lake Kretuonas has a surface of 829 ha. Lake Dringis is smaller in size (725 ha), but not according the numerous islands, capes and lagoons. It’s shoreline is 31,5 km long. Lake Tauragnas is the deepest lake not only in the park, but in Lithuania as well. The deepest place is 60,5 m under the water. Lake Žeimenis is the longest in the park. 10 km long and only few hundred metres wide it reminds a river. Rivers and channels connect lakes which makes easy to travel by boat from lake to lake. The River Žeimena gathers all the water and it possible to continue a boat trip and reach the Baltic Sea.

Culture
Solitary findings indicate, that in a present territory of the Aukštaitija National Park people lived already in 9-8 century B.C. Human activities for longer than ten thousand years left many traces, and cultural heritage of many generations is one of the most valuable in the park today. Here one can learn about life of ancestors starting from the Stone Age, about their fights with crusaders from Livonia Order during medieval ages and about customs of Aukštaitija ethnic region in 18th -20th centuries. Many historical, archaeological and architecture monuments reminds about the old times and the great past of human kind in this region.

Recreation
Aukštaitija National Park is a wonderful destination for those who want to learn about nature and the culture of Aukštaitija region or just to have a short break from noisy cities.
Everyone will gain unforgettable impressions. However, human activities in the park are strictly defined by law. Park visitors are allowed to:
Pitch tents and make fires only in camp sites, i.e. specially designed places, marked with signs.
Drive vehicles only on the roads, where traffic is regulated by the traffic rules. Parking is allowed only in parking places and on the roadside according to the traffic rules.
Fishing and hunting is regulated by the fishing and hunting rules approved by the Ministry of Environment.
Berry and mushroom picking, nutting and gathering herbs are regulated by the rules of the use of wild flora and nature resources.
Sailing and navigation are regulated by the rules of small ships.
Guests are recommended to visit Aukštaitija National Park Visitor Information Centre in Palūšė. Its staff will help to plan routes, provide information about accommodation possibilities and other services, about places to see and other useful advice.

To see
See http://www.anp.lt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18&Itemid=16

Activities
Guided tours, outdoor trips, nature-watching, fishing. See http://www.anp.lt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=17

Accommodation
See http://www.anp.lt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=14

Contact
Aukstaitija National Park Visitor Information Centre
LT-30202 Paluse, Ignalinos r., Lithuania
Tel. +370 386 47478, e-mail: info@anp.lt

Kursiu Nerija National Park of Lithuania

Kuršių nerija, the Curonian Spit, is a narrow strip of sand stretching 97 kilometres along the Baltic Sea in western Lithuania. According to the legend, the spit was formed a long time ago by Neringa, a girl giant who poured the sandy peninsula into the Baltic Sea to protect the peaceful bay from the stormy sea and create an embankment for fishermen to live. Thus, today the eastern shores of the Curonian Spit are washed by the Curonian Lagoon, while the Baltic Sea washes the western ones.

One part of the 50 kilometres long Curonian Spit belongs to the Republic of Lithuania. The other to the Russian Federation. With its still drifting sand dunes, the sea side forests cherishing the hundred-years-old pine trees, dunes covered by a mountain pines’ carpet planted by hand, white sand beaches and the old fishermen villages, the Curonian spit is truly unique! In order to preserve the valuable landscape complex, Kuršių nerija National Park was established in 1991.

Kuršių nerija National Park is an outstanding place that allows visitors to explore and get to know nature, culture and traditions in a way that is active and environmentally friendly. The Curonian Spit is a perfect place for observing wildlife, sustainable tourism, leisure and cultural self expression. Here you can enjoy cycling, hiking and canoe tours, sailing trips and try traditional fishermen’s food. There are numerous destinations that attract many visitors each year: The Sea Museum and Dolphinarium, Kuršių neriją National Park Landscape Exposition, Historical Museum of Neringa, Galleries of Amber and Weathervanes, Thom Mann Memorial Museum and the Ethnographic Farmstead of Fisherman. The Hill of Witches and cognitive path “Nature Puzzle” are favourites among children. People of all nations and ages are warmly welcome!

Nature
The dunes are an exclusive element of the Curonian Spit landscape. Here you can explore all stages of dune formation. You will find embryonic shifting dunes, humid dune slacks, decalcified fixed dunes, wooded dunes, white and grey dunes, which are famous for their exceptional beauty.
Eleven types of protected habitats of European importance occur in the Curonian Spit. The different habitats are home to rare species of insects, birds, and plants specific and typical for the place. Some of them are endangered and included in the Red Book of Lithuania. There are 37 species of mammals living in Curonian Spit. Here, you meet fox and hare, boar and beaver, roe deer, elk, and many other mammal species.
Every year millions of birds fly through the area as the migration route from the Baltic Sea to the White Sea runs through the Curonian Spit. The coastlines along the Curonian Spit Lagoon and Baltic Sea are important for migratory and wintering water birds. In addition, there are large concentrations of migrating passerines and birds of prey, and the Curonian Spit is famous for the largest breeding colony of Great Cormorants in Lithuania. This is a true paradise for bird watchers!

Culture and traditions
The rich cultural heritage of the Curonian Spit includes fishing settlements that are considered valuable both from an ethno-cultural, historical and aesthetic point of view. There are architectural works of unique scale and archeological sites, mostly villages buried under the sand.
The settlements of the Curonian spit until the 19th century were typical fishing villages – monuments of special significance to the kursiai community way of living and ethnographic traditions which are not maintained anymore. The earliest fishing settlements were buried in the sand when the forest cover was removed. Those that have survived since the beginning of the 19th century are all to be found along the coast of the Curonian Lagoon. There is a specific structure of fishermen homesteads with traditional wooden dwellings, coloured dark brown and blue and decorated with wooden carvings on the gables.
Of special significance are the traditional grave markers known as krikstai. These are timber planks decorated with flowers, hearts and even animal motifs such as birds’ silhouettes.