Trakai – the seat of Vytautas the Great
Trakai lies 25 km to the west of the capital city Vilnius. Trakai attained special significance in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the last pagan state in Europe, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, opposed crusade attempts to convert it to Christianity led by the Teutonic Order. Trakai is mentioned for the first time in written sources in the Chronicle of Wigand of Marburg in 1337. A unified defensive system was built in Trakai, which was difficult to approach because of its natural defenses of wood- and lake land. The polyethnic town of (New) Trakai with its Lithuanians, Karaites, Tatars, Jews, Russians, Germans and Poles grew up beside the castles and had broad political and commercial links with European towns and their communities and traditions of medieval sacral, secular and defensive architecture, secular and religious art and literature.
Kernavė – the first capital
Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site, just 40 km off Vilnius. In 2004 Kernavė Archaeological Site was included in the UNESCO world heritage list. The Kernavė Archaeological site, about 35 km north-west of Vilnius, represents an exceptional testimony to some 10 millennia of human settlements in this region. Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is a complex ensemble of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernavė, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. The site of 194 ha has preserved the traces of ancient land-use, as well as remains of five impressive hill forts, part of an exceptionally large defense system. The town was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century; however, the site remained in use until modern times.
Geographical Center of Europe
In 1989, scientists of the French National Institute of Geography declared the geographical centre of Europe to be in Lithuania, 26 kilometres north of Vilnius. The geographical centre of Europe is decorated with a composition created by the famous Lithuanian sculptor Gediminas Jokūbonis and dedicated to the accession of Lithuania to the EU. It is a white granite column decorated with a crown of stars.
Aukštaitija National Park
At over 400 km2, Lithuania’s first national park (1974) offers a breathtaking break away from it all. Thirty rivers, over one hundred lakes, large wooded areas featuring 200-year-old-plus oaks, marshes, and villages entirely overlooked by the creeping claws of progress all make for the ideal antidote to life in the fast lane. The Aukštaitija national park is also home to the only in Europe Ethnocosmology museum. For more information on what to do, where to sleep and what to eat – visit the website.