Tourists coming to Vilnius are likely to visit Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania. Trakai is one of the oldest Lithuanian settlements spreading over unique glacial terrain. The relief of Trakai features moraine hills and numerous lakes. Many hills emerge from water like islands. The lakes of Trakai lie in the highest elevations of a hilly massif and have a very small feeding area. The latter feature makes the whole environmental complex quite a specific phenomenon from the geoecological point of view.
The settlement appeared in this convenient and secure place as early as the 1st millennium A.D. Trakai was one of its first capitals after the establishment of the centralized Lithuanian state. In the 14th century a fortified castle was built on the peninsula of the lake Galve and the construction of an insular castle was begun which in the 15th century became the residence of Lithuanian Grand Dukes. At the end of the 14th century when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania expanded its territories reaching as far as the Black Sea, the Grand Duke Vytautas brought some 400 families of Karaites (a small ethnic group) from the Crimea to serve as his castle guards. The old Tartarian houses along with their praying house keeneset still line down the Karaimu street.
The spectacular castle, surrounding landscape and local history make it a fun and tranquil area to explore.