The Baltic republic of Lithuania was the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, although Moscow didn't formally recognise the split for more than a year. Historically rebellious and vibrant, Lithuania has consistently benefited from the cultural development of Central Europe.
The capital Vilnius has a Baroque Old Town considered the largest in Europe and said to rival Prague. Walk the winding cobbled streets and climb the tower of Gediminas Castle for views across the city. The former capital Trakai, set on the shore of Lake Galve is also worth a visit in order to explore the lakes and islands populated with wooden cottages; sailing and windsurfing on the lake are popular pastimes.
Elsewhere, the historic second city Kaunas has lots of art and culture to uncover, whilst the small riverside spa town of Druskininkai stands close to a Soviet sculpture park with giant statues of Lenin and Stalin. Marvel at the famous hill of crosses in Siauliai, where devotional crucifixes bristle from tombstones.
Lithuania and the Russian province of Kaliningrad share the Curonian Spit, separating the Baltic Sea from a lagoon of the same name. The Curonian Spit National Park is full of sand dunes and pine forests, popular with walkers who come to bird watch and look for elk, deer and wild boar.