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Located in the geographical center of Europe, Lithuania is known as the "Land of Amber," a fitting name given the plethora of this precious stone, historically valued as highly as gold. Local legend tells of an amber underground palace, constructed as a safe haven by the goddess Jurate to hide her mortal lover, a common fisherman, from her sea god father. When Jurate’s father discovered the two, he destroyed the palace in a fit of rage.  To this day, Lithuania’s Baltic Coast continues to sparkle with amber shards tossed ashore by the waves.

Lithuania’s capital Vilnius is a charming baroque city surrounded by picturesque wooded hills, with a historical Old Town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Easily explored on foot, visitors should not miss the church of St. Anne and the stunning St. Peter and Paul Cathedral adorned with 2,000 life-size sculptures.  A short drive from Vilnius is the ancient town of Trakai, site of Vytautas Castle, one of Lithuania's most photographed sights. Kaunas, a beautiful Hanseatic town, is also an easy day trip from the capital and is the cradle of Lithuania's cultural traditions, as well as home to the Paþaislis Monastery, an outstanding monument of ecclesiastical architecture. Perhaps most famous among Lithuania’s sights is the Hill of Crosses in the vicinity of Siauliai, a site of national pilgrimage with more that 500,000 crosses.

Created by the winds and waters of the Baltic Sea more than 5,000 years ago, the Curonian Spit is an unspoiled 60-mile-long bank of sand dunes and pine trees that encloses the vast Curonian Lagoon. A wonderful vacation hideaway and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it boasts pristine natural settings, quaint fishing villages, traditional wooden dwellings, and cozy restaurants. For centuries, amber, Lithuania's precious harvest of the sea, has been washed onto these golden sands.

Folk art traditions are very strong in Lithuania. In addition to gorgeous amber jewelry, decorative Easter eggs, called marguèiai, are either engraved or boast intricate beeswax-colored patterns and make excellent mementoes. Hand-carved wooden statues of the Christ of Sorrows -- the so-called Rûpintojëlis -- are also quite popular.

Interested in exploring Lithuania or the other Baltic countries? Contact our Elegant Journeys team for additional information.

Photos courtesy of: Lithuania Tourism Board and Stikliai Hotels.

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