Everyone we met in Vilnius and Kaunas raved about the Curonian Spit, so we were compelled to journey toward the Baltic Sea to see this natural wonder. The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long, 3.8 km wide, sand dune spit situated between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea. What makes this place so special are the mysterious sand dunes formed during 3,000 B.C., and the beautiful pine forests spanning the spit. The highest dune, “Parnidis Dune”, measures 52m high. We were happy we waited to buy our precious amber stones, as the Amber (also known as Lithuanian gold) was extracted just here from the Baltic Sea 50 million years ago!
The Curonian Spit Sand Dunes
The Spit is only 3.8 km wide at the most and is 70% covered with pine forests. Today, the Spit is divided evenly between Lithuania and Russian’s Kaliningrad region. We didn’t expect to find this small piece of Russian nestled between European countries. Our guess is Russia felt obliged to hold onto something after their demise in Eastern Europe. On our first night in town, we took a two hour boat ride around the Spit, exploring the amazing sand dunes with three other couples. Our captain was a funny guy who spoke several languages and translated his stories from Lithuanian, to German, to Russian and English to accommodate the four different nationalities on the boat. We sailed out pass Nida towards the Russian border where we found the most spectacular sights of the highest dunes. It’s mind blowing to think about how these dunes even exist in such conditions.
We met some nice Lithuanian friends on our boat who shared some of their crazy Moonshine with us. Moonshine is homemade alcohol that contains more than 60% alcohol…and it sure tastes potent! Must drink with extreme caution!
There are three small villages along the Curonian Spit; Juodkrante, Pervalka, Preila, and Nida. We stayed in Nida the furthest point south, just 2km to Kaliningrad, Russia. Nida is the most touristy, however since we came right before tourist season, the village was a quiet and relaxing place to spend a few days.
Yummy Baltic Smoked Fish
Tasting delicious freshly smoked fish paired with local Lithuanian beer was one of our favorite activities while in the Curonian Spit. There are several small family stands selling freshly caught and smoked fish. We just looked for the “Zuvis” (Fish in Lithuanian) signs. The smoked mackerel was the best and we also enjoyed the smoked bream that a nice young guy gifted so we could try it.
Cycling through Pine Forests
We set out on a 65 km bike ride touring all the massive pine forest trails while visiting other small villages on the way. During the journey, we stopped on the Baltic Sea…. taking in the gorgeous sand dunes and a few windsurfers in the water. We searched the beach hoping to find a piece of Amber and discovered a few special stones instead.
While heading home, we went to the Nida Amber Gallery and finally found some unique pieces of amber jewels. The history of Amber is quite fascinating… 50 million years ago the Baltic Sea was covered with pine trees producing sap or resin. The ice age came and hardened the tree sap, freezing whatever else was caught in the resin. Once the ice melted, the Baltic Sea was born and Amber was created through the fossilized tree resin. Some amber stones contain ancient insects, tree bark or plants that were frozen in time during the Ice Age. The colors vary from white to bright yellow to green and brown, depending on their environmental state at the time. We had been searching for an authentic piece of that Lithuanian gold to remember our journey. And..We finally found the perfect yellow amber pendent containing tree bark, which is extremely rare. Everything in the store was so beautiful that we left the Museum with a few more amber pieces.
Our time at the weirdly-named pine dune spit, was very peaceful and relaxing. Just what we needed after traveling the past month through Jordan, Israel and the cities of Lithuania. We are ready to get back on the road and head to our next country, Latvia! Onward to Riga, the place they call the “Paris of Eastern Europe”.
See our Photo Album:
Curonian Spit, Lithuania