LITHUANIA - SIDE TRIPS FROM VILNIUS - Klaipeda, Trakai and Kaunas
by Tim Campbell August 2020
Each of these three small towns has its own unique attraction. Klaipeda being the furthest away on the coast is probably a stop overnight if you can make it. As a coastal town it has a wonderful old Soviet port, and it’s own side trip to Nida on the Soviet border to see the sand dunes. Great seafood in all areas and super cheap everywhere. Castles, sea museums and old schooners turned into restaurants accentuate the charm.
Trakai is a re-built medieval castle next to a glorious lake. Bring your walking boots though it’s all about the area at Trakai. Walking from the bus station, walking around the castle, up and down three floors, walking the grounds.
Kaunas has it’s own charm and well worth a full day to sightsee all it has to offer. I stayed for three days but struggled to be interested past the second day. Kaunas has its own rebuilt castle, churches and one of the biggest war museums I’ve ever seen.
At each one you’ll arrive by bus or train. Maybe Kaunas by air. Take a five minute taxi ride to your hotel, they will all be close. Trakai is a side trip from Vilnius so see my blog on Vilnius for arrival information there.
Trakai is a day trip from Vilnius so see my information on Vilnius accommodation there. Klaipeda is tiny so any guest house or B&B or Hotel will do for the one night or two that you decide to stay. Check out booking.com for suggestions. They have places for all budgets. I stayed at the Litinterp Guest House for about 20 Euros per night. It was very clean and comfortable and perfect for a night or two.
Kaunas is also small so, depending on your budget again depends on where you want to stay. I stayed at the Moja Accommodation for 30 Euros which was plenty enough for me. I got a large room in a commercial area close to everything, and a large mall which also had everything from shops to restaurants to bars.
Must Do / Don’t Miss
Trakai is a day out from Vilnius. You take the local bus for 2 Euros then walk a mile from the bus stop. I didn’t see any taxis but there must be some as it’s a main bus stop.
Klaipeda is a whole different kettle of fish. It has a nice port, an old town with some wonderful architecture, and a nightlife full of restaurants and bars to hang out in. Its added attraction is taking the ferry across the river to take another bus to a town called Nida, down a peninsular to a seaside town.
Klaipeda is a walkable city and so too is Nida. Klaipeda is closer to Riga in Latvia than Vilnius, as it is due south and just over the border. Its charm comes in the way of it having a lot of character.
It’s an old Soviet naval port with some leftover Russian warships, a few container ships because it is a commercial port as well, a tourist area to wander around, and its own side trip to Nida which sports giant sand dunes you can hike on, or take a boat out fishing for the day.
Kaunas has its own charm being the second largest city in Lithuania. It is its own destination with an airport served by both Ryanair and Baltic Air from many European countries. Its one main attraction is the castle, but it’s very small and only worth an hour of your time max.
However, it’s clean and tidy and fairly inexpensive as cities go. I would say a long weekend if you were looking for somewhere different, or just a stop off if you were driving to Vilnius.
If you’re only going to see one thing in Kaunas though make it the Great War Museum. This building is huge with every kind of war theme present. From knight armour to tanks to anti aircraft guns to swords to costume worn by Generals. It is truly impressive and the entrance fee is just 2 Euros.
In Klaipeda, walk around the old port in the morning then go to Nida for the afternoon. They even have fish and chips on the pier on the way to the ferry. There’s either a bus to Nida or a long walk to the Lithuanian sea museum on the “Curonian spit” as it’s called. The bus to Nida is about half an hour but pleasant enough for a ride to the small town. You’ll pass through the “Dancing forest” too but don’t expect anything to move.
In Kaunas check out the old town and castle. Eat Lithuanian food in the old town for a unique flavour of the country. Try some of their local craft beers such as Nisha, Genys Tap Room, Gero Alaus, Vingiu Dubingiu (yes it really is called that), Gyvas pub and Hop Doc Gastropub. Don’t expect too much.
Given my time over again, and in the area, I would only go to Klaipeda and even that is out of the way. I’m not saying they are not interesting and don’t have their own charm but you’d be struggling to spend a week between all of them. Happy trails.
Next up on the Far Side Travels list will be Warsaw. Go to www.farsidetravels.com for more information.