The Curonian Spit is a 98-km long narrow sandy peninsula at the Baltic Sea, enclosing the Curonian Lagoon. It is a bi-national UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by Lithuania and Russia. The town of Neringa is on the Spit.
Stretching from the Sambian peninsula in the south to the Lithuanian port city of Klaipėda in the north, the Curonian Spit is a narrow (400 m wide at its narrowest point and 4 km wide at its widest) peninsula. The northern part belongs to Lithuania, while the southern park is in Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 and has the status of national park in both countries.
Curonia was conquered by the Teutonic Order in the 13th century, and remained under German rule until World War I. While fishing was the major occupation of the Spit's inhabitants in the Middle Ages, tourism has flourished in the area since the start of the 20th century.
The Curonian Spit contains the largest drifting sand dunes in Europe. The highest of them rise up to 60 meters. The area is generally covered with forests, that constitute about 70 percent of land.
Flora and fauna
For flora and fauna, head down to the Curonian Lagoon, where the highest sand dunes in Europe are located. In order to protect the sand dunes, wooden broad walks have been built above them to enable visitors to marvel at the desert-like scenery without causing damage. You may spot some wildlife. Along the way, it is worthwhile to find the 'Dancing Forest' or 'The Drunkards' Forest', where tree trunks are curled and twisted from their roots and "Efa's dune". It is a magnificent sight to step into a forest of trees that look like over-sized bonsai.
- From Klaipėda
Take a ferry to Smiltynė. The old ferry terminal nearer to the city centre is for passengers and bikes only, and the new ferry terminal is for cars. Fare is €1 for round-trip ticket per passenger. After getting off the ferry, there is an hourly bus connection to the villages until Nida, and a daily bus 239 which runs all the way along the spit to Zelenogradsk and Kaliningrad.
There are also long-distance buses which the bus itself travel on the ferry, from the city centre of Klaipėda to Nida.
- From Zelenogradsk
Take any bus to Morskoye (Морское) or Klaipėda. These buses include 210 (Zelenogradsk — Morskoye), 239 (Kaliningrad international bus station — Smiltynė old ferry terminal), 384 (Kaliningrad — Klaipėda), 593 (Kaliningrad — Klaipėda) and 596 (Otradnoye — Morskoye). Fare depends on the distance travelled.
- From Kaliningrad
Bus 593 from the city centre to the spit. The journey costs less than 120 rubles and takes about two hours. As departures are few, it is advisable to take a train or bus to Zelenogradsk first and continue by any bus there.
Fees and permits
A car or a motorbike entering Neringa municipality that contains most of the spit on the Lithuanian side is charged an ecological fee of €20, and campers are charged €30 (2018 rates). A car entering the Russian part is charged 300 rubles.
Entering some of the nature reserves, including the border zone, is either limited or prohibited.
There is a single road running through the whole length of the spit. It is possible to travel on it by car, bicycle or bus. However, travelling on foot across the border is strictly prohibited.
Visiting the Curonian Spit on car requires the correct documentation and insurance in order to bring the car from Russia into the EU, or vice versa, so using a bicycle may be the easiest option. Using bus is also possible, but require working around the schedule as there are only 2 to 3 buses per day which run along the whole length (most buses only run south of Morskoye or north of Nida).
The Lithuanian part of the spit has a bicycle path from the northern tip of the peninsula to the town of Nida near the Russian border, so a more environmentally friendly way of travelling is also possible.
The Curonian Spit offers some of Europe's finest landscapes as well as cozy towns and villages. Two of the most impressive ranges of dunes are the Grey Dunes (or the Dead Dunes) north of the village of Pervalka and the range of dunes starting with Parnidžio dune just south of Nida and stretching into the Russia.
Between Morskoye and Rybachy, there is dancing forest where the trunks "dance".
The Curonian Spit is a popular summer holiday resort and a range of outdoor activities is available. The beaches of Nida, Juodkrantė and Smiltynė have been awarded the Blue Flag while the Curonian Lagoon presents opportunities to enjoy fishing or sailing.
For those more interested in culture there are several museums (including the Lithuanian Maritime Museum in the old fortress at the northern tip of the peninsula). The town of Juodkrantė has a rather interesting open air exposition (Hill of Witches) of wooden sculptures depicting mythological creatures. In the town of Nida there is a museum about the German writer Thomas Mann, who used to summer here. Between Rybachy and Lesnoy there is also the Curonian Spit museum which has history related to Rositten airfield.
- Smoked fish
- Amber souvenirs
There are guesthouses in the settlements along the spit.