Lithuania’s Great Outdoors
Time for Forest Hiking near Vilnius!
Ever feel like you want to get away from it all? Looking for a bit of peace and quiet on your Baltic holiday? We get it — you love your smartphones — so do we! But we like to mix it up occasionally and get out into the great outdoors. Fortunately, Lithuania has loads of hiking trails and natural parks where we can do just that.
There are many national parks – thick forests with rivers, lakes, the occasional little hills. As a whole, Lithuania is fairly flat, so even a little hill is somewhat of a celebrity! So there are ample opportunities to enjoy easy forest hiking, cycling, and kayaking.
In the heart of Vilnius is the river Neris, which starts in Belarus, crosses into Lithuania and tributes at the larger river Neman in Kaunas. Follow the trail of this waterway and you’ll follow the path to countless forests and parks.
Forest Hiking from Vilnius
As part of our Vilnius Day Tour, we often tailor on a few hours spent in the wilderness just outside of Vilnius. As you leave Vilnius, within a short drive you’ll come across rural villages and single house farms. Branching off the main road, park your car and get ready to start your active adventure. Here, your journey into Karmazinu Forest begins.
Our guides will take you down a narrow path among pine trees and towering oaks. I’ve taken my own children, and they are always excited to glimpse the river Neris.
After about a half-hour, we’ll stumble on a former 13th-century pagan settlement and their burial tombs, which to the unsuspecting eye look like small hillocks. Of course, what would a Jerulita Travel tour be like without a bit of history and heritage thrown in?
Lithuania is famous for its old pagan beliefs, which remained strong throughout the centuries of missionaries. Christianized only in the 14th century, it was the last pagan country in all of Europe. Even years after the country’s conversion, villages still maintain paganistic rituals and traditions.
Next, we’ll stop by a picnic table on the banks of the river Neris. Here we’ll have a peaceful break among the trees, enjoy a snack and poke at the remnants of a fireplace. In Lithuania, you can’t make picnics just anywhere – they need to be in certain designated areas.
Pagans, Rivers, and Reeds oh my!
The educational forest trail continues through reeds that hug the river. Honestly, wandering through the shallow water, I feel like a fisherman trying to find the perfect spot for river fishing. At this point, you’ll forget that you’re just half-hour from the capital. Note that it’s a bit of a challenge to hike through the reeds, but the closeness to nature and its beauty makes it all worth it.
We’ll climb up hills and steep steps, rewarded by breathtaking panoramic views the river and forests. The higher we go, the more stunning the scene.
The whole Karmazinu Forest trek is about 5 km and it takes about 2 hours roundtrip, longer the more we stop and reflect. You could easily spend all day here and swim the river, cycle, run the trails, climb the trees, as many activities you can dream up.
I find it a very pleasant way to spend a few hours outdoors. The serenity, simplicity, and accessibility is peaceful and inviting. Best experienced if you’re staying in Vilnius for more than a day. We’ll be happy to arrange a visit for you.
Dukstas educational trail
Duksta cognitive trail is a good alternative for a second-day visit in Neris regional park. It is situated about 8 kilometers northwest from Karmazinu trail. On the way to Kernave archeological village. You will park on the side and will have to walk downhill towards a little river Duksta, which tributes the Neris river.
Canyons can be found not only in the USA! A long time ago melting waters of the last glacier formed this unique Lithuanian canyon – the valley of the Dūkšta river. Locals call it „only Lithuanian mountain river“ because of its swift flow during the spring flood.
The water of this little river is so clean, that no so long time ago local people used to drink it right from the stream! Nowadays salmon likes it and make an almost 500 km long journey from the Baltic sea to this rivulet in order to spawn here.
The Hill Forts of Buivydai and Bradeliškės are the centerpiece and pride of this regional park. these hill forts have unclosed the charm of Lithuanian heritage after the reconstruction works in 2011. Bradeliškės hill fort was so well established and fortified, that life here was in for the entire 1500 years!
You might spot a bright blue butterfly in the meadows of the Dūkšta river valley. The Alcon blue butterfly (Maculinea rebeli) is rarity not only in Lithuania, but in the whole of Europe. Its life-cycle is incredibly fragile – this butterfly lays its eggs on one type of plants only, and later its caterpillars have to be adopted and reared for 10 months – again, by one type of ants only!
Almost a year later, a beautiful adult butterfly that emerged from a pupa has to get out of the ant nest quickly to prevent the ants from killing it! If everything goes right, Maculinea rebeli leaves before its wings are expanded and new, incredible life-cycle begins…
The Hill of Oaks.
We will enjoy one of the most spectacular panoramas of park’s landscape, standing on the observation tower. The valley in front of the hill has been inhabited since 1st-2nd cent. Wooden dwellings stood here and livestock were grazing in the surrounding meadows.
The nearby Karmazinai mound was first functioning as a hiding place, later on – as a sacrificial offering place (pagan wedding ceremonies are held here till nowadays!). The tribesmen who passed away were buried on the other bank of the river Neris, in Padūkštai barrow yard.
The Sain Oak of the Hollow.
We will see a lot of oak trees during our walking trails. When I see them, I always want to come closer and touch these unusual trees. Up until the 15th century, an oak was always an extraordinary and holly tree in lands of Baltic tribes. It also was a major character in Lithuanian pagan mythology.
Oak groves used to be the places where sacred eternal fires were burnt and nourished by the high priests. Till nowadays, oak trees symbolize long life and strength.
It was also believed that souls of the dead reincarnate into the oaks, thus since pagan times, the mystic respect was felt to this tree among Lithuanians. Today it‘s the official national tree of Lithuania.
If you take Vilnius Full day tour and prefer to spend some time in the woods, we can tailor the tour for you including this Forest trail without changing the price. Please contact Jerulita Travel for more active adventures in Lithuania and beyond.