Lithuania a hidden gem worth discovering
As Christmas approaches, Lynne Coates visits Lithuania and discovers a country that’s fast becoming a top tourist destination whatever the season.
Lithuania may not be at the top of your ‘places-to-visit’ list, but, as I recently discovered, it is deservedly becoming one of the latest up-coming destinations. There is no escaping the fact that the country has suffered from wars and occupation which have left their mark on its cultural landscape. However, determined to emerge from the past, its two main cities, Kaunas and Vilnius, are evolving at a pace, through a combination of modernisation, art, culture and an enthusiastic new ideology that is especially magic at this time of year.
Heading south of Kaunas to the spa town of Birštonas, famous for its mineral water springs, spa hotels and wellness centres, we checked into the luxurious Vytautas Mineral Spa, a stunning, contemporary hotel, with some of the best spa facilities I have ever encountered. This is a serious wellness centre and the spa offers an astonishing choice of therapeutic and beauty treatments with expert therapists. Birstonas has become a centre for medical tourism, where people can receive the best treatments for post-operative recovery, and in some cases undergo medical procedures, at very reasonable prices. Surrounded by vast forests and rivers, the area provides a glorious natural environment that is perfect for wellness retreats. After a few days of wonderful pampering, it was the perfect pick-me-up and the ideal preparation for our next adventure in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city.