Lithuania has a short but very beautiful coastline with natural beaches on the Baltic Sea. The long, narrow sand spit with a unique landscape separates a placid lagoon from the open sea. Busy towns, traditional fishing villages and unusual curiosities are an added attraction.
Here are ten reasons you should take a trip to the coast of Lithuania…
1) Tiškevičiai Palace in Palanga
Palanga is the most popular resort by the Baltic Sea in Lithuania.
Natural beaches fringed with pine forests stretch for miles on either side of its L-shaped pier. Palanga was transformed from a humble fishing village to a busy town by the members of the Tiškevičiai dynasty. Today, some of them are occupied by restaurants, museums and beautiful wooden villas can still be seen around the town.
The most impressive of their houses is the splendid Neo-Renaissance Tiškevičius Palace built by Count Feliksas Tiškevičiai. The house is set in the beautiful Birutė Park, which includes natural settings around a lake and formal gardens. Some rooms in the palace reflect the owner’s lifestyle, while the major part is devoted to the extensive Palanga Amber Museum.
2) Cultural Museums in Klaipėda
The port of Klaipėda is the third largest City in Lithuania.
Beyond the busy port, visitors will find a wealth of culture in a variety of small museums. The museums reflect the period when the town was part of Lithuania Minor (Mažosios Lietuvos), an autonomous region before the Republic of Lithuania was created.
The most unusual, the Blacksmith’s Museum, celebrates the blacksmiths of Klaipėda who have been well known since the sixteenth century. The Blacksmith’s Museum features beautiful crosses that once stood proud in local cemeteries. Other museums include the Clock and Watch Museum, Pranas Domšaitis Gallery and the Museum of 1939 to 1945.
3) The Carillon Bells of Klaipėda
Klaipėda is also home to one of only two sets of carillon bells in Lithuania.
Carillon bells are attached to the wooden keys of a large keyboard, playing like a piano but with a lot more force. The bells are hung in the tower of the unusual Post Office building but their music is best appreciated from a distance.
4) Curonian Spit and the Living Dunes
The Curonian Spit separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon.
The sand dune stretches for fifty kilometres on the Lithuanian side and the rest is in neighbouring Russia. Living sand dunes, drifting mounds of sand affected by wind and sea, created this unique landscape recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
In the past, whole villages were buried by these drifting sands but since the nineteenth century they have been controlled by the planting of large pine forests. Today, visitors can walk on board walks through the living sand dunes in the Nagliai Strict Nature Reserve.
5) Nida and its Fishermen
Nida is a charming, traditional fishing village in the municipality of Neringa.
The resort town is rapidly becoming a popular resort for those who enjoy the nature of an unspoilt coastline. Spread across the narrow Curonian Spit, Nida has the benefit of two shores, the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea.
Long-standing and unique traditions of its fishermen are celebrated by displays of wood-carved weather vanes, Curonian fishing boats and the informative Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead.
6) Parnidis Dune and Sundial Calendar
Enjoy a lovely walk along the shore of the Curonian Lagoon from Nida to the Parnidis Dune. This dune is fifty-three metres high and features a very unusual sundial-calendar on its summit.
On the approach to the sundial is a realistic bronze sculpture of the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre battling against the wind. The sculpture commemorates the visit of Sartre to Nida in 1965. The logistics of the sundial-calendar are explained in English on information boards surrounding the site. A viewing platform looks out over the vast expanse of sand dunes that stretch along the shores of the lagoon.
7) Juodkrantė and the Hill of Witches
Lithuanians love to explain natural phenomena through legends. On the Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė, several paths weave their way through the woods lined with a variety of wooden sculptures.
Witches, goblins, devils and giants portray many legends and superstitions that exist in this land. The well-known legend, featuring a gentle giant known as Neringa, explains the creation of the Curonian Spit.
In order to protect the local fishermen from the storms of the Baltic Sea, Neringa dug out the lagoon and piled up the sand between the lagoon and the sea.
English speaking guides who will entertain with a multitude of stories about these sculptures can be booked through the Tourist Information Office in Klaipėda.
8) A Cruise on a Wooden Viking Boat
On the mainland side of the Curonian Lagoon is the small port and marina of Dreverna.
The area is accessible by a regular ferry service from Juodkrantė in the summer. The calm waters are ideal for every water sport imaginable and a wide variety of water-based vehicles are available to hire. Wind and shallow waters make it ideal for kite surfers of all levels.
Cruises on the Dreverna, a traditional wooden Viking trading boat are also available through the Tourist Information Office in Klaipėda. This Viking boat was built from oak in 2014 and is available for group cruises. The journey is peaceful when under sail, with an occasional creak from the huge wooden rudder at the back.
9) A Walk through an Ancient Forest
Vast areas of Lithuania are clothed in forests and several national parks have been created to protect these areas. The best locations include the Pajūrio Regional Park, also known as the Seaside Regional Park. The park stretches from Klaipėda to Old Palanga and was established in 1992 to protect a coastal landscape of dunes, cliffs, boulders and the village of Karklė, an historic coastal settlement.
A good place to start is the modern Visitor Centre in Karklė. There is a small exhibition about the park with information in English. The dramatic scenery along the coastline of this path includes the exposed roots of trees clinging to the cliff face.
10) An Adventure with an Amber Hunter
Igor Osnač, a well-known guide and amber hunter, gives a fascinating presentation called the Secrets of Catching Amber.
After talking about the precious stone, also referred to as Lithuanian gold, Igor takes his guests down to the beach to demonstrate his skill as a hunter.
Generally, amber rests on the sea bed but it comes to the surface if disturbed by the turbulence of a storm. For this experience, guests can choose to join Igor in the sea by scooping up piles of flotsam and seaweed with large fishing nets. The alternative is to forage through the ‘catch’ searching for pieces of amber. The experience is an exciting and educating one.
Read more from Valery Collins at ExperiencedTraveller