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Ceturtdiena 25.04.2019 | Name days: Līksma, Bārbala
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More Lithuanians discover ecoleisure pleasures

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Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Are you fond of bird-watching, bird chirruping and tweeting? Does seeing a deer or a moose on the outskirts of a forest on your trip to hinterlands make your day?

If you say that nature is too dormant to see anything alive on a crispy winter day, you are terribly wrong. Ice-fishing fans, wildlife spotters and skiing zealots will prove you just the opposite: Mother Nature is teeming with life year round and one can find how to enjoy it to the fullest!

In fact, increasing numbers of nature-friendly tourists, known shortly as eco-tourists, enter local forests, wade into the rivers or get on ice in winter.

«In the past decades we have witnessed the steadily increasing interest for ecotourism in all over the world. Some European countries have already established quite a solid commitment to develop ecotourism and have generated a rapidly growing number of conscious tourists which choose the respect for environmental integrity, cultural and historical heritage and local traditions rather than commodities offered by mass tourism. Lithuania is without a doubt following the trend,» says Ana Gornatkevič, a blogger and eco-lifestyle supporter.

Among the most visited eco-tourism destinations in the country is certainly Kuršių Nerija National Park (KNNP), which is easily reachable on bike – the trip there from Klaipeda can last up to 4 hours if you’re not the 2018 Tour De France bike race winner.  To get to the park, one need to get on ferry in one of Klaipeda’s two ferry terminals for a 7-minute haul to the picturesque Curonian Spit, sandwiched between the Baltic sea and the land.

«Indeed, eco-tourism is very very welcome by administration of Kuršių Nerija National Park, as it is nature-friendly. I am happy to see that more and more people comprehend the sensitive nature of our park and come here not in cars, but on bikes or on foot,» Aušra Feser, director of KNNP, told BNN.

To better satisfy multiple visitors’ yearn to observe bird nesting and enjoy bird tweeting, park management has recently added new spots in the park to quietly marvel the nature’s wonders.

«We built many new benches to sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings,» director said. «Before, only foreigners were fond of bird watching, but now Lithuanians have followed into their footsteps, too,» Feser emphasised to BNN.

Recently, Neringa Sports School bought skis and started leasing them to Neringa visitors wishing to first-hand experience the serenity of the wintry resort.

With plenty of sunshine in winter days, the Curonian Lagoon is strewn with hundreds of ice-fishing lovers.

«Seeing so many anglers is just amazing. I recommend everybody to see those thickly-clad men and – and women, too – hunching over the hole in ice in bid to lure the fish out,» KNNP director grinned.

And if this sounds like too daring for some, local entrepreneurs offer to accommodate you and your kids in horse-drawn sleighs and swoosh you on the ice-gripped Curonian Lagoon.

Some other winter activities in the park includeanimals’ trace-tracking, which is always a big fun for the littlest, she said.

«Eco tourism is definitely on rise and we see more and more people booking cognitive trips to our regional park. In fact, our immense park, encompassing past of the town of Anykščiai, is teeming with visitors in summer, when local entrepreneurs and management of the park offers a variety of nature-discovering activities. Be it bird watching and listening to their tweeting, be it the fishing trips or the canoeing in our lakes and the rivers. In addition, we have a very well-developed network of bicycle lanes wriggling through park. No wonder that bikers descend here in large numbers when weather just allows it,» Kristina Beinorytė, director of Anykščiai Tourism Information Centre, told BNN.

In her words, tourism flows to Anykščiai surge by 100 thousand visitors every year since 2015.

«This is definitely a clear sign that people have urge to go back to their roots, when nature was our ancestors’ breadwinner and amuser,» she noted.

Agreeing, Kestutis Šerepka, director of Anykščiai regional park (ARP), wondered when speaking to BNN what the term «eco tourist» refers to.

«When the canoers swim by, when the people come to our park on bikes or end up being here on their hitchhiking trips, then, yes, I call them eco tourists. However, I can hardly apply the term to those who arrive here in luxurious SUVs, for example,»director smiled.

Every year, Anykščiai regional park every year welcomes more and more visitors. The significant reason behind the surge is the Anykščiai treetop walking path that was opened in 2015 and has become an instant hit among many holidaymakers.

«Now the visitor flows have decreased a little, but it doesn’t surprise me, as novel things always garner big attention, but tend to lose the steam later,» director said.

In winter, visitor flows to Anykščiai regional park recede too, but ARP management is receiving more inquiries about winter amusements in the park.

«Responding to the demand, last year we started offering cognitive path in the park. During the guide-headed tripshikers hear stories about the park plants, trees and animals that inhabit it,»Šerepka  told BNN.

Besides, park administration last winter commenced guide-led trips on the Rubikiai Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in Lithuania and includes 15 islets. A historic mound on one of them mesmerises visitors especially.

«I was surprised to see large numbers of those willing to make the snow trek. We swiftly organised a second hike and the trips remain among the most popular activities among our visitors in winter,» he said.

Evidently, that, in Lithuania, sustainable tourism is getting more and more popular among the travellers. This country has all the requirements to become an attractive destination for nature lovers, believes State Department of Tourism which promotes both historical and natural sites and raise awareness on the need to travel responsively.

«Conservation of natural and cultural resources, observation of the nature without unnecessary interfering and using ecological transportation are the cornerstones of successful sustainable travelling,» says Rasa Kmitienė, director of Palanga Tourism Information Centre.«It is necessary to develop even a deeper awareness of the ways how sustainable tourism can bring short-term and long-term benefits for the single traveller and a society as well. Even if the interest in ecological matters is increasing, starting from recycling while travelling to using ecological transportation, still a lot to be done,» she added.


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