Nida Lithuania: the ultimate travel guide
Nida in Lithuania is a small village on the Curonian Spit. The Curonian Spit is a 98 kilometer long strip of sand dune and forests that separates the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea.
A land that battles both sand and sea. As a result it is only sparsely populated. Nida is one of the bigger settlements. Only 3 kilometers from the border with Russia and closer to Kaliningrad than to Vilnius.
For Lithuanian standards it is a long journey to get to Nida, but one that is totally worth it.
Why visit Nida Lithuania
From a small fishing village that rarely saw outsiders, Nida suddenly became a beloved holiday destination in the Soviet Union for the elite.
It is not hard to see why they chose Nida in Lithuania. The Curonian spit is famous for its wildlife and natural beauty. There are vast pine forests and spectacular dune landscapes.
After Lithuania became independent, Nida remained a popular getaway for travellers looking for some peace and quiet. In summer, the Nida beach is obviously popular, but even in off season there are plenty of things to do for those that love nature
Nida is a great place to base yourself and explore the Curonian spit. It is big enough for a decent choice in accommodation and restaurants. At the same time Nida is small enough to have nature on your doorstep.
The forests and dunes around Nida offer endless hiking and cycling opportunities. 70 percent of the Curonian spit is covered by pine forests that are home to elk, deer, wild boar and fox.
It is also a great place for birdwatching as the Curonian Spit is a stop over on the migratory routes birds take from the Baltic sea to the White sea and there is a large breeding colony of Cormorants.
This post will focus mostly on Nida itself and the sights around Nida. If you don’t have your own transport, travelling all over the Curonian spit is a bit more complicated.
However, reaching Nida from Vilnius or Kaunas is easy by bus or train and ferry. Nida is a great place to visit and as you can see there are enough things to do in Nida to make it worth a visit.
Along with the beautiful Aukstaitija National Park it was my favourite place to visit in Lithuania.
Things to do in Nida Lithuania
The 52 meter high Parnidis dune is the most spectacular sight in Nida. It’s a moving sand dune whose sands covered settlements in the past forcing the village of Nida to move several times before its current position.
The sands still move from west to east and due to erosion the dune is shrinking. The best way to see the beauty of Parnidis is by enjoying the views from the Parnidis dune observation deck. From here you can look all the way into Russia that is only a few kilometers away.
Death valley is a typical dune landscape just below Parnidis Dune. It stretches into the protected no go zone and runs very close to the Russian border.
Death valley didn’t get its name for its desolate feeling, but because there was once a labour camp set up by the Germans. Around 1870 many French prisoners stayed here. Because of the harsh conditions some also died here.
Any remnants of the camp are now covered in sand. However, you might see some small wooden crosses here and there to remember the French prisoners. Near the Parnidis sundial there is also a small memorial.
The Nida sundial is hard to miss when you visit the Parnidis dune. The 14 meter tall pillar near the observation deck towers high above the dunes.
It is a clock that uses the movement of the sun. Not far from the sundial are also two statues. One of a man in the wind and one of a dove that is a memorial for the prisoners of war.
The Nida beach on the Baltic Coast is a beautiful stretch of sand free from resorts and restaurants. Behind the beach it is just the forests and the dunes.
When I was on Nida beach in winter there was almost nobody else around. A great time for a long walk on the beach. It was cold, but still very beautiful
Urbas hill is right behind the town of Nida. The hill is 51 meters high and thus slightly lower than nearby Parnidis dune.
Urbas hill was also once a dune landscape and shifting sands continuously threatened the people that settled down in Nida. Many homes disappeared under the sand.
As a result, in the 19th century a forestation project began and Urbas hill was among the first places where trees were planted.
The forests are a great place to go walking. The hill also offers nice views over the Parnidis dune and the sea. There is a panorama observation deck and an observation tower.
On top of Urbas hill you will also find the Nida lighthouse that offers the best views from Nida. The current lighthouse was built in 1945 after the old one was destroyed in WW2
The Nida lighthouse is only a short walk from the town of Nida. It is closed in winter, but in summer you can visit the lighthouse inside.
The Nida harbour at the Curonian lagoon is a nice place to visit. It is rather small and there is a great pizza place. The buildings have some interesting street art too.
If you like you can arrange a boat trip here and if you come at the right time you can also see the fishing boats and fishermen at work.
The beach on the side of the Curonian lagoon is very small. However, there is a promenade that runs along the village of Nida.
Although I would personally prefer the peace and quiet of Nida beach, this is also a great place to go for a short walk and see a bit more of Nida town and its traditional wooden homes.
Traditional wooden houses
One of the things I loved about the village of Nida itself were the colorful wooden homes that belonged to the fishermen.
The most beautiful ones are centered in the small old town near the bus station and the Curonian lagoon.
The Fishermen’s ethnographic homestead
If you want to see how the traditional wooden homes looked from the inside you can visit the Fishermen’s ethnographic homestead.
It shows a typical early 20th century interior of the house of a fisherman.
Nida has a long history with the Germans. First of all, the Teutonic knights in the 14th century. They even built two castles on the Curonian spit in Neuhausen and Rositten (now in the Russian part).
Then the small fishing village became part of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 and the subsequent German empire in 1871.
It was only in 1923 that part of the Curonian spit including the fishing village of Nida was illegally annexed by Lithuania only to be invaded by Nazi Germany in 1939.
After WW2 Nida was returned to Lithuania and then became part of the Soviet Union. To see something from Nida’s german past you can visit the German cemetery. Some old graves with pagan wooden crosses are also still there.
Nida gliding school
Behind Parnidis dune near the border with Russia were the hangars of the Nida gliding school. The pilots of the gliding club achieved the first air flying record of over 3 hours in 1933.
The school was destroyed in WW2 and was never rebuilt. However, there is a memorial to commemorate the school
Try smoked fish
Being a fishing village there is of course lots of seafood available. Smoked fish is the specialty of Nida. A traditional practice to preserve the fish for longer periods.
The best place to try it is Tik pas Jona. Tik pas Jona is a very simple and local place with a decent choice of smoked fish. Mackerel, eel and others. Served with bread and a drink it is a great lunch
Hiking in Nida Lithuania
Nida is a great place for hiking. There are a few marked trails, but you can also just simply walk through the forests around Nida.
When hiking in Nida it is important to stay on the trails, especially around the dunes. The dunes are shrinking because of erosion already. Climbing the dunes only makes the problem worse.
Nida is quite close to the border with Russia so you should take care to not cross the border. Before the border there is a reserved nature zone where you are not allowed to go. There are clear signs telling you not to enter.
Parnidis Cognitive path
The shortest and easiest trail is the 1.7 kilometer self guided Cognitive Path to Parnidis dune. There are some information boards and part of the trail is on a boardwalk.
The highlight of this trail is the Nida sundial and the Parnidis dune observation deck
Around Nida trail
My favourite trail was the Around Nida trail. This 9 kilometer hike goes around Nida passing by the German cemetery, Nida beach, Parnidis dune, the Death valley and the Curonian lagoon.
It’s a varied and beautiful hike through the forests, the beach and the dunes.
Around Urbas hill
Urbas hill has a network of walking paths. Although right behind Nida you immediately feel immersed in nature
Highlights are the Nida lighthouse, the observation tower and the panorama viewpoint. Hiking around Urbas hill is about 4 kilometers.
Spotting wildlife in Nida Lithuania
Spotting wildlife in Nida is difficult. When hiking through the forests there were plenty of traces. Lots of animal footprints suggested the presence of deer, wild boar, elk, fox and other animals.
They are hiding in the forests and you will need luck to see them. I didn’t see any when hiking around Nida, but did see wild boar from the bus back to Klapeida.
Museums in Nida Lithuania
Nida has a lot of museums for its small size. In winter they were all closed so I can’t comment personally about the experience.
Thomas Mann museum
The former summer house of nobel prize winner and writer Thomass Mann is now open to the public and shows how they lived. It is also home to a museum about his work
The Baltics is famous for its amber that you can sometimes find on the shores of the Baltic coast. Finding it yourself requires a lot of luck, but you can always have a look at the Amber gallery
Curonian spit history museum
The Curonian spit history museum is a small Museum about the history of Nida. Worth a quick visit if it’s open.
Nida Lithuania travel tips
Where to eat in Nida
Tik pas jona: Don’t miss the smoked fish at Tik pas jona. This small eatery has nothing else, but smoked fish. Served with bread and something to drink it makes for a nice lunch.
Kursis: I visited Nida in winter and the only restaurant that was open was Kursis. Luckily the food turned out to be good. Mostly Lithuanian food.
Where to sleep in Nida
Budget dormitory: The only dormitory in Nida is Guboja and it is one of the few budget places in summer where accomodation is still affordable.
Apartment: If you are staying for a longer period of time you can consider an apartment. Amber white is one of the cheaper apartments you can rent in Nida.
How to get to Nida
There are a few direct buses from Vilnius and Kaunas straight to Nida. A long 6 to 7 hour journey.
Personally I prefer to travel by train and ferry. I took a train from Vilnius to Klaipeda (5 hours) and then took the ferry to Smyltine. Buses to Nida (1 hour) run from Smyltine every 2 hours and connect with the ferry arrivals and departures.
There are two ferry terminals. The old ferry terminal is for foot passengers only and the new ferry terminal for cars and foot passengers. The ferry takes about 5 minutes to reach the Curonian Spit.
How to get around Nida
If you stay in and around Nida and don’t mind hiking you can see everything on foot. In the summer you might want to consider renting a bicycle.
For other destinations in the Curonian spit you need to use the bus. From Nida there is a bus to Juodkrante.
When to visit Nida
Nida is often described as the perfect beach summer destination in Lithuania. For sure, summer is the only time when temperatures are pleasant enough to swim in the cold sea.
The downside of visiting Nida in summer is that it will be very busy and prices for accommodation will be high.
If nature is the main reason to visit Nida, basically every season has its charms. I visited in winter and although it was certainly cold, I still loved it. The forests are mostly evergreens and the dunes are still spectacular.
Many things do close down in winter. Most restaurants and museums are only open in the high season. However, there were still two restaurants open, including Tik pas Jona to try the smoked fish.
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