Administrative centre – Varėna
Area – 2218 km² (40.9 % of the county’s area)
Population – 28 499 (16.1 % of the county’s population)
Wards – Jakėnai, Kaniava, Marcinkonys, Matuizos, Merkinė, Valkininkai, Varėna, Vydeniai
Varėna district municipality is situated in the southern part of Lithuania and Alytus county, at the Byelorussian border; it is the most southern region of the country. The district is crossed by the rivers of Nemunas, Merkys, Šalčia and Varėnė. The most beauteous river in the district – Ūla with many small tributaries. There are 160 lakes (Ilgis, Nedingis, Glėbas, etc.). Varėna is a region of forests, sandy plains and inland dunes. The region is not only the largest in terms of area, but also the most wooded in Lithuania – forests cover as much as 69.1 % of the district’s area. The largest forest – that of Dainava. Agricultural land covers 22.2 %, roads – 2.5 %, water bodies – 2.2 %, built-up area – 1.2 %, other land – 2.8 % of the municipality. One-third of the territory belongs to the Dzūkija National Park and Čepkeliai reservation, with a protected marshland of international importance, which is the largest in Lithuania, with the largest cranberry bogs. There are as many as 72 objects of natural heritage and 12 landscape reserves in Varėna district. Also attractive are the landscape reserves of Ūla and Raigardas, Merkinė landscape historical and other reserves.
Administrative centre of the municipality – Varėna; townships – Merkinė and Valkininkai. Varėna town is adjoined by Senoji Varėna (Old Varėna; mentioned since 1413), which originated from a hunting seat of Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Varėna is an important centre of rail- and motorways. Forestry is developed in the district (harvesting of wood, mushrooms, berries, forest planting), wood processing, light and food industry, tourism. Near Varėna, at a depth of 300–500 m, there are resources of iron ore. However, first of all, Varėna region is famous for preserved unique nature and cultural heritage, healthy and safe environment, unconventional and forest product businesses, tourism and recreational services. Many joiners, carpenters, weavers, ceramicists creating pieces of black pottery may be found in settlements and townships; traditions of wild-hive beekeeping are preserved. Therefore, one of the development priorities of Varėna region is developing unconventional rural business in order to preserve natural heritage and nature. One of the most popular industries, promoted by the local government, is tourism, as well as provision of related services. Thousands of tourists from Lithuania and other countries visit this special region of Dzūkija, famous for its history, old villages, extant original customs and traditions, alongside a well-developed infrastructure, suitable for both active tourism – hiking and water activities – and passive leisure activities at picturesque rural tourism farmsteads.
It should be noted that the forests of Varėna region produce the highest amounts of mushrooms. In September of each year, a Mushroom Festival (Grybų šventė), which has already become traditional, takes place there; it attracts not only the dzūkai (inhabitants of the Dzūkija region), but also guests from the entire Lithuania. During the festival, a national mushroom picking championship takes place.
There are about 180 cultural monuments in the district. In Subartonys, where the famous Lithuanian writer – V. Krėvė-Mickevičius – was born, there is a memorial museum of the author. The Road of Čiurlionis leads from Varėna to Druskininkai; the roadside poles created by wood craftsmen to serve as a landmark of life of the great Lithuanian artist are a feast for the eyes of the one walking this road. There are the picturesque Čižiūnai, Dargužiai one-street, Zervynos and Musteika ethnographical villages. Varėna district is also a popularly accepted place of inspiration and creative work for modern artists. Cultural events, festivals, artists’ plain-air sessions, attracting many guests from Lithuania and abroad, are constantly organised there.
Varėna district municipality
Liškiava cultural centre