Central and Eastern Europe, Tourism

Lithuanian Curonian Spit and Nida: a must to visit!

By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska

If you are looking for a holiday spot which is pure, with unspoiled nature, endemic plants, broad spectrum of fauna, amazing beaches, good dosis of history and of course great food then you must visit Curonian Spit in Lithuania and its absolutely amazing town of Nida.

Curonian Spit (Kursiu nerija) is one of the most spectacular places worth visiting in Europe. It is a narrow (from 0,4 km till 4 km wide) and long (97 km) band of sand, which stretches along the Baltic Sea, in the western part of Lithuania.

It is with its traditional fishermen town of Nida most western point of Lithuania. Nida lies just a few kilometres from Russia, its Kaliningrad Oblast.

Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

A part of the Curonian Spit (overall 50 km) belongs to the Republic of Lithuania; the other part belongs to the Russian Federation. This sand dune peninsula separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. In order to preserve the most valuable landscape complexes, Kursiu nerija National Park was established there in 1991.

Curonian Spit has unique drifting sand dunes, the sea side forests are hundred-years-old pine trees, white sand beaches and amazing old fishermen villages. Humans had already settled in the Curonian Spit in prehistoric times. Scientists say that the Curonian Spit was formed by the wind and the waves of the Baltic Sea more than 7,000 years ago. The Curonian Spit was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000.

UNESCO sign in Nida ©Communications-Unlimited.nl
Curonian Spit, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl
Little haven in Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

Nida

Nida is a little town situated in the most western point of Lithuania, just about 50 km from Lithuanian port of Klaipeda on the Curonian Spit and a few kilometres from Russia, its Kaliningrad Oblast. Its population equals 2,385 inhabitants. Nida is absolutely worth visiting and is an excellent day trip destination.You can get to Curonian Spit by a ferry which is cheap, fast (5 minutes) and perfectly organized.

Nida is absolutely beautiful with its colorful wooden cottages, desert-like sand dunes, beautiful beaches, crystal clear water and serenity.

Listen to the sound of Nida
Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl
Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

A settlement area of the Baltic Curonians, the original place called Nida was first mentioned in 1385 documents issued by the Teutonic Knights. The fishing village became part of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701

In 1709 due to bubonic plague almost all inhabitants died. In 1730s the village had to be moved and got located at its current position due to current sand drifts. It became part of the German Empire in 1871.

In 1939 the town had 736 inhabitants. Due to Potsdam Conference border changes it became part of the Lithuanian SSR encorporated by the Soviet Union. Since 1990 it has been part of independent Lithuania.

During Soviet times Nida, together with three other villages of the Neringa Municipality ( Juodokrante, Preila and Pervalka) was a closed, reserved holiday region for the Communist party top officials, the so-called nomenklatura. Since independence of Lithuania, the area has been open to public.

Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl
Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

Unique nature, fauna and flora

Curonian spit, on the way to Nida, ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

In the Curonian Spit you can admire various nature wonders including parabolic dunes and the great dune ridge .

You can see most forested parabolic dunes in Juodkrante. Great dune ridge are sand dunes that have plunged the forests, settlements and old parabolic dunes of the spit. The process of formation of these new dunes began in the 16th century, when the natural barrier – the forest – gradually disappeared.

Unique climate conditions determine that the Curonian Spit has developed its own vegetation and is an amazing habitat for fauna. About 50 species of fish are found in the Curonian Lagoon, including, eels, salmon, trout. You can also spot here various insects including 889 species of day and night moths (Macrolepidoptera) and 746 species of beetles (Coleoptera).

Papilio machaon, photo: ©Z. Gasiūnaitė

While driving to Nida we saw a fox which was walking in a relaxed manner next to the road. 48 species of mammals are found here (out of 70 in the whole Lithuania) of which 12 are included in the Lithuania Red list and 15 of them in the EU Habitats Directive. There are 12 species of bats, you can find here foxes and deer which are more abundant here than on the mainland of Lithuania. Elks, wild boars, hares, racoon dogs, Eurasian badgers, beavers, otters, seals, American minks, and many more mammals can be spotted here.

Wild boars, photo©M. Bružo
Seal, photo ©S. Karalius

About 100 species of birds breed on the Curonian Spit and 300 species visit the Curonian Spit. The geographical location of the Curonian Spit is very interesting for bird watchers. The White-Baltic Migratory Route, which is used for millions of different species of birds passes through here. Juodkrante bird ringing station is currently operating here. Every autumn, nets for catching birds are set up in the seashore of Juodkrante. About 10-11 thousand birds are ringed here in one season. 

Great Cormorant, photo©M. Bružo
Cave ducks, photo ©M. Bružo

21 species of plants listed in the Lithuanian Red Data Book grow in the Curonian Spit.
Of these, eight plant species are endangered species that can only be conserved through special conservation measures. Ten plant species that are highly vulnerable. In 1995, a new rare species was discovered in Lithuania in the Curonian Spit – Carex pseudobrizoides.

Plants growing in coastal sand dunes are perfectly adapted to droughts. Some of them have long and highly branched roots that reach deeper wet layers. Roots can be also seen above the ground.  

Roots, photo ©L. Dikšaitė

In the Curonian Spit, a creeping willow ( Salix repens) grows in front of the gray dunes of the Great Dune Ridge and in the coastal landscape. You can admire here also amazing forests, for example blue pine forests with dense blueberry grasslands.

Nida with creeping willows, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl
Nida, image ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

After the day full of unforgettable impressions you can enjoy fabuluous food at the local restaurants. There is a broad choice of fish, meat based or vegetarian dishes. I went for my favourite Lithuanian dish: Cepelinai, which is based on grated potatoes which are cooked and stuffed with meat, mushrooms or cured cheese. Absolutely delicious!

Cepelinai, ©Communications-Unlimited.nl

We would like to thank Curonian Spit National Park Authority and especially Mr. Martynas Tamulaitis for their support.

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