Trakai Castle and Kernavė

Trakai Castle -One of Lithuania's former capitals, Trakai, located just 28km west of Vilnius, is a charmingly small settlement, strategically placed in the middle of five large lakes. It is a popular destination for locals seeking a little rest and relaxation by the water and tourists hoping to storm the infamous castle. There must be reason all roads seem to lead to Trakai in the summer.

The highlight of any trip to Trakai is the castle. Dating from the 14th century, the place was destroyed during the war with the Russians (17th-18th centuries), with restoration work only starting again as recently as 1955. Inside find a museum tracing the history of the castle and its significance as one of the holiest of holy Lithuanian sites.

Kernavė – the First capital of Lithuania. After 25 years of successful archaeological researches, today we know that the first settlers appeared in the territory of the Cultural Reservation of Kernavė as early as in 9th-8th millennium BC, in the Epipaleolithic period. Since then until the very Early Middle Ages, the territory was continuously settled by people who left their traces. Formation of large settlements started in the Pajauta Valley in first centuries AC. Hillforts were used to defend the settlements. Hillforts are the most powerful element of the Cultural Reservation. There are up to one thousand hillforts in Lithuania, but there is no other complex of five hillforts along the whole region of the Baltic Sea.

The central hillfort (called the Aukuro Hillfort) was the duke’s estate, the remaining four carried out the functions of defence of the duke’s castle and the town. In written sources Kernavė was first mentioned in 1279 in the Livonian Chronicle and the Herman Vartberg Chronicle, where it was described as Traidenis’, the Great Duke’s of Lithuania, estate (1269-1282). At that time Kernavė was the most significant economic-political centre of Lithuania – the first capital of Lithuania. These were Kernavė’s palmy days.

Kernavė these days is UNESCO World Heritage site and represents an exceptional testimony to some 10 millennia of human settlements in this region. Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is a complex ensemble of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernavė, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic period to the Middle Ages. The site of 194,4-ha has preserved the traces of ancient land use, as well as remains of five impressive hill forts, part of an exceptionally large defence system. Kernavė was an important feudal town in the Middle Ages. Although the town was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century, the site remained in use till the modern times.