Visiting Lithuanian gates to the underworld

There are many tourist destinations at any corner of the world. This article is a part of the series “Exploring Lithuania” where I focus on the country I was born and raised. Until 2017 I thought of Lithuania and the neighboring countries as a super boring region. In recent year I kept exploring it and to my surprise I was very pleased with what I saw, so pleased, that I decided to share what I saw.

Today I focus on Biržai and Biržai Regional Park, which is in the northern part of Lithuania close to its Baltic sister — Latvia. I would recommend this trip for those who are interested in geology, archeology or just want to see some caves and rocks in Lithuania. Please keep in mind that I didn’t visit every possible object in the region, but instead visited what I found interesting during my research. Your experience might differ, and I would be glad to hear of it.

In my own personal experience, the MUST SEE objects in this region are Kirkilai viewpoint tower, Kirkilai lakes, Green stream and Cow Cave.

Here in Lithuania, we have a common old curse on another person: ‘Kad tu prasmegtum!’ (Literally: Be swallowed by the Earth), but local People in Biržai region doesn’t say that even to a foe because it might actually happen. Circulating waters in the region dissolve sandstone, gypsum or dolomite and create a bunch of sinkholes. The total number of sinkholes in Biržai Regional Park, which has a size of Miami, estimated to be over 9,000 and it is still increasing every year.

Kirkilai viewpoint tower

Standing high, almost 32 meters tall, reminding an ancient boat, Kirkilai viewpoint tower alone is a good excuse for a visit to Biržai region. Based on my own personal experience, it is probably the most beautiful viewpoint tower I’ve ever seen, together with the most interesting panorama yet. It stands near Kirkilai village over numerous karst lakes, not far from Biržai, Aukštaitija, Lithuania.

Kirkilai lakes

Karst lakes are the youngest naturally formed lakes you can find around. They form as a result of subterranean cave collapse, usually when water washes away water-soluble rocks, like limestone, gypsum, dolomite or chalk.

And Kirkilai karst lakes are a good example. Varying from 30 to 100 square meters and up to 5 m depth, there are more than 30 lakes like this in one place together fusing into one giant water labyrinth.

Sinkhole park

These unique in the Baltics karst lakes are not the only geological objects in the region affected by karst processes. There are plenty of sinkholes in the region and actually the only self-proclaimed sinkhole park in the World. Pasvalys sinkhole park might lack some spectacular sinkholes, but its really good for a walk, especially if you are with children. Recommended If you are nearby and have some spare time.

Green stream — Deepest cave in Lithuania

And there is a really good reason to visit Pasvalys — the deepest cave in the Lithuania — Green stream. Although it is not your typical cave, because it filled with water and it is rather a sinkhole than a cave, it is still interesting. Green Stream is 20 m deep and 5 m wide, a sinkhole near Lėvuo river formed around 1960 when the ground collapsed onto the cave. On the edges of the cave, you can still see parts of gypsum and limestone. The flow of water out of the sinkhole made a small stream from the depths to Lėvuo river and has a slight smell of sulfur.

Cow Cave

Probably the most famous sinkhole in the region is Karvės uola (lit. Cow cave). Not only the biggest, it also has a legend which says that once a cow sank here into the ground and the only thing that what was left was her chain. Apparently, this is where the name comes from and the tale makes the cave a perfect place to visit with children. You can even find a statue of cow here with more information about this old place.

The Cow cave itself is 10 to 12 wide and 12.6 m deep, you can descend 9 m to the place where the hole forks into four smaller caves, one of them has even a small 1,5 m deep lake. The Cow cave is still forming and specifications might change with time.

Biržai Regional Park

Another reason to check out the Cow cave is other sinkholes nearby. The region has the biggest amount of sinkholes per square km in Lithuania (200 units/ sq. Km). In Biržai Regional Park you can find the other famous sinkholes — Geologist, Fox Cave, Eve‘s and Easter, also in this reserve you explore Badger‘s Educational Track.

Fox Cave

Scientists guess that Fox Cave is 70 years old and surprise, surprise it called like that because foxes live here. The sinkhole has a diameter of 17 m and depth of 10 m. Sticking out from the Fox Cave‘s slopes dolomite and gypsum stones are what makes this sinkhole unique.

The Badger‘s educational track

The Badger‘s educational track starts at Geologist Sinkhole and then leads through Fox‘s Cave to a small forest where you can find Badger‘s Cave itself. The whole track is only 700 m in length, but lets you see even 13 sinkholes.

The Badger‘s Cave

Badger‘s Cave is formed from 2 different sinkholes flying into one. Its overall length is 32m and has a 3,5m depth. And, no shit, Sherlock, you are right, it is called a Badger‘s Cave after scientists found signs of the presence of a Badger inside the cave.

Lake Širvėna

Lake Širvėna — The oldest artificial lake in Lithuania. With a size of 325 ha., it was created after Duke Kristupas Radvila in order to create a protective buffer zone, ordered to build a damn on Agluona and Apaščia river in 1575.

The longest pedestrian bridge in Lithuania is built over lake Širvėna in Biržai. It‘s length — 525m.

Biržai Castle

Except for a bridge and some ruins of a wall, Biržai Castle doesn‘t remind too much of what we imagine when we hear word „Castle“. It does look more like a manor, but nevertheless, the whole complex is beautiful and worth a walk around. It was built by Duke Radvila family and was used to defend northern border of Lithuania in 17th-18th centuries.

Today, in Biržai Castle, you can find Jurgis Bielinis Public Library of Biržai and Biržai Regional Museum Sėla.

After all of that don‘t forget to check at least one of the three Beer breweries located in this region: Rinkuškiai, Biržų beer or Butautų beer. If you want a more educational beer tasting, visit Sėla museum in Biržai Castle for an exhibition of old brewing traditions.

If you visited Biržai Regional Park already or have any questions, please, message me or write it down in the comment section. Thank you, for reading and until next adventure!

Author: Mantas Ališauskas
Photography: Mantas Ališauskas

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Want to learn more about the Baltic States? Check out these articles:

Visiting ancient cliffs from Devonian period

Tallinn Old Town — Hidden Medieval Gem of Baltics




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