Curonian Spit is a narrow strip of land a short ferry ride off the coast of Lithuania with Curonian Lagoon on one side and the Baltic Sea on the other. The southern half of the 98 kilometer long spit belongs to Russia.
In 1991 the spit became a national park to preserve the region’s ecosystems. While Lonely Planet suggests that the Parnidis Dune and the cormorant and heron colonies are the parks top sights, the real attraction of the Curonian Spit is the setting – the strip of forest, the wind swept grassy dunes, the sea on one side and the calm lagoon on the other. On a crystal clear day in mid-September with clouds and showers racing across the sky the light was beautiful.
It’s easy to explore the region by car although the attractions are not well signed.
If you’re expecting Sahara desert type sand dunes you’ll be disappointed by the Parnidis Dune, a desolate stretch of coast that spills into Russia. The dunes here are covered with too much vegetation to have that real dune look. They try to keep tourists from trampling the fragile ecosystem with a designated viewing platform and signs limiting the area you can explore. This is a popular stop on bus tours.
Cormorant and Heron Colony
The cormorant and heron colony is empty in late September, the tall dead trees full of empty nests. The location, just south of Juodkrante is marked on the road with only a picnic table sign. Once you turn into the parking area this sign:
shows you the way to the wooden observation deck.
In Juodkrante, across from the park is Witches Hill, the entrance to which is also poorly marked. A large wood carving indicates one of the entrances. A wide trail meanders through a pretty forest with numerous wooden carvings of witches, ghouls, trolls and other Lithuanian mythical beings.
It’s a pleasant activity if you can stay ahead of the tour groups. After lunch on a Friday the hill was nearly empty except for one bus load just out of sight behind us. Although there are various unmarked turnoffs along the main path, I doubt you would get lost if you stick to the route with the carvings.
Smoked Fish at Tik Pas Jona
Tik Pas Jona in Nida is a 10-15 minute walk from Parnidis Dune. Lonely Planet is spot on for this top pick as the best place on the island to try the local smoked fish. At this simple eatery you can choose your lunch – bream, mackerel or eel – off the smoker cooling racks. A cucumber tomato salad and bread is offered with your fish. Wash it all down with a beer in the garden or the enclosed restaurant. On the day of our visit they brought out the freshly smoked fish from the smoker at around 1PM.
September 20, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Baltics Road Trip page.