The Curonian Spit is a UNESCO-protected strip of land that separates a lagoon from the Baltic Sea. It is famous for its tall sand dunes, beaches, and pine forests, the latter of which were planted in an effort to reduce the effects of the shifting dunes on local populations. Hiking, sunbathing, bird watching, swimming, and cycling are all popular pastimes for visitors to the spit.
The spit was long inhabited by Baltic tribes who fished the waters of the Curonian Lagoon. The Spit was eventually invaded by Teutonic Knights, who built castles there to dominate their territory. Prussians found ways to industrialize the spit, and the destruction of its natural tree cover and other environmentally unsound practices deteriorated the stability of the dunes, which began to cover fishing villages. In the 19th century, reforestation efforts repopulated the spit with pine trees that help to maintain the integrity of the land and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Forest fires are a threat here; visitors can see where fires ravaged wooded acreage in the past.
How to Get to the Curonian SpitThe Curonian Spit is accessible by ferry from Klaipeda, and both vehicle transport ferries and pedestrian/cyclist ferries exist to take visitors to the spit. It’s possible to drive or cycle the length of the spit to view scenery, take a break in villages, or stop for smoked fish along the way. An entrance fee is required for those who travel beyond Smiltyne, officially a part of Klaipeda, where the Maritime Museum and Aquarium is located.
Villages on the Curonian SpitNida is the most famous village on the Curonian Spit. Its dunes, topped by a monumental sundial, are legendary in Lithuania and beyond. Small cottages in Nida are highly coveted by vacationers and must be booked months in advance. Locals also rent out rooms to those who prefer not to stay in a hotel.
Smiltynė is the northernmost settlement on the Curonian Spit. It is home to an aquarium, housed in a former fortress. Travelers in Klaipeda searching for a beach can go to Smiltynė, where the beach is wide and clean.
Juodkrantė, a former German resort town, is one of the larger villages on the Curonian Spit. Its Hill of Witches displays wooden sculptures depicting themes from Lithuanian tradition and fairy tales.