The Hill of Crosses is the most popular attraction in Lithuania and for good reason. Seeing thousands of different sized crosses is a unique and amazing sight. It is impossible to translate in photos just how vast the site is and how many intricate details there are on each cross.
You can visit as a day trip from Vilnius, other cities in Lithuania or even from Latvia. Entrance to the site is free and there is a gift shop that crosses that you can add to the hill.
Getting there by car
The Hill of Crosses is roughly a 2 hour, 30 minute drive from the capital. It is an easy journey as the roads are well made and wide, despite the rural location. If you are not hiring a car then the second easiest option is to join one of the many tours that depart from the capital everyday.
The Hill of crosses is a 2 hour drive from the city of Kaunas or 1 hour 45 minutes from Riga Latvia.
There is a small fee if you wish to park in the car park. However free parking is also available along the side of the road if there is space.
Getting there by train and bus
It is also possible to visit by taking a train/bus to the closest town which is Šiauliai. A train runs regularly between Vilnius and Klaipeda, stopping at Šiauliai on the way. The journey takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Alternatively there is a bus to Šiauliai which takes about 3 hours 30 minutes.
Once you have reached Šiauliai, taking a taxi is the easiest option to get to the Hill of Crosses. Alternatively, take the number 12 bus towards Joniškis and get off at the Domantai stop. However taking the bus back can be difficult because they are infrequent and finding the right one can be challenging.
The best time of day to visit
We actually visited the Hill of Crosses twice during our time in Lithuania. The first time was at 14:00 but it was so crowded and hot that it felt very different to the peaceful and spiritual place that I imagined. So we decided to try again early the following day.
The next morning the weather was a lot more bearable (we are English after all). But we were surprised by the constant stream of people visiting the site even at 09:30. Although the main path was busy, there were lots of smaller paths which were much quieter.
How was the Hill of Crosses made?
The exact origins of the Hill of Crosses, or Kryžių Kalnas, are not completely known. It is thought to have started as a memorial to victims of an uprising against Russian rulers in 1831. Its importance was further cemented during the soviet rule of Lithuania in the 1960s. Soviets considered the hill a threat due to it being an expression of Lithuanian nationalism.
During this era the Hill of Crosses was destroyed many times by the soviets in an attempt to restrict religious freedom. Locals however continued to sneak there at night, even when the area was patrolled by KGB agents. Since Lithuania’s independence in 1991 the hill has been a popular pilgrimage site for tourist and locals alike. It is a symbol of Lithuanias unshakable faith and a symbol of national pride.
How many crosses are there?
It is almost impossible to determine the exact number of crosses because there are new ones constantly being added. A group of school children attempted to count them a few years ago but didn’t manage to. The current estimate is 200,000 crosses, including the smaller ones hanging from the larger crosses.
Many of the crosses are covered in carvings, beads, figures and prayers from all over the world. This truly spiritual place is a unique and special part of history. If you see only one thing in Lithuania then it has to be the Hill of Crosses.
Šiauliai is only 12 Km away from the Hill of Crosses. We didn’t have a lot of spare time so we just went for a quick drive around the town. There are water sports at Lake Talkša and this huge metal fox statue. So for us it was worth visiting!
Visited: middle of June 2019