Zarasai district municipality

  Administrative centre – Zarasai
  Area – 1334 km² (18.5 % of the county’s area)
  Population – 20 593 (11.9 % of the county’s population)
  Wards – Antalieptė, Antazavė, Degučiai, Dusetos, Imbradas, Salakas,   Suviekas, Turmantas, Zarasai town, Zarasai

Zarasai district municipality is located at the north-eastern border of Lithuania, in Utena county; it borders on Latvia and Belarus. The terrain of the region formed 16 thousand years ago, during the last glacial period. As the glacier was melting, the hills of the Aukštaičiai Upland, valleys and lakes were formed. The percentage share of woodland is high, with pinewoods predominating (the largest forests – those of Tumiškės, Gražutė, Salakas). The distribution of forests is optimal – there are almost no areas where the distance between nearby forests would exceed 2–3 km. Sandy pinewoods are rich in mushrooms, berries, rare plants. Zarasai region is often called a land of lakes – there are about 300 lakes in the region. The largest lake in Zarasai district, as well as in Lithuania, is Drūkšiai. Three more district’s lakes – Luodis, Avilys, Sartai – are included in the top ten of the largest country’s lakes. There are also artificial ponds, an artificial reservoir – that of Antalieptė (area – 4479 ha). The district is crossed by 8 rivers, the longest whereof – the Šventoji. Agricultural land makes up 37.7 %, forests – 37.2 %, roads – 1.9 %, built-up area – 1.5 %, water bodies – 12.2 %, other land – 9.4 % of the municipality.

There are two towns – Dusetos and Zarasai, and three townships – Antalieptė, Salakas and Turmantas. The centre of the district municipality – Zarasai. The town is located in a picturesque place – it is surrounded by lakes. The germ of the town was a single island of Zarasas Lake; today, the limits of the town lean against seven lakes and the forest of Magučiai on the southeast. From the top of small hills surrounding the town, Zarasai looks as it were growing above the lakes. There are no precise data on the foundation and age of Zarasai town. On the territory of the current town, there was a manor, on the Didžioji Island of Zarasai Lake – a monastery with a stone church. The island was connected with a shore of the lake by a 200 m long wooden bridge. In 1530, the monastery was moved to Antalieptė, the church – to the bank of the lake. Zarasai was for the first time mentioned – as one of the lands of the Vilnius bishopric – in 1596, and two years later it was already called a district (valsčius). In 1613, Zarasai was already present on the map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At the turn of the 18th century, Zarasai started growing. In 1836, it was renamed as Novoaleksandrovsk (in the name of the heir of the Emperor Nicolas I – Alexander); in 1839, it became a county centre. Around the year 1906, the town in the Lithuanian press was called Ežerėnai. This name persisted in the first years of the Independence. In 1830–1860, two important roads were constructed via Lithuania: one – Saint Petersburg–Warsaw via Daugavpils, Zarasai, Ukmergė, Kaunas, Marijampolė, Suvalkai, the other – Saint Petersburg–Riga–Königsberg (Karaliaučius).

Zarasai often suffered from fires. In order to avoid them, a town plan was approved in 1837, with an interesting arrangement of a town square and streets. The value of Zarasai town from the point of view of urban development is namely due to this distinct, regular layout with a radial circular network of streets and a single Sėliai Square, where all radial streets meet. It is the only town layout of such kind in Lithuania among towns and townships laid out based on the model of co-called Russian towns of the 19th century.

In 2008, Zarasai was pronounced the cultural capital of Lithuania. On September 57, the first open-air cultural fair in Lithuania was organised on an island of Zarasas Lake; various musical events, special water projects, unconventional art galleries, familiarisation with culinary heritage, night performances took place.

In the same year, Zarasai was granted a status of a resort area. It is expected that this status will help Zarasai attract investment, will stimulate the development of cultural tourism, active recreation, an increasing number of offered services, as well as an improvement in the quality of the currently offered ones.

Tourism development, alongside other small businesses, in Zarasai district municipality is distinguished as a special Zarasai region development area.

Tourists and holidaymakers are attracted by picturesque nature, Dusetos, Antalieptė pond landscape and other reserves, Gražutė and Sartai regional parks, 29 castle mounds (Mineikiškės, Maniuliškės, Šiponiškės, Zabičiūnai, Lūžai and others), the church of Divine Providence in Antazavė and the church of the Holy Trinity in Dusetos, the birthplace of Lithuanian lyric poet P. Širvys in Padustėlis, the Antalieptė watermill, the Stelmužė oak and other objects. The district is famed for the folk music festival Sėlos muzikantai, which cherishes old music traditions, a festival of children’s popular dance groups and popular choirs Po drugelio sparnu, youth folklore festival Zalvynė, a common Utena county international folk music and dance festival Ežerų sietuva, etc.

Useful links
Zarasai district municipality
Zarasai tourism information centre
Public library of Zarasai district municipality