Hidden pearls of Latvia
Road Travel Itinerary
VISITING LOVELY RIGA, THE CULTURAL CENTRE SET BY THE BALTIC SEA
The biggest metropolis centre in the Baltics, Riga, perfectly blends timeless tradition and cutting-edge coolness.
In its 800 years of turbulent history, everyone from German knights to Swedish kings and Soviet commissars 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.
WHY TO CHOOSE RIGA, AS A DESTINATION FOR YOUR NEXT MOTORHOME RENTAL?
Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage site of cobblestones and breath-taking river views, as well as Europe’s Wi-Fi capital with almost 1,000 spots to get online for free.
Main attractions are in the Old Town which is accessible only by foot. We suggest you taking a look at or visiting 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 see include St. Jacob’s Church, the Parliament House and Old Riga Castle
AFTERNOON VISIT TO RIGA´S NATURAL TREASURES
You can take a late afternoon trip to Jurmala which is about 25 km from Riga. Located right at the Gulf of Riga, Jurmala is a coastal resort destination well-known for its natural treasures - the mild climate, sea, fresh air, curative mud and mineral water. It is the largest resort in the Baltics, and the stretch of the sandy coastline is one of the longest in Europe. In addition to the beach, Jurmala is known for its charming wood architecture design. The resort was once a place where Russians would recuperate, so there are still riding therapy centers and traditional Russian sanatoriums dotting the coast.
LATVIAN CUISINE EXPLORATORY: START YOUR MORNING FROM THE BACKYARD OF YOUR PREMIUM MOTORHOME
Why not starting your holiday in a traditional Latvian way? One will be surprised how delicious the Latvian cuisine is. We recommend starting the morning in your camper van with fresh coffee and the most typical Latvian food, the rye bread. Unlike a smooth bread, the rye bread is dark like a chocolate, clasp the ideal sandwich together and smash your day with a fantastic start!
MORNING ROAD TRIP FROM CAMPING JURMALA TO KEMERI NATIONAL PARK
Although, most of the tourists rarely venture this far, the wildlife reserve and national park in Kemeri is one of Latvia´s most impressive natural treasures. Its ancient raised bogs, swamps, forests and lakes were created 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 deer, moose, elk, foxes, wolves, wild cattle and horses that were reintroduced into this unique ecosystem with some help from the World Wide 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
At the north-east road trip to 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 only few people have ever had the chance to experience. Plus, the white sand dunes and views over the water are remarkable in their own way.
DAY 3 MEAL EXPLORATORY: THE BUCKWHEET GRIKI
Nothing like a homemade dish! The buckwheet is a delicious meal for a great camping day which is served with butter, cream on the top, salads and of course with the unmissable rye bread. The buckwheet is originally cooked in water with butter and salt. Gather around a table filled with charming smiles and take advantage of tasting the soft, yet creamy buckwheet with a mixture of pork schnitzel and sausage.
GOOD MORNING FROM VENTSPILS, THE GORGEOUS COASTLINE, 85 km
On the way to Ventspils (51 km from Cape Kolka) you can see a spectacular 32-meter wide Irbene radio telescope at the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center (Photo 5). 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.
GOOD TO KNOW
In the area surrounding Irbene, there are other note-worthy 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.
EXPLORE THE LATVIAN RESIDENTS
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 fiber 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 colorful and diverse participants of “Cow Parade Ventspils 2012”. After the charity auction the cows 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.
VENTSPILS SEASIDE CAMPING RESORT
More than 10 ha of green atmosphere by the sea in a gorgeous area waits for our motorhome rental travelers from all over the world. Try the windsurfing possibilities, enjoy the snack bar or join the sauna after a relaxing day.
DAY 4 LATVIAN MEAL TIP
Cream, rye bread and cranberries are the classical combinations of a typical Latvian dish. Believe it or not, in Latvia even desserts are made of rye bread. This light dessert, called the Rupjmaizes Kārtojums, or in other words, the black rye bread trifle, will blow anyone´s mind even if the rye bread did not increase previous interest.
MORNING TRIP FROM VENTSPILS CAMPING PLACE TO KULDIGA, 57 km
In the small town of Kuldiga, a river runs right between homes and along the 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, the area of Baltic Sea, is the city of Liepaja. In short, the capital of Latvia during the First World War, Liepaja is really a divided city. 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 hosting site of a major annual beach music festival, usually held in July.
The campsites are located 52 km away from Liepaje. We recommend visiting the campsite as it is located in an outstanding atmosphere and picturesque Baltic Sea and National Park. Pukarags Camping will decorate your days with several outdoor activities and nature wonders.
MORNING TRIP TO PAPE NATURE PARK, 10 KM
The 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, and Nida bog – places where many protected plant, animal and bird species are, with a special kind, wild horses, auroxen. European bison can be found here, as well. 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 Nature park in Tervete (185 km).
Skrunda-1 is a crumbling wonderland of Soviet ruins. It was first built in 1963 as a 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 taken apart for scrap and crumble with time.
A SCENIC RIDE 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 and these include 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.
A SHORT 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 splendor.
BEST MOTORHOME RENTAL CAMPSITES TO WITNESS DURING YOUR ROAD TRIP
A museum, French and rose garden, a festival and a highly attractive atmosphere from the historic times will take your breath away! We highly recommend to all of our motorhome travelers to visit one of the following places and enjoy the scenic castle atmosphere of Rundale.
A MORNING DRIVE FROM CAMPING SITE TOWARDS SIGULDA, 130 KM
Sigulda is nicknamed as the Switzerland of Latvia thanks to its beautiful scenery, but it also offers some amazing architecture worth exploring. Anyhow, Sigulda levels up your holiday experience with a fresh view into the Gauja River Valley. 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 meters 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 its structures. Every guest has a possibility to experience the track by themselves with “Summer bob” or “Soft bob”.
EXCITING EXPERIENCE AT THE ASTONISHING GUTMAN`S CAVE
This is the biggest grotto in the Baltics. It is located on the right bank of the Gauja River, not far from Turaida. The grotto’s origins date 10,000 years back, 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 to 1668 and 1677.
THE MOST ATTRACTIVE TOURIST ATTRACTION OF LATVIA, TURAIDA CASTLE, 10 KM
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 meters high strip of land between two ravines at Gauja River. There is marvelous view from its 27 meters high tower over the forested Gauja valley. Castle has been was built for Riga Bishop/Archbishop and it experienced more warfare than most other medieval castles in Latvia. It has not been inhabited since 1776 and it was gradually turning into ruins, until the second half of 20th century, when a rebuilding of the castle for boosting of the tourism and rising the knowledge level started. Nowadays the complex of the Turaida castle belongs to the most interesting and the most impressive culture landmarks in Latvia. It could be considered the best explored medieval castle in Baltic states.
AFTERNOON DRIVE THROUGH GAUJA NATIONAL PARK
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.
STARTING THE ENGINES AND HEADING TO HISTORICAL TOWN OF CESIS, 5 KM AWAY FROM THE CAMPSITE
One of the oldest towns in the country is Cesis, located in the Central Vidzeme Upland. The Old Town is a main reason for a 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, 25 KM
Deep beneath Latvia’s “Ligatne” rehabilitation center, a sort of spa center, is a wellequipped 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, and with all of “The former secret facilities” was opened to the public in 2003, and now it can enter the strange Stalinist halls that look like they have not only been protected from radiation, but time as well.
Afternoon is reserved for a drive back with a motorhome to Touring Cars Riga camper rental station which is located approximately 90 km away.
LATVIA – Best enjoyed slowly!