Dunes, beaches and pines all around. The peninsula between Lithuania and Russian region of Kaliningrad has it all
Kiwi.com’s Giorgia Cavicchia went to discover the wonders of a spectacular peninsula between Lithuania and Kaliningrad
I wish there was a way to write about places in real time while you’re seeing them – Klaipėda, Smiltyne, Nida, Vecekrugo Kopa, Preila, Juodkrante, and the tip of the Curonian Spit. I had yet to leave for Lithuania, and already I was eager to board the bus to Klaipėda because it meant being closer to my destination.
I had almost learned by heart the section of the Lonely Planet guide about the Neringa Peninsula (as the Curonian Spit is also known). I wanted to go to Nida and see its sandy dunes, to stand on the Baltic Sea shore and dip my feet in the water. And I wanted to walk from one side of the peninsula to the other so I could see the Curonian lagoon and the Baltic Sea at the same time.
My friend and I spent two and a half days travelling around the Neringa peninsula. I can solemnly declare that they were amongst the best spent two and a half days ever.
We picked Klaipėda as our base for the whole time. It turned out to be a fairly wise decision. Our hostel was located literally across the street from the bus station. It was only a 20-minute walk through the city centre to the ferry terminal.
You can reach the Curonian Spit from Klaipėda by boat only. Even if you go by bus it still has to board the ferry to cross the lagoon. It takes literally five minutes (and 40 euro cents) for the ferry to drop you off at Smiltyne, the northernmost village of the peninsula.
Soon after checking in at our hostel and briefly walking around Klaipėda city centre, we stopped resisting the urge to jump on the ferry. It was barely four o’clock when we disembarked in Smiltyne and ran to the closest bus stop roof to find shelter from the pouring rain.
After 15 minutes of the heaviest of showers, it was all over and the sun was peeking out. So off we went through the damp pine forest, and it was beautiful.
It didn’t take long to learn that the Curonian Spit makes for a truly multi-sensory experience. You see the beauty of its overwhelming nature. The smell of the pine trees hits you even before entering the forest. You feel the shiny moss covering the ground, you taste the fresh salty air as it fills your lungs, and you hear the noise of the Baltic waves long before you reach the shore.
At first, it’s a distant gurgling that makes you think you’re approaching a waterfall or a stream. Then the rumbling grows louder and louder until suddenly the ground turns into sand. The path climbs, and behind the bushes, the Baltic Sea stretches in every direction; mighty and loud as a night storm.
I could hardly believe my eyes when we got to the beach. The sea was rough, oh so rough, and the waves so foamy they appeared to be a reflection of the low-lying clouds. Everything was shiny and bright, and the air was so sharp that it made the horizon seem even further away than it really was.
The water was freezing cold, and the waves and the wind produced such a loud white noise that we had to shout to make ourselves heard. The hour and a half spent on that Smiltyne beach were exactly the kind of sublime nature I’d hoped to experience by seeing the Baltic Sea. What I didn’t know was that it would be the first in a fairly long series of equally breathtaking sights we’d be enjoying over the next couple of days.
The next morning we had the whole Nida experience. We only skipped the bike ride from Nida to Smiltyne, which is very popular. We chose to move on foot instead. The dunes south of Nida (Parndzio kopa) are probably the most popular tourist attraction in the area. And their fame is well deserved.
The view from the sundial is truly stunning. Mainly because of the yellow of the sand sparsely dotted with the occasional plant, and the blinding sunlight. The dunes looked like they had been cut out with scissors and glued against the clear blue sky.
Soon, we left the crowded, touristy Nida dunes to head north. After walking a few kilometres up the footpath along the coast, we proceeded in a pine forest. There were pine forests everywhere on the peninsula. Just how can you not love this place? Then we made an abrupt left turn to climb Vecekrugo kopa, the highest dune of the spit.
The view was worth the ascent. When we realised we were on the top, we could hardly believe our eyes. If we looked left we saw the forest from above and, beyond the trees, the lagoon painted silver by the cloudy sky. If we looked right the cobalt blue of the Baltic Sea almost seemed to suck the colour out of the sky.
Eventually, we returned to the main path and walked another handful of kilometres to Preila. We wondered if and when a bus would ever stop there. We took it for granted we’d have to wait for a long time. But no sooner had we got to Preila than a bus appeared out of nowhere. After being in the wild for what felt like hours on end, going back to Klaipėda felt like returning to a metropolis. Oh, the irony.
The Curonian Spit is truly one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen in my life. The forest, the dunes, the beach and the sea strike a perfect balance. That results in what can be rightfully described as a perfect display of the forces of nature. Whether it’s sunny or stormy, windy or warm, the peninsula offers a wide range of views, sceneries and landscapes. But don’t worry about the weather. All conditions are equally unique in their own breathtaking way.