It’s one of the world’s most magnificent castles.
Occupying one of more than 20 small islands in the middle of Lake Galve, it rests regally while sailboats and swans glide over the glassy water.
On a warm summer day, there is no better way to experience that storybook setting than on a romantic sail on the lake.
The Land of Lakes
Trakai is a medieval village and lake resort about 17 miles (28km) from the capital of Vilnius. Its history goes back at least 2,000 years, though it became significant in the 14th century when two castles, the Trakai Island Castle and the Peninsula Castle, were built on Lake Galve. There are two other large lakes nearby and more than 200 in the region, lending Trakai the name “The Land of Lakes.”
Trakai is a well-preserved historical village with more than 5,000 residents, and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country with a half million visitors each year.
Credit: Familie Streefkerk
Trakai Island Castle looks like a beautiful blend of Lake Bled in Slovenia and Marienburg Castle in Poland. A long bridge connects the island with its imposing towers and walls to the mainland and at night the bridge and castle are brilliantly illuminated. Tours of the castle and on-site museum offer a well-deserved closer look.
The Peninsula Castle, just a short walk from town, is in ruins but it still merits a look.
Let’s Go Sailing
One of the best (and most romantic) ways to explore the area is by boat. The calm waters are easy to navigate and a pleasurable day of sailing or rowing with the castle in the background will not quickly be forgotten. You can also hop on an old steamboat for a tour or charter a yacht.
Credit: Lee Fenner
Trakai stands in a national park of the same name. The 50-square-mile (80sq.km) park is covered with beautiful forests, lakes and rivers and is a water sport paradise. You can water ski, wakeboard and windsurf. There are even a few dive sites and excellent fishing.
Camping is recommended to enjoy days of great hiking, biking or horseback riding. Take a walk through the traditional village with its unique wooden houses and stop for some local cuisine at one of the fine restaurants.
Just don’t be surprised if your eyes keep wandering back the romantic Trakai Castle.
O why is Trakai not somewhere in England, Scotland or Switzerland? Then crowds would come every day to gaze at its fairness. We would find thousands of their accounts in travel journals and novels. Thousands of painters from all over would sketch it. Its honor would be conveyed across Europe in millions of prints and this honor would eventually even fall to Lithuania. - Władysław Syrokomle, Lithuanian writer
When To Go
The best time to visit Trakai is between May and September.
Between May and September, temperatures of 68°F (20°C) are common during the day while 57°F (14°C) is the average at night. It’s not rare for temperatures to reach 86°F (30°C) in the summer months. Summer is relatively dry but sometimes even sleet can fall in September or May.
Getting There & Around
Vilnius International Airport is located 4 miles (6km) south of the city center. Buses No. 1 and No. 2 and trains regularly go downtown. Trakai is just 18 miles (28km) west of there. You can take a bus to Trakai, but it’s best to rent a car and take a day trip there.
- Mid-range accommodations: $50-100
- Meals: $10-20
- Beer: $3
- Try the kibinai, a hot pastry filled with meat and onions that is the unique food of the tiny community of Karaites.
- Come in June when the medieval festival takes place in the castle.
- Visit Vilnius and take a tour around the old town.
- Forget to bring mosquito spray
- Miss the picturesque Tiškevičiai palace and Užutrakis Manor, both have pleasant gardens.
- Book a hotel. Instead, arrange a home-stay with a local family.
- Admission to the island and area around the castle is free.
- Trakai Castle is the only castle in Europe that is surrounded by water on all sides.
- For a short time during the 15th century, Trakai was the de facto capital of Lithuania.
- Trakai Historical National Park is the only of its kind in Europe. It was created solely to protect the village, castles, heritage and surrounding nature.
Feature Image Credit: Олександр