Winner in the Tourism and Local Gastronomy category
Druskininkai on the Nemunas River is Lithuania’s oldest and most chic spa town.
Celebrating its 221st anniversary, it attracts more and more tourists, both Lithuanians and from neighbouring countries seeking a quick detox from city life.
Tourists come here not only to soak in the mineral waters but to visit one of the Baltic’s more unusual sights, the Soviet sculpture park just outside the town. They also come to try original spit cakes of local production, and to ski in the year-round semi-indoor winter entertainment centre.
Druskininkai is the health resort with the longest traditions in the country. In the town there are 7 mineral water springs, 9 mineral spas and a balneological therapy centre, where state-of-the-art therapy and diagnostic technologies are applied.
Experience the therapeutic effect of the minerals, jacuzzis, oxygen baths, herb-and- mud-baths, enjoy underwater massage, honey masks, the pleasures of the salt room and oil therapy. Walking in the pine forest paths will restore vitality, strengthen the immune system, recover mental balance, and improve health.
Welcome to a region where you can pick your preferred climate. Choose an everlasting summer in the huge Druskininkai Aquapark, or opt for a crispy winter in the year-round Snow Arena. A modern and ecological cableway will transfer you from one to the other in just a few minutes.
Meet 'Šakotis' - the Lithuanian national wedding cake.
Šakotis is a Lithuanian variety of spit cakes, - a large family of European cakes made in a similar way, on a rotating spit, by an open fire. In Druskininkai you can see Šakotis up to 3.7 metres high, recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest Šakotis in the world.
At the restaurant & bakery Romesa (Druskininkai municipality, Jaskonys village), guests can watch the baking of a spit cake, and make one themselves using traditional methods, real fire, and a helping hand from Romnesa employees.
Additionally, guests can visit the Spit Cake Museum, which offers guided tours in several languages. At Romnesa one can find out more about other traditional dishes (churned butter, cheese, sour cream, homemade bread and pear kvass, which is part of the country's culinary heritage), try to make it himself/herself and, of course, taste it.
The restaurant's menu also contains numerous traditional dishes that represent the region's distinctiveness, for example ceps prepared according to Dzukai traditions.
Winner in the Accessible Tourism category
Telsiai, the town of seven hills, is one of the seven preserved historical towns in Lithuania.
Located in the northwest of Lithuania in the Central Samogitian Highlands, the district attracts visitors for its nature and for the historical, architectural and cultural monuments. There are numerous mounds, old cemeteries, mythological and sacral stones and natural sites.
Legend says that Telsiaiwas founded by a valiant knight named Dziugas, also called Telsys. It was called after the small river Telse, flowing into the lake Mastis. First mentions can be traced back to the 1450s.
Small old buildings, narrow streets, churches, parks and unique architectonic style make Telsiai an attractive destination for tourists.
Most of the sites, museums, pedestrian and biking paths are easily accessible even for people with physical limitations, disabled or elderly. It is comfortable for families with small children to move around.
Hotels offer accommodation for people with limited mobility and special excursions in sign language are provided for the deaf-mute people.
Winner in the Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites category
The small town of Rokiskis is 160km to the north of Vilnius.
Here you will find the Rokiskis Manor – a splendid park and former residence of Count Ignotas Tyzenhauzas. It was built in 1801 and served as the permanent family residence of the Count for many generations.
The manor, with its park, greenhouses, ponds and zoological garden was very popular in the region. The diverse cultural programme and rich music tradition attracted both locals and people from neighbouring towns.
After several decades of neglect, Rokiskis Manor is regaining its popularity, and today its doors are open to visitors from all over the world.
Restoration works took place in Rokiskis Manor at the end of the 20th century.
Redevelopment and revival as well as the creation of a new tourist spot became key priorities for the local authorities.
Due to the misuse, the residence had lost a lot of its original charm. Most of the buildings were in bad condition and for a very long time no activities were organised in the Manor.
The situation has changed dramatically after a large-scale restoration project was implemented. Today the complex is a significant tourist attraction in the region.
One of the most important places is the Rokiskis Regional Museum, which was moved to the Manor House in the 1950s. It is dedicated to the history and culture of the Manor and the region, and it hosts several permanent exhibitions and over twenty visiting exhibitions each year.
Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category
The Zarasai region is located in the north east of Lithuania, bordering to Belarus and the Republic of Latvia.
It is famous for its beautiful lakes and forests, impressive diversity, uniqueness and flamboyance of its nature. Twisting and bending rivers, scattered blue lake patches, little green hills, peaceful woods, and scarcely populated areas are the miracles this region is spoilt with.
The terrain of the region formed 16,000 years ago, during the last glacial period. As the glacier was melting, the hills of the Aukstaiciai Upland, valleys and lakes were formed.
In this vast region, water activities reign supreme.
Boating is a great way to explore the memorable landscape made of vast lakes and graceful streams. Tours of different durations and complexities are offered, but the most unique experience is designing your own trip from the 6,000km water network.
Zarasai is not only special because of its marvelous nature. It was also voted the cultural capital of Lithuania in 2008.
Starting in early spring and going until late autumn, many interesting festivals take place. These events promote local talents, help preserve the ancestral traditions and bring together people from all over the country.
Winner in the Tourism and Protected Areas category
In this vast region covering nearly 2,000km2, water activities are in focus. Guided canoe tours through the Curonian Lagoon are very popular amongst visitors.
For anglers, the lagoon is the ultimate paradise. Many gather in the area in the summer seasons, but also in the winter, when the lagoon freezes and ice-fishing takes over.
For history explorers, Rusne is the place to see. It is one of the oldest settlements in the delta and is marked by a church tower from 1419. Outside the delta in the surrounding towns, there are many old-fashioned homesteads that offer places to stay. There, tourists can visit many crafts shops and get a tasting of the fine local cuisine.
The Route of Lighthouses is another top tourist destination. The 14-kilometer tour through the Atmata River and Curonian Lagoon is a great way to see the many old lighthouses known to the region.
The park's history and unaltered landscapes really make the region standout. Many civilisations have battled for control over the Nemunas and there is an assortment of museums to visit that document these efforts.
The Nemunas is also home to 55 rare species of birds that use the wetlands for their breeding grounds. Over 40 types of mammals live in the park, making it one of the few thriving ecosystems unharmed by man. With such unmatched beauty and plentiful wildlife, the rationale as to why countries have battled over the Nemunas is obvious.
Environmental conservation is a major priority for the local municipalities. In 2004, the entire territory in the regional park was included in the Natura 2000 network of the European Union.
The wetland complex is shared by Lithuania and the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation. As of now, only the Lithuanian part of the delta is protected nationally. Efforts are under way to include the entire region. Recently, an establishment of cross-border cooperation to protect the region's rare species was a step in the right direction.
Winner in the Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage category
The borough of Plateliai, first mentioned in the 15th century, also includes Zemaitija National Park, brimming with aspects of Lithuania’s heritage – traditions, old architecture, local culinary, handicrafts, and the customs of that region.
The Zemaitija National Park is the land of the ethnic group Samogitians. The region borders the lake that gives the area its name – the deepest and largest in Zemaitija.
Travelling around Plateliai lake gives the visitor a chance to admire the hilly landscape.
After a small climb, you can soon reach the Survey Grounds, providing a view of the lake and its islands, peninsulas and dark woods of Plokstine. The Zemaitija National Park looks after the area, conserving its ancient woodlands, farmsteads and lake systems. It also encourages traditional farming methods and environmentally sensitive tourism.
There are themed paths for tourists to enjoy. Among them are the 4.1km Seire Nature Path along which plants, mushrooms and animals peculiar to this land can be seen, and the 3.2km Plokstine Path which takes the visitor around land previously used as a military base.
Mikytai Archaeological Path is an ancient sacred place – the hill of Alka – with a mythological stone marked with the devil’s footprint and a well of prayers. The Paplatele Path takes the visitor to examples of folk art in the form of wooden sculptures and there is also a special path designed specifically for children.
In the most southern part of the borough is the Manor House,where one can find the ash tree with the thickest trunk in Lithuania – called the Witch’s Ash. But this ancient tree is not alone, the whole area is blessed with natural monuments in the form of elms and lime trees more than 180 years old.
For those interested in archeology, Sarnele and the mound of Sarnele, also called Svedkalnis, is the site of archeological importance dating back to the first millennium. This place enjoyed by Lithuanian poet Vytautas Macernis is an ancient sacred place.
The borough of Plateliai is valued for its ancient farmsteads and the Samogitian folk architecture found in villages and old fashioned homesteads scattered throughout the national park.
Alongside the domestic architecture of ancient farms and homesteads are the churches. Those of the borough of Plateliai and Berzoras village are among the oldest wooden churches in Lithuania and house valuable, sacred artefacts. The little basilica church of Zemaiciu Kalvarija is one of the more famous ones.
The Plateliai visitor centre organises excursions, which need to be booked in advance, to natural and cultural heritage sites on foot, bike, boat or by car and bus.
There is a medieval feel to this borough, with its network of byways stemming from the 9th to 13th centuries. The museum of the poet Vytautas Macernis is definitely worth a visit, as is the well preserved village of Berzoras, situated on the northern side of the lake which shares its name, not far from the borough of Plateliai. It is made up of old fashioned streets, traditional landscape, wooden churches and one of the oldest graveyards in Lithuania.
Plateliai also holds many other interesting cultural attractions. These include:
Shrovetide, elsewhere known as Shrove Tuesday Carnival or simply Carnival, is the main festival of the year, held in February or March.
The festival brings together historical resources, local traditions, customs, handcrafts and culinary heritage. In earlier times the villages became what were known locally as 'theatres of the disguised', and the masks used during the Shrovetide festivities represent the rich cultural heritage to which the area can lay claim.
The Regatta – a traditional festival of yachtsmen – attracts large numbers of boating enthusiasts and the sight of the lake full of yachts makes for one of the highlights of August. Other festivals include the feast of St John or mid-summer night’s day, the great church festival of Zemaiciu Kalvarija, and the swimming marathon which even includes duels on the water on a log!