5 Days of stand up paddling and culture in the Land of Songs (Dainava)

We invite you to experience 5 days of Lithuanian culture and nature on a stand up paddle board and on land.

The price includes:

• 4 nights at the Guesthouse.
• 4 breakfasts, lunches and suppers at our Homestead.
• Listed stan up paddle tours every day of your stay
• Rural sauna
• All listed activities and shuttle service, including pickup and drop off at the airport.
• English speaking guides.
• All taxes and licences at Dzūkija National Park.
• A 24 hour support.

Your residence/amenities

We offer residence in our cosy two storey wooden guesthouse with the view of Merkys’ Valley. Every storey has a fitted shower and a WC. The ground floor has a large kitchen, double bedroom and a spacious sitting room. On the first floor we offer two six-bed and one four-bed rooms. In the courtyard we have a large dining table, a grill, and our authentic wooden bath-house.

Dainava region

At the very outskirts of Europe, surrounded by the endless forests, at the confluence of Rivers Merkys and Grūda, lies a village of Puvočiai. Enchanting pinewoods, tiny lakes hidden in continental dunes, myth vested moors and artfully coiling creeks – this mystery breathing nature hides centuries of history under the veil of time, the history of a man who found his refuge in the woods of South-east Lithuania, by the border of Belorussia – the pinewood Dzūkians.

To the eye of a visitor these people may seem strange and conservative, having found refuge and nurtured by the Mother Nature, who shaped their worldview, customs, and traits of the character. Infertile lands of Dzūkija destined the generations of local inhabitants to survive on the gifts of the forests: mushrooms, berries, and honey from the hollows, hunting, fish, tree resin, timbering and herbs. Forest is the home for the pinewood Dzūkians.

We, the city dwellers ourselves, 12 years ago have acquired a homestead in this village. At the beginning we would come only on weekends, holidays, and on vacations. Every escape to the woods was like an adventure from Tolkien’s books, and we were enchanted by the peculiarity, warmth and welcome of the local inhabitants. So, 5 years ago we sold everything we had in the city, moved permanently here and built a house for the guests. We became the so-called “in-comers”. An “in-comer” could be a neighbour from the next village, living there for over 50 years. Thus, we would like to welcome you to be our “in-comers”, even if only for 5 days.

You shall reside in the village of Puvočiai, in the Homestead located along the Valley of Rivers Merkys and Grūda. Your residence will treat you to amazing scenery, wrapped in a soft mist rising from the rivers in the early mornings. You will be able enjoy our authentic cuisine of the Dainava region, and our local grandmas will teach you how to bake a buckwheat cake “babka” – an entirely local staple.

During your stay with us you will meet Romas Norkūnas, a master and nurturer of the ancient craft of bee-keeping in the hollows of pine trees. He resides in the village of Musteika, a remote and ancient village at the border with Belorussia, by the Čepkeliai nature reserve. Such hollows with honey carrying bees were considered a fortune; whoever found such hollow would carve a certain sign on the tree. This sign served as a document of property. The last remaining master of this craft just before dying managed to pass on his wealth of knowledge of this ancient tradition onto Romas.

From the times of Russian Tsars local people secretly distilled strong rye alcoholic beverage, called “samanė”. Up to this day it is illegal to distil and sell “samanė”; however some “samanė” appreciating politicians endowed this drink with the title of “illegal culinary heritage”. From the beginning of the last century as well as during the wars, when these lands were occupied by Poles, Germans and Russians, impoverished locals were managing a piece of bread by secretly selling “samanė” to all these intruders. You will find its taste incredible!

One senior lady Stasiulė Bogušienė from Puvočiai still remembers how still a little girl she was carrying “samanė” to be sold in the neighbouring larger village. Since distilling alcohol was illegal, Stasiulė would carry 10 litres of “samanė” on her fragile shoulders straight through the woods. We invite you to try this route (w/o “samanė”, of course). Walking these remote woods we will visit and stand up paddle in the Lake Trikampis (the Triangle), which provided shelter on its banks for people during the war; we shall stop at the Moor of Laumė (the Witch), pick mushrooms (depending on the season), and admire this enchanting nature.

The face of Dainava is shaped by the most beautiful rivers in Lithuania. Like threads they entwine forests and dunes, valleys and pastures, ancient villages and cosy tiny lakes. A canoeing trip would the best way to get in touch with the heathen spirit of Dainava. Cultural scenery, unchanged in centuries, will catch your eye as you will leisurely float through the endless twists and turns of Rivers Grūda and Ūla, and will remain in your memory as an incredible motion picture. This is possible almost all year round, when rivers are not frozen. After such unforgettable journey you will be able to warm up in our authentic wooden bath-house. Hot stones, smoothed by the stream of River Grūda and our locally manufactured bathing equipment will have you refreshed and restored in no time.

On the last evening we will find out why this land is called Dainava. You shall be invited to join the table of Dzūkian treats by the local village ladies. We will taste “samanė” and traditional Dzūkian dishes. At the table you will be entertained by the old Dzūkian songs, performed by the members of the folk music group. You will hear great stories and learn to play an old shepherds’ game. When the Moon will cover the woods in silver, the songs will fade away, but the dream of this wondrous trip will stay will you.

Land of Songs: The River from Land of Songs on Vimeo

Travel schedule

Monday
Upon arrival you will be treated to various Dzūkian snacks, will have time to settle in your rooms, and have some rest. Later in the day we will climb the viewing platform to inspect the surroundings of your residence from a higher point. We will embark on a journey to track the “moonshine” road. We shall walk the paths trodden in the childhood by the Puvočiai village inhabitant Stasiula Bogušienė, who (at the end of the World War II) was taking illegal alcohol to be sold in the neighbouring village of Marcinkonys. We shall visit the key places in the woods, important for the local people: Lake Trikampis, where we gonna have a little stand up paddle skills lesson and the Moor of Laumė (the Witch) (where entire village was hiding in the time of war). We will then test your stand up paddling abilities  by addling 40 minutes down the Merkys river to the myth vested Stone of Perkūnas (the Thunder).

Tuesday
After filling Dzūkian breakfast we will leisurely get ready for the trip to see masters of Black Ceramics in the area of Merkinė. Just before revealing the secrets of Black Ceramics, we shall call the Visitor Centre of Dzūkija National Park. After that we shall visit an ancient village on the border between Europe and Belorussia, a village that maintained its unique face through many centuries. On the way there we will visit the largest village-museum in Lithuania – the Village of Marcinkonys. In the village of Musteika a master and carer of the ancient bee-keeping craft Romas Morkūnas will show us how to ignite a flame using a flint and a dried mushroom. We will drop in the Museum of Bee-keeping, will study a special tree-climbing technique, and travel the pinewood route of ancient bee-keepers. In the evening you will enjoy a plentiful supper from our local organic produce.

Wednesday
We shall enjoy the view of continental dunes, if the season is right – pick mushrooms, and enjoy northern nature. The evening shall greet us with the tasting of “samanė” and a Dzūkian supper. In the course of the supper we shall be introduced to the history of distilling “samanė” in Lithuania. After that we shall take a trip to Druskininkai, a town famous for its baths of mineral waters. After mineral water tasting stop and having a stroll in this one of the most homely Lithuanian resorts, we will start our 2-3 hours relaxing stand up paddle tour in the biggest river on Lithuania: Nemunas. Tha stand up paddling downstream to Liškiava monastery will take aproximately 3 hours. After coming back to Druskininkai we will find a place to rest and relax with a glass of wine, a glass of beer, and locally made snacks.

Thursday
After breakfast we will leisurely start our stand up paddle tour on the most beautiful rivers of Dainava: Ūla. The river is full of obstacles (like fallen trees) so we can promise you plenty of great adventures. You may choose canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding. You will enjoy the amazing cultural scenery, unique only to Dzūkija. At the end of the trip you can relax in a hot bath-house, fragrant with old wood and other scents of bath-taking tradition. After the bath we will join in the last supper of your visit, full of old songs from the folk group, games, and a true Dzūkian regale.

Friday
Your last day in Dainava! After breakfast you can unhurriedly pack your belongings and have the last stroll in the vicinities.

Additional services/entertainment

Transportation: 1 NOK / km
Local cheese tasting/visit to the local cheese makers
Visit to Grūtas’ Park of Soviet Sculptures
Visit to Druskininkai Water Park
Private skiing routes in Druskininkai
SPA and other health services in Druskininkai
Wine tastings
Bicycle rent
Stand-up paddle board rent
Canoe rent