|The Nemunas is not only the largest and water-rich river in Lithuania, but also the most glorified in the songs, woven into legends and described by chroniclers in ancient times. Even now there are modern legends about the loops of this river, and so far geologists cannot answer the question of how the loops had formed. Scientists say that the loops of the Nemunas are a unique phenomenon not only in Lithuania but in all glacier areas as well. In search of the shortest path to the Baltic Sea, the Nemunas performed the work of a real sculptor. “Grandpa” Nemunas mesmerized a lot of travellers with his valleys, high slopes, ravines, exposures, and ridges. Anyone who wants to see the beauty created by Nemunas should have taken off in a hot air balloon, plane, glider or just turned into a bird! Just having been in the sky, one realizes what a beautiful land we live in and what an incredible landscape surrounds us! This landscape was created by nature together with the humans living here. One can admire the Nemunas from the river’s banks; they are 30-70 m high. Such elevation changes are quite rare in Lithuania. These views take travellers‘ breath away and these views leave a lasting impression! Yet one question remained unanswered – how to enjoy the landscape without flying, how to feel oneself between two rivers while staying on the ground. From now on, to feel like a bird in the sky and to see incredible landscape – one can climb the Birštonas Observation Tower – the highest such tower in Lithuania. The place for the tower was chosen back in 1997, when the Government of the Republic of Lithuania approved the planning scheme for the Nemunas Loops Regional Park. The planning scheme sets out measures for the conservation, management and proper use of this unique territory. Already then there was a dream about constructing an observation tower which would provide opportunity to appreciate beauty and uniqueness of the area. The place for the tower was chosen – ridge of Škėvonys exposure (height of 92 m above sea level). The Nemunas River flows 240 meters away, and there is open area in the south-eastern part, there is forest nearby, panorama of Birštonas and the Nemunas Valley is visible. The observation deck of the tower will be located at a height of 45 m, and the total height of the tower will be 55 m. Getting to the tower top without stopping might be difficult, and therefore six rest sites will be provided. Next to the tower there will be a recreation area and information stand with panorama of the Nemunas Loops Regional Park. The metal construction of the tower will be “dressed” with larch panels with triangular cells. Such “dress” of the tower might remind of wayside shrine or constellations in the sky. The tower, rectangular design with a laced roof, follows the tradition of Lithuanian defensive architecture, resembles old wooden castle towers and also associates with the later architecture of belfries towers. One might also compare the tower with roadside chapels and image of the World tree. The symbolism of the tower enlivens with the openings – small window for light penetration and opportunity to admire the surrounding beauties as they are carvings of wooden sculptures. The State Service of Protected Areas has placed the order for the Birštonas Observation Tower, UAB “Prosfera” and architect Donatas Malinauskas are project developers, UAB “Empower-Fidelitas” is the builder.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the Birštonas Observation Tower
1. When can I visit the Birštonas Observation Tower? The Birštonas Observation Tower is open daily from 7:00 to 21:00. The number of visitors is currently being controlled. In the future, the tower is planned to be open to visitors 24 hours a day.
2. How can I find the Birštonas Observation Tower? Since the tower is located in an area protected for its unique landscape – the Nemunas Loops Regional Park – the infrastructure is extremely limited. Therefore, the most convenient way to reach the tower is on foot or by bike. If you drive to Birštonas, it is recommended that you leave your car in town (the nearest large parking lot is next to the Norfa shopping centre at B. Sruogos g. 25). From there you can reach the tower in less than 20 minutes by foot. Directions are available here. When there aren’t as many visitors, you can find a place to park at the parking lots by the Seklytėlė restaurant or the Royal Spa Residence hotel – from here, the walk to the tower only takes 10 minutes, and you can enjoy a meal or a dessert when you come back. The route is available here. Birštonas Tours organises special excursions to the tower with an electric tour bus. Additional information is available here.
3. How much does it cost to visit the tower? Visiting the Birštonas Observation Tower is free of charge. However, you are welcome to purchase a voluntary ticket to support the protected area. The funds raised will go towards the maintenance and improvement of the infrastructure. Voluntary tickets can be purchased at the Nemunas Loops Regional Park Visitor Centre or by SMS (text NKRP to 1860).
4. Can people with special needs visit the tower? Visitors with disabilities can drive right up to the tower, where there is a small parking lot. There, they – and other visitors who do not want to climb up the steps – will find special information stands with QR codes that they can scan to see the views from the tower. The tower is not equipped with a lift.
5. When is the best time to visit? The best views are early in the morning, when the sun rises, or in the evening, when it sets. In the first few weeks, it is recommended that you visit the tower on weekday mornings, when there are fewer people. On weekends, there are queues to enter the tower with waits as long as 90 minutes.
6. What will I see from the tower’s observation deck? After climbing the tower’s 300 steps, visitors are greeted with a spectacular natural phenomenon: the loops of the largest river in Lithuania – the Nemunas. The Nemunas is visible from both sides, as if you were between two rivers. Until now, the landscape of the Nemunas loops could only be viewed from a hot air balloon or paraglider or in pictures, but now it can be taken in from the tower. There is a forest next to the tower, and the Birštonas panorama and Nemunas Valley are visible.
7. Can I climb the tower if I’m not in very good shape? The tower is equipped with six rest spots where you can pause to catch your breath. Climbing up to the main observation deck takes about seven minutes without stops. Comfortable shoes make climbing easier.
8. What kind of surface does the road have that leads to the tower? To get to the tower, there is a specially prepared, levelled, unpaved road. It is regularly maintained, but is wet when there is rainy weather, so you should choose appropriate footwear.
9. Is a crossing planned to be built over the A16 road? The Lithuanian Road Administration under the Ministry of Transport and Communications is currently working on a project to construct a viaduct over the A16. Then the walk from the Birštonas resort to the tower will be even more convenient. Currently, visitors can cross the road at the traffic island – this is permitted by road safety rules. As an added measure, a reduced speed limit and warning signs have been put in place on this stretch of road.
10. What other tourist attractions can I visit nearby the Birštonas Observation Tower? Known for its unique nature, mineral water, royal roots, and the winding loops of the Nemunas River, Birštonas is a Lithuanian resort that offers world-class wellness services. The resort has plenty of tourist attractions and other forms of entertainment for the entire family. More information can be found at www.visitbirstonas.lt
11. Is there anywhere to buy drinks/snacks near the tower? Currently, coffee is being sold by the tower. Negotiations are underway with other merchants who have expressed a desire to offer their services to visitors. However, Birštonas, which is located right nearby the tower, has a well-developed infrastructure for quality leisure time, with plenty of places to eat and stay, as well as various cultural and sporting events.