Arrival to the Touring Cars camper rental station close to Riga Airport.
Visiting lovely Riga
The biggest metropolis in the Baltics, Riga perfectly blends timeless tradition and cutting edge cool. In its 800 years of turbulent history, everyone from German knights to Swedish kings and Soviet commissars have left their footprints, and today Latvia’s capital is an exciting European metropolis at the crossroads of eastern and northern Europe. Riga’s astonishing skyline tells the story, as the timeless Gothic spires in the Old Town mingle with the fantastic facades of one of the world’s richest collections of Art Nouveau on the grand boulevards. Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage site of cobblestones and breathtaking river views, as well as Europe’s Wifi capital with almost 1,000 spots to get online for free.
Main attractions are in the Old Town (accessible only by foot) We suggest you to view or visit Dome Cathedral, St Peter’s Church, Swedish Gate, the old Guild Houses, cluster of medieval tradesmen houses called Three Brothers, and the picturesque Art Nouveau district. Additional places to view include St.Jacob’s Church, the Parliament House and Old Riga Castle.
Afternoon visit: The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia (10 km. from Riga city centre)
Late afternoon trip to Jurmala
(about 25 km from Riga). Located right on the Gulf of Riga, Jurmala is a coastal resort destination well-known for its natural treasures – the mild climate, sea, healthy air, curative mud and mineral water. It is the largest resort on the Baltic, and the stretch of sandy coastline is one of the longest in Northern Europe. In addition to the beach, Jurmala is known for its charming wood architecture. Specifically, many of the older buildings look similar to gingerbread houses. The resort was once a place where Russians would recuperate, so there are still riding therapy centers and traditional Russian sanatoriums dotting the coast. Camping suggestion: Camping Jurmala (http://www.campingjurmala.lv/en/) or Nemo Camping (http://www.nemo.lv/en/)
Morning ride from Camping Jurmala to Kemeri National Park (12 km)
Although most tourists rarely venture out this far, the wildlife reserve and national park at Ķemeri is one of Latvia’s most impressive natural treasures. Its ancient raised bogs, swamps, forests and lakes were created roughly 8,000 years ago when the sea retreated to its current position. The park is home to a wide range of fauna including rare birds like the black stork not to mention moose, deer, elk, foxes, wolves and wild cattle and horses that were reintroduced into this unique ecosystem with some help from the World Wildlife Fund. Nearly 900 varieties of flora can also be observed in the park including certain plants that are found nowhere else in the country.
Afternoon drive to Cape Kolka. (115 km)
At the northeastern tip of Latvia is Slitere National Park. The jewel in the park’s crown is Cape Kolka, which is surrounded by water and offers spectacular views. Cape Kolka feels remote and pristine because of its history as well as its location. When Latvia was under Soviet rule, the cape was zoned off and used for the military, and some villages were completely abandoned. Now, Cape Kolka is a beautiful way to step back in time and explore a part of Latvia that few people have ever had the chance to experience. Plus, the white sand dunes and views over the water are remarkable in their own right.
Morning starts with a drive towards Ventspils along the beautyful coastline (85 km) On the way to Ventspils (51 km from Cape Kolka) you are able to view a spetacular 32-meter wide Irbene radio telescope at the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center. It is located in the village of Irbene, in a former Soviet army town, and is currently managed by the Ventspils University College’s Engineering Research Center. Here the 32-meter wide radio telescope - the RT-32, is being used for scientific purposes, and is the largest such telescope in Northern Europe and the eighth largest in the world. Another 16-meter wide telescope - the RT-16, is also in use.
In the area surrounding Irbene, there are other noteworthy attractions. Almost nine kilometers further down the Kurzeme coast, you will find the Ovisi lighthouse, built in 1905. It is the oldest surviving navigational structure in Latvia. The same distance away, there is Mikelbaka, the tallest lighthouse in the Baltics, rising to 62 meters.
Ventspils is called the “The City of Cows”. Ventspils hosted the Cow Parade 2002, which is one of the largest and most successful public art events in the world. 26 natural-size glass fibre cows were then turned into spectacular works of art and sold in a charity auction. Six exhibits from this Cow Parade in Ventspils are still remnant in the city. In 2012, marking the 10th anniversary of the “Cow Parade Ventpils 2002” events, Ventspils streets, squares and parks once again gave home to 24 colourful and diverse participants of “Cow Parade Ventspils 2012”. After the charity auction the cows have moved to their new owners, but some of them still delight the residents and guests of Ventspils. All in all there are seventeen ones and some of them 4m high and 7m long.
Camping suggestion: Ventspils Seaside Camping (http://www.camping.ventspils.lv/en/)
Morning trip from Ventspils camping place to Kuldiga. (57 km) In the small town of Kuldiga, a river runs right between homes and along streets, giving the town the nickname of Latvian Venice. However, it is Europe’s widest waterfall that most people come to see. The waterfall, known as Venta, is a staggering 240 meters (785 feet) wide. During the spring, salmon jump over the waterfall, and locals catch the fish in midair in a spectacular fashion. You can also admire the brick bridge that spans the waterfall. Although it was damaged in the Second World War, much of it still remains intact.
Afternoon drive from Kuldiga to Liepaja (88 km) On the eastern coast, on the Baltic Sea, is the city of Liepaja. Briefly the capital of Latvia during the First World War, Liepaja is really a city divided. One half of the city is the traditional center. The northern half is better known as Karosta, and it was once a secret Russian military town. As a result, the architecture of Liepaja changes depending on where you are in the city. Most visitors come to Liepaja for the spectacular white sand beaches. Vecliepaja and Dienvidrietumi are the two most popular beaches, but even they rarely get crowded. One of Karosta’s beaches is the site of a major annual beach music festival, usually held in July. Camping suggestion (52 km from Liepaja): Pukarags Camping (http://pukarags.lv/index_en.htm)
Pape Nature Park
Morning trip to visiting Pape Nature Park (10 km) Park is unique in the diversity of ecosystems concentrated in a relatively small territory, as well as gorgeous sights – the coast of the Baltic Sea and its dunes, Lake Pape, Nida bog – places where many protected plant, animal and bird species, as well as wild horses, auroxen and European bison can be found. For thrill seekers we suggest a visit to abandoned ghost town Skrunda-1, a Soviet time secret city (113 km). If this is not your “cup of tea”, you can drive straight to “Mammadaba” Nature park in Tervete. (185 km)
Skrunda-1 is a crumbling wonderland of Soviet ruins. It was first built in 1963 as part of a series of Soviet secret cities constructed for various military uses during the Cold War. It was named after the rural settlement located just five miles away, and at its peak, the base was home to some 5,000 Soviet personnel. The main goal of the site and its two large radar installations was to look for missiles coming in from Western Europe. The installation was comprised of dozens of buildings including barracks, a school, administrative centers, and even factories.
When the Soviets were asked to leave Latvia in 1994, a deal was made that allowed the remaining Soviets to operate the base for four more years, which it did, finally vacating in 1998, leaving Skrunda-1 to rot. The Latvians tore down one of the radar towers in celebration of the Soviets leaving, but the rest of the base was left to be picked apart for scrap and crumble with time.
Drive from Skrunda-1 to “Mammadaba” Nature park in Tervete. (108 km) Tervete park is the best and friendliest place for a family with children and those who know how to see the world through the eyes of a child, rejoicing at the interplay of nature and fairytales. More than a hundred wooden sculptures and statues can be found in the park – Sprīdītis (Tom Thumb), giant Lutausis, the Forest King and his court, little Annele with her friends, dwarfs and “live” fairytale characters – crafted after the fairytale plays by the famous Latvian writer Anna Brigadere. You will also learn about the might of the ancient Semigallians, bringing back memories to modern generations when climbing up the three ancient castle mounds.
Drive to Rundale Palace (46 km) Designed by Francesco Rastrelli, the architect who also created St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, Rundale Palace is one of Latvia's most outstanding architectural landmarks - a Baroque period ensemble complete with palace, stables and garden-park. Nicknamed the Baltic Versailles, Rundale Palace will transport you to an age of splendour. Camping suggestion: Labirinti camping (http://labirinti.lv/en) Slot Pilsrundale, Motorhome parking Pilsrundale (http://rundale.net/en/)
Morning drive from camping site towards Sigulda (130 km) In the Gauja River Valley is the historic town of Sigulda. Sigulda is nicknamed the Switzerland of Latvia thanks to its beautiful scenery, but it also offers some amazing architecture worth exploring.
Be sure to visit and experience Sigulda bobsleigh and luge track. (5 km from Sigulda) The track was built in 1986, it is 1200+220 metres long and consists of 16 turns. Speeds of up to 125 km/h can be achieved on the track. The bobsleigh and luge track hosts bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions. Before the Russian artificial iced tracks were built in Paramonovo and Sochi, the Sigulda track was the only track in Eastern Europe. From the men's start ramp there is a panoramic view of the River Gauja valley, Sigulda Town and the track itself. Every visitor has the opportunity to walk along all the turns of the track and see the structures of the track. Every guest has a possibility to experience the track by themselves with „Summer bob” or „Soft bob”.
Experience the beautyful Gutman’s cave.This is the biggest grotto in the Baltics. It islocated on the right bank of the Gauja River, not far from Turaida. The grotto’s origins date back 10,000 years when postglacial streams started eroding sandstone. It is 10 meters high, 12 meters wide and 18.8 meters deep. It is also notable for inscriptions on its walls. The oldest inscriptions are dated 1668 and 1677.
Visiting Turaida Castle (10 km drive). One of the oldest visible castles in Latvia is Turaida castle - it is built in 1214. Few buildings in Latvia are located in such a splendid landscape - castle is set on some 80 metres high strip of land between two ravines at Gauja River. There is marvellous view from its 27 metres high tower over the forested Gauja valley.
Castle has been built for Riga Bishop/Archbishop and has experienced more warfare than most other medieval castles in Latvia. It is not inhabited since 1776 and gradually was turning into ruins - until in the second half of 20th century there was started rebuilding of the castle for boosting of the tourism and rising the knowledge level. Nowadays the complex of the Turaida castle belongs to most interesting and most impressive culture landmarks in Latvia. It could be considered to be the best explored medieval castle in Baltic states.
Gauja National Park
Afternoon drive through Gauja national park towards camping site. (37 km) The Gauja National Park is the largest national park in Latvia, with an area of 917.45 km² running from north-east of Sigulda to south-west of Cesis along the valley of the Gauja River.
It was established in order to protect slightly disturbed natural areas, promote nature tourism and ensure sustainable development in the area. National park is characterized by a high biological diversity, rock outcrops and varied terrain shapes, springs, picturesque landscapes and many historical and cultural monuments from different centuries. Camping suggestions: Zagarkalns Kempings (http://www.zagarkalns.lv/vasara/en/) or Apalkalns Kempinga (http://www.apalkalns.lv/en)
Historical town of Cesis (5 km from the camping site) One of the oldest towns in the country is Cesis, located in the Central Vidzeme Upland. The Old Town is a main reason to visit, and the cobblestone streets set the tone for quaint, charming exploration. Cesis also boasts two castles, side by side, that are extraordinary. The first is the original Cesis Castle, founded in the 13th century and now mostly in ruin. Next door is the New Cesis Castle, constructed in the 18th century. The new castle is beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous grounds. The castle is also home to the Cēsis Museum of History and Art.
Ligatne Secret Soviet Bunker
Drive to Ligatne Secret Soviet Bunker (25 km) Deep beneath Latvia’s “Ligatne” rehabilitation centre, a sort of spa centre, is a well-equipped facility that was built to protect the Soviet political elite in case of a less-relaxing nuclear attack. The 213,000 square foot hideout could support 250 people for up to three months in the case of a nuclear attack, and was protected beneath layers of dirt, cement, and metal plate. Thanks to this abandonment by the military, the bunker was left in its original condition, with all of the old equipment and decoration that it originally had.
The former secret facility was opened to the public in 2003, and can now enter the strange Stalinist halls that look like they have not only been protected from radiation, but time as well. Afternoon drive towards returning the motorhome to Touring Cars camper rental station. (90 km) Thank you and have a nice flight! LATVIA – Best enjoyed slowly!
The average daily travelling time on this route is 1 hour and 53 minutes.
Latvia is beautiful at the Summer time, but also Spring is really nice. Rent your motorhome from our Riga station.