Are you visiting Latvia in winter and would like to visit off the beaten paths outside of the capital city of Riga? Latvia has many beautiful locations that will make for a wonderful winter’s hike! Below are 16 recommendations from a local!!
While global warming has left its mark and white, snowy winters are not guarantee anymore, you will discover that even in gray days you can see beautiful places in Latvia! My list here is from the locations I have visited myself in winter, sometimes those have been snowy white, and sometimes – not so much. See for yourself! You will also see recommendations on parking, prices, and tips for finding the most difficult to find places!
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Bumbu hill watchtower
Bumbu hill watchtower is located in Riga, almost near the sea, and this is a place you can easily get to, if it has suddenly snowed during the night! Getting here will be easy by taxi or public transport, so easily accessible even if you are visiting! The entrance is free of charge.
We visited here for a sunrise on a really, really cold day, but the pictures were spectacular! Note that it can be very windy on the top of the tower, so dress warmly! More pictures from here can be seen here.
Pier in Mangalsala
Mangalsala pier is another location that can be reached via public transport or by taxi, and will provide for a nice walk at the beach and in the surrounding area. The pier is not suitable for walks on a windy day, as waves can go over it, but you can enjoy the beach on those days! The entrance to the area is free. Also, if you are lucky, you can see seals here! In spring the seal cubs come out to the shore (do not approach them!) and in other times of the year you can see adult seals in the water.
Pils sala watchtower
Located in Jelgava, the Pils sala watchtower is 19.2 m tall (the same as a six story building) and it offers views not only to the neary Lielupe river and the city of Jelgava, but if you get lucky, you can see wild horses roaming the surrounding meadows!
Ieriki mill and Cecilu nature trail
You will need a car to reach Ieriki mill and Cecilu nature trail. Both of these places have become popular in the last few years, as on Saturday evenings in winter there are some lights set up to make your walks more memorable. Ieriki mill is a place of a former mill with multiple waterfalls, and Cecilu nature trails have sandstone cliff formations. Both places have an entrance fee (cash only). Ieriki mill is 3.50 eur per adult during evening lights, and 3 eur during the day. You can read more about the place on the website.
Lilaste beach is one of my favorite beaches in Latvia all year round! Why would someone want to go to the beach in winter?! First of all, it is a nice place for walks in the Piejura nature park, next to Ummis lake protected area (one of the cleanest lakes in the country, where some rare water plants grow, off limits for swimming!). Second, the parking is easy right next to the sea (free of charge in winter), there is a small cafe Lila Mare right in the dune area where you can also get some meals to-go. Finally, this is the closest place to the capital where there is almost no light pollution, so we used to drive here whenever Aurora forecast said anything about kp4 or more! While Latvia is now known for bright aurora shows, you can still occasionally see some at the horizon when the strength is above kp4, especially if you are taking pictures with a camera. The picture above is that of KP4 on Lilaste beach. In very rare occasions, when the northern lights are strong, you can see views like the one below from Vecaki beach in 2015 when it was kp9:
Just 10 km from the Russian border is a relatively little known Stiglava glen. It is a wild area to visit, without any markings of the trail visible in winter, for an opportunity to see 3-4m tall sandstone formations. Take care to drive on the bigger roads when you can, and preferably, have a 4×4 if you are venturing in this area, as there is a risk to get stuck in winters with abundant snow. You can combine the trip with visiting Balkanu hill nature park. Read more about this area of the country here.
Balkanu hill nature park
Looking for places to do some cross country skiing? Balkanu hill park is the place! There is a 3.8km long trail for skiing, out of which 1.5km are lit, so you can ski in the evening as well. Ski rental available on site. Even if you are not skiing, you can enjoy walks in 20ha large nature par with three hiking trails, wooden sculptures and distinct hills, quite unusual for the relatively flat country that is Latvia. A true winter wonderland in snowy conditions! Entrance is free. Read more about this area of the country here.
Numerne bank is a Natura 2000 territory and is located in Karsava county, Salnava parish. There are pine trees and swamps, and many protected species. The park was created back in 2004 to protect the unique landscape that also has four lakes. We really enjoyed climbing up the 20 m tall watchtower to see the surrounding area and the stargazing chairs located under it. Entrance is free.
Take care when driving here in the winter, as the roads can be very slippery. You will need to leave the car on the main road and walk 2.5km to the watchtower. If you cross the wooden bridge and venture in the forest, you will see the art installation Fire, one of the five in Northern Latgale, it’s purpose is to invite the viewer to pay attention to nature and caring for it. You can combine visiting Numerne bank with Stompaku bog. Read more about this area of Latvia here.
Latvia is very well know for it’s beautiful bogs. Yes, bogs! Stompaku bog was our biggest discovery when travelling in Northern Latgale. Take care to save the navigation map offline, as internet can be spotty here, so make sure you know where you are going before it cuts out. The easiest way to find Stompaku bog is when driving from Balvi to Vilaka you will see sign “Partizānu mītnes” (Partisan lodges), turn there. The about 1.5km in there will be a parking lot, entrance is free. You can walk the wooden plank pathway to the partisan lodges from World War I, and observe sunset over the bog. Read more about this area of Latvia here.
Veczemju cliffs are a popular beach all year around, as this 12km stretch of sandstone formations near the sea is one of the jewels of Latvian nature. While not too tall or with too many caves, this place nevertheless allows for some stunning photographs. You can pay for parking at the private parking lot near the main cliffs (cash only), or park closer to the main road for free and walk there.
This lighthouse used to be on the top of the cliffs, but with sea eroding the coastline, it is now standing on the beach. It is one more place that we enjoy visiting in winter. While there is no close by parking lot near it, you can park on one of the smaller roads on the way and walk there. We have tried to capture Northern Lights here a few times as well, but they never showed, but at least you can see the Milky Way in clearer nights.
A former quarry, Lidumu, now a popular swimming place in summer, is a nice short drive away from the capital city for a quick walk in the nature in other seasons. A wooden walkway on one of the side, and some asphalt and dirt roads on the other will keep you busy for about an hour. There is a kids playground and even a coffee machine near it! Suitable for walks with a stroller as well. Free entrance and free parking.
Kaltenes kalvas will be beautiful in winter irrespective if you are looking for snow or for something green, as the entire forest is covered in green moss. Formerly, this place used to have large stacks of stones, dismantled in the sixties as raw material for building roads. It is long a long trail, just 1.5km, some parts are recently replaced wooden planks, some are older, and very slippery ones, and some areas are just regular forest trail, so take care to wear proper shoes. There are also other trails nearby – Kaltenes bird watching trail and tower, and Roja river trail.
Sigulda is known as the autumn foliage capital of Latvia because of the beautiful hilly surroundings of Turaida castle. In winter it is no less spectacular! It offers plentiful opportunities for hiking, and the city also has many nice cafes.
Ezernieku karst formations lake
Ezernieku karst formations were a recent discovery for us, once we heard about a lake where the water level can change substantially in short periods of time due to karst process underneath, we wanted to visit! Apparently, every 10 years it even dries fully! There are other places to see nearby as well, such as Mezmuiza streams and Cernausku oak. Ezernieku karst formations lake is a bit tricky to find, as unfortunately both Google Maps and Waze will take you to the wrong place (if you see a forest road with a gate, you have missed the turn). The easiest way to find is, as soon as you pass the turn to the streams and oak, after 2km you will see two small brown signs on the left side of the road saying “Ezernieku karsta kritenes” and “Pandu purvs”. There is a tiny dirt road, 20 m long, and you will be able to see a information sign at the end of that road and an abandoned house behind it. That’s the right place! Park there and just behind the sign go through the field, where the wooden blocks are. About 100 m in you will reach Linezers, the lake you are supposed to see. There is a short but slippery trail around the lake, and at the end of that there is a sign to Panda bog that takes you to it (but not through it). Take care that the lands are private property and don’t leave anything that wasn’t there before, and don’t take anything either. You can also see the other lake, Vecezers, but I’d say there isn’t much to see there and best to go there separately from the main road. Free entrance and free parking.
Cirulisu nature trails
Cirulisu nature trails is one of my favorite nature parks all year around! It is especially stunning in the beginning of winter when water hasn’t frozen yet, but trees are covered in snow. It is not without a reason that the sandstone cliffs are called the mirror cliffs! There are two trails to take – one above the cliffs and one below. I recommend walking both, you can do a circular walk to see both in one go, or go around and then venture next to the river as well. Free entrance and free parking.
Kemeru national park
Same as with Cirulisi nature trail, I recommend Kemeri national park to everyone, irrespective of the season. Liela laipa trail is the most well know one, that will take you through the heart of the bog and to the watchtower, spectacular wiews with the first rays of sun, as this area typically has a lot of fog and offers some of the best views that can be seen in Latvia. Not any less beautiful in snow covered days or grey days, when the ground is covered in ice crystals! There are other beautiful trails in Kemeri national park as well – Zala dune trail, Lake Kanieris trail and also castle mound trail! Free entrance to all. More pictures from the frozen park here.
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