The first time I viewed photos of Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses, I knew that I needed to check it out. That was several years prior to my visit to Vilnius, Lithuania and when I decided to venture into the country, my travel rolodex remembered the Hill of Crosses. I decided on doing it as a day trip by taking an early train (first class seating) to the northern town of Šiauliai, then taking a bus to the site. I will cover getting there in this post.
The Hill of Crosses has an uncertain history, although, it is believed that the first crosses placed were on this former Domantai Hill Fort, close to 200 years ago after the Uprising in 1831. Over the years, a multitude of crosses, crucifixes, Virgin Mary statues, Lithuania patriots carvings as well as thousands of small effigies and rosaries have been placed here. The true number is not known obviously, since the hill is strewn with religious paraphernalia. There is an estimate though in 2006 of 100,000 crosses.
Prior to my arrival, I was considering bringing a small cross with me to place on the Hill of Crosses. I decided to wait and see if there would be crosses for sale at the site and there sure was. You can purchase your cross at the souvenir shop prior to the hill, so you do not have to lug one around on your travels.
I decided to write my name on mine, as if to say ‘Trixie was here’! I found a spot that felt right and stuck the nail attached to the bottom of the wooden cross to a post. If anyone ever visits and sees it, please send me a picture!
Getting to the Hill of Crosses:
There are many visitors who come to the Hill of Crosses starting from Vilnius. There are several tour companies that will bring you during a day trip, as we saw many busses coming through. You can search online for reputable tour companies that will take you here.
On your own: If you want to venture on your own like myself and others I had met, it is quite easy. If you do not mind taking the train, then a bus and do a bit of walking.
- I had booked round trip first class train ticket online from Vilnius to Šiauliai, which took about 2.5 hours. I made sure I booked a window seat as I enjoy a country’s view while train riding. Since it took a couple of hours, this meant that I woke up early to take the first train at 6:50 AM. While on board I was given a comfortable seat with a table, plus a sandwich, chocolate and beverage during both train rides.
- Once you arrive in Šiauliai and exit the train station, turn left. Then walk about 5 minutes to Tilžės street and make a right. You cannot miss the bus station from there.
Along the walk to the bus station, I made friends with a backpacker from Japan. She was heading to the Hill of Crosses as a solo traveler too, so we decided to find it together. As I have always said, traveling solo doesn’t mean that you are always solo!
- At the bus station, you can get the current schedule and stop information. They had actually given me a small printed copy which came in handy for both bus routes, to and from.
- Go to platform 12 and wait for the bus that heads to Joniškis (Šiauliai – Joniškis). The stop to get off at is Domanti, which is the third one from Šiauliai. What we did was tell the driver that we were going to the Hill of crosses and he let us know when to get off the bus. It made it much easier for everyone and I am sure the driver knew where us tourists were heading to!
- Once you get off the bus, you will be on a cross road that will take you to the Hill of Crosses. Just look for a brown sign that says “Kryžių kalnas” and just follow the road about 2km to the Hill of Crosses. If you note many cars and tour busses on the same road, you are on the correct route.
I truly enjoyed visiting the Hill of Crosses and it was one more thing off my world exploration bucket list. It was an amazing site to see all the crosses that were set by people from all over the world, during a span of a couple hundred years. Although I have no religious affiliations, it was still a magnificent site to see.
The trip was easy to and from, plus I made a travel friend for the day and had burgers at the mall adjacent to bus station afterwards. As they say, “Travelling it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller”.
Travelling it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller…– Ibn Battuta
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre