On this bewitching tendril of land, winds caress the sand dunes, pine scents the breeze and amber washes up on beaches. Designated a national park (Kuršių Nerijos Nacionalinis Parkas) in 1991, Curonian Spit trails across the Baltic Sea from Lithuania to Russian territory Kaliningrad. Pine forests populated by deer, elk and wild boar cover about 70% of the area and only a fraction is urban; the four main villages Nida, Juodkrantė, Pervalka and Preila are known collectively as ‘Neringa’. Today these fishing villages have embraced tourism, a double-edged sword that yields both their main source of income and their biggest environmental threat.
Until the first decades of the 20th century, most of the spit was German territory. The area used to have a magnetic attraction for German exiles, and continues to draw a large number of German tourists. Today, locals joke that the spit's sand dunes are 'Lithuania's Sahara'.