A Baltic state, along with Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence (in 1990) and joined the European Union in 2004. Since then more and more travellers have searched for cheap flights to Lithuania, some for hen and stag weekends and others for city breaks to soak up the atmosphere of the postcard-pretty capital Vilnius. Next year will attract even more tourists. Not only will Lithuania celebrate its millennium, but Vilnius will become the European Capital of Culture.
More than three million people are expected to visit Vilnius in 2009. It is Prague-like pretty with a magnificent cathedral, Unesco-listed Old Town, cobbled-stone squares and ornate buildings.
Kaunas is the second city and a former capital. Its Old Town has a remarkable concentration of historical buildings such as the ancient castle, cathedral, and Old Town Hall alongside the restaurants, bars, galleries and shops.
The country’s most spectacular natural feature is the Curonian Spit, which divides Lithuania and Russia. Palanga is the star of the Baltic Coast with white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s also the place to find amber, washed up after storms at sea.
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Summers are warm and sunny, with temperatures averaging 17 degrees. Very hot days can reach 30 degrees. Rain falls all year, even in the summer, but winters are cold with snow. The average winter temperature is -5 degrees.
The summer months are mild and the best time to seek flights to Lithuania. This is when temperatures are most comfortable.
Winter is generally off-season, but this is a popular time with skiers, snowboarders and ice fishers.
In the cities, there are several ways of getting about: bus, trolleybus, minibus or taxi.
Domestic Lithuania flights are available with Lithuanian Airlines (flyLAL – www.flylal.com). The airline connects Vilnius with Palanga.
Lithuanian Railways operates services from Vilnius to Kaunas, Klaipeda and Siauliai.
There is a comprehensive bus service in Lithuania. Kautra (website: www.kautra.lt)
Getting about by rental car – main roads are usually in good condition. In more remote parts of Lithuania, roads may be unsurfaced.
There are ferry services between Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit.
(prices quotes are from London)