A few months ago, before we left Lithuania on our American adventures, we felt in need of some nature and a moment for relaxing and unwinding. I was looking at where we could go for a couple days that didn’t involve driving for more than a few hours and also something that John didn’t explore yet in Lithuania. My decision was made, just a short 30 minute drive from Kaunas and we were in Birštonas.
Birštonas is a tiny resort town and is well known for it’s natural mineral waters. This make it a unique place to explore, with spas and health treatments to improve your body as well as medical treatment centres. Most of the procedures include the use of natural minerals from the area. Depending on your budget there are a lot of ‘spa-hotels’ to choose from and try their different services. Swimming pool and saunas are usually included and most of them offer massages and other treatments. Many people just book spa packages and have their days organised full of activities, but that’s really not for us, we prefer to get out and explore. I was actually surprised that even in August when people usually go to the seaside it was very busy and not so easy to find affordable accommodation.
This small town has a long history and was already mentioned for the first time in the fourteenth century as a ‘homestead with salty water’. It was already used as vacation place by our dukes during the 14th-16th centuries. Skipping forward in time, it became known as a health resort in 1846, with the knowledge that the mineral water and surrounding pine trees, gave benefits which were great to heal tuberculosis and other pulmonary diseases.
The pine trees are just part of the wonderful nature that surrounds the town. The Nemunas river bends around it and their are forests in every direction. There are also parks and green spaces all over the town creating a calm atmosphere, cycling and walking paths run next to the river and through the forests giving you a fresh air boost. This is the place where everyone can have free of charge access to these healing mineral waters in public areas. One borehole is even 715 metres deep! To me it feels a little bit like Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, so if you have been there you know what I am talking about.
Birštonas and Druskininkai are the reason that Lithuanians have very high expectations for mineral water when we buy it in the supermarket. For us it should be healthy and full of minerals. In general we are very lucky in Lithuania, we have very good quality water and enjoy it straight from the tap, something that we discovered you can’t do in California!
In the central park there is a mineral water evaporation tower under the open sky. It creates the effect of releasing minerals and salts into the air, similar to breathing in the sea air, and is good for health. Another similar place in the town centre is Birute Villa. Here a spring of the water is surrounded with glass walls and roof so you can sit back on the wooden loungers year round, whatever the weather conditions, and breath in the mineral filled air while you read your favourite book.
Also in the middle of the town there is the Kneipp Garden. Sebastian Kneipp was a German priest and one of the forefathers of the naturopathic medicine movement. Many wellness programs are based on his methodology – hydrotherapy, phytotherapy, exercise, nutrition, and balance. Here, in the garden named after him, there is a Kneipp walk where the main idea is to walk barefoot on different surfaces, and through different temperatures of water. The idea is that, through the feet, blood flow is stimulated giving benefits to the metabolic system and strengthening our immune system.
Just under 2 kilometres from the city center there is a new 55 metre high observation tower with a very comfortable staircase. It is a perfect spot to look around the surrounding area from above. With the winding Nemunas river and the forests, the view of Birštonas looks just perfect.
The place that we chose for a relaxing time was the right one and we would recommend anyone to visit it if you are traveling in Lithuania.