Do you want to climb giant sand dunes, admire blue houses or relax on the beach? Then you should visit the Curonian Spit in Lithuania.
As I already mentioned in our post about the best things to do in Klaipeda, my great-great-grandmother came from this area. After she moved to Bielefeld, at the other end of Germany, she kept talking about how much she missed the beauty of her homeland. And now that we’ve visited the Curonian Spit, I understand what she talked about.
The Curonian Spit is stunning and a reason by itself why you should travel to Lithuania. And it’s easy to get there! No matter if you travel by car or by public transport, here is how to visit the Curonian Spit, how to get around and what to do and see.
How to Visit the Curonian Spit
Getting to the Curonian Spit
The Curonian Spit is a peninsula with a length of almost 100km. On the peninsula, you can find the Curonian Spit National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site due to its unique ecosystem and natural beauty. In the middle of the Spit, a border separates the strip of land into the Russian and the Lithuanian side. That means that if you want to visit the Lithuanian side, which is not connected to the mainland, you will need to take a ferry.
Passenger ferries from Klaipeda to the Curonian Spit leave just north of the city centre. They will take you to Smiltyne and go fairly regularly. You can either look up the schedule online or ask at the tourist information.
If you travel by car, you will need to take the New Ferry, which leaves a bit further south from Nemuno str. 8. You can find more information, including the schedule and the location of the ferry terminal, by clicking here.
Getting around the Curonian Spit
If you have a car, you can just drive anywhere on the Curonian Spit. You’ll have to pay a fee to enter the Curonian Spit National Park, but that’s it.
Be aware that if you come in summer, during the main season, parking will be hard to come by. We recommend that you leave Klaipeda early to make the most out of your day.
If you use public transport, we recommend that you ask at the tourist information for the bus time table or look it up online. The busses regularly leave from Smiltye and can take you all the way to Nida. You can also take a bus from the central bus terminal in Klaipeda, which will go on the ferry and then straight to Nida.
The passenger ferry to Smiltyne connects with the bus, so when you arrive, the bus will be ready and waiting for you. We still recommend coming a little bit earlier so you can explore Smiltyne before travelling south.
Things to do on the Curonian Spit
You can find five settlements on the Curonian Spit. The biggest and most visited ones are Smiltyne, Judokrante and Nida. If this is your first time in the area, you should start by exploring Nida. Here, you can find lots of sights and landmarks that are worth seeing. If you then still have time and energy, go to Judokrante or Smiltyne. Or you could take a short break in Smiltyne at the beginning of your trip, to see the beach while waiting for the bus to Nida.
Things to do in Nida
This sand dune is the main sight in Nida and also on the whole Curonian Spit. Therefore, this should be the first place you visit.
With a height of 52 metres, this dune is one of the highest on the Curonian Spit and you have an amazing view from its top. Plus, this is a wandering dune, meaning that it moves a few centimetres every year. In fact, even though they move slowly, the wandering dunes of the Curonian Spit have managed to swallow several villages over the past centuries.
Some people believe that this is where Parnidis Dune got its name from, as it translates to “going through Nida” and has travelled through the village multiple times already!
To get to the top, all you need is to follow the path south along the Curonian Lagoon. Eventually, you’ll see wooden staircases on your right. Climb up here to get to the sundial at the top of the dune. From here, you can not just see the endless sands stretching out in front of you, you can also see the lagoon on your left and the Baltic Sea on your right.
Always make sure to stay on the paths. The sand dunes of the Curonian Spit get smaller and smaller every year and your footsteps will contribute to the erosion if you’re not careful.
Go for a walk around Nida
One of the must-dos in Nida is going for a walk around the village. Here, you can see many traditional, colourful houses. We also enjoyed the walkway along the lagoon, past the water.
If you come in summer, you can also rent bikes to explore further, or a boat if you want to go out on the lagoon. As we came in winter, this was not an option for us, but we would try that if we came back in summer.
Visit the Thomas Mann Museum
Thomas Mann is a German writer who used to have a summer house here in Nida. These days, you can visit his house and learn more about his works as well as his family.
Being German, I had to read some of his works at school, so I was already familiar with the author and some of his books. I had no idea, though, that he had such a crazy family history. If you want to learn more about him, you should come and visit this museum. Plus, the house is pretty from both the inside as well as the outside and you have nice views from up here.
Curonian Spit History Museum
If you want to learn more about the history of the Curonian Spit, you should check out this museum. It might be small, but you can find lots of information inside. Plus, you will get to see reproductions of traditional fishing boats from the area.
Originally, by the way, the Soviets opened this museum inside an Evangelic Lutheran Church that was out of service. It eventually moved to the house where you can see it today.
Nida Ethnographic Cemetery
Yes, it might be a bit weird to visit a cemetery. But trust us, it is worth it. On this cemetery, you can find traditional wooden tombstones that are typical for the Curonian Spit. They resemble trees with birds on both sides and have their origins in pagan beliefs. These days, people also use crosses, but you should come to the cemetery and take a look at the traditional ones.
Nida Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead
When we came to visit, this museum was, unfortunately, under renovation. That’s good news for you because that means that it’s ready for you by the time you come!
The fisherman’s homestead is a reconstruction of a typical fisherman’s house on the Curonian Spit. Here, you can learn about traditional life in the area. Even if you can’t go inside, you should check it out because the outside is colourful enough that it’s worth a visit.
Try the local fish dishes
You should not leave Nida without having tried some traditional fish from the area. The smoked fish is very nice. You can pick it up at a shop or stall and then have a picnic at the beach. Or, if you want to sit down in a restaurant, go for herring. This fish is very typical for the Baltic Sea and you can find similar dishes in all countries bordering the sea.
We have written a whole article if you want to learn more about Lithuanian cuisine that we highly recommend you check out. It doesn’t just cover herring, but many more dishes from the area that you should try.
We spent so much time in Nida that when we were done, we went straight back to Klaipeda. But if you have more time than us (or more energy), we recommend that you stop in Judokrante on your way back. Here, you can find the Hill of Witches. Inside this park, you can see more than 80 wooden sculptures, showing carvings from Lithuanian folklore and pagan traditions.
As we already mentioned above, you should stop in Smiltyne and take a look at the beaches here. The Curonian Spit is very narrow here. From where the passenger ferry drops you off, you can easily walk through the forest and reach the Baltic coast.
As we visited in winter, the beach was very stormy and rough. But we imagine that this is a very nice place in summer. It’s often mentioned as Klaipeda beach, so you could come here as a day trip from Klaipeda and relax by the sea.
In Smiltyne, you can also visit another ethnographic homestead. Or you could go north and visit the Lithuanian Sea Museum, to learn more about the marine life in the Baltic Sea.
What to take
You don’t need any special equipment for visiting the Curonian Spit, but there are still a few items you should take:
- Good walking shoes
- Umbrella (the weather is unpredictable)
- Reusable water bottle
- Swimsuit and towel (if visiting in summer)
When to go
While you can go at any time of the year, the best time to visit the Curonian Spit is in summer. That’s when the weather might be nice enough that you can lie on the beach and take a swim in either the lagoon or the Baltic Sea.
If you’re not there in summer, don’t worry. We went on a stormy February day and loved it. Some of the museums have reduced opening hours in winter, so take that into account when planning your visit. Other than that, as already mentioned above, make sure to take an umbrella. When we went, the weather kept switching from sunny to rainy and back to sunny.
Where to stay on the Curonian Spit
You don’t need to stay on the Curonian Spit. As we said, you can easily visit on a day tour from Klaipeda, so we recommend you base yourself in one of the hotels there.
If you want to stay, though, we think that Nida is the nicest village to use as a base. Make sure to book your accommodation well in advance, especially when coming in summer. The Curonian Spit is very popular with local tourists.
We hope you now have all the information you need about how to travel to the Curonian Spit. If you’re missing anything, please let us know and we’ll add it.
If you’re planning on travelling to Lithuania, we have lots of information for you. Check out all of our guides:
- Visiting Trakai as a day trip from Vilnius
- Best things to do in Klaipeda
- Best Lithuanian food you need to try
- Meet Julijus from the Republic of Uzupis, a hidden gem in the middle of Vilnius
Have you been to Lithuania? Did you enjoy your time here as much as we did? Leave us a comment!
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