- Eglė Sidaravičiūtė-Jozonė

Eco-Friendly Day in Lithuania: Electric Transportation, Plant-Based Culinary Heritage, and Sleeping on Eco-Farm

Eco-friendly explorations of Lithuania involve getting around in shared cars, enjoying the country’s iconic dish, cold beetroot soup šaltibarščiai, in innovative plant-based restaurants, and spending the night on an environmentally-friendly farm complex.

Over the past few years, concerns over climate change have reached peak numbers. Globally, 63% of people believe that climate change is a very serious issue, while 64% are concerned about the depletion of natural resources, and 65% prioritize solving water pollution. Given the growing interest in minimizing one’s impact on nature, travelers are continuously finding new ways to make their next trip more environmentally friendly.

Lithuania offers eco-conscious tourists various opportunities for a nature-friendly retreat — from city-hopping on trains run by green energy to spending the night on an ecological farm.

Plant-based gastronomical heritage. Multiple restaurants in Lithuania use innovative ways to create flavorful vegan meals that could satisfy even the heartiest meat eater. An NGO campaign titled auGalybės — a name that encodes the empowering effect of plants — even released a comprehensive map of all plant-based eateries in Lithuania.

Rosehip, set up in multiple spots around the center of Vilnius, the capital, greets the users with a manifesto lit up in pink neon on the bistro’s colorful walls, stating “the future is vegan.” It offers visitors tuna sashimi that has been created by cooking watermelon and a vegan version of Lithuania’s iconic cold beetroot soup šaltibarščiai. Meanwhile, 14Horses — a restaurant in Senatorių Pasažas complex of Vilnius’ UNESCO-listed Old Town — has several incredible options available on the à la carte menu that are not limited to salad, including crispy buckwheat pancakes with chive oil, fermented potato sauce, and herbal salad. Meals are delivered in eye-catching serveware that fuses conventional practices with contemporary demands.

Locally-crafted eco-conscious souvenirs. Travelers eager to bring a piece of Lithuania back home can find souvenirs that not only reflect the country’s character but are also created with minimal cost to the environment. For instance, a local flea market selling all kinds of pre-used items — from clothing and jewelry to vinyls and vintage dolls — operates in Vilnius Teacher’s House courtyard every Sunday. Local farmers and small businesses that offer fresh, locally-sourced produce also beckon gourmet travelers to spots such as Halės Market in the capital city or  Farmer’s Market in Kaunas, the second-largest city.

Stunning panoramas for carless travelers.  Forming a connection with the natural world is key to an environmentally-friendly mindset, and Lithuania’s cities blend cosmopolitan living with verdurous retreats. Vilnius, which was ranked the greenest city in Europe, lures nature enthusiasts with the Pūčkoriai hiking trail. It can be reached via a short bus ride to the outskirts of Vilnius, and reveals over 5 km of peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Enchanting views of the Vilnelė River and the surrounding lush forests open up from the impressive 65 m high Pūčkioriai outcrop.

Similarly, the Dubingiai hiking trail leads visitors to an island on one of Lithuania’s largest lakes — Asveja — where 14th-century castle ruins quietly await visitors. Furthermore, the Girionys recreation area, which is situated on the shore of Kaunas Reservoir, offers natural shelter from the elements in artfully crafted wooden structures. A picturesque image of the Pažaislis monastery — a renowned example of 17th-century Baroque architecture — looms over the glimmering water on the opposite side.

Overnight at an eco-farm. Visitors can spend the night in over 57 accommodations around the country with high ETIC scores. A 600-hectare “Farmers Circle” complex, tucked away in the village of Radiškis in western Lithuania, tempts visitors with a guided experience through holistic gardening methods and practices. The farm produces organic herbs and vegetables that are excellently crafted into a nutritious meal before the visitors’ eyes. Guests may also have a go at ancient culinary practices that combine fire, smoke, and organic ingredients to produce mouthwatering tastes.

Aside from farms, the entire country is peppered with environmentally-friendly hotels that focus on reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on water usage. One of them is the hideaway SPA VILNIUS in Anykščiai, where a Forest festival is held annually in the surrounding woodlands. Organized in part by the participants themselves, the event invites all who want to learn more about their relationship with nature through workshops, such as an introduction to Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or open discussions on ecology. For the more city-minded folk, Narutis hotel has The ETIC Gold Certification for its sustainability and offers 16th-century style furnishings right in the heart of Vilnius.

Getting around in an earth-friendly way. The well-developed public transportation system suggests an alternative eco-friendly way to get around Lithuania. Vilnius has worked with local businesses to develop the Vilnius Shared Mobility Hub — a transportation hub designed to advance the city’s car-sharing programs and economic innovations. It is also aimed at fostering sustainability by lowering the number of individual vehicles. One such business, Spark, an electric car-sharing app, directs users to the location where they can pick up their vehicle. Then, all one has to do is drive to their destination and drop off the vehicle there.

Alongside short-term rentals, Lithuania’s railway system offers travelers the chance to explore many of the country’s cities — including Vilnius, the medieval town of Trakai, Kaunas, and Klaipėda, the port city. Since 2020, the country’s trains have been fully operating on renewable energy sources, making it easy and cheap to discover the hidden gems of Lithuania.

Having reached the destination via train, travelers can traverse the major cities in an eco-friendly transportation beloved by locals — e-scooters and bikes for rent. However, roads are not the only option for getting around. Those looking for more adventure in their sightseeing can even opt for a kayak ride on routes that run past the downtown areas of Vilnius or Klaipėda, creating a commute that no car could rival.