Lithuanian Sand Dunes?

Riga, like Tallinn, has a relaxed old town with lots of museums, churches and restaurants. Also like Tallinn it has a tourist card that covers entry into most museums and unlimited use of public transport. Once again the Occupation Museum (in a stunningly ugly ex-soviet army museum building) was one of the most interesting sights. The adjoining House of Black-Heads, which houses the tourist information centre, needs to be seen to be appreciated. Also not to be missed are the many Art Nouveau buildings just outside the old town.

For a cheap and cheerful Latvian meal, Alus Seta is recommended. For a pleasant evening meal the Swiss Alpenrose restaurant is excellent value.

After three very pleasant days in Riga we headed north up the coast to Kolka. A pleasant "tourist" route with endless pine forests and sandy beaches. Continuing along the coast road we then headed south past Liepaja across the border into Lithuania.

There were no border formalities leaving Latvia but because "Green Card" insurance is not valid in Lithuania you may wish to stop at the Latvian side of the border and buy your compulsory Lithuania third party insurance (about $20USA for a minimum of 14 days). The entry into Lithuania was friendly but methodical (passports, vehicle registration documents and third party insurance all inspected and recorded), with only one lane for cars and one for trucks. It would certainly be best to avoid "rush hour".

Our first target in Lithuania was the Curonian Spit, a 100km long, 4km wide peninsular that runs parallel to the Lithuanian coast south of Klaipeda. Originally we only intended to take a quick look. In the end we stayed two nights.

There were four reasons for our change of mind. Firstly it took us so long to find the ferry it was late when we finally got there (there appear to be no useful road signs in Lithuania so far, but excellent roads). Secondly the ferry cost $45USA return (250 metres?) so we felt we needed to stay at least a day to get our money's worth. Thirdly there is a $30USA charge to enter the national park that begins just after you land, so we really did feel we needed to get our money's worth.

And fourthly it was wonderful!

A Lithuanian "picnic" spot sign for your collection!

A single road runs the length of the spit with a border crossing between Lithuania and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in the middle at Nida. The spit has the Baltic Sea on one side and the Courland Lagoon on the other, with sandy beaches, pine forests and major sand dunes dotted about. Although the spit is a major tourist attraction (and UNESCO listed) it has a very pleasant low key feel at this time of year. At peak times it is probably overcrowded (mostly with Lithuanians but with a big minority of Germans). The photograph below shows the town of Nida from the top of the sand dune that separates Lithuania from Russia..

The town of Nida from the top of a sand dune.
Stephen Stewart.

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