Lithuania is a spellbinding land of castles, lakes and forests. Though relatively few knew of its charms until recently, Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, is one of Europe's most enchanting cities, owing especially to its Baroque old town. Then there is the Baltic shore, which may not have the sun-soaked appeal of other coasts, but is idyllic and largely unspoilt. The southernmost country in the Baltics, Lithuania is also home to vast plains parted by hills and sand dunes.
Lithuanian independence came soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. By 1995, the transition to a full market economy had been completed. The long-running border dispute with Poland was settled with the signing of a friendship and co-operation treaty in January 1992 and negotiations with Russia led to the withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops in Lithuania in August 1993. The Russian connection remains, however, with Russians being the second largest ethnic minority in the country. The largest of the three Baltic states, Lithuania gaining EU membership in 2004, since which time the country has been thrust on to the global stage, encouraging more visitors than ever.
Most of the attraction for Lithuania lies with its natural treasures. Much of the country is verdant, with several national parks that are perfect for hikers and explorers. All around the country there are countless sprawling forests ripe for wandering, as well as numerous lakes sprinkled across the landscape.
Perhaps the country's trump card is the Baltic coastline, where beguiling wetlands brim with wildlife, most notably the thousands of bird species. There's also the Curonian Spit, a stunning 100km strip of land that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, which is covered in white sands.