Are you looking for new authentic travel destinations? Maybe you are planning your trip to Europe, but you are not sure about all the places to go yet. Or probably you have already decided to visit Latvia or all the Baltic States.
There are at least 25 things you didn't know about Latvia and as you plan your trip to this amazing country, you'll want to know more to help plan your trip. If you love pristine nature, tranquility, wide sandy beaches, then Latvia is a place for you. This is an easy guide for your best day trips from Riga and perfect outdoor adventures that will for sure include Latvia on your travel list, if it is not there yet.
Why Is Riga Not The Only Reason To Plan Your Trip To Latvia?
If you have ever considered traveling to Latvia, probably it is mostly because you have heard about and want to see our amazing capital city Riga.
Riga is indeed a gorgeous place to go. It has more than 800 years of history, being also famous as the World's capital of Art Nouveau and former Hansa city. It has a cozy old town and new interesting hipster districts. Lonely Planet notes about Riga that “like all northerners, it is quiet and reserved on the outside, but there is some powerful chemistry going on inside its hip bars, modern art centers, and in the kitchens of its cool experimental restaurants”. There is something special about Riga says National Geographic and lists a bunch of great things to do in the city itself including food and culture walking tours.
Nevertheless, Riga can be defined in a certain extent only. You must visit it to understand. The local legend says that from time to time some stranger appears from nowhere and asks, “if Riga is ready”. If somebody would answer “yes, it’s ready”, the capital would sink in the Daugava River immediately. However, the citizens of Riga are smart. They always answer that “Riga is not ready yet”. This legend is a symbol that Riga is and will always be open for changes and for development.
Wherever I go I am always glad to return to my hometown.
Latvians use to joke that Riga is a country within a country, and every joke contains a grain of truth. Yet, Riga is still not the whole Latvia despite it currently looks like that if you Google it. Here is why I recommend you take one or more day trips from Riga and go outdoors to see the real treasures of Latvia: its pristine nature and unique traditions.
The Day Trips From Riga You Should Go For
Here's what we're covering:
- Why Is Riga Not The Only Reason To Plan Your Trip To Latvia?
- The Day Trips From Riga You Should Go For
- #1 Hiking Along The Baltic Sea
- #2 Hiking And/Or Doing Stand-up Paddle Boarding In A Bog
- #3 Ultimate Kayaking & Canoeing Experience
- #4 Cycling On The Forest Roads And The Beach
- #5 Bird-watching
- #6 Cross-country skiing
- #7 Picking-up Wild Mushrooms & Berries
- #8 Exploring National Parks And Other Protected Areas
- #9 Unique & Sacred Latvian Sauna Ritual
- There's More To Latvia Than Just Riga Right?
- Best Places To Stay in Riga
- Activities You Should Consider When Based in Riga
Most of the day trips from Riga will bring you to some interesting yet popular tourist destinations like Sigulda and Cēsis Towns or the amazing Rundāle Palace. These are all great places. Yet, here is the list of awesome things to do outdoors that you may have never considered possible to do in a place like Latvia.
#1 Hiking Along The Baltic Sea
I will start with my favorite. Coastal hiking is certainly one of the best things to do in Latvia. Latvia has the longest (ca. 500 km long) and the most diverse seaside of all three Baltic states. You will find gorgeous, mostly sandy beaches here. Many of them are secluded and very much untouched.
When going to a beach in Latvia on a sunny summer day it is actually hard to believe that you are in Nordic Europe and not on a beach vacation somewhere in the Southern Seas. There is a big difference though. Most of the Latvian beaches are not crowded. Hence, you'll find plenty of space to be on your own or with your travel mates only.
Latvia is one of the most forested countries in Europe. We rank fourth after Finland, Sweden, and Slovenia. More than 50% of Latvia's territory is covered by the forest. Also, the Latvian seaside is mostly covered by lush pine forests. This vast greenery is interrupted by cozy small fishermen villages, several towns and only three big cities: Riga, Ventspils, and Liepaja.
Latvian coastline is unique. The western coast is the wildest. During the Soviet times, it was the restricted military zone because it was the western border of the Red Empire. Hence any development was impossible there. This had its benefits for nature though. For 50 years it was left on its own. This resulted in amazing pristine coastal areas that you can still enjoy today.
There are many unique protected areas of EU importance along the sea. They are all open to explore for nature and off-the-beaten-path loving travelers.
For hiking along the Baltic Sea you can go for amazing guided day trips from Riga. Or you can choose to soak up nature on your own and relax on the warm and silky sand of the beach on a sunny summer day.
But that is not all. Latvian sea cost is amazing place for hiking not just in summer but in any season. The view on a frozen sea in the winter is absolutely stunning.
Add Latvian Sauna Ritual (see #9 below) to warm you up after such a hike, and voilà, you have perfect winter holidays on the plate.
For more avid hikers there is also an option to challenge the unique long-distance hiking trail along the Baltic Sea (or “Jūrtaka” in Latvian). You can also do it in parts as day trips from Riga.
#2 Hiking And/Or Doing Stand-up Paddle Boarding In A Bog
Bogs and moorlands are another great wilderness places you should not miss while traveling to Latvia. Many bogs here are amazing protected areas of EU importance. The large raised bogs are really impressive. You can easily get to some of them on a day trip from Riga. The Great Kemeri Bog and Cena Mire are just half an hour drive from the city.
Yet, to go more off-the-beaten-path I suggest you get a local guide to show you the best places.
Well preserved and diverse habitats with abundant biodiversity make Latvian bogs and other wetlands very appealing for nature lovers. Some places offer you easier walks on established wooden boardwalks. But in many, you can try more challenging hikes in bog shoes or without them in wetter areas.
A real Latvian bog is a place, which is always wet. It is wet in the spring and summer and even wetter in the autumn and winter. Yet, autumn and winter is often the best time to go there. Check out point #7 for reasons, why.
Ordinary hiking shoes or boots (even waterproof ones) are not an option for waking in the bog without a boardwalk. You will need a much cheaper version of footwear to get ahead in a wet bog: ordinary rubber boots! The rubber boots will not give you the 100% guarantee that you will stay dry. However, do you really need such a guarantee while being on an exciting adventure?
And that’s not all. If you want to experience something more than just hiking, go for a sunrise or sunset stand-up paddle boarding in the bog’s lakes! You will see the bog from a totally different perspective. It is a fun adventure you will not forget.
#3 Ultimate Kayaking & Canoeing Experience
Latvia is rich with rivers and lakes. Many of them are great places to go kayaking and canoeing. Latvians love spending their free time near nature and on waters. Most locals try to spend at least one summer weekend on a kayak, canoe or inflatable boat.
Latvia is a small country. Hence you can hop for a wild kayaking/canoeing day trip from Riga and return to your hotel the same evening. Or you can go for a longer trip and explore remoter places of the pristine Latvian nature.
Cruising down the gorgeous large rivers will let you enjoy the peace, tranquility and beautiful landscapes. By kayaking down the smaller rivers, you will soak-up the wilderness that you would not expect to find in good old Europe.
If you are brave enough to go kayaking in early spring, the rapids and cold water will give you a good dose of adrenaline. Some of the best kayaking/canoeing destinations in Latvia like Gauja, Salaca and Abava rivers are easily reachable in a day trip from Riga.
The eastern part of Latvia – Latgale is also called “the land of blue lakes”. This is not without a reason. This region is rich with lakes. You can enjoy true off-the-beaten-path here. Many of these lakes are linked with each other by small rivers and channels. Hence you can go for an amazing kayaking/canoeing day trip from Riga to a cascade of lakes. You will see a lot even in one day. Yet to have a full taste of pristine Latvian nature I recommend going for two- or three-days’ kayaking trip.
If you are lucky to come at the right time, you can even kayak in flooded forests and meadows of Dviete River Floodplain. You should travel to Latvia in early spring, bring some warm clothes and hope that the water level will be high enough to get this experience.
Guess what! You can even explore the channel of Riga, Daugava River and its surroundings on a kayak. Doing so during dark hours will add a special appeal to your adventure. In a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, you will see Riga from a different perspective.
Finally, if you are skilled and/or brave enough, you can also try kayaking in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga.
#4 Cycling On The Forest Roads And The Beach
Cycling or biking is also a great option for things to do in Latvia. Yet there are very few dedicated bicycle routes along the big roads in the country! Cycling on the highway is not exactly the safest way to travel here. Yet, in the summer time you will meet many most avid cycling fans traveling on highways.
So, where do you go then, if you'd still love exploring Latvia on a bike but not on a highway? Well, the forest roads and paths, as well as the beach, are the places to go on a mountain bike or even better on a fat bike on a day trip from Riga or elsewhere in Latvia.
The diverse coastline of Latvia is a great option for cycling enthusiasts. Cycling on the beach is the best in the places where the sand is solid and not too lose. It is not everywhere. So, unless you want to do more walking and pushing your bike instead of cycling, I recommend asking the locals where to go on a bike to the beach. The closest place for a day trip from Riga on a bike is the resort city Jurmala. Yet, be ready that during the summer this is a popular destination both for travelers and locals.
If you are ready to go for a remoter day trip from Riga on a bike, there are beautiful cycling routes on forest nature trails in Gauja National Park and in other natural areas like Piejura Nature Park and the gorgeous Slitere National Park.
If you go to the famous Gauja National Park you can rent a bike in Sigulda, Cesis and Valmiera towns or go there with your own bike from Riga. There are trains from Riga Central train station to all these towns and they are on the same route.
Sigulda is also a great place to go on a day-trip river kayaking from Riga.
It is easy to rent a bike in the cities and explore the sightseeing sites on your own. Yet again, be careful in Riga. It is an old city. Thus, the streets are not very wide here and often you will have to share your space with the cars.
During the spring's and autumn's migration periods (April-May and August-October) Latvia is certainly one of the best locations for bird watching in Europe. There are 365 bird species recorded in Latvia. We are on the route of bird migration. Good bird watching sites are Kolka, Engure Lake, Pape Lake, Lake Kanieris and Lubana Wetland. These have large numbers of migratory species. Hence you have good chances to spot a rare species here for your log-book.
#6 Cross-country skiing
Ok, but what about the winter time you might ask. Well, during the coldest and snowiest winter months in January and February it is great to get out for cross-country skiing in Latvia. There are some dedicated tracks for this activity even in Riga City. Yet if you want to enjoy the snowy forest you should go to the Nature Park “Ogres Zilie kalni” or to more distant areas for tranquility.
Nature Park “Ogres Zilie kalni” is only 40 km/25 miles away from the capital. Hence, it’s a great day trip from Riga. You can choose skiing different distances there in a beautiful pine-spruce forest. The track is illuminated when it gets darker. Thus, skiing here is a joy and an absolutely amazing experience.
#7 Picking-up Wild Mushrooms & Berries
Latvian traditions are deeply rooted in nature. Many Latvians still go to the forests and bogs to collect wild mushrooms and berries. They are delicious and excel in taste any cultivated product you can buy in a shop. The taste of freshly picked and baked wild Penny Buns (King Boletes) or Chanterelles is amazing. Enjoy wild strawberries and raspberries, blueberries, and healthy cloudberries! And these are only some treasures that you can find in our forests and bogs.
Early autumn is the most popular time for picking up mushrooms in the Latvian forests and going to the bogs for cranberries. The fall brings amazing colors in Latvia. The air is fresh and there are no mosquitos anymore. Hence, it is the best time to go for a day trip from Riga to a forest and bog.
Note that you will not find many mushrooms and berries close to the beaten paths and popular boardwalks. For this, you will have to step out of your comfort zone and go deeper in the forest and/or in the bog. Yet, this is how you find wilderness and connect with nature.
Regardless if you choose hiking or going to a mushroom/berry quest I recommend you find a local guide to accompany you. This way you will get to know more about Latvia and the most out of your experience.
Before walking into the bog note that there might be occasional drops in the bog pools. As a rule, you step on a thin soil the moment you are about least to expect it. What you get is your rubber boot full of water and a wet leg or probably both. It depends on how heavy you are and how successful was your “struggle” against the sucking effect of the bog. Nevertheless, I guarantee lots of fun moments: first for your travel mates and eventually for you too.
Above all that a raised bog is a place to feel the presence of nature. Its landscape is so mesmerizing that nobody can resist this beauty and tranquility.
#8 Exploring National Parks And Other Protected Areas
Latvia has 333 protected areas of European Union importance. All these areas are set-up for the protection of species, natural habitats, and traditional landscapes. Many of them are great eco-tourism spots.
The most popular travel destinations with the best-developed infrastructure are national parks, nature parks and Ziemelvidzeme Biosphere Reserve.
Gauja National Park is the oldest national park in Latvia. Along with its famous Sigulda, Turaida and Krimulda towns as well as the City of Cēsis, it is the most beautiful destination that attracts many visitors. It is easy to go for a day trip from Riga. Sigulda is only some 50 km (about 30 miles) away from the capital. You can enjoy the combination of all the outdoor activities in Gauja National Park, including hiking the many forest hiking trails, cycling , kayaking. or canoeing in the Gauja and other smaller rivers, and even climbing the trees in adventure parks.
You can easily discover Gauja National Park in one day.
Check out a short video about this amazing area here:
If you seek for more wilderness and off-the-beaten-path, head some 200 km (about 125 miles) North West to the Kolka Cape and Slītere National Park. The western part of Latvia is called Kurzeme. Slitere National Park is only a small part of Kurzeme. Yet, it's worth visiting for sure.
Just some 40 minutes’ drive from Riga you will find Kemeri National Park with its amazing Great Kemeri Bog and Lake Kaņieris – a great bird watching place and nature walks in this famous bog.
Give yourself a day off from the city travel and get a new experience by walking the bogs in Latvia. You will not only find peace and well-being in the beautiful world of bogs, by walking nice wooden trails, but also visit Baltic sea coast.
In the eastern part of Latvia (Latgale) we have Razna National Park. It surrounds one of the biggest lakes in Latvia – Rāzna Lake or how the locals often call it – the “Latagle’s Sea”.
Ziemelvidzeme Biosphere Reserve is a large area of UNESCO importance in the North Vidzeme region. This is the only biosphere reserve in Latvia. It includes big areas of raised bogs, rivers, as well as the largest area of littoral wet meadows in Latvia on the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Riga.
In the south of Latvia (called Zemgale region), there is one of the most mysterious places in the Baltic States – Pokaini Forest. It is within a reach of a day trip from Riga and worth mentioning here. Lonely Planet calls Pokaiņi Forest Reserve as “one of Latvia’s biggest unsolved mysteries”. Mystics say there is a special energy in this place. Historians consider it being an ancient sacred place. Whatever it is we always feel charged when coming here.
Not keen or tired traveling around too much? You can find wilderness at the Riga’s doorstep in the Piejura Nature Park. It is so close that you can go even for a half day trip from Riga there and still enjoy tranquility and wilderness near the Gulf of Riga.
Note that Latvians call the Gulf of Riga the “Small Sea”, the open Baltic Sea on the West being the “Big Sea”.
#9 Unique & Sacred Latvian Sauna Ritual
Finally, here is something that you can always top any outdoors experience in Latvia with at the end of the day. Have you heard about Latvian Sauna Ritual? I bet most of you have not. It is our very well-kept secret. It is not just a simple sauna at all. Latvian Sauna Ritual takes around four hours. Yes, it is that long and at the same time it feels so short for those involved. You will get cleaned both physically and mentally. This is our Latvian way how to get deeply relaxed and fall into meditation and oneness with nature.
Everybody will get its own very special experience during this unique ancient ritual. I can assure you!
There's More To Latvia Than Just Riga Right?
There is a common good trend today for mature travelers to look for new ecotravel and adventure travel destinations. This is the best way to make our experiences more authentic, travel in a more sustainable way, leave less impact on the environment and learn more about new cultures and traditions.
Adventure travel is not anymore only about keeping your adrenaline high and natural craving for new experiences satisfied. It is about authentic experiences rather than mass tourism.
Hence it is so appealing to step out of your comfort zone and go off-the-beaten-path wherever you go. This is the way to immerse yourself in a local culture, interact with real local people and get new experiences that you would never see staying on a beaten road.
Latvia is a new excellent destination for you to go if you love nature, activities in nature combined with authentic traditions.
Do you feel that after reading this article Riga is a bit short for your adventure loving soul that is traveling to Latvia? We are on the same wave then. There are plenty of options for day trips from Riga or multiple day trips from and to any place in Latvia. I highly recommend these outdoors adventures to be combined with staying in cozy small Latvian towns outside Riga, go glamping or camping near the sea or any of our wild rivers and lakes. This is the way you can extend your day trips from Riga to a longer travel in Latvia and discover a whole new world for you.
That’s it for now. If you are interested in more detailed information about what to do and what to see in Latvia, you may wish to check out my Ultimate guide for traveling to Latvia.
Best Places To Stay in Riga
This is a luxurious 4-star and family-friendly boutique hotel llocated just 15 minutes walk from the St. Gertrude Church, the Latvian National Opera, and Old Town. It offers air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi.
Activities You Should Consider When Based in Riga