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Vilnius, Lithuania tour to Hill of Crosses

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Planning extension to our group Poland trip in May 2017. We will be flying from Warsaw to Vilnius to staying near the cathedral for 3-4 nights. I have Lithuanian heritage (Linksmonovich and Zacavish ) that goes back to great grandparents but the family hasn't been able to find much info, but still has always been on my wish list to visit. I welcome any suggestions of sites and dining for our visit. We are interested in visiting churches and sites relating to St. Faustina. We also would like to find a way to take a day trip to The Hill of Crosses. Hoping there is a bus or car tour we could take. Any info on that would be great. Not knowing the language really don't want to rent a car, or if that is even an option?
Thanks!

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    Hi Chip. I visited Vilnius last May by myself and used public transportation to get around. I spent a few nights there, then one night in Kaunas, then stopped at the Hill of Crosses on the way to Latvia. You can find my trip report by clicking on my name above.

    There are direct buses and direct trains from Vilnius to Šiauliai, the closest town to the Hill of Crosses. The problem is that the Hill is far out of town, not walk-able, and I had to take another local bus from the Šiauliai bus station to get to the Hill (which is in a remote area in a field), and that local bus does not run that often - maybe 7-8 times a day each way. As a solo traveler experienced in getting around, this was no big challenge for me, but it might be for some.

    I'm not sure how many people are in your group(?). But the most practical thing, probably, is to take a train or bus to Šiauliai, then take a taxi from there to the Hill. I considered doing this but managed with local bus. As I understood it, though, a taxi would cost about 25 Euros round trip including having the taxi driver wait at the Hill while you explore it. The Hill of Crosses itself is not very big and easily explored on your own, so you do not really need to take a tour from Vilinius, but of course that would be easier.

    I would not have hesitated to rent a car in Lithuania, having driven in Europe more than once, but it didn't make sense for my itinerary. Driving in Lithuania did not look challenging (language has never been a worry for me when I travel in Europe actually). If there are only two of you, the taxi from Šiauliai's bus or train station probably makes the most sense; with a larger group, the car would probably be easiest and might save you money.

    Šiauliai itself is an interesting though not exactly quaint little town, worth an hour or two to explore, if you can squeeze it in. If Vilinius is the only other town you'll visit in Lithuania, it might be nice to see a contrast. Šiauliai feels like a drab post-war communist town that is still trying to evolve.

    FYI, I found that my Android phone with Google Maps was extremely helpful for getting around Vilnius. I had T-Mobile with free unlimited data, but you could buy a local SIM cheap in an unlocked smart phone. I took a mini-bus from the airport into town, and Google Maps also guided me to each bus stop, etc. for wherever I needed to go. Vilnius isn't that big and most tourists probably don't buy a bus pass, but I did - I took it everywhere and still walked a ton, so the bus saved my feet. Having the phone saved me from having to find bus stops or look up bus schedules.

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    I travelled solo around Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia a couple of years ago using only public transport - very easy. The Baltic countries are small, people are friendly and I had a great time. You might find some ideas from my blog at http://www.paulkilfoil.co.za/2014.aspx

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    Update:
    Just back from Lithuania. We flew in and out of Warsaw to Vilnius. We decided on a rental car which was an easy pickup at the airport. Driving and parking was not a problem and actually quite easy outside of the old town of Vilnius. Getting the navigation on the rental car definately made things go smoothly.

    Vilnius has a beautiful old town and we had a wonderful time exploring the numerous churches and historic sites.

    We hired a local guide for the day to go with us to the Hill of Crosses. We also stopped at a monastery and a Marian pilgrimage site. Perfect day for a drive around Lithuania and learning all about Lithuania's history from our guide.

    You can check out pictures on our FB site
    Catholic Faith On The Move

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