Introduction

Lovely Nida (Nidden in German) is the largest settlement on the Lithuanian half of Curonian Spit; it’s also the spit’s tourist hot spot. Remnants of a former life as an old-fashioned fishing village are plain to see in its pretty wooden cottages and harbour jammed with seafaring vessels, but these days Nida makes its money from holidaymakers and busloads of Germans exploring historical East Prussia.

Natural beauty abounds here, and white-sand beaches are only a 2km walk away through hazy pine forests. To the south is the most impressive dune on the peninsula, Parnidis Dune (Parnidžio kopa), which has steps up to its 52m summit from where there are stunning views of rippling, untouched dunes stretching into Russia.

From the late 19th century a colony of artists drew inspiration from the area. Nida developed as a tourist resort and there were five hotels by the 1930s, when the German writer Thomas Mann (1875–1955) had a summer home built here. In 1965 French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and companion Simone de Beauvoir were granted special permission by Khrushchev to spend five days on the dunes, and Lithuanian photographer Antanas Sutkus was allowed to shoot the pair in the sand.

Nida is 48km from Klaipėda and 3km from the Russian border; the town stretches for 2km, but its centre is at the southern end, behind the harbour.