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If you look at the map of Latvia in search of the best places to visit, you might be surprised by how many of them you will find. From the ancient spooky castle or secret underground lake, surrounded with old legends to amusement parks with extreme trails – in Latvia, everyone will find something special for themselves. You can explore abandoned fortresses, go hiking, or enjoy the warmth of the sun on the kilometer-long beaches. There is a huge amount of places worth visiting in Latvia. You can find the most suitable ones for you depending on your preferences, budget, time amount or season.
The largest Light Park in Jurmala. The territory of the Dzintari Forest Park was turned into a light-hearted surprise park, featuring decorations from 85,000 LED lights, specially made for Christmas. Snowflakes, snow in the dunes and other decors – everything shines.
Sigulda bobsleigh track was opened in 1986 and is one of the rarest tracks in the world, accessible to both professional athletes and visitors. The length of the Sigulda bobsleigh track is 1200 m, it consists of 16 turns and allows you to reach speeds of up to 125 km / h. The track is used for competitions and training in bobsled, luge, and skeleton. Each season there are competitions of international and national scale. When there is no competition, everyone can experience an adrenaline rush at the curves of the track.
Karosta Prison from its very beginning has been a grim place designed to break people’s lives and suppress free spirit. The Liepaja Garrison Prison of the Military Port was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the needs of the Marine Hospital but was never used as a hospital. From the very beginning, it served as a place for short-term disciplinary punishment for sailors and junior fleet officers.
Already in 1905, the garrison sailors who participated in the 1905 revolution served their time in prison. The place opposite the prison became a mass grave for many prisoners who were shot by German fascists right there, near the prison fence. At all times the building served as a guardhouse – both for the Soviet army and for the Naval forces of the Latvian army. The last prisoners left their records on the walls of prison cells quite recently. If you are brave enough, you can try and spend here at least one night and see the ghost by yourself.
If you are interested in the past of this Baltic region, one of the great places to visit in Latvia is Līgatne bunker, which is located 9 meters under the ground and used to be a shelter for the Latvian elite of the communist government in case of a nuclear war. Authentic exhibits of times past are preserved in the bunker. The bunker was built during the Cold War, when the USSR was in constant readiness for the attack of the West, especially for a nuclear blow from the United States. Here was everything you need to live a few months after a nuclear war.
In case you are a hiker or a photographer here are 10 best places to visit in Latvia, where you can spend your entire vacation surrounded by pure nature:
The Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk. The pearl of the Kemeri National Park is Kemeri marshlands with mirror glass miniature lakes, wet soil. Undisturbed by any transport silence, they create an atmosphere from the legendary film “The Baskervilles Dog”.
Since just walking through the swamps would not work, the wooden “Path of the Great Kemeri Marsh” was built. The trail is circular and the large circle is about 3.5 kilometers.
The first bridges in the swamp were laid back in the Soviet times, and they lead to a meteorological station that operated until 1990. The ways consisted of wooden planks, many of them were in such a state that it was dangerous to walk on them. In late 2008, the Trail was closed to visitors. Funds for the construction of the new Path and the observation tower were allocated by European Union and the track is fully functional now.
Lake Kaniere of the Kemeri National park is one of the best birdwatching venues. Here you can find a bird-watching tower at the lake, and one of the largest juniper growths in Latvia.
Green Dune is a hill of sand several kilometers long, covered by pines. It was formerly part of the Littorina Sea shores.
Zvartes cliff is 20 m high scenic Devonian sandstone cliff, scarp – 44 m high outcrop. Legends say that during solstice here used to gather witches and perform their rituals.
Latvian forests are full of mystery. Velnezers or Chertok’s lake is located in Latgale. This lake is wrapped in legends. There are no aquatic plants and animals never drink from it and very few fishes are present there. The lake changes its color from blue to emerald. It is believed that this place has a special energy, many call it the Devil’s Eye.
In the vicinity of the Zvartes cliff, you can explore the Witch’s Meadow, the Miglas cliff and take a walk along Amata to the Wetzlauche bridge and back.
From Zvartes cliff, you can go on a small or longer trek along the path along Amata. The river valley from Melturi to the confluence of Gauja is rich in outcrops of dolomite and sandstone, beautiful landscapes, diverse flora, and fauna. In addition to Zvartes cliff, other geological sights can be seen only from the path along Amata on the section from Melturi to Wetzlauch bridge or during a boat trip on the river.
Another amazing place for nature lovers is a Pape Nature Park. It is a world-class natural park with an area of more than 50 thousand hectares and a village on the Baltic Sea coast, south of Liepaja and Bernati natural park. Since 1999 wild horses have settled in the Pape Nature Park. Later they were joined by tours. These animals are left alone but in those places where they live, nature is changing – medical plants and new flowers begin to grow, birds return to nesting.
In the heart of Latvia, its largest national park is located – Gauja. Untouched nature, rocks, caves, forests, castles, lakes and hundreds of mystical legends are associated with these places. Tourism began to develop here in the 19th century. The abundance of attractions, beautiful landscapes, small medieval towns attracted and still attracts a huge number of people. For visitor special centers are organized, where you can learn information of interest, take a map of objects and walking trails of the park.
Gauja National Park stretched from the North to Southwest for 100 km in the valley of the river of the same name, whose banks consist of rocks of the Devonian era, formed more than 300 million years ago. On the territory, there are ancient towns – Sigulda, Cesis, Ligatne. The total area of the park is over 91 thousand hectares. In 1973 it was decided to combine small reserves and interesting areas under the auspices of the national park. The main goal is the desire to protect the beauty and pristine nature of the local nature from the destructive impact of man.
Zilie Kalni (Blue Hills) Nature Park in the Ogre municipality is popular with holidaymakers, who lead an active lifestyle or just want a breath of fresh forest air.
A Pokaini Forest is a mysterious place, especially on the dusk. Here the Blair Witch could be filmed. It is believed to be a very old sanctuary, as evidenced by rock stacks. However, the secret of Pokaiņi forest has never been revealed.
Mikelbaka is the highest in Latvia and it is a real test for those who are afraid of altitude. 56 meters high.
There are lots of amazing places to visit around Latvia, but you definitely should not miss Riga. This city has lots of amazing spots worth seeing.
Krāmu Street to Restaurant 1221 on Jauniela in Old Riga is so popular that it’s become iconic among locals and visitors alike. The colorful buildings, the roofs, and the old cobblestone form a composition that isn’t found all too often. Which makes these places the most photogenically attractive especially for the Instagram users.
Brooklyn Bridge Park at Vanšu Bridge is a place where every rugger and guest of Riga can enjoy excellent relaxation! Well-developed beach for lovers, active sports fields and a picnic area for gourmets. And all this with a unique view of the harbor, the old town and the mighty Vanšu bridge, right on the Kipsala beach, on the left bank of the Daugava.
Be sure to go to the Kalnciema craft fair, which is held every Saturday. All sorts of handmade products, national treats, and products of farmers – eyes of a variety run up! Entrance to the fair is free of charge.
The quarter is located at Kalnciema iela 35. The fastest way to get here is from the Riga Central Railway Station by bus number 22 (going in the direction of Lidosta). Take Centrala stacija and get off at Irlavas iela, and in five minutes walk, you will find the treasured street.
The Convent Yard is an ancient courtyard famous for serving as a “model” for one of the paintings of Nicholas Roerich himself. But even if you are not interested in painting, we definitely recommend visiting this place – this place is so picturesque and this is where the atmosphere of antiquity and living history reigns. The Convent courtyard is located next to the church of St. Peter, under the shadow of its elegant bell tower. Here you can slowly walk among old houses, go to antique shops or visit the Museum of Porcelain.
If you want to know what decorations were in fashion in Riga several hundred years ago, be sure to go to the Museum of Jewelry. Its owners, the family of jewelers Inita and Vitauts Straupe, have been studying the history of the Baltic jewelry for 20 years, and have also made copies of ancient jewelry. In the museum, you can see both original old jewelry and their copies made by masters, as well as modern products with national motifs and ornaments. Entrance to the museum is free of charge.
Latvia has a ruggedly beautiful west coast, Liepaja – a proud port city with an artistic soul and Jurmala with its outstanding beaches and slightly warm water. If you are not a big fan of sunbathing, you might want to go underground to see Ezerala – a unique cave system with an underground stream and two beautiful underground lakes filled with clear water. The impressive ceiling above the lakes is formed from Quaternary and sandy sediments 6 m thick. The underground springs of the banks of the beautiful Brasla River once washed away large voids and caves here. The cave of Ezerala is located here with two underground lakes and the mysterious cave of Upes ala. Admiring the waters of underground lakes, you can experience pleasant emotions. This unusual underground kingdom, reminiscent of the power of nature, will not leave anyone indifferent.
Nature is most appealing at the moments when it reveals its true colors – at sunrise, during a storm or when it’s slowly falling asleep. The White Dune is one of those good places to visit in Latvia in autumn, especially at the end of October when the chilly mornings are showing the first signs of winter. The White Dune is one of the landmarks of Saulkrasti, on the Vidzeme gulf coast. The dune offers a splendid view of the sea, the mouth of the Inčupe River and the vast beach. The White Dune formed as the wind drove beach sand over the clay silt of Baltic Ice Lake. It is this white 18 meters high sand outcrop that once helped local fishermen to find their way home. The dune got its name from its white, hardened layers of sand which look like sandstone.
Although the dune is covered by a pine tree forest, its steep slope, which faces the sea, is still visible. On your way to the White Dune, you will see linden trees named after Russian Empress Catherine II. Legend has it that Catherine II planted the trees while vacationing at Pabazi seaside.
For those who cannot imagine their vacation without visiting an ancient castle or an old abandoned house.
Northern Fort in Liepaja, remaining from the end of the nineteenth century. Built as a defensive one, it is constantly being destroyed by the action of the sea waves and now almost nothing is left of it. However, there is still something to see.
The fortifications were built to protect the Liepaja naval base in the Karosta region. Now we can only guess where the warehouses were and where the artillery batteries were located.
The only active object in the territory is a lone windmill and tourists.
Judging by the rolled dirt road, the forts were and remain a place of pilgrimage for these same tourists, but there is no garbage and mess in the place, and in summer, when the grass is green, I think that it is fun to rummage here. By the way, the beach is sandy and a swim, if the harsh sea allows, should be really super.
The unvarnished romance of antiquity can be felt by climbing to the Western tower of the Cēsis castle, although the castle itself was significantly damaged in the war years, and today it remains the largest medieval castle in Latvia and in the Baltic States.
The Cesis medieval castle was one of the first fortifications built in the territory of Latvia by the German crusaders. At that time it was almost the most impregnable fortress in the Baltics. In Cēsis Castle, the Livonian Order received ambassadors, solved issues of war or peace, and also settled internal problems.
Turaida Castle is located in Sigulda, 50 km northeast from Riga. Turaida Museum Reserve area is around 41 hectares, located on the right bank of Gauja River. Here you will find 37 historical buildings. This historical complexes it one of the most visited places in Latvia and over 200 thousand tourists come here every year.
Daugavpils (Dinaburg) fortress is the only fortress of the beginning of the XIX century in the Baltics. The construction of Daugavpils (Dinaburg) fortress, requested by Minister of War Michael Barclay de Tolly, began in 1810. During Napoleon’s wars, it was a strong obstacle on the way of the French army. Although in 1813, the construction of the fortress was continued, it was never used again for military purposes.
Araisi Lake Castle is the only reconstruction of a 9th-10th century fortified settlement. The Museum Park excels with unique archaeological findings, placement of reconstructed objects on their original site, and the well-preserved cultural and historical landscape of Vidzeme in contrast to the contemporary urban environment.
In the Dundaga region, in the Kurzeme is an unusual place of unusual and cultural-historical significance. According to local residents, it may disappear from the tourism map of Latvia in the next ten or fifteen years. Mazirbe, historically known as the largest center of Livov, is notable for the only fishing cemetery on the Latvian coast. It was formed in the 60s of the last century and is still available for viewing.
One of them is Ventspils – a busy port with tons of things for kids to enjoy. Ventspils Adventure Park is a world of amazing rides and slides, while the Children’s Village has over 40 fun activities plus trampolines and bikes for rent. And if the weather is warm, take the family to Ventspils broad, sandy beach, awarded a Blue Flag for its high environmental standards.
Another amazing place to visit in Latvia if you are traveling with children is an adventure park “Daugavpils Tarzan” with 6 obstacles for children and adults. You can put “Daugavpils Tarzan” in your best places to visit in Latvia for sure. All kids like running, jumping and rolling, and here they can do it.
Safari Park Mare in Sigulda is another outstanding place, worth visiting. If you like animals, if you want to teach your children to cherish nature and take care about what surrounds them, Mare is a number one place to go to with your kids. This is a garden of wild animals: noble deer, including white deer, as well as fallow deer, mouflon and wild boars which are grown on the territory of 170 hectares. About 400 animals live in nineteen pens. Seven pens are included in the 1.5 km walking route laid for visitors of the park. You can be sure that the deer will not only come very close to you but will also gladly take some delicacy from your hands.
Adventure park “Mežakaķis” is located in Sigulda. There are 6 tracks for adults, each of them marked with a color depending on altitude and complexity obstacles. There are Green, Blue, and Red tracks – mostly for beginners. Also, there are the Black and White tracks designed for everyone who wants to experience the thrill and move with the maximum use of effort, endurance and a sense of balance.
If you do not have much time and want to know more about this Baltic country, the top places to visit in Latvia for you would be:
The largest Shmakovka Museum in Latvia, located in Daugavpils, offering a modern and interesting story about this strong drink in Latgale, as well as a tasting at the end of the tour.
Daugavpils Arts Center offers the opportunity to get acquainted with the cultural heritage of Latgale. You will be able to get to know the traditions of ceramics, see the exhibits and learn the secrets of the profession.
The best time to travel to Latvia is from May to September. During this period, it is warm enough. In late autumn and winter, the dank cold falls on the Baltic coast (from November to March, the average temperature stays around zero) and the winds are penetrating, so it is strongly not recommended to go during this period. But in the offseason (late September – early October and late April) there are short, but very comfortable periods, in which nature seems to freeze and even the drizzling rains characteristic of these places only add color to the overall picture.
As you see, despite its amazingly small size, Latvia can surprise and amaze any person who comes here. It does not matter whether it is summer, winter or autumn, whether you travel solo or with an entire family, whether you love hiking through pine forest, spend your day on the beach hunting for amber or taste local national beverages.