One of the natural wonders of Lithuania is the Curonian Spit, a thin 60-mile long sand-dune spit that separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is partially in Lithuanian territory and partially in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. From the Lithuania side, you can see plenty of dunes and take short hikes in the Spit’s natural areas.
The Curonian Spit was created by migrating sands that grew as high as 60 meters. The shifting sands actually buried several villages over the centuries. Now it is a rich park full of rare plants and animals with a lot of cool paths and views of the water on either side.
How to get there
The closest mainland Lithuanian city to the spit is Klaipeda, which is a small industrial port town with a lot of traffic and good food. If you’re coming from Vilnius and you’re not staying in Nida on the Curonian Spit, this is a good place to stop for the night. But staying in Nida is probably a better idea, so you can see the sun rise over the dunes.
You have to ferry from Klaipeda to the Spit. If you’re on foot or bike, you can ferry from the Old Ferry Terminal or the New Ferry Terminal. But if you’re arriving by car, you have to cross the lagoon via the New Ferry Terminal. You can find the timetable here, but in case you can’t find it or the page isn’t updated, these are times for the next couple of months. Past May 2018, you can probably use this to give you an idea of how frequently it comes. It will drop you off in the village of Smiltynė in less than 10 minutes.
The highlights of the Curonian Spit National Park
The Curonian Spit is giant reserve area with many points of interest and little villages along the way. Since the area is so narrow, almost every stop is a roadside attraction. But you can hike around the different areas at your leisure.
Dendrologic Cognitive Path
Around the area of Juodkrantė, you’ll find the Dendrologic Cognitive Path, which is a hiking trail through the ancient forest that grew out of the sand of the Spit. Among the pines and spruces, you’ll find the giant sound trap that looks like a wooden megaphone (Garsų gaudyklė). You can sit in it and listen to the amplified sounds of the forest and the birds.
Near the start of the Dendrologic trail on the Lagoon side of the Spit, you’ll find Amber Bay. Aside from being very pretty, this bay is known for the reed sculptures of animals and geometric shapes that sit on the water during the summer months. The structures are later burned in celebration of Autumn Equinox.
Hill of Witches
Also in Juodkrantė, you’ll find one of my favorite spots on the Curonian Spit, the Hill of Witches. This trail is on a forested sand dune and is basically a massive sculpture garden. The wooden sculptures depict stories and characters from Lithuanian folklore, designed in a traditional woodcarving style.
Heron and cormorant colony
Have you ever seen “The Birds”? Well, in Lithuania, you can see the live version at the very loud, very busy bird colony. It’s the oldest and largest colony of herons and cormorants in Lithuania. You can see the birds in their nests and also flying everywhere around you.
Grey Dunes (Pilkosios kopos)
Also known as the Dead Dunes, this is where as many as four known Nagliai villages were covered in sand between 1675 and 1854, where they remain today. These dunes are huge and from their peaks you can see the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon on either side of you. Though the walk is tiring and sometimes steep, it’s oddly calming to be surrounded by wind-swept dunes.
Parnidis Dune and Sundial
Near Nida, you’ll find the vast stretch of the Parnidis Dune, where you can take a walk along the dunes and enjoy the view over the water. There are some established paths to prevent people from disturbing the dunes, but a lot of the path is now covered by the changing sands. From here, you can see the widest part of the Spit, Bulvikis Cape, sitting just short of 2.5 miles wide. Here you’ll also find a giant sundial, with a large stone pillar at its center.
If you’re not staying in the Spit overnight, the village of Nida is a perfect place to stop for a hearty lunch before continuing to explore the trails. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hit up the Baltic-facing Nida Nudist Beach.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Nida guides on GPSmyCity here.