If you ask a Latvian – where do you go for autumn foliage in Latvia? The answer almost every time is going to be “Sigulda”! The valley at the river Gauja is famous for the golden colors of the autumn and beautiful nature walks, so thousands of Latvians and tourists come here every autumn for a explore and enjoy the nature and ride the cable car for a view from above. The charming town also has many cute little cafes and restaurants to have a nice meal after a day outdoors. The best time for visit is the first two weeks of October – it might be more on the green side in the first week, and leaves might be more on the ground if it get’s very windy toward the middle of the month.
We visited this autumn at the very last days of September for a special hike organized by the mayor of Sigulda. The most beautiful areas of the town are in the Gauja National Park, and our family has special memories of this place, as Jekabs uncle used to work there and he spent a lot of time as a child riding with him in the forests and catching poachers.
The first question usually is where to park in Sigulda. The best is to leave the car up the hill in the territory of the town (parking is free) and walk down the steps near the cable car to Gutmana cave. Parking in the lot near the cave will cost 2.50 for a car, and if the lot is full, they will open the next one, weather permitting, in the meadow nearby. There are restrooms and a souvenir store next to the information center.
Walking by the cave, which is the largest grotto in the Baltics, we see a musician, Edgars Arajs, who has played the flute and sax here for many years. Recently, having spent so much time in the cave, he started studying the writings on the walls, and now has published a book about them. The book currently is available in Latvian only, but you can try to find the oldest inscriptions yourself – “GEORG CO[N]RAD VON VNGERN ST[E]RNBERG 1668” and “ANNA MAGDALENA VON TIESENHAVSEN ANNO 1667”. It is forbidden to write on the walls of the sandstone, as this is a national protected monument. Also, please don’t drink from the spring in the cave.
At the cave we turn right and go up the steep steps. It is greener here and we stop for a little break to explore the new app that the town has developed together with LMT, called “Sigulda” that has hiking paths and special offers in the cafes (for now, app is available in Latvian only, so come with a Latvian speaking friend to enjoy all the benefits!).
We proceed to Vikmeste trail, a very quiet nature walk, which locals claim is not that well known with tourists, so they come here to enjoy peace and quiet even when other trails are full of people.
Our goal is to hike up to the cable car, which is around 1 km long. In case you don’t want to hike up the steep steps, you can go around and reach Vikmeste trail by going to the left from the cave.
When we reach the cable car shortly, it seems autumn has come sooner to this place, as maple leaves cover the ground in bright yellow colors.
The prices of the cable car are:
- Adults: 7 eur one way, 12 eur return
- Children aged 3- 12: 5 eur and 8 eur
- Children younger than 3 years ride free.
Cable car runs between 10:00 and 18:10 (last one at 18:10 from Krimulda side going to Sigulda), every 15-20 minutes. You do get the best views from the cable car! Red bricks of Turaida castle, colorful leaves, the river and the recently renovated bridge. If you look up from the cable car, you might see the latest zipline attraction “Zerglis” that let’s you see the view from above if you are not afraid from heights! Adult ticket costs 55 euros, a ticket for two is 95 euros, children ride for 15 euros. You can also buy a recording of your ride and get other special presents, especially, if you ride on a weekday (but be sure to make a reservation).
Next we proceed on foot to Gauja national park administration house and to Sigulda castle ruins, where music festivals take place. This summer I attended “The XX” concert here, and turns out, they used an old piano in the nearby manor, Sigulda New Castle, to warm up before the concert. Now this piano is available for anyone to play in Sigulda railway station.
As the lunchtime is approaching we hop back in the car and go to Reina skiing track (very popular with locals in winter), where a nice little cafe “Pie Reina” ir located. Sometimes we also go to “Aparjods” for a meal (but you should make a reservation here), there is a hotel as well, if you are staying the night.
If you would like to explore more of Latvia, check out the following places:
Kemeri bog at sunset – after this article Daily Mail named it to be one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Roadtrip to Latgale – this is what all Latvians do in summer!