Dzūkija is one of the ethno-cultural regions of Lithuania. It covers the major part of the country‘s south-east territory. The Project area covers a little smaller area of the region, i.e. Varėna and Lazdijai districts, Druskininkai municipality, partly Alytus and Vilnius districts. The name Dzūkija is comparatively new, it emerged in the XIX century. It originated from the dialect of dzūkininkai (people of Dzūkija) and other dialectal peculiarities. The old name of Dzūkija was Dainava. For the first time it was mentioned in 1253 in a letter by king Mindaugas to the Livonian order.
Dzūkija is a highly wooded region. The Dainava forest, 145 thous. ha, extends in the sandy areas of Dzūkija. The forest communicates two large forests, the Rūdninkai woods, 37,5 thous. ha, on the eastern side and the Kapčiamiestis forests, 27,7 thous. ha, in the western side. The Kapčiamiestis forests are a consistent part of larger forests that include the Augustów Forest, and the total area of the forests is 160 thous. ha. Here, pine-forests growing on sand beds marking a former glacier edge prevail.
Lake Žuvintas by Eugenijus Drobelis
Southern Lithuania is abundant in springs and streams, slow and swift rivers, big and small lakes with rich aquatic vegetation and fauna. The Nemunas river coming from Belarus through southern Lithuania flows towards the Curonian Lagoon. At Merkine the Merkys, a vigorous and crystal river, falls into the Nemunas. On the way, the Merkys collects clear waters of rivers and streams appearing from the forests on its both sides – namely, Šalčia, Visinčia, Spengla, Varėnė, Ūla, Grūda, Skroblus, and others.
The glacial period left many small and big lakes in southern Lithuania. Some of them are tiny, muddy and overgrowing, others are open and spacious, breaking waves onto their firm shores. From the ornithological point of view, Lake Žuvintas is most interesting. Long ago this big lake emerged at the edge of a glacier, however, in the long run it became silty and overgrown, and its big area turned into a mire. Nowadays, water stretches on the area of 1000 ha. For a long time the shallow lake overgrown with rich vegetation has gained the fame of a realm of birds. In its vicinity Lake Žaltytis is also liked by birds. Nearby lakes Dusia, Metelys and Obelija are the biggest ones in Sūduva. The region of Veisiejai is proud of its numerous beautiful lakes.