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Lithuania

Blame it on the Baltic sea breeze or the almost-endless midsummer days: Lithuania has an otherworldly quality. In the southernmost of the Baltic states, beaches are spangled with amber and woodlands are alive with demonic statues. Medieval-style mead and traditional wood-carving never went out of style.

Offsetting Lithuania's reverence of tradition is a spirited counterculture, particularly in compact capital Vilnius. A city of churches and baroque finery, Vilnius’ cobblestoned charms haven’t gone unnoticed by tourists. Less visited are second city Kaunas and spa resort Druskininkai, where 19th-century architecture nudges against brooding Soviet buildings.

As Europe's last country to be Christianised, pagan history still soaks the land. Curonian Spit, splintering from the Baltic coast, is awash in folklore. Cyclists, hikers and beach-goers eagerly board ferries to its voluptuous dunes. Cloaking the rest of Lithuania are lakes, forests of birch and pine, and pancake-flat farmland; in Lithuania, there's ample space to breathe.

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