Day by Day Itinerary
September 16 Depart U.S.A.
Our group will gather at New York’s JFK airport for check-in by 2:40 PM, a warm welcome and introductions. FINNAIR AY006 departs at 5:40 PM. You’ll enjoy FINNAIR “finesse” with dinner and excellent service.
Meals en route
September 17 Helsinki
Sunday Arrive Vilnius
Arrive Helsinki at 8:50 AM and connect with the short flight to Vilnius by Finnair departing at 9:45 AM. Arrive Vilnius at 11:00 AM. Welcome to Lithuania! We are met and assisted by our guide. Transfer to the hotel for check-in. Enjoy Welcome Dinner at the hotel this evening. (D)
****Artis Centrum Hotel, Vilnius
September 18 Vilnius
We’ll have breakfast at our hotels daily while in the Baltics. Following we begin with a city tour of Vilnius. We’ll see parts of Old Town, the numerous pieces of historical heritage like St. Anna’s Church - a gem of Gothic architecture, St. Peter and Paul’s Church, the Cathedral, Gates of Dawn as well as the ruins of the Upper and Lower Castle. We’ll also visit Vilnius University, founded by the Jesuits in 1570, the oldest university of the Baltic area, and also of the territory of the previous Russian empire. The Old Town, which is included to the UNESCO World Heritage List, looks like a maze of small streets and a unique mixture of West European architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical. In the center of the Old Town stands the Cathedral with a bell tower. It occupies the site of an ancient pagan temple to the God Perkunas and originally lay within the fortification system of the Lower Castle. Have lunch in a local restaurant and then the afternoon is at leisure. (B-L)
****Artis Centrum Hotel, Vilnius
September 19 Vilnius – Trakai
Depart Vilnius for Trakai. The former capital of Lithuania, Trakai is situated on an island in the middle of a lake. The 14th century red brick castle now houses the Art Museum. The castles of Trakai are the best-known works of defensive architecture in Lithuania. The old town of Trakai, which includes the Island and the Peninsula Castles surrounded by five lakes, is one of the most impressive and most romantic and picturesque locations in Europe. Here still resides a small national minority of Karaites. It is believed they were brought from the Crimea by the Grand Lithuanian Duke Vytautas. We will enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing our journey northwest.
Upon arrival in Kaunas we have a city tour. Lying on the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris, Kaunas with its population of 430 000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in Lithuania. It was not destroyed during the Second World War; thus now it has a number of ancient architecture monuments. The Old Town is a concentration of the most important and ancient city architectural monuments: the 13th century Castle, the Old Town Hall, nicknamed the White Swan, the Archcathedral Basilica, the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuit monastery, Perkunas House and Vytautas Church. The most outstanding monument of the Baroque epoch is the architectural complex of Pazaislis Monastery. It is one of the most beautiful Baroque style buildings in Lithuania. The ensemble devoted to Camaldolli Abbey was built in the 17th century under supervision of Italian masters from Florence (Michelangelo Palloni, Joan Merli, and Pietro Perti). (B-L)
****Europa Royale Kaunas Hotel
September 20 Kaunas – Sauliai
After breakfast we check out of our hotel and depart for Sauliai. First visit the Hill of Crosses, Kry×iu Kalnas, located 7 miles north of the small industrial city of Sauliai (pronounced shoo-lay), which is the Lithuanian national pilgrimage center. Standing upon a small hill are hundreds of thousands of crosses that represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity. Next we set off for Klaipeda and enjoy a city tour upon arrival. Klaipeda is often called “Gateway to The Sea”, because it is the main Seaport of the Lithuanian State. The Old Post Office, historical Old Town full of handicraft shops, the Old Theater and Simon Dach Square are worth seeing.
Check in at the National Hotel in Klaipeda for dinner and our two night stay. (B-D)
****National Hotel, Klaipeda
September 21 Klaipeda – Nida
Enjoy breakfast before our sightseeing tour in the National Park of the Curonian Spit - a peculiar unique patch of land, washed by the Baltic Sea in the west and the Curonian Bay in the east side. No one can leave this natural wonder without seeing the great sand dunes. Those who see them for the first time are really breathless and feel the urge to run on and on till the top of the dune, and float down like a bird on stretched out wings. During the tour we see the fisherman’s village Nida.
Proceed for a look at the Thomas Mann house. Thomas Mann first visited Nida in 1929 after his visit in Rauschen. One year later a summer-house, designed by the architect Herbert Reissmann, was built on “Mother-in-law” hill. Reminiscent of a fisherman’s house it became the new residence of the Nobel Prize winner, stimulating his creativity and a place to rest and relax. Thomas Mann and his family spent three consecutive summers in Nida from 1930-1932. During this time he not only relaxed, but he wrote various articles, essays, numerous letters and the novel “Joseph and His Brothers”.
Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before transferring back to Klaipeda. (B-L)
****National Hotel, Klaipeda
September 22 Klaipeda – Palanga
Friday Liepaja – Karosta
After breakfast and check-out we continue up the coast to Palanga. It is the biggest seaside resort of Lithuania. Originally a fishermen’s village, Palanga was first mentioned in written sources in the 12th century. The inhabitants were engaged not only in fishery, they also gathered amber, which would reach the distant countries of Europe and Asia via the merchants’ routes. In the 19th century, Palanga started developing into a health resort. One of the most beautiful places in Palanga is the Tishkevichius Palace, now the Amber Museum, which holds a great variety of amber pieces and collections.
Continue across the border to Liepaja with a city tour upon arrival. Welcome to Latvia! In Liepaja visit its city center including Rose Square, House of Peter 1, and other famous buildings. After a short walk around the city center visit Karosta Naval Port. This northern neighborhood occupies one third of Liepaja city. It is a spectacular, paradoxical and unique site not only in Latvia but also in the world’s history and architecture. Its environment reflects interaction of tsarist Russia military elegance and soviet militarism.
Today Karosta is now a special neighborhood. It is no longer a closed area of a military base but a tourism site with an inspiring setting. Visit St. Nikolay Orthodox Naval Cathedral, which was built in 1901-1903. Tsar Nikolay II laid the stone foundation. For the first time a new technology of monolith concrete casting was applied in the construction of the church by architect V. Kosyakov, hence there are no support columns inside the spacious cathedral and the walls hold its entire weight only. Conclude our day with dinner in hotel, the Hotel Promenade in Liepaja. (B-D)
*****Hotel Promenade, Liepaja
September 23 Liepaja – Kuldiga
Saturday Jurmala – Riga
Following breakfast depart for Kuldiga. The town of Kuldiga is considered one of Latvia’s most beautiful, and is the only one in the country to have preserved the traditional wooden buildings. It escaped the many destructive wars and fires, thus representing a true image of a Latvian provincial town of the 16th and 17th century. An ancient bridge, the rapids of the Venta river on the approaches to the town, the 13th century castle ruins—all this adds peculiar charm to the town. Visit Venta Rumba, the widest waterfall in Europe! The old brick bridge across the Venta built in 1874 is one of the longest of its type in Europe. The bridge was built according to the road standards of the 19th century (500 feet long and 26 feet wide) so that two carriages could pass each other on it.
Free time for lunch in Kuldiga. Continue to Jurmala, a resort town possessing 150-year-old resort traditions, occupying approximately one-tenth the coastal line. Jurmala is the place for a city dweller to connect with nature. Here fresh sea wind will fill people’s lungs and make them dizzy with the smell of pines, the eyes will rest in the blue of the sea, the feet will sink in the soft golden sand. After a 50-year-long isolation, again generations from various countries may enjoy the special gentle charm, curative waters and mud baths of Jurmala. Jurmala with its romantic wooden houses in art nouveau (Jugendstil), its spacious beaches, forests, and calmly flowing Lielupe river is especially attractive in the modern world of standards, for it has not lost its singularity. After our Jurmala visit travel to Riga. Dinner at hotel. (B-D)
****Semarah Hotel Metropole, Riga
September 24 Riga
Today enjoy Riga - Capital of Latvia! Our sightseeing tour begins with driving along the central boulevards of Riga, enjoying the view of the City Canal parks, the Bastion Hill, the Powder Tower, the Latvian National Theatre, the Fine Arts Museum, the Art Nouveau buildings of the beginning of the century, the Freedom Monument erected in 1935 to celebrate Latvia’s independence, University of Latvia, the Opera House, and Daugava River with its bridges. During the walking part of the tour you will enjoy the beauty of the ancient Hanseatic city, while strolling through the cobble-stone, picturesque streets of the Old Town. In Old Riga you will see the Dome Cathedral which boasts one of the world’s largest pipe organs, St. Peter’s Church with magnificent views of the city from its steeple, the old Guild Houses, the Swedish Gate, the architectural ensemble Three Brothers, St. Jacob’s Church, the Parliament House, Old Riga Castle, and view the many wonderfully restored buildings, now housing cozy restaurants, cafés, bars and souvenir shops.
Continue to the Art Nouveau area, once home to many of Latvia’s most famous artists, writers, and scholars. You will see why Riga came to be known as one of Europe’s leading exponents of the late 19th and early 20th century architectural style of Art Nouveau. Riga boasts the greatest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe, which are among the finest and best-preserved in the world. With the opening of a new type of museum, 2011 marked a turning point in the cultural life of Latvia. Although visitors will recognize the collections of the former Museum of Foreign Art in the displays, the working style brought in a new attitude to specialization. The museum is positioned as a point of cultural exchange where excellence is more important than national origin. This means that the museum doors will be open to Latvian art too. The museum aimed to be a point of contact between East and West as well as for dialogue between the classical and the contemporary in the sense of both exhibits and form of perception. Another aspect of the new museum is harmony between the acquisition of knowledge and recreation as well as the breaking down of barriers between various forms of culture. Dinner at a local restaurant. (B-D)
****Semarah Hotel Metropole, Riga
September 25 Riga
We begin with a tour to Rundale palace. Rundale Palace, the most magnificent masterpiece of baroque architecture in the Baltic States, lies at a distance of 43 miles from Riga. It was built as a summer residence of the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann Biron in the first part of the 18th century by the Italian architect F. B. Rastrelli, the baroque genius from Italy who created many of St. Petersburg’s finest buildings including the Winter Palace. The professionally renovated palace interiors are decorated with authentic 18th century furniture, paintings and china. The most impressive are the Golden Hall, the White Hall, and the bedroom of the Duke. The palace boasts a beautiful French-style park surrounded by a canal. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Return to Riga in the afternoon. Overnight in Riga. (B-L)
****Semarah Hotel Metropole, Riga
September 26 Riga – Sigulda
After breakfast at the hotel we check out and continue our way to Tallinn with stops along the way. First, the Turaida Museum Reserve is the historical centre of Turaida and comprises archaeological, historical and art monuments that tell us about the events that have taken place since the 11th century. Turaida Church, one of the oldest wooden churches built by the local rural craftsmen, is situated here. A graveyard was established here for the first baptized Liivs. Under an old linden tree is the legendary tomb of Roze that commemorates a girl who sacrificed herself in the name of love. The “Folk Song Garden”, containing 25 sculptures by Indulis Ranka, is situated on the site of a former ancient Liiv village. It is dedicated to Latvian folk songs and to the lifelong work of their collector Krisjanis Barons.
One of the most picturesque towns in Latvia - Sigulda, often called the Latvian Switzerland, is located about 30 miles from Riga in the Gauja River Valley. Sigulda is situated in the Gauja National Park and is known as the most popular tourist and leisure destination as well as a famous winter sports resort in Latvia because of its bob-sleigh track and the down-hill skiing routes. Experience a genuine whiff of the Middle Ages, a time of romantic legends, castles and heroic figures, visiting the ruins of the 13th cent. Crusader Castle (Turaida), and the 19th cent. Kropotkin’s Palace in the outskirts of Sigulda. By coach you will travel down into the river valley, enjoy the landscape and the walk to the sandstone grottoes on the ancient river bank. Lunch at local restaurant. After visiting Sigulda travel to Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Overnight in Tallinn. (B-L)
****Hotel Barons, Tallinn
September 27 Tallinn
Our morning begins with a city tour of Tallinn, a picturesque old city, where whole districts date back to the Middle Ages. You will visit the Old Town with its quaint narrow streets and beautiful merchants’ houses exemplifying the best of Gothic architecture. The tour includes Toompea Castle, the 13th century Dome church, the 19th century Russian orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevskij, the 15th century town Hall square, the Old Guild built to celebrate Tallinn’s membership in the Hanseatic League, and St. Olaf’s church. The driving part visits Tallinn’s suburbs and Song Festival Grounds, St. Brigitte’s Monastery and Pirita area.
In the afternoon, tour Kadriorg Palace. The palace, constructed as a gift by Peter the Great to his wife Catherine I in the 1720s, is an excellent example of Baroque architecture. The Foreign Art Museum of the Kadriorg Palace displays paintings, sculptures, graphic art and applied art of Western Europe and the Russia from the 16 -20 century. Bid a fond farewell to your new friends at dinner in Tallinn. (B-D)
****Hotel Barons, Tallinn
September 28 Depart Tallinn
Thursday Helsinki-New York
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to airport for our Finnair flights to New York via Helsinki. Or, better yet, continue to Russia. See below for more details. (B)
Note: Flight schedules always subject to change.