Tucked in the woods near the Lithuanian town of Juodkrantė is the Hill of Witches, or Raganų Kalnas. Numerous wooden sculptures have been placed in this area of the Curonian Spit and a trail winds among them. The Hill of Witches is one of the great things to see in the national park if you’re looking to get a glimpse of some of the area’s history, see some unique art, and enjoy some time outdoors.
Story of the Hill of Witches
The wooded area near Juodkrantė was once the place of a midsummer festival called Joninės, or St. John’s Day. This event is a combination of pagan and Christian celebrations, consisting of bonfires, feasts, rituals and the telling of folk stories. There are still some festivities that occur in Lithuania today; however, Joninės celebrations mostly ceased near Juodkrantė after WWI.
Today, around 100 wooden sculptures dot the hill where these celebrations once took place. In 1979, the initial 25 sculptures were carved by various Lithuanian artists and placed on the hill. Many more have been added and renewed over the years.
Most of the unique carvings depict characters from Lithuania’s folk tales, including devils, witches, and the famous Neringa. Tales say that Neringa, a beautiful giant, actually created the Curonian Spit. She rejected a dragon that wanted to marry her, so the dragon unleashed the wrath of the Baltic Sea. Neringa created the Curonian Spit, forming large dunes to protect the people living on Lithuania’s coast from the violent storms.
Before making your way to the Hill of Witches, you first have to take a ferry from Klaipėda across the lagoon to the Curonian Spit. Ferries leave frequently and can transport individuals, bikes, and vehicles. For more information taking the ferry, read our post on visiting the Curonian Spit. You can also access the Curonian Spit from the south if coming from Kaliningrad. However, we didn’t cross into this Russian territory, and the border is currently closed (2023).
Once on the Curonian Spit, make your way to Juodkrantė. If driving by private vehicle, you’ll have to find parking in Juodkrantė or along the stretch of road running through town along the lagoon. Parking is limited during the busy summer months.
There are also buses that cycle along the Curonian Spit. There are stops for buses running both north and south right near the trailhead leading to the Hill of Witches. The start to the trail is pretty well marked with a large wooden sign along the main road pointing to Raganų Kalnas. From here, head up the trail into the woods.
Exploring the Hill of Witches
We had spent the morning exploring some of the beautiful trails on the Curonian Spit, and we were excited to continue our adventure to the Hill of Witches. It was mid-October, so Juodkrantė was quiet and there was a chilly breeze whooshing through the tops of the pines as we entered the woods.
Not long after beginning the trail, we began to see some wooden figures standing among the trees. Many of the carvings contained incredible detail, and some were carved to form benches and thrones. We continued down the trail, enjoying all of the unique artwork and reading some of the informational signs along the way.
The trail began to loop back towards town. Right before we popped back out onto the road, there was a little park of interactive wooden sculptures, including a seesaw, climbable post to a horse, spinning barrel, and more.
Notes on Visiting the Hill of Witches
The Hill of Witches is free to visit at any time and there is no fee. While this trail isn’t strenuous, it is primarily dirt with some rocks and roots, so wear comfortable walking shoes.
There were a few trails leading off the main Hill of Witches trail. It’s really pretty straightforward to follow the main path but, but take a look at this map for a general idea of how the trail layout and to make sure you end up looping back to Juodkrantė. The linked map also contains more information on the many sculptures.
Overall, the Hill of Witches is quite a unique attraction and we think it should definitely be on your list of places to see if you’re visiting the Curonian Spit!