The 13,004 ha Čepkeliai Wilderness is embedded in the Dzūkija National Park and Čepkeliai Strict Nature Reserve, Lithuania. Čepkeliai Wilderness is the largest contiguous piece of Wilderness in Lithuania consisting of two areas: Čepkeliai and Musteika Strict Nature Reserves. It is located in the south-eastern corner of Lithuania and forms one ecological complex, representing the most valuable ecosystems of wetlands and surrounding forests, at the border with Belarus.
Čepkeliai Wilderness is protected since 1961 and Čepkeliai Strict Nature Reserve, established in 1975, was nominated as Ramsar area together with Kotra Landscape Reserve in Belarus in 1993. Čepkeliai Wilderness is a unique area that has been only slightly impacted in the past centuries by activities of local people like cutting of grass and collection of berries.
European Wilderness Quality Standard Audit System
The 13,004 ha Čepkeliai Wilderness was audited in 2011 and meets the Platinum Wilderness Quality Standard. A European Wilderness Quality Standard Renewal-Audit is scheduled for 2021.
- Protected areas: Dzūkija National Park and Čepkeliai Strict Nature Reserve
- Wilderness: Čepkeliai Wilderness
- Wilderness Quality Standard: Platinum
- Country: Lithuania
- Size of the protected areas: 69,745 ha
- Size of the Wilderness: 13,004 ha
- European Wilderness Quality Standard Audit : 2011
- Wilderness Uniqueness: Large active raised peat-bogs, lowland sedge fens and black alder swamps, surrounded by lichen pine forests on continental dunes
- Number of visitors per year to the protected areas: approx. 35,000
- Number of visitors per year to the Wilderness: approx. 4,000
The Čepkeliai Wilderness holds pine forest at the tops of inland dunes and in rolling sandy plains, intersected by river valleys and vast areas of wetland. Beneath this seemingly monotonous veil of pine forests, dry grasslands and orchid filled meadows, raised bogs, fens and transitional mires, sand dunes, fast-flowing rivers and streams have become the habitat for a multitude of rare plants and animals. Some of them are unique for Lithuania or even for Western Europe. It provides nesting grounds for the capercaillie, the symbol of Čepkeliai Wilderness.
Čepkeliai Wilderness is home to wolves, lynx, black grouse, cranes, European beaver and more than 4,000 other species of animals and plants. In nearly every village situated in the woods, you’ll hear the sharp cry of the green woodpecker or the sound of the hoopoe. Furthermore, dry riverside pastures and sand openings are a paradise for bees and bumblebees, and many rare species of butterflies enjoy the warm, open slopes around rivers.
Wilderness Tourism Experience
Čepkeliai Wilderness is offering well-designed visitor infrastructure for the general public that allows to visit and experience edges of this vast Wilderness. Boardwalks and watchtowers guide people along the western border of vast peatbogs without the risk of getting lost or to damage the Wilderness. Visitor programmes such as birdwatching are regularly combined with nature talks and interpretive programme.