The Dzūkija National Park provides acquaintance with natural riches of Dzūkija, the households, traditions and customs of dzūkai living in different areas.
The most popular and comfortable form of visiting the park is autotourism. The present road network is convenient to access Marcinkonys and Merkinė. The number of asphalt roads increases each year, though many visitable places can be reached only by gravel highways or forest roads.
For organised park visitors, excursions by bus are proposed. Nevertheless, the very beauty of Dzūkija land may be grasped by walking on foot or driving on bicycles.
For the comfort of park visitors, many relaxation grounds, arbours, bonfire places, foot-bridges and paths to springs are arranged.
The park has four pedestrian passages. In Marcinkonys, starting from the ethnocultural and educational centre of environmental preservation, the route begins by Girinis (3.6 km) and Zackagiris (4.8 km and 13 km circular routes) paths in picturesque environs of Marcinkonys. Not far away from Marcinkonys, by the northwest edge of the Čepkeliai reservation, a path 1.5 km acquaints with the unique nature of Dzūkija dunes and Čepkeliai bog.
Out of the watch-tower, wide spaces of the bog lie open to the eye. For those who want to see the marsh from near, a foot-bridge is laid across. This path may be visited only with an accompanying staff of the National Park or the Čepkeliai reservation.
From 1 April to 1 June only small groups of visitors are accepted.
We recommend to start the acquaintance with the park from the information centres of Marcinkonys and Merkinė. Here, you will find excursion guides and available information on the park's visiting, camping places and accommodation in villages also watch videotapes about the park. Information centres constantly hold art exhibitions and sell souvenirs and booklets.
For more exhaustive information about the nature and culture of Dzūkija, we would recommend to visit the educational centre of environmental preservation and ethnography in Marcinkonys where qualified specialists of the National Park provide services:
- give lectures on etnocultural and natural riches of the park;
- provide specialized excursions for naturalist;
- acquaint with customs, traditional craftworks and trades of dzūkai.
The centre has convenient facilities to organize seminars, conferences, schools of traditional trades (for grupes of not more than 25 participants); all necessary equipments is available.
Five museums opened in the territory of the park will help you to know the rich history and culture of Dainava land.
Canoeing down the Ūla river
The Ūla is one of the most picturesque Lithuanian rivers flowing via ancient villages of Dzūkija, hidden in the heart of Gudų forest. It is famous for its impressive slopes and loops. A fast-flowing stream erodes and washes away the slopes. Here and there undermined new steep slopes and sand exposures open. Forest trees fall down from the eroded slopes into the river blocking its way. Numerous snags and logs lying across the river make canoeing more difficult however, at the same time it makes it more interesting and adventurous.
The Ūla River is 84 km long. Its headwaters are in Belarus, Pelesa environs. The river flows along the channel from Dubičiai to Krokšlys. Therefore it is most advisable to start the trip in the village of Zervynos.
Zervynos is one of the most beautiful villages in Dzūkija, famous for its ethnographic farmsteads. It has been declared an architectural monument.
From Zervynos the Ūla starts making its way through a stretch of continental dunes. Having passed the Saint Petersburg - Warsaw railwaybridge, steep slopes of Mančiagirė - expressive river loops, high banks of falling sand - declared to be the monument of nature, come into sight. This is one of the most beautiful sections of the Ūla River.
Rowing down the Ūla towards Žiūrai, impressive slopes and picturesque pastures in the willow groves and sandy meadows catch the eye. On the left bank of the river there is a monument of nature - the spring called “The Ūla’s Eye”. It is an oval lake on the bottom of which black “boiling” sand bubbles.
Having flown through Žiūrai, Trakiškiai, Paūliai villages, the river simply disappears in the tunnels made of the riverside trees and it is only in the meadows that several loops emerge.
Below Paūliai the river becomes broader and soon flows into the Merkys River.
It is only 22 km to canoe down the Merkys to reach the Nemunas. When canoeing down the Merkys one will come across several small shoals and single boulders, and wooded riversides abound in springs. By Puvočiai, near the confluence of the Grūda and Merkys, a large split boulder called the “Thunder Boulder” comes to the surface of the river. A little further, at Kasčiūnai, the Skroblus flows into the river - a 18-kilometres long, bright and deep stream filled up with spring waters.
The Merkys River here is rather slow and there are hardly any obstacles in it. The river valley becomes especially wide, villages distance themselves from the river. Down from Kasčiūnai on the right there are meadows of Lankininkų village, and on the left - the domains of the residents of Trasninkas and Jablanavas.
Soon one comes to the Kaunas-Druskininkai bridge. Having meandered through the flooded meadows, before the town of Merkinė, the Merkys River falls into the Nemunas. On arriving at the town of Merkinė one should climb the mound, which is on the confluence of the Merkys and the Nemunas Rivers. Once there stood the Merkinė Castle, one of the most significant castles in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania mentioned in the ancient records as far back as 1359. The castle did not survive however, the beauty of nature opening from the mound still fascinates every visitor.
The St. Virgin Mary Ascension Church, the Local Lore Museum, the Art Gallery of Dzūkija National Park are worth visiting too. The town of Merkinė is squeezed into the confluence of the Nemunas, Merkys, Stangė and Strauja rivers, on the crossroads of the former important roads leading from Vilnius to Warsaw and from Kaunas to Gardinas.
Duration of routes:
Zervynos - Mančiagirė campsite 2 hours
Mančiagirė - Trakiškiai campsite 3 hours
Trakiškiai - the confluence of the Merkys
and the Ūla 2 hours
Confluence of the Merkys and the Ūla -
Mardasavas campsite 5 minutes
Confluence of the Merkys and the Ūla -
Puvočiai campsite 1 hour
Puvočiai campsite - Merkys campsite 1.5 hours
Merkys campsite - Merkinė 30 minutes
The Ūla River flows through the Ūla landscape reserve and the Dzūkija National Park, therefore canoeing down this river is restricted. To obtain a permit to canoe down the Ūla River one should apply to the Visitors Centres in Marcinkonys and Merkinė.
Water tourism fans should remember that setting up a camp, putting up a tent, making a fire is permitted only in places set up for that particular purpose, i.e. at the campsites of Pauosupė, Mančiagirė, Trakiškių, Mardasavas, Puvočiai, Merkys and Nemunas.
The Merkys River Route
The Merkys River is one of the biggest right tributary of the Neman River, flowing through Rudnicka and Dainava primeval forest. Among other Lithuanian rivers it is distinguished by the beauty of its shores and clean water.
7- day and 182 km.
Journey can be started from the town Tabariškes in the region Šalčininkai, sailing to the cross of the Merkys and Neman River in the town Merkinė. You can also travel by the Merkys River from the town Valkininkai (88 km.) or Varėna (46). The rally can also be started from the Merkys River’s tributaries – Šalčia and Ūla.
The route is quite interesting and not complicated, recommended for beginners. From the town Merkinė it is possible to lengthen the journey by the Neman River to the city Alytus (additional 53 km).
Dear visitors of Dzukija National Park, we are pleased invite you to discover Marcinkonys environs by following Zackagiris sightseeing route. The length of the route is 13,8 km, however, you may choose sections of 7 km or 10,5 km.
The route begins at Marcinkonys Visitors Centre.
1. Marcinkonys is the one of the largest Litnuaniain village which originated from a settlement of forest scuots mentioned back in 1637. Up to the middle of the 19th century, it was e small village that expanded only after the railway Warsaw – St. Petersburg was built (in the second half of the 19th century). The environs of the village have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Now Marcinkonys has over 800 inhabitants. The administration of Čepkeliai State Rezervation and Dzukija National Park, as well as Marcinkonys Visitors Centre are located here. A small path winding further leads toward the part of the village called Naujaliai or Kremlius situated in a depression. The Duobupis, a small river that crosses Naujaliai, farther on joins with the Zackagiris stream which gave the name to this sightseeing ruote. After leaving the village. the Zackagiris flows into the Grūda that runs throught the forest from the Grūda lake that separates Lithuania and Belarus. The lenght of the Grūda is 45 km. It differs from the Park‘s other rivers by its very wide valley and an abundans of the loops and old riverbeds. Earlier, the Grūda was famuos for its large population crayfish; one can also see trout and graylings and otters that hunt there. The Grūda water-meadows are a favourite hiding place for corn-crakes, while herons look for frogs here and cranes come here spring.
2. Hill of Shooting-Range. A shooting-range was established here during the Polish Occupation period later to be used by Germans. There were wooden rails at the foot of the hill that were used for pulling a trolley with attached targets. A cottage stood at the edge of the forest from which they used to shots at the moving target-trolley. The high slope would „absorb“ the shots that missed the target. Village children used to look for lead from bullets for their fishing-rods. They used to slide down the sand and look if any piece of a bullet came to the surface.
3. Trees with hollows. When you cross the Grūda, you will find a hollow pine. There are very old bee-keeping traditions in the forest of Dzūkija. During hard period, people would face a shortage bread or money but they would never experiens a lack of honey. Honey and wax were the main suorce of incom for many inhabitants for a long time. They used to climb trees by using special equipment that is exhibited at the Ethnographic Museum in Marcinkonys. You can see bees living in the hollows of the Ancient Bee-Keeping Path located in Musteika environs.
4. The Dune of Roosters. The white sand hill is an open hill in the Roosters corner. Inland dunes in Dzukija pine forests extend for tens of kilometers but all of them have stopped moving since trees and grass have stopped the movement of sand. But this dune is still alive. Helped by the wind, it tries to resist plants by pouring its white sand on them.
5. “The Bear’s Rump”. Lichen forests are replaced by small swamps, meadows and bushes called “The Bear’s Rump”. On the right, there are cultural meadows with the straightened and deepened Zackagiris stream flowing through, and on the left, there I a small but very beautiful raised bog. In spring, andromedas burst into blossom and cotton – grass shows its white tuft. Ledums and bog whortleberries grow in drier places, and cranberry stems interlace on the hummocks of swamps. Moving toward the Aklažeris, fenced fields called Prudai appear on the left.
6. The Aklažeris. It is a small lake of thermo – karstic origin that appeared when an ice lump broke away from a glacier and was covered with soil. The bogging process transformed the lake of almost 10 ha into and transition mire while only fifty years ago one could swim there. Silver crucian carps used to spawn in the lake, and fishing boats would be moored along the shores. A lot of mountain arnicas and sand pinks grow on the slopes of the lake’s shores.
7. Beaver’s Places. The path leads through the sections stretching out through the dunes toward the Warsaw – St. Petersburg railroad leaving the Aklažeris behind. On the right you can see lush sedge meadows and low – lying marshy land quagmires which conceal beavers cabins. On the left, 200 m from the railroad, there is a circus brimming with numerous springs where the Zackagiris stream begins. After visiting a woody island, you will reach a wide clearing: these are lanes through which Marcinkonys village cattle were driven to the border of Čepkeliai Raised Bog. If you turn left, there is the Kastinis Lake nearby, and if you turn right, you will return to Marcinkonys Visitors Centre by following the lanes.
Marcinkonys visitors centre,
Miškininkų str. 61, Marcinkonys, LT-65303 Varėna region,
fax. (+370 310) 44471, phone (+370310) 44466;
Merkinė visitors centre,
Vilniaus str. 2, Merkinė, LT-65334 Varėna region,
fax and phone (+370 310) 57245.
Opening hours :
October – April
I-IV – 8:00 – 17:00
V – 8:00 – 15:45
Lunch-hour: 12:00 – 12:45
Rest days: Saturday,
May - September
II – V – 8:00 – 17:00
VI - 8:00 – 15:45
Lunch-hour: 12:00 – 12:45
Rest days: Sunday
The museum’s homestead includes a barn and a house constructed in 1905. collection of the museum’s artifacts began in 1991.
The Dzūkija National Park museum in Marcinkonys opened for visitors in 1994. The exhibit is continuously complemented with new showpieces collected in the territory of the Park.
In the museum you will learn how Dzūkai, the local inhabitants from small villages scattered in the forests, strolled along ”mushrooms trails”, went fishing and hunting, sprang a fire with a striker and lit their houses with a “dziedas”, shod footwear woven out of willow’s bark and traveled to the largest in Lithuania raised bog to pick cranberries, ensnared wild bees in a hollow pine tree, about the lifestyle of “forest” Dzūkai, their mores, traditions and handcrafts.
You will see a basket to hold 110 kg of chanterelles, a “geinis”- special device used to climb trees and gather honey from beehives, river and lake dugout canoes, a “skliutas”- a special axe used to trim timber logs, a collection of instruments used by region’s most famous woodworker Tomas Miškinis, a “gagančius”- device used for lighting during nighttime fishing.
You will hear legends and tales about Marcinkonys and its surroundings, lyrical and melodious old dzūkai songs, and will learn about meals prepared by dzūkai during calendar festivals.
We will give you the full-scale information of the artifacts collected in the museum.
Also you may visit exhibits by local artists held in the museum barn throughout the tourism season.
Learn about handcrafts-sash weaving, candles making, weaving out of straw, wickers, lath, or pine tree roots, egg paining with wax.
Please contact us in advance to hear talks on various topics – “The bread’s journey to the table”, “ The path of flax”, “ the busy bee”.
Our young visitors can learn traditional circle dances…
Miškininkų str. 3, Marcinkonys, LT-65303 Varėna region,
phone (+370310) 39169;