Return to Latvia

Hits: 3330

Having seen many places and been to many countries over the past years, it was time for us to go visit my home-country Latvia again. And though I have had several visits back home, my husband had not had a chance to return here for 8 years, so it was long over-due. On top of that, many important family events (like baptism and my brother’s wedding) coincided with our plans to visit, so it was the perfect time and opportunity to visit family as well as show off Latvia’s beauty again.


Turaida Castle

Though a lot of time was spent with family and friends, we did find opportunities to get out and explore. One of the first places I wanted to bring my husband to was Turaida castle – a beautiful medieval castle we did not get a chance to visit back in 2008.

The castle was built by the Livonian brothers of the Sword in 1214 in the traditional red brick design, and it sits in one of the most picturesque setting in Latvia – on the banks of the River Gauja in Gauja National Park territory. The main attraction is the immaculately preserved lookout tower from which you get 360 degree views all around.


Part of the castle has been turned into a museum with various archeological artefacts and documents from hundreds of years ago. We spent much more time here than anticipated as many historical facts of this castle were very intriguing and fascinating. 

And to help visitors feel even more ‘’medieval’’, one could try his / her hand in shooting a bow and arrows. We each took turns and had a great fun! However, to gather myself a meal this way… well, that would take some practice, and more practice…



Our next stop just around the corner from Turaida Castle was a fun (but scary for many people) attraction – a cable car ride over the valley of the River Gauja. I was very excited about getting the opportunity to ride the cable car again, as the last time I did it was back in the middle school when we had a class field trip here. The cable car goes 43 meters (141 feet) over the tops of the trees and is 1200 meters (4000 feet) in length. The whole ride takes about 7 minutes one way and gives spectacular views over the Latvian landscape all the way to the horizon. For the brave-hearted, there is an opportunity to bungee-jump from the cable car! However, that was just too extreme for our party and we were happy to simply take a leisurely ride inside the car, with doors safely secured. :)

Sigulda (the cable car and Turaida castle) is the most popular during fall when leaves change color and the whole scenery is like a bright artist’s palette. However, the green summers and white winters also have its beauty!


On the way out, we did a quick stop at Gūtmanis Cave. It is the widest and highest cave in the Baltic countries, and is the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia. It started forming more than 10 000 years ago when meltwater eroded the sandstone rock after the Ice Age. Though engravings in the cliffs are not allowed, many still manage to do it, and the oldest engravings in the cave’s walls can be found dating back to the 17th century! 


Cēsis castle

Having seen enough of Turaida and Sigulda, we were ready to head on and visit another Livonian era medieval castle – Cēsis castle. Its ruins are some of the most impressive castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order (starting with the 13th century), it was the official residence for the masters of the Order. The New Castle of the estate houses a museum, and the front courtyard is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. However, one of the older sections of the castle, including the tower, is open to visitors, and we were given candle lanterns to make the steep and pitch-black climb up the winding tower rock staircase to get to the top. 

Beside the castle’s granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu Alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during a later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. 

The Cēsis Castle park has the romantic characteristic of its time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the water of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. The park is beautiful with many blooming flowers and swans and ducks in the pond. Open air concerts often take place here. 

On the way home we decided to stop at a lookout tower in the near-by woods. I have always enjoyed the green Latvian landscape from up above. Nowhere else have I seen such vivid greens all around as in my country! 

And because of the very wet summer, we could already go mushroom-picking. Mushrooms grow in wet, mossy areas and we found plenty of them around the lookout tower. Unfortunately, we did not have time to really dedicate ourselves to this activity, but the wild mushroom gravy is the best in the world!!! I do miss it! And both of these mushrooms are edible (we did not pick them though, as 2 mushrooms would not feed us). 


Rīga (the capital)

And what would be a visit to a country without visiting its capital?! Though cities have never been my calling, Rīga is far from a metropolis that many think of when hearing the word ‘’capital’’. Rīga was founded in year 1201 and has a very charming Old Town with cobblestone streets, medieval forts, Jugendstil buildings and 19th century wooden architecture. Rīga’s Historical Old Center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the streets are closed off to traffic and are only accessible on foot. The sidewalks are lined with seating for outdoor cafes and coffee shops, and one can hear street performers and live music almost anywhere. A picture can say a thousand words, so I will let the pictures do the talking!

Though our visit to Rīga was cut a little short due to the approaching rainstorm, we still had a great time returning here and re-visiting the old sights, as well as seeing some new ones. I am sure we will be back again next time!


Cempi Sculpture Park

As our visit in Latvia neared its end, we decided to visit a neat little place not far from our home – Cempi Sculpture Park. It is a 2,5 hectare (6 acres) big territory with about 370 different wooden sculptures (characters) from many famous Latvian fairy-tales, as well as some internationally known ones (Simpsons, Teletubbies, Flintstones etc). It is a lot of fun especially for the kids as many of the sculptures are interactive – you can play with them, swing on them, throw balls etc. All together there are 56 different games and attractions to get involved in.

For the brave ones, there is also a labyrinth in the woods with creepy spiders, big bats, zombies and witches. For the adults (18+ only) there is a separate labyrinth with romantic scenes. This one was ''Snow White and the seven dwarfs''. :)

Overall, it was definitely a time well spent outside in the fresh air, and we also got quite competitive with the games. Nobody likes to lose!

Though our visit was 2 weeks long, it felt like time just flew by! We blinked and it was time to head back home. And though the weather did not cooperate at all most of the time during our visit, we still managed to enjoy ourselves, the family and friends, and the beautiful country. Hopefully it won’t be another 8 years until our next return!

Our trip around the Latvian countryside 2 years ago can be found in the article Latvia - best enjoyed slowly