A Weekend In Nida and The Curonian Spit
Finally I was there, standing on the top of the Parnidis Dune, watching the waters of the Curonian Lagoon, the forested Curonian Spit all the way to Russia, and the Baltic Sea all at the same time.
When preparing my trip to the Baltic States, I already felt that Nida and the Curonian Spit would be special. It would be a highlight, for sure! And the spit did not disappoint.
Scrambling over massive sand dunes is a sure way to make you feel like a happy kid again but already finding yourself in the pretty resort village of Nida just feels good. It’s pretty, picturesque, the houses are colorful. It’s lively and really peaceful at the same time. For an Introvert traveller, it sounds like paradise.
For a nature lover and exploration junkie, it also sounds like paradise when you know that giant sand dunes and endless beaches are just a short walk away, through a nice conifer forest.
The whole place is big enough to allow for nice long walks but small enough for you to explore most of it in a day, which makes it very convenient to include in an itinerary in the Baltic States.
GPS (Entrance of the Parnidis Dune): 55°17’44.55″N, 20°59’40.43″E
How to go: Bus to Klaipeda, then ferry to the Curonian Spit and bus to Nida. There are all-inclusive tickets.
Entrance fee: Free
Duration of visit: At least half day to walk around, whole day if you take time to enjoy the beach, etc.
Best season: Spring and summer
The Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
What are we talking about exactly?
The Curonian Spit is a thin strip of land running along the shores of Lithuania and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The spit separates the calm waters of the Curonian Lagoon from the turbulent waves of the Baltic Sea. Its major attraction is massive sand dunes, actually more present on the Russian side but more easily and frequently visited on the Lithuanian side.
The spit may appear today as an endless wilderness with sand dunes and forests, but it wasn’t always the case! The landscape of the Curonian Spit has been deeply modified by human activity in the past. As a matter of fact, it is as a “cultural landscape” that the UNESCO added the spit to the World Heritage Sites list in 2000.
5000 years ago, the sea started to deposit a thick layer of sand on a string of moraine islands (accumulation of debris deposited by glaciers) to form the Curonian Spit and the Great Dune Ridge. Vegetation soon took over the land and a thick forest grew on the spit.
Humans have been present on the spit since prehistoric ages. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, ship building was big and the Curonian Spit’s forests were devastated. The dunes soon started to shift towards the Curonian Lagoon, burrying a number of villages and settlements!
In the 19th century, massive reforestation campaigns finally stabilized the dunes and led to the landscape we know today.
What Itinerary did I follow?
From the peaceful resort village of Nida, it is easy to spend a day exploring the sand dunes and walk across the spit all the way to the endless beach on the Baltic Sea.
If you have explored the virtual tour above and watched the video, you should have an idea of what my itinerary looked like. It was a kind of loop from and back to Nida, including the dunes, the beach on the Baltic Sea, the Russian border, and the Curonian Lagoon. If you are a map person, you can check out the one at the bottom of this page!
1. Nida to the Parnidis Dune
From Nida, there is a pretty little path you can follow through the woods, that will take you to the foot of the Parnidis sand dune. Simply take the stairs up the sand dune for a magical view to the Curonian Lagoon. The light is particularly beautiful in the morning, if it is sunny.
Then climb further up to the top of the sand dune – you will come across the Sundial, a major landmark in the park.
From there, a viewpoint will offer you the best view to the dunes. You will be able to see both the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea at the same time, showing how thin the spit is. In the distance can easily be seen Kaliningrad (Russia).
2. Road to the beach
From there, you can follow a small road going down into the woods. This will first take you to the campground and eventually lead you the beach.
After the campgound, cross the road leading to Russia and you will find the path to the beach. I had the surprise to find out that it’s actually a nudist beach! But everybody is welcome, naked or not.
3. The beach and weird Russian border
As you arrive at the windy beach, you just can’t stop smiling at the vast spaces in front of you, and breathe deeply all this fresh air coming from the sea.
The beach looks really endless, bordered with smaller sand dunes covered with long grass dancing in the wind.
If you walk south, you will eventually reach a few small signs materializing the end of Lithuania, and the beginning of Russia!
This is not the exact border but actually the beginning of a no man’s land protecting the actual border. But a Russian watchtower can be seen in the distance and I am sure there is a guard up there making sure that no stupid tourist crosses the line!
Since it’s not possible to go further, just walk back to where you came from.
4. Crossing the dunes back to the Curonian Lagoon and closing the loop
On my way to the beach, I followed the classic path on the top of the dune, overlooking the whole landscape. But there was this little frustration of not having been in the sand dunes for a real immersion in the landscape.
It is easy to cross the dunes until reaching the Curonian Lagoon again. It is then possible to walk along the shore, on the tiny beaches that exist between the sand dunes and the lagoon. At some point, you will be back in Nida – and the loop will be closed!
Last Thoughts on Nida & The Curonian Spit
You probably have realized by now that I loved my stay in Nida! Very easy to include in any itinerary in the Baltic States, it’s a great opportunity to spend a couple days far from big cities with great nature to explore around.
I believe the Curonian Spit belongs to the club of the greatest landscapes of Europe, and should be in the top of your list if you plan to travel in the region.