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Kuršių nerija, the Curonian Spit, is a narrow strip of sand stretching 97 kilometres along the Baltic Sea in western Lithuania. According to legend, the spit was formed a long time ago by Neringa, a girl giant who poured the sandy peninsula into the Baltic Sea to protect the peaceful bay from the stormy sea and create an embankment for fishermen to live. Thus, today the eastern shores of the Curonian Spit are washed by the Curonian Lagoon, while the Baltic Sea washes the western ones.

One part of the 50 kilometre long Curonian Spit belongs to the Republic of Lithuania. The other to the Russian Federation. With its still drifting sand dunes, the seaside forests cherishing the hundred-years-old pine trees, dunes covered by a mountain pines’ carpet planted by hand, white sand beaches and the old fishermen villages, the Curonian spit is truly unique! In order to preserve the valuable landscape complex, Kuršių nerija National Park was established in 1991.

Cultural and natural heritage of international significance

In 2000, the Curonian Spit cultural landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Human habitation on this elongated sand dune peninsula dates back to prehistoric times. Throughout this period, it has been threatened by the natural forces of winds and waves. Its survival to the present days has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat the erosion of the Spit, dramatically illustrated by continuing stabilization and reforestation projects.

The area of the park is 26 464 hectares: 9 764 ha are covered by land, and 16700 ha by water.

The Curonian Spit is part of Natura 2000, a network of protected territories in Europe, connecting its most valuable natural habitats. It also belongs to HELCOM, which seeks to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea through intergovernmental cooperation.

Natural values

The dunes are an exclusive element of the Curonian Spit landscape. Here you can explore all stages of dune formation. You will find embryonic shifting dunes, humid dune slacks, decalcified fixed dunes, wooded dunes, and white and grey dunes, which are famous for their exceptional beauty.

Eleven types of protected habitats of European importance occur in the Curonian Spit. The different habitats are home to rare species of insects, birds, and plants specific and typical for the place. Some of them are endangered and included in the Red Book of Lithuania. There are 48 species of mammals living in Curonian Spit. Here, you meet fox and hare, boar and beaver, roe deer, elk, and many other mammal species. The biggest mammal – moose, is the symbol of the Curonian Spit. This animal is impressive in size, and lives for 15 to 20 years. Before World War II, about 200 moose lived in the Curonian Spit. But after the war only white skulls were seen on the dunes. In 1948, few moose crossed the lagoon and settled again in the spit. Currently about 30 animals live in the park.

The White Sea-Baltic Sea migration “highway” goes along the spit and millions of birds pass it every year. Summer in the Curonian Spit is breeding season for more than one hundred bird species. Several rare bird species breed in the national park – white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), black kites (Milvus migrans), the hobby (Falco subbuteo), the tawny pipit (Anthus campestris). In the summer, the most beautiful Lithuanian duck – the common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) takes its hatchlings out to the shallows of the lagoon. The coastlines along the Curonian Spit Lagoon and the Baltic Sea are important for migratory and wintering water birds as well. This is a true paradise for bird watchers!

Culture and traditions

The rich cultural heritage of the Curonian Spit includes fishing settlements that are considered valuable both from an ethno-cultural, historical and aesthetic point of view. There are architectural works of unique scale and archaeological sites, mostly villages buried under the sand.

The settlements of the Curonian spit until the 19th century were typical fishing villages – monuments of special significance to the Kursiai community way of living and ethnographic traditions which are not maintained anymore. The earliest fishing settlements were buried in the sand when the forest cover was removed. Those that have survived beyond the beginning of the 19th century are all to be found along the coast of the Curonian Lagoon. There is a specific structure of fishermen’s homesteads with traditional wooden dwellings, coloured dark brown and blue and decorated with wooden carvings on the gables.

Of special significance are the traditional grave markers known as krikstai. These are timber planks decorated with flowers, hearts and even animal motifs such as birds’ silhouettes. Krikštai were carried during funeral processions. Burial customs required urgent craftwork and therefore some of them were carved not so diligently. Currently, the restored krikštai can be seen at Nida ethnographic cemetery.

Come visit us!
Kuršių nerija National Park is an outstanding place that allows visitors to explore and get to know nature, culture and traditions in a way that is active and environmentally friendly. The Curonian Spit is a perfect place for observing wildlife, sustainable tourism, leisure and cultural self-expression. Here you can enjoy cycling, hiking and canoe tours, sailing trips and try traditional fishermen’s food. There are numerous destinations that attract many visitors each year: The Sea Museum and Dolphinarium, Historical Museum of Neringa, Galleries of Amber and Weathervanes, Thomas Mann Memorial Museum, the Ethnographic Farmstead of Fisherman, Nagliai strict nature reserve cognitive path, The Hill of Witches and others.

Curonian Spit national park guides will offer and lead you to various excursions, hikes and educational trips for all of your family members! People of all nations and ages are warmly welcome!

For more information, please visit:

Protected Areas in Lithuania

An aerial photo of lakes, islands and fields in the summertime

Žemaitija National Park

Almost the entire life in Žemaitija (Samogitia) National Park is centred around the Plateliai Lake.
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