The best of train travel in Lithuania
It’s fair to say that train travel in Lithuania isn’t the fastest in Europe, but that’s not to say you should condemn yourself to a holiday on the buses when visiting the beautiful southernmost Baltic state. Although the network may be a little slow, it’s safe and efficient, and the size of the country means your train station is never far away from where you want to be.
Lithuania is also the perfect country to include on a Eurail journey around the Baltics. It’s a small country, with a population of just 2.8 million people, but it punches well above its weight in terms of history and scenic beauty.
The country’s period of Soviet rule, which ended in the early 90s, has shaped much of its recent history, but since independence Lithuania has transformed into an intriguing, modern European destination. The capital, Vilnius, is vibrant and picturesque – churches, quiet courtyards, labyrinthine alleyways and baroque homes combine to make it a pleasing destination to explore on foot. But venture out of the cities and you’ll encounter incredible scenery and nature, including a slither of Baltic coastline and several national parks, with the added bonus of many train routes that’ll take you directly into the heart of the country’s natural beauty.
If you’re planning to include Lithuania in your Eurail trip, then there are a few factors to keep in mind that’ll make the train aspect that much more enjoyable.
Where to go in Lithuania
For a small country, Lithuania is not short of impressive cities and attractions. Most people travelling by train will enter the country overland from neighbouring Poland, but there also connections to neighbouring Latvia or Belarus. If Lithuania is your primary destination, you can also fly directly to the capital’s international airport.
Regardless of your point of entry, it’s possible to explore Lithuania by train in a largely circular route. Most Lithuania rail itineraries include Vilnius, Kaunas, Kėdainiai, the eerie Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, the stunning Baltic Sea coastline, Klaipėda, and at least one of three national parks with rail access.
The trains connect most of the biggest cities, towns and regions of interest, and if you want to get to smaller destinations and more remote attractions, they are just a short bus drive, hitchhike or taxi ride away.
About Lithuanian trains
Gelezinkelio Stotis, Vilnius, is the biggest rail hub in the country, and the station fields both local and international trains.
The busiest international connection is between Vilnius and Bialystok in Poland. The journey takes 7h 30m, with a 2-hour transfer in Kaunas, and trains only run on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
Once in Vilnius, there are domestic train routes that fan out across the country, including to and from Vilnius International Airport and several neighbourhoods and nearby attractions.
Klaipéda, Marijampolé, Jonava, and Kaunas are the next biggest stations in the country, and there are regular connections to each. Vilnius to Kaunas will take you just over 90 minutes, Vilnius to Klaipéda just over 4 hours, and Vilnius to Siauliai approximately 2 and a half hours. None of these trains require advance reservations.
How often do trains run?
Train frequency between major local and international cities is one factor that deters many from using rail for exploring the country. It’s true that the schedule is not as frequent as those in many European countries – some routes don’t operate every day, or only operate once or twice a day.
Although this might remove some last minute spontaneity from the trip, the trains are efficient and reliable – you’ll just need to do a bit of forward planning.
The bus network in the country is efficient enough to serve as a filler for those journeys not able to take by train, or for the last leg of a journey. Familiarise yourself with the train departure days and times by using the Eurail timetable.
Access to national parks
If you’ve always wanted to take a train to a national park, then Lithuania is deserving of a spot on your bucket list. That’s because one of the main appeals of using Lithuania’s train network is that it can get you from the capital to 3 of the country’s popular national parks.
- Trakai National Park, famous for its beautiful stone castle, pristine lakes and forests, and charming villages nearby, is just 30 minutes away from the capital.
- Aukštaitija National Park, in the north-eastern corner of Lithuania, is the country’s first national park. It’s a beautiful stretch of land that includes forests, hills, lakes and traditional villages, and is just over two hours away from the capital by train.
- Dzūkija National Park, 2 hours south-east of Vilnius by rail, is the largest protected area in the country. It was established in the early 90s in order to preserve the forests and villages in the area, and it’s a beautiful inclusion on any Lithuania rail itinerary.
This stunning Baltic country might not be your first choice for your Eurail adventure, but with a bit of planning it’s possible to craft one of the most intriguing rail itineraries in Europe packed full of surprises.