Pure magic at Aukstaitija National Park

  • 2006-06-14
  • By Tassos Coulaloglou
There are few areas of Lithuania that can compete with the natural beauty of Aukstaitija. Only 100 km northeast of Vilnius, the Aukstaitija National Park with its 126 interconnected lakes, ancient trees, and unrivaled vistas, offers visitors an amazing array of wildlife and services. Seventy percent of the park's 30,000 hectares is forest, and most of this is pine trees, some older than 200 years.

While comprising only 1 percent of Lithuania's total land mass, 59 percent of the country's flora is represented within the borders of the park; its most impressive being Trainiskio Azuolas. This giant oak tree measures 6.1 meters at its base and is over 800 years old. Another popular attraction, especially for the locals, is mushroom picking. There are 633 different types in the park, but only 112 of these are edible -no numbers yet on the magical variety. So watch what you eat. The park also boasts every known Lithuanian vertebrate, including foxes, moose, wolves and boar, and an amazing array of birds for the ornithologists among us.

 As for water activities, there are plenty on offer. Canoes and row boats can be rented by the hour or day at very reasonable rates. Maps of the lakes are available and a network of hiking tours can also be incorporated into the experience. And if the knowledge of a local guide would make you think you are getting more out of your holiday, this can be arranged as well.
A trip to the area would not be complete without seeing the pagan mounds, the authentic 19th century Ginuciai Water-mill, the ancient bee-keeping museum as well as the villages dating back to the 14th century. There are also bird watching and other wildlife excursions. Almost all trips start in the nearby village of Paluse. And for those who love the smell of the forest and yearn to be in the thick of it, but may not be able to walk longer distances, excursions by bus take visitors to some of the major highlights in the park as well.

With so much to offer and so much to see, it's recommended that you spend at least one night in the park. This is cheap and easily accomplished by either pitching a tent, which you can rent, or staying in one of the 2 three-star hotels on offer. Or you can stay in the old lodge of the miller, which is reputed to be inhabited by the devil. Don't forget your holy water! Z

For more information, contact:
Aukstaitija National Park Authority Tourism center
Tel: 29-52891
Fax: 29-53135
anp@is.lt
www.tourism.lt/nature/
parks/aukstaitija.html