No one really knows when the first crosses started appearing on this small hill just outside of the city of Siauliai in Lithuania, but some trace them back to uprisings against Russian rule in 1831 or 1863. Over the years, it has been a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace and their country and to memorialize loved ones who passed away. During the Soviet occupation, it also served as a peaceful sign of resistance to Soviet rule. The Soviets tried to bulldoze the site three times, but the Hill of Crosses endured.
In September 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill and left a cross as a symbol of love, peace, hope and sacrifice.
Today, it is estimated that over 100,000 crosses from all over the world have been placed on the Hill.
The Hill of Crosses is actually closer to Riga, Latvia than it is to Vilnius. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that when I was in Riga, so I visited as a long day trip from Vilnius instead.
I caught the 7:50 bus from Vilnius to Siauliai, which put me in town with plenty of time to catch the 12:15 bus toward the Hill of Crosses. Directions from the tourist office in Vilnius and from the bus station in Siauliai told me to get off at the Domantai stop, from which point I would walk about 2 kilometers to the hill. Although I told my bus driver I was getting off at Domantai, he apparently forgot.
Unlike other bus stops, there was no large sign for Domantai so I completely missed it. Luckily, I did see the sign pointing to the road leading to the Hill of Crosses and managed to get the driver to drop me off in the middle of the highway shortly after we passed it.
Walking down the road to the Hill, I started to wonder if I was going the right way. I was expecting to see a large hill in the distance as my destination but instead I saw nothing but asphalt, grass and trees.
Seeing this cross on the sign of the road gave me confidence that I was heading in the right direction.
Sure enough, about twenty minutes from the highway, I saw a parking lot with a building housing a small tourist information center on one side of the road and a small hill on the other side.
The Hill of Crosses was not what I expected, but it was still pretty incredible.
It is more than just a hill. Crosses spread out around it in all directions.
I found the sheer volume of crosses overwhelming. They came in all shapes and sizes, made out of wood, metal or plastic. Smaller crosses dangled on rosaries hung on larger crosses. Many included names and dates, often memorializing family members.
And they really did come from all over the world – Lithuania, Poland, Russia – even as far as the USA and Brazil.
There was even a cross from Illinois – anyone know the Brazinski family?
I spent nearly an hour and a half exploring the Hill and I easily could have spent even longer. I am not religious, but the presence of so many thousands of crosses placed by people in hope and sorrow was extremely powerful.
If You Go
As I mentioned above, Siauliai is actually closer to Riga, Latvia than to Vilnius. It was a long day trip from Vilnius, but would be easier from Riga. It would also make a nice overnight stop on the way from Riga to Vilnius or vice versa.
Tickets for the bus to the Hill of Crosses can be purchased at the bus station in Siauliai. A large departure board shows the schedule – you want the bus to Joniskis. When you buy your ticket, tell the cashier you will get off at Domantai and she will give you a paper schedule of the return buses.
Try to sit near the front of the bus to remind the driver to let you off at Domantai – it is about 15-20 minutes from Siauliai. The stop is almost immediately after you see the sign (pictured above) for the Hill of Crosses.
When you return to Siauliai, keep an eye out for the approaching bus as you may need to flag it down to stop. It may also be possible to catch a marshrutka (private mini-van) back to the city (which is what I did).
Have you been to the Hill of Crosses or any place similar? What did you think?
14 thoughts on “The Hill of Crosses”
Thanks for the info, I’m going next Friday and using Síauliai as an overnight stay from Riga to Vilnius as you suggested!
Hi Katie, About how many miles is Riga, Latvia to Siauliai Hill of Crosses? Thank you, Catherine
Hi Catherine – I visited from Vilnius, Lithuania, so I’m not totally sure about the distance from Riga. Sorry!
The distance from Riga to Hill of Crosses is 75 miles
Great photos! Next month, we are going to visit the Hill of Crosses and stay nearby for one night on our drive from Tallinn back to Warsaw. This is kind of the halfway point for us. My Lithuanian friend here in Warsaw recommended this place and it sounded interesting. We’re not religious either, but I think it will be a nice spiritual experience. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Wow those crosses are amazing. Wonder what the true story is as to how it started and why.
I have a friend from Lithuania that told me about the Hill of Crosses, but it’s so great to see so many photos of it and hear more about it!
Wow, this looks so cool!! I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want to seek out, too. You’re doing such a great job of visiting some really unique places!
Thanks! It is fairly well known in Lithuania and Latvia I think, but probably not much outside of that area. If you’re ever in the Baltics, definitely check it out – but either go as a day trip from Riga or stop on the way from Riga to Vilnius – the day trip from Vilnius was way too long! (about 3.5 hours each way)
Greetings. Thanks for sharing! Do you know if there is an official website or mailing address for the Hill of Crosses? I know someone who really (REALLY!!) wants to send a letter and a cross, but will not be able to travel there. Thanks!
Shawn Reaves, there are are lot of web sites dedicated to this place, but sadly most of them are only in Lithuanian. Still you can try the most official one: http://www.kryziukalnas.lt/kontaktai/ and e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org
P.s. I’m from Lithuania (Šiauliai) and I could help you too, in case my email is SlimDogs@gmail.com
Just sent you an e-mail. Thanks! Shawn
How unique! I live in Illinois and now I am sort of determined to track down the Brazinski family, haha. I’m not too religious either, but this looks like it would be so cool to visit just because of the aesthetics. In a way it reminds me of Watts Towers in Los Angeles, the way it’s a giant sculpted structure made up of a hodgepodge of different materials and shapes.
oh wow! How come no one knew about this place? Certainly mystical and definitely amazing. Thanks for sharing!
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