Lithuania lies at the edge of the North European Plain. Its landscape was smoothed by the glaciers of the last ice age and is a combination of moderate lowlands and highlands. Its highest point is Aukštojas Hill at 294 metres (965 ft) in the eastern part of the country. The terrain features numerous lakes and wetlands, and a mixed forest zone covers over 33% of the country. There is lots of empty space and much of it is accessible as the law limits obstructions by landowners.
Lithuania has its very own system of protected areas, and long-standing traditions of protection of natural and cultural heritage. These areas are established not only to protect these natural and cultural values, but also to adapt them for public use and access, be it for educational, recreational or other purposes. The greatest opportunities for getting closer to nature for both recreation and education purposes are provided by National and Regional Parks.
National Parks are the protected areas established for the protection and management of natural and cultural landscapes of national significance representing the natural and cultural singularities of the country’s ethno-cultural regions. Historic National Parks are established for the preservation of the cultural complexes of Lithuania’s historical statehood centres and their natural environment.
At present, conservation preservation priority and integrated protected areas in Lithuania cover 1,152,793 ha, or 17.65% of the total area. Lithuania’s complete system of protected areas consists of 5 strict reserves (2 of which are cultural), around 400 reserves, 5 National Parks (one being historic), 1 biosphere reserve, 32 biosphere polygons, 3 recuperational plots and a vast abundance of heritage objects.
The Natura 2000 network of protected areas is to a large extent integrated into the system of national protected areas. Currently, the status of a Natura 2000 area is usually granted to already existing protected areas (strict reserves, reserves, National and Regional Parks and biosphere reserves) or the parts thereof. Natura 2000 sites in Lithuania cover 131 species and 54 habitats from the nature directives.