Latvia and Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses

Air Balitic’s hub in Riga, Latvia allowed me to fly in early from Russia’s Kaliningrad, and set out in a rental car until an evening connection to Tallinn, Estonia.

In planning a route I select places that are either unique or superlative. There are many churches in the world and I have seen plenty. From Riga the most interesting spot to me lay across the border in Lithuania, the Hill of Crosses, a memorial that grew into a symbol of anti-Soviet resistance. Riga’s airport area is wracked by traffic and going was slow all the way to the border due to road construction. The border is only marked by a sign and the Hill of Crosses loomed into view.

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Heading back to Latvia I looped around to the east to visit Rundale Palace.

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I pressed on with a stop at the Bauskas Palace ruins, under off-season renovation.

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I reached Riga in time to catch the final hours of daylight from its UNESCO-listed Historic Centre and the modern buildings across the river. Of the three Baltic capitals, Riga has scale and setting, and in summer I imagine the most tourists. For view the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija, Riga across the river holds the crown, while the Historic Centre has many accommodation options.

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Latvia’s countryside has the pleasures of Europe in a stoic setting. Riga rivals much more touristed Western European capitals. As Hill of Crosses is much closer to Riga than Vilnius, Lithuania, take the opportunity to see it from Riga or en route between the two. Public transport is scarce. Driving is a breeze when able to avoid construction.

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  • guera

    Great “off the radar” destination. Give logistics if you have time.

  • @guera – I will put together an overall itinerary for the trip, I should have done it up front but have gotten so far behind on posting about trips that I am trying to bite off small chucks. How it worked for me was Kaliningrad – Riga (12 hour layover) – Tallinn on Air Baltic. Tallinn – Kiev on Estonian. Kiev – Vilnius on Ukraine International Airlines ($36!). Vilnius – Minsk by train. This was hardly the natural way to do it but worked with the flights and access to Belarus.

    Air Baltic is a great tool in the region, the fares are cheap, the experience is pretty good. Rental cars are subject to huge one-way fees that reduce the appeal of a natural route among the three Baltics. Trains are fairly limited. As a city I liked Riga the best.

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  • Aptraveler

    Nice report Stephan, and it’s good to see you posting again such interesting itineraries & reviews.

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