Growing urbanization has led to a busy indoor lifestyle with information overload, deadlines and all day long screen viewing which all give us overactive minds that can never be really calm. Many of us feel stressed, we feel anxious and we are looking for relief – yoga, calming apps or life coaches. But there is one stress reliever that is a low-cost solution or even free of charge. It’s nature. Lately, people seem to have started to understand that being in contact with nature actually helps. It is a natural stress reliever that reduces anxiety and helps us feel better emotionally. There are dozens of scientific studies that prove that nature nurtures – it reduces stress, blood pressure, heart rate and makes us feel happy and energized.
Being one of the greenest countries in the world, Latvia makes an ideal place to enjoy the presence of nature. Half of Latvia is covered in forests in which Latvians are still picking berries, mushrooms and nuts, there is a never-ending beach that stretches over 500 km and offers mostly white sand coast. Over two thousand lakes and 12 thousand rivers to try your kayak in or go fishing. If you are taking an early commute by car from one town to another, it is not rare to see foxes, roe deer and even elk looking for food in fields and meadows not far from highways. In the evenings, you can hear a frog choir, crickets and even owls closer to a forest in the countryside. These are just a few things to name that I love about nature in Latvia. If you would ask me which are my favourite nature trails in Latvia, where I would take my friends to for a stress-free weekend, I’d say these below. Let’s explore together?
#1 Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk
One of the most scenic bogs in Latvia that is about 8000 years old. Tiny sized pine trees, small, dark lakes, unique flora and fauna. You can choose between two boardwalks – the longer arc of 3.7 km and the short arc of 1.5 km. I would strongly suggest going there at sunrise to avoid the tourist groups and to catch the prettiest sights. It is absolutely worth waking up so early just to see the awakening of the world and the bog. Take your morning coffee with you in a thermos and enjoy it with an amazing view. A truly magical feeling.
#2 Cena Moorland (Cena Bog)
This bog is interesting for the fact that it is divided into two parts – one is for nature preservation, the other is for peat extraction and you can actually see both sides of the bog while there. Cena Moorland is a beautiful footpath to take a slow stroll watching birds and enjoying the silence of nature. If you watch carefully, you can spot 10 of Europe’s protected bird species here.
#3 Gauja National Park
This is my absolute favourite of all the nature trails in Latvia. It is simply beyond beautiful and there is so much to see and do! This is the place where all Latvians head to in the autumn and it is understandable why. It is the largest national park in Latvia. Nature here is absolutely pristine and autumn makes the national park to look like it is covered in gold. Gauja National park offers a broad range of activities for all tastes and interests. It is great to walk or hike, great to bike or to go for a boat ride in the Gauja river. It is absolutely amazing for families with kids too. You can see more than 150 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. There are lots of historical sights such as castles, churches and ruins. But that’s not all; you can also see unique rock formations and cliffs alongside the Gauja river and you can find caves too. Gauja National Park stretches from Sigulda to Valmiera including Cesis and Ligatne.
#4 Lielupe River floodplains – wild horses in Jelgava
Pilssala Island in Jelgava city is home to around 70 wild horses. I love the fact that it is so accessible and close to the city. One can park the car and just walk for around 15 minutes and see all the horses from a very close distance. After seeing the horses, I can heartily suggest having lunch or coffee at Restaurant Tornis which is my favourite dining place in Jelgava. You are literally having dinner inside of a clock with a great view of the city.
#5 Cape of Kolka
A unique place where you can put your feet in two seas. There are only a few places in the world where you can experience this wonder of colliding seas and Kolka Cape is one of them. Here the Gulf Of Riga joins the Baltic Sea. This is an especially popular spot for bird watchers and hikers.
#6 The rocky beach in Vidzeme – Veczemju Cliffs
While most of Latvia’s coast is covered with beautiful white sand, it seems that the Vidzeme coastline has had enough with the white sand. Here you will find the only coastal area in Latvia with rocks and sandstone outcrops – red, orange and brown cliffs and small caves. It is a place that is definitely worth a visit. This 12 km rocky beach was where several iconic Latvian movies have been filmed.
#7 Razna National Park
Razna National Park is the newest National Park of Latvia, opening only in 2007. It is also known as the land of the blue lakes. This national park is home to Lake Razna, which is the second biggest in Latvia, and Lake Ežezers, which has the largest number of mini-islands. Makonkalns hill gives you a beautiful view of Lake Razna, which is sometimes also called the Latgale Sea due to its sandy coastline. This national park is located in Latgale – a region of Latvia that is known for its beautiful blue lakes, friendly people, diverse culture and unique food. Latgale is the perfect combination of experiences and nature in Latvia.
#8 Teirumnieki Bog Trail – Part of Lubana Wetland complex
Another unique and peaceful bog that is easily accessible from the built boardwalk alongside a lake and gives you the chance to look at bog plants – cotton-grass, sundew, horsetails – as well as many other plants. You can also take a refreshing dip in the water. The trail does not end in the same place where it starts, so expect to walk about 10 minutes back through a forest to reach the starting point.