Tour to Latvia: Gauja national park

Where to travel in Latvia?

Jelena and I decided to enrich Latvia Itinerary and visit Gauja National Park and to show you that there are many more places to visit and to enjoy.

Arrival to Gauja National park

Tour to Latvia usually includes Riga, Sigulda, Jurmala, or even less – only Riga. 10 day Baltic itinerary includes Gauja National Park, but most of them visit only Sigulda and Turaida. Jelena and I decided to enrich Latvia Itinerary and visit Gauja National Park and to show you that there are many more places to visit and to enjoy. 

Our starting point was the town of Cesis. We drove from Vilnius and stayed overnight in Vanadzina Maja hotel, located on the main street of Cesis. We have arrived late, and the receptionist was already gone, but we quickly found a key to our room in a little box in the reception area. 

The hotel itself and the room were surprisingly nice, clean, and stylish. We tried to get something in a bar, but they were closing. So we walked down the street to the main square and had a drink at a small bar. So if you want to enjoy dinner in Cesis, you should plan to arrive earlier. 

Chose Cesis as a base of your trip to Gauja National Park

The next morning we had breakfast at the small shop&eat place, opposite the hotel. First, it looked a bit suspicious, but oven-baked omelet, fresh salad, home-bread, and yogurt with muesli were so delicious. After breakfast, we went to see the Museum of History and Art. The museum is the ruins of Cesis fortress, which makes it a unique experience. Just next to the museum you will enjoy a beautiful park and a pond.

In Cesis, we have also enjoyed walking through the medieval streets to the small town hall square and a Protestant church. In the shop windows, we have seen invitations to taste local bread and other meals or to learn some crafts.

All these little attractions create a very welcoming atmosphere, which is hard to find in the “big city tour to Latvia.”

Add to your tour to Latvia hiking to Licu langu sandstone cliffs.

We have planned the hiking to Licu langu sand cliffs. The roads in Gauja River national park are narrow and not crowded. We had a pleasant drive through the hilly countryside and reached the destination in half an hour.

We have left a car next to the sign showing the direction of the forest path. There was no big organized parking, and first, we thought that we are in the wrong place. 

We walked through the thick forest for about 10 minutes and have reached an open space, which had a breathtaking view of the vast quarry. Down in the quarry, we saw massive tracks, which looked tiny to us.

We followed the leading down path enjoying the beautiful pine forest. 

At a certain point, the path became narrow and steep; it was the sand cliff itself. When we went down, there was a narrow path along the beautiful red and yellow sand wall. It took us about two hours, and by the end of the road, we have reached the river Gauja.

Ungurmuiza Manor and Restaurant

We became hungry after the hike. On the list of things to do was Ungurmuza Manor and Restaurant. Again, an easy drive for about forty minutes and found it.

We were pleased to see a wooden manor house in a Baroque style. Baron Ungern built about three hundred years ago, and recently Latvia tourism authorities nicely renovated it into a museum ensemble. 

There is a guesthouse, a high-level restaurant, and a tea house. I think, that this complex soon will appear on the Latvia tourism map.

After having a boul of hot meat soup, we hit the road again.

Countryside hotel Zakisi

The second overnight was in Zakisi Hotel. The owner is Chinese, married to a Latvian woman. They had a restaurant in Riga but got tired of the constant pressure of running the business and decided to move to the countryside and to run the hotel and Chinese restaurant. 

We were amazed to find exotic food in Latvian nowhere. The hotel facilities are simple but fit the minimal standards. The main highlight is the location by the big and cristal clean lake.

Vejini underground lakes

On the next day, we decided to visit an underground lake in the village of Vejini. You cannot just come and go there, at least this is what the website stated. So we made an appointment with a guide and drove there. 

The guide told us briefly about the spring waters, which made the cave and the underground lake. Then she gave us a head spotlights and showed the way where to go.

At the entrance to the cave, we found boots and proceeded inside. It was quite challenging to enter the low ceiling cave. If you came with your children, they would enjoy it. The small disappointment was that it is quite tiny inside: there are two not very big spaces. It is not always good to have big expectations. In any case, we did it with a lot of smiles and went on.

Araisi lake fortress and dwelling

Our next destination was Araisi Lake fortress. Travel to Latvia magazines advertised it intensely. According to the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, “Araisi Lake Castle is the only reconstruction of a 9th-10th century fortified settlement.”

The park has unique archaeological findings, a fair number of reconstructed houses on the island of the lake. We have spent there for about an hour and enjoyed it very much.

Amatciems likeminded people settlement

The last object of our tour was the settlement of Amatciems. It is a private initiative of Mr. Ciris. He writes on his website: “My purpose is to maintain the natural environment as much as possible. Near the lawn, I also leave meadow with wildflowers and do not turn the forest into the park. I leave dead, or wind cracked trees and tore roots of trees in the woods as pleasure and covert for wild animals – woodpeckers, squirrels or foxes.”

This small settlement is peaceful and natural, there are many lakes and ponds, and all the houses are wooden. Some are modest, others are luxury, and they all create an atmosphere. 

There is a boutique spa hotel Jonathan with eight eco-designed rooms. Everything looks very luxurious and well kept, and the service is amiable.