Want to take a trip to someplace in Latvia, yet also care about maintaining social distancing? Here’s 10 ideas for destinations that we have personally been to recently.
Since our working week has become more intense than it was prior to quarantine, we are only able to allocate time for traveling on the weekends. Therefore, these recommendations are given based on our experience of there having been no crowds there on the weekend, when we visited. That doesn’t mean they were totally desolate and devoid of life, but the number of other travellers was low enough to not discourage giving a recommendation. We typically depart at around 14:00, from Riga, and what we often see on the road is that most people are already returning from wherever they went. If your schedule is flexible enough to travel Mon-Fri, you should certainly strive to do so, as there will likely be even less people. But since that’s not something that everybody can do, our recommendations are given with weekend travel in mind.
Kaltene Bird Watching Tower Trail
We read about the Kaletene bird-watching tower from the brochure “Nature trails in Kurzeme and Northern Lithuania” (available for free here). Before making the trip to any of the trails described in the brochure, make sure to look up online whether the location that caught your eye is currently even accessible to the public, as they do occasionally get closed for renovations.
We went to the Kaltene coastal formations trail on a windy, yet sunny day. It is 1.1km long (in each direction), and we were the only visitors that day. At the end of the trail, there is a small bird watching tower. Even from the ground level, we saw lots of birds, and even found a young seal (we informed the park authorities just in case, who told us that they are aware of the seal and have decided to leave him in the park). You don’t need hiking boots for this trail, just everyday running shoes will do.
Trail along the Roja river
A visit to this trail can easily be combined with a visit to the Kaltene coastal formations trail (along with the Roja beach, or the Lacupite dendrarium, or, a bit further along – the Evazi nature trail). While it had been windy by the sea earlier that same day, inside the forest the weather was quite pleasant. You can find the trail by turning left by the Maxima store, onto Kapu street, and driving until you find yourself in a forest. You can park right there and continue on foot – there are several paths for this trail, which you should be able to complete in around 2 hours on average. For a chunk of the way we had to go along the river, and you will definitely need hiking shoes if that is the path that you choose. However, if you choose the path that goes up, into the forest, regular running shoes will also work. Here we saw a couple of people also walking around.
Raganu (Witch) Bog Sulphur Lakes Trail & Green Dune
The Sulphur lakes trail in the Raganu bog (Witch bog) is located in Ķemeri national park, and had been on our destination bucket list for a while. At last, we had some time to visit! It is one of the lesser known trails in the bog, and loops back around to the start, with a total length of around 800m. Upon arrival, we saw three cars, and had to shuffle past people a few times. When we were leaving, even more people had arrived. Overall, I would not recommend visiting this location in the midst of a busy working day, since it is relatively easily accessible. However, just a few kilometers away, is the Green Dune trail, which we discovered by accident – you can walk for several kilometers through the forest, and it connects the Green and Witch bogs. You can also start the trail from the side of Ķemeri. We did not walk the full trail, however, we started walking from the side of Kaņiera lake, and in the roughly two hours that we spent there, saw only two pairs of cyclists. Friends have told us that you can see some gorgeous sights from the Ķemeri side as well. The Green dune trail does not loop around, so you will have to walk the same way back to get back to your car.
Lackrogs lake (quarry)
Lackroga lake (quarry) is located further away from Riga than the previous recommendation, and it is filled with extraordinarily blue water. Despite the relatively remote location, there was a fair number of people here. However, still not so many as to be unavoidable, and most stayed no longer than 10 minutes, whereas we took a slow stroll around the whole thing. The most convenient parking can be accessed via the highway – near the Lackrogs bus stop, there is a small recreational spot beside the road that you can drive into. We saw some people drive right up to the lake, but from what we gathered, one is not really supposed to that. Unfortunately, there were a lot of bottles and cans scattered all around, from people who could not be bothered to pick up after themselves. Nonetheless, the quarry was still beautiful, especially on a sunny day. Since it is very close to Kuldiga, you could easily combine the trip with a visit to Ventas rumba or the Ivandes waterfalls.
Cuzu bog trail
Visiting this trail can easily be combined with a trip to the Lackrogs lake. By the time that we arrived at the bog, it was late in the evening, and there were only two other cars. Later, while we had stopped on one of the wooden paths that are laid out across the bog, we also saw two women on bikes (cycling is definitely not a great idea, here, as you will have no choice but to carry your bike when you reach the latter half of the trail). The trail is 4.4km, loops around to the start, and the swamp here is different than, say, the Witch bog. While there are wooden paths laid out throughout most of it, some places you will simply have to walk through, and you should really bring hiking shoes, as the soil there is very moist. My favorite things about the Cuzu bog were the moss-covered trees and ground – it was lovely to be surrounded by such a vibrant green. You can also reach two streams as part of the trail – but there isn’t much to see, there. You might also spot some beaver habitats.
We visited Randu fields on a day when it seemed as if half the country was heading to Saulkrasti and Tūja. Meanwhile, the fields are right by the Estonian border, and, when we drove onto the parking lot, there were just a couple of cars. We walked through the reed, successfully avoided other people, didn’t climb onto the tower, and spent most of our time there on the beach, bird watching.
Northern Wavebreaker of Ainazi
This visit was combined with the trip to Randu fields. We arrived at the Ainazi wavebreaker by sunset, and apart from us, there were 3-4 groups of people, however, everybody kept their distance. We simply left our car at the parking lot (and, from afar, saw the then closed Estonian border), and walked on the wavebreaker to the beach. At the beach, we saw a woman walking a dog, in the distance, and some fishermen out in the sea. I assume that on warm, sunny days, you would likely encounter a lot more people here.
Forests of Carnikava, Gauja river
As we drove into the city of Carnikava and saw the amount of cars left in the parking lots, we became quite disheartened, but alas, driving a bit further, we managed to find a more deserted place to leave our car in the forest, and had a walk through said forest, as well as by the sea. We saw some people at the beach, far away, but it was largely empty, and we got to see what sort of damage the winter storms had done by the sea.
Mazmezotne manor region and castle mound
We had visited this trail once before, in the fall. This time we opted not to stop by the Bauska castle, as it seemed to be full of people. At the time of our fall visit, there wasn’t yet a bridge to Mezotne castle, so instead we walked along the coast to Mazmezotne manor, watching birds along the way. You could climb the mound, or go the other way, to the manor. The parking lot had 5 cars, but most of them belonged to fishermen. Later we also drove through some smaller roads, watching birds and deer, along the river Lielupe.
Linden trees of Katvaru manor
We had heard tales of how beautiful the linden trees near Katvaru manor were, so we finally decided to go and take a look! This is one of the most famous Instagram spots in Latvian! The manor is located near Limbaži. Here, you can walk through the linden tree alley that is located next to a boarding school & lake. However, we visited on a day with really quite harsh weather, and it felt like the wind could sweep us off our feet any moment. We spent half an hour taking pictures, then left, taking the smaller roads in the direction of Cēsis, looking for birds, which seemed to have all disappeared, that day. I definitely recommend combining this trip with seeing something else, because, although the trees are beautiful, and you could drive to the other side of the lake as well, there’s definitely not a whole day’s worth of sightseeing here.
These are just some of the many trails that you could visit for your social distancing travel needs! The ones listed in this article are just ones that we visited before the announcement of the emergency state in the country, but Latvia has hundreds of natural objects of interest, where you could be alone for a while. I’m sure everybody will be able to find something that interests them!