Improve this combo: a scenic red Gothic castle occupying one island in a series of lakes of crystal-clear waters, part of a national park of postcard-like landscapes, rounded off by a historical town of cute wooden houses inhabited by an exotic ethnic minority that seems out of place in these latitudes.
In addition, if you come to Trakai, probably first you have been visiting Vilnius, the vibrant capital of Lithuania , only a few miles away. Vilnius is a non-expensive city which has a preserved Baroque and Neoclassical centre, parks that make you feel like you are in the countryside, welcoming people, a great nightlife, nice food, excellent beer and even a curious bohemian district called Užupis.
It may reminds you the cover of the 5th Edition of Lonely Planet guide of the Baltic states, but they haven't got this lovely old lady bailing out water from the boats in it.
Do you know that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe in 14th century? And Trakai was its capital for some time. Image by Jo.sau
Most of the buildings of the castle are quite new, but still pretty.
Image by David Smith
The Ducal Palace. Trakai was restored and reconstructed by Lithuanians, Poles, Russians and Germans in the last century, the same nations that have been contesting this land during its long history. Image by Carlisle617
Flying high. A very popular activity in Lithuania is to get on a hot air balloon.
Image by Paulius
I wonder what they would do to stop the Teutonic knights, raiders and other threats when the lake froze.
Image by Vygis22
If you are lucky enough to come in a sunny day and you like playing with a camera, fun is guaranteed.
There is a fine exhibition of old artifacts telling the history of the country in the rooms of the fortress.
The charging knight, coat of arms of Lithuania, here depicted in a pioneer picassian style.
The lake at sunset made me say wow!
If you catch the right light and some autumn clouds, the landscape glows dramatically.
As it should be, the castle, the lakes and the 21 islands that includes this national park, are haunted by tragic stories of love, according to the myths and legends of the place.
These magnificent totems are based on a long tradition of woodcarving in the Lithuanian folk art.
To reach the castle you have to cross the town, that stretches about two kilometers along a peninsula surrounded by picturesque lake views in all directions. Image by Sfu.marcin
Trakai is home of a very singular community, the Karaims: they speak Turkish but their religion is a form of Judaism. They moved here, coming from Crimea (Ukraine) at the end of the 14th century.
Today Karaim community is very small, even though they survived the Holocaust during the Nazi occupation thanks to they were not considered Jews.
Although Trakai is called to be the main attraction of the country, yet is far from being a tourist trap. Visit it before it changes!
Meet the Karaims. Cheeeese!