Europe – without the Euro

Twice the size of Belgium and generally half as expensive, Lithuania possesses more history than the reading room at the British Library, plus 60 miles of white sandy beaches and a wealth of cultural distractions.

Away from the pricey capital, Vilnius (one of this year's European capitals of culture), splash out in Lithuania's premier spa town, Druskininkai, a former playground of illustrious Soviet bigwigs, probably because it rhymes with kinky!

Plenty of package deals are available, but even doing the whole thing yourself won't break the bank. As a guide, the Sonata hotel in the tiny health resort of Birstonas, in a wooded park next to the mighty Nemunas river, offers a relaxing upmarket stay with doubles for less than £40 a night.

And what to eat? Well a variety of culinary treats awaits you; potatoes, potatoes, potatoes and a few more potatoes - from pancakes with lashings of sour cream to the national dish, the blimp-like beast cepelinai.

Flights take about two-and-a-half hours. Ryanair is the only way to get there direct, with 18 flights a week to Kaunas from Birmingham, Liverpool, Luton and Stansted. Ryanair.

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