DESTINATION: GAUJA NATIONAL PARK
Gauja National Park is the largest and oldest of the national parks in Latvia. It protects the rich nature of the ancient Gauja River valley and its surrounding areas as well as the vast diversity of plant, bird and insect species found here.
The origins of the ancient Gauja River valley go back more than 350 million years, but its current ravine-ridden terrain was moulded by the glacier meltwater at the end of the Ice Age. The Gauja, which is the longest river in Latvia (452 km), winds through the national park. The river once served as a trading route, and the Livonians built their settlements on its banks. Strong stone castles, which were enclosed by steep slopes and deep valleys, were built in the 13th century. The cities and the social and cultural life grew around these castles.
Today, the park is a place where legends of the past live alongside modern and cosy guest houses, country houses, farms, restaurants and leisure spots. Here you can enjoy the aura of antiquity in old castles, receive a burst of energy at one of the ancient sacred places or experience the healing properties of the springs. You can also touch trees planted by kings, hear your voice echoing off sandstone rocks, or let the nature trails carry you off into rich forests. All of this should be enjoyed slowly, letting the taste, smell and colours introduce you to the rhythm of local life. This is best done by hiking, riding a bicycle or a horse, or even taking a boat down the gentle stream of the Gauja River.
Visitors can enjoy Gauja National Park by:
- Walking along the nature trails (more than 30 in the park)
- Experiencing real Latvian countryside living and food, by participating in workshops or helping the farmers
- Getting to know Latvian craftsmanship and making one’s own Latvian souvenirs
- Tasting local beers, herb teas, sweets, bread and wines
- Enjoying picturesque boat trips along the Gauja river – seeing sandstone cliffs and rocks
- Feeling the breath of ancient castles and manors
- Experiencing active holidays by cycling, bow shooting, skiing, running or walking with huskies, horseback riding
- Fishing, mushroom picking, berry picking, herb tea picking.