Shared between Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad Province, the Curonian Spit is a 98km sliver of land characterized by vast sand dunes and pine forests. Much of the Lithuanian stretch is covered by the Curonian Spit National Park (nerija.lt). Some of the area can be seen as a day-trip from Klaipėda, though it really warrants a stay of several days to soak up the unique atmosphere. Ferries from the quayside towards the end of Žvejų gatvė in Klaipėda sail to Smiltynė on the northern tip of the spit. From the landing stage, frequent minibuses run south towards more scenic parts of the spit, stopping at the villages of Juodkrantė, Pervalka and Preila, and terminating at Nida.
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Nida is the most famous village on the spit – a small fishing community boasting several streets of attractive blue- and brown-painted wooden houses. Although there are plenty of visitors in the summertime it never feels crowded. There are several good restaurants on Naglių gatvė and Lotmiškio gatvė, as well as along the waterfront. From the end of Naglių, a shore path runs to a flight of wooden steps leading up to the top of the Parnidis dune south of the village. From the summit you can gaze out across a Saharan sandscape stretching to Russia’s Kaliningrad province. Retrace the trail along the waterfront to see elaborate weather vanes with unique designs – each village has its own. Stop by the Neringa History Museum which traces the village’s heritage through photos of crow-eating locals and fishing paraphernalia. Also along Pamario is the church cemetery with traditional krikštas – carved wooden headstones – placed upright at the foot of the resting body. Nida’s long, luxuriant beach is on the opposite side of the spit, a 30min walk through the forest from the village.
Cycling the Spit
Cycling the Spit
The best way to explore the Curonian Spit is by cycling along well-marked biking trails that meander through pine forest and along the sand dunes. Juodkrantė, 30km away, is home to Witches’ Hill (Raganų kalnas), an entertaining wooden sculpture trail in the woods with wonderfully macabre statues of devils, witches and folk heroes. Heading back towards Nida, stop off at the side of the road to catch a glimpse of the huge heron and cormorant colony in the trees. When passing through Preila, look for the rųkyta žuvis signs and stop at a smokery for some delicious smoked fish, which is much cheaper than in Nida.