The 18-day tour departs from South Africa on 06 July 2014 flying via Frankfurt on Lufthansa to Vilnius in Lithuania. Founded in the 14th century, Vilnius is truly a cultural crossroads, as can be seen from the rich legacy of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical buildings that have earned Vilnius UNESCO World Heritage status. We’ll have three nights here to enjoy the monumental buildings, palaces and museums. Often referred to as the “Baltic Jerusalem”, the city enshrines remnants of ancient Lithuania, Jewish and Polish cultures which can still be found in the old town. While here, we will also visit Trakai, the former capital of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and explore Trakai Castle built on an island in Lake Galve.
The itinerary then proceeds to the southern region of Lithuania in the area of the Dzukija National Park where we will spend one night in Druskininkai. This town is located on the estuary to the Nemunas River and is surrounded by lakes, rivers, hills and forests and is famous for its health spa resorts.
We will then head north to Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania for a night. The main historic sights are located in its well-preserved Old Town.
The group will travel to the city port of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1252 by the Livonian Order who built the city’s first fortress, Klaipeda was the main trading port until 1629. We will base ourselves here for three nights with time to visit Nida, Palanga (famous for its’ Amber Museum) and explore the Curonian Spit National Park.
From Klaipeda we’ll cross the border into Latvia visiting the Hill of Crosses and Rundale Palace and Park en route to Riga. We’ll spend three nights in this beautiful old cultural city. Besides exploring the city, an organ concert recital in Dome Cathedal has been planned and we’ll also take a tour of Jewish Riga. Visits to Gauja National Park and Turaida Castle in Sigulda are included.
Saaremaa is the biggest island in Estonia, and jewel of its archipelago. We’ll take a ferry to the strikingly picturesque town of Kuressaare with its tranquil atmosphere where we’ll spend two nights. Saaremaa has retained its uniqueness due to its location and isolation. In the villages there are still stone fences, wooden windmills and houses with thatched roofs. The people still wear national costumes and dialectal language is still used. The territory of Saaremaa has been inhabited for 8000 years. Because of its strategic importance, Saaremaa has been occupied by Sweden, German and Danish crusaders and the Tsars of Russia.
Our last cultural stop in Latvia is a visit to the most interesting Ethnographic Open-Air Museum before travelling on to the lovely medieval city of Tallinn in Estonia, stopping en route for a brief stop in Haapsalu. We’ll have 2 nights in Tallinn to explore the brilliantly restored Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 and a living monument to the golden period of Tallinn’s history.
Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and a professional local guide will be escorting the group throughout the region.
If you have any queries, or would like to secure your reservation on this tour, please do not hesitate to contact me on 021 786-2598 or cell 083 357 4855. I look forward to booking you place on this unique tour.
Once the Baltic States stood at the heart of north-European trade routes. Today these regions are among the fastest developing on the European continent, blending thriving urban culture with stunning landscapes and an extraordinary wealth of historic architecture. Now is the time to visit these exciting destinations. We do hope you will be able to join us.