Just a short haul flight away from the Netherlands, the Lithuanian spa town Druskininkai is famous for more than its mineral water and therapeutic mud. The town is located in the picturesque Dzūkija region, surrounded by pine forests and oak groves, making it the perfect location for fans of the great outdoors as well.
An abundance of sights, activities and entertainment attract travellers to Lithuania throughout the year. And visitors heading to Druskininkai, the pretty spa town located in the very south of the country, should definitely take the opportunity to spend some time in the surrounding countryside with its amazing views and the air rich with the smell of pine trees.
First and foremost, visitors should not miss a trip to the shores of the lakes in Vijūnėlė Park as well as to visit K. Dineika Wellness Park – more a forest than a city park – while out in the open air.
In particular, the trail along the river Nemunas is suitable for hikers and for fans of cross country cycling. Both bicycles and scooters are available for rent in the locality. For those visiting in the winter, you can also rent cross country skis to follow the route.
From bicycles to skis
A walk along the banks of the Nemunas, the largest river in Lithuania, takes in evergreen pine forests and offers panoramic views over the romantic Love Island where one hundred years ago, youngsters used to gather to have fun. Today the island is a nature reserve and can be visited by boat.
The whole route is well signposted and there are plenty of resting places.
There are other ways to admire the enchanting winter beauty of the region – from up in the air. You can, for example, take a cable car trip to look at the town from a different perspective. But perhaps more thrilling are the observation towers and viewing platforms dotted around the surrounding countryside, all offering panoramic views.
Raigardas Valley, for example, is protected environment, with wide meadows at the bottom and dunes, which can be reached by both bicycle and by car.
Legend has it that the valley was once home to the rich town of Raigardas, whose inhabitants were constantly partying, and so annoyed the thunder god. As a result the city collapsed and ever since, so the story goes, the bells of the cursed can still be heard as they seek a way out of the underworld.
You can also pick up some impressive views at nearby towns. Liškiava is only 12 kilometres away from Druskininkai and is famous for the centuries-old Liškiava Mound.
Climb to the top and you will be greeted by a wonderful view of the baroque Liškiava monastery and church, the village, the pine forests of Dzūkija, the slow flowing waters of the Nemunas and Druskininkai further away in the distance.
The view from the top of the pine trees
Merkinė, a popular destination among Lithuanian and foreign tourists alike, is located 30 kilometres away.
There, on the right bank of the Nemunas, is a 26-metre-high observation tower, the same height as a nine-storey building. You may feel it swaying on a windy day, but rest assured, the tower was built to withstand extreme weather conditions, and is completely safe.
The structure reaching the top of the pine trees opens up the view across two magnificent rivers: the Nemunas and the Merkys. The point at which they join, which has become the symbol of Dzūkija, is particularly breath-taking.
You can also look at part of the old town of Merkinė, the bridge over the river Nemunas, and the woods that stretch into the distance.
An equally impressive view opens up from the nearby Merkinė Mound which has new steps leading to the top.
Veisiejai Regional Park, located 30 km away from Druskininkai, is also famous for its 15-metre-high observation tower which opens up the beauty of Lake Snaigynas and its islands.
Whenever visiting, travellers should also take the opportunity to look around the fragments of the Veisiejai Manor Homestead, the origins of which date back to 1501. Now the only surviving wing of the Manor houses the visitor centre and the directorate of Veisiejai Regional Park.
The EU-funded project Druskininkai legendų takais [Druskininkai along the Paths of the Legends] to promote the region, includes a special app (available for downloading here) to make it easy to choose the most suitable route or sights while the audio guide will make getting around even easier.
The project is financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
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