Are you planning your trip to Riga or Latvia? Do you enjoy hiking and other activities in nature? Are you interested in ecotourism? Well, then Latvia is a place for you.
So far the gorgeous Latvian capital city Riga has been the main tourist attraction. It is not without a reason, of course. Yet, apart from the locals, very few know that the many real treasures of Latvia are actually are outside Riga. You may have never heard about this but Latvia has amazing pristine nature and stunning white sand beaches to offer. It a must place for eco-tourism lovers and for those who love going outdoors. Hence, if you love hiking, cycling or kayaking/canoeing Latvia is your next destination.
Why hiking in Latvia
Hiking is a great activity in nature available to almost everyone. People love hiking because it gives freedom. There is no need for any specific gear, except a pair of comfy hiking shoes. Hiking allows feeling close to nature. You can go as quickly or slowly as you want and still get precious new impressions.
Hiking in Latvia is special. You will find various exciting hiking trails here. You can hike along the Baltic Sea shore, in the wild pristine blog-lands or in the vast forest areas. Forests cover more than 50% of our territory! Hence, while hiking in Latvia you will discover the unspoiled Baltic-Nordic nature. This is our main treasure here.
Why coastal hiking trails
Beautiful sandy beaches, long days and beautiful sunsets make coastal hiking unforgettable in Latvia.
In the summertime, the sun sets well after 10 pm here. Thus, you will have a day long enough for whatever outdoor activities you choose to go for.
More than 500 km/300 miles of diverse coastline gives vast opportunities for coastal hiking. You can take a challenge of the long-distance hiking trail along the Baltic Sea. We call it “Jūrtaka” or “The Sea Path” here. Starting on the Latvian-Lithuanian borderer and ending in Estonian capital city Tallinn it is about 1,300 km/800 miles and 50 days to go. Yet, for most hikers, it will be good enough to go for one or several day hikes in the most beautiful sections of this amazing hiking trail.
All the coastal hiking trails in Latvia are easy to reach within one or two days. You can hike the entire Latvian coastline or any of its section and you will not be disappointed. Latvia is a scarcely populated country. Thus, apart from the regions close to some bigger cities and towns, you will find total serenity here.
Latvian coastline is diverse. There are wide sandy beaches on the western Latvian coast of the open Baltic Sea. Most of the beaches of the Gulf of Riga are sandy too. Yet, in some places, the coastline is stony hence having a different charm.
Latvia has only around 2 million people. Being Nordic people, Latvians are friendly but also rather shy. Thus, in most of the places, you will enjoy serenity on your trip. There no tourist crowds even on the public beaches.
Latvian coast of the Baltic Sea might be great off the beaten path discovery for you. It is a totally different experience compared to the popular Southern seas with buzzing, crowded beaches.
Here in Latvia, we distinguish “two seas”:
- “The Big Sea” is the open Baltic Sea. It is the western Latvian sea coast from the Latvian – Lithuanian border (Nida village) up to Kolka Cape, where the open sea and the Gulf of Riga meet;
- “The Small Sea” is the Gulf of Riga. It stretches from Kolka Cape down to our capital Riga and again up to Estonian border at the town Ainaži.
The most distant and hence the wildest is the open Baltic Sea coast in western Latvia called Kurzeme. During the Soviet times of the “iron curtain” it was the very western border of the Red Empire. Thus, this cost was a restricted area. The Soviet army did not welcome any visitors here. Hence, only the local inhabitants could use it for fishing and other daily activities.
The Soviet occupation lasted for 50 years. This had some positive effects on nature though. The natural processes in this area developed without almost any human-economic impact. When the “iron curtain” dropped the area became available for public again. The coastal area revealed amazing pristine natural values that you can still see today.
Latvian coastal area has a lot of natural values of EU importance. There is a number of protected nature areas set-up along the Baltic Sea coast. The most remarkable are Slītere National Park in the north-west of Latvia, “Lake Pape” Nature Park in the far south-east coast of the “Big Sea”, “Lake Engure” Nature Park in the western coast of the Gulf of Riga, Nature Park “Piejūra” in Riga city and its closest towns, Nature Reserve “Randu pļavas” in the eastern coast of The Gulf of Riga, and many other smaller areas. Protected areas provide shelter for amazing natural habitats and species. You will find old pine forests, gray dunes, and even pristine boglands here.
Additionally, the entire Baltic Sea shore in Latvia is in a way safe from over-development. Management and building activities are restricted within 300 meters from the sea. Fewer restrictions are up to five kilometers along the entire coastline. This means that outside villages and cities you will find the pristine forest, dunes and even boglands here.
Many places are important for birds. During the spring and autumn migration periods any birdwatcher will find a small paradise in Latvia. You will see a lot of bird species, including geese, ducks, swans, seagulls, and birds of prey like White-tailed Eagle and even Osprey here. The places like “Lake Pape” and “Lake Engure” nature parks, Lake Kaņiers in Ķemeri National Park, Kaltene Beach, and others are each small paradises for professional and not so professional birdwatchers.
Top 5 Coastal Hiking Trails in Latvia
Here are the top five stunning coastal hiking trails and places in Latvia. These hiking destinations will open the whole new hiking perspective both for hiking enthusiasts and for casual nature walking lovers. You can be also sure that these coastal hiking trails are definitely among the best in entire Europe.
# 1: Coastal hike from Jūrkalne to Pāvilosta
I will start with my favorite one. The hike from the small village Jūrkalne to Pāvilosta or vice versa is amazing. It is 21 km/13 miles one way. The hike is along the gorgeous steep coast of the open Baltic Sea. It takes around five hours of walking (at a rather slow pace of 1 km in 15 minutes). Walking is on the beach. This is the most impressive steep cost in Latvia and it provides amazing views.
The coast is not accessible everywhere. Thus, it stays a remote destination. You will find total serenity and sandy beaches here. In some places, the sea washes the steep sandy shore and there is no beach. Thus you might have to walk in the water and get a bit wet. Yet, these are short sections. Here and there you will have to cross the piles of stones. However, none of these obstacles is something that cannot be handled by any hiking lover with two legs.
In case you prefer biking instead of hiking I would not recommend this place. It has loose sand and in several sections, where the water meets the steep shore, there is no other way to bypass these places except for going into the water.
Pāvilosta fishermen village
Going for this hike, you will start or end at the fishing village Pāvilosta. It is a cozy place to stay. Pāvilosta is also the main spot for windsurfers and kite surfers in Latvia.
Be sure you try the traditional smoked fish here. The most popular is flatfish. Latvians call it “bute”. It is delicious. You can also buy these smoked wonders in other villages along the Baltic Sea coast and in Riga Central Market, of course. Yet, Pāvilosta has a special charm and you will get fresh fish here.
In Pāvilosta you will also find the biggest gray dune in Latvia. It is a protected and sensitive habitat and the protected area of EU importance (Natura2000), and it is amazing.
These days Pāvilsosta is less of the fishing village and more of an attractive place for chilling out on sunny summer days. It has a non-repeatable tranquil atmosphere and a distinctive wooden architecture. There are several nice places to stay in this village that get booked well in advance though (especially if you come in weekends).
Hiking trail from Jūrkalne to Pāvilosta is a distant area, and I would recommend arranging a local guide to get you there. “i-Dā” Adventures specializes in off the beaten path hiking destinations in Latvia. The local guides can plan your trip or arrange a great custom-made adventure there.
#2: Coastal hike from Kolka Cape to Mazirbe/Sīkrags villages: Old settlements of Livonian fishermen
Hiking trails from Kolka Cape to Mazirbe (20 km/13 miles) or Sīkrags (30 km/19 miles) or vice versa is another great choice on the western coast of Latvia. You can choose hiking (or biking) along the beach or in the coastal forest here. Take a chance and visit several traditional fishing villages on your way. This will be a special experience. These villages are old Livonian fishermen settlements. Livonians are among the smallest nations in the world. There are only about 250 Livonian people left in Latvia. Only a few speak the Livonian language (which is not Baltic but Finno-Ugric language by the way).
The area is within Slītere National Park, which is one of the wildest and remotest in Latvia. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was not accessible by any other means than by foot. Slītere National Park is famous for its vast, dense forests. In several places, they are several thousand years old.
The beaches are gorgeous here. They are wide and sandy and the sand is pretty solid. Thus, unlike in the previous coastal hiking trail, you can also go biking on the beach and/or on the forest roads here. Biking route in the forest is marked with the number 558. So, you can follow it while hiking too. Yet, I would suggest to go out on the beach as well.
I have done around 60 km/37 miles biking tour from Kolka Cape to Sīkrags and back. It is challenging but fulfilling experience at the same time.
The same as in the case of the hiking trail from Jūrkalne to Pāvilosta (see #1 above), Slītere National Park is a distant area, and it is hard to get there unless you have a car. Hence I suggest taking a great day trip there with transportation included or to plan a custom-made adventure there. It is worth it.
#3: Hiking trails along the Vidzeme Stony Beach
Coastal hike on the Vidzeme Stony Beach is a totally different experience. It is on the eastern coast of The Gulf of Riga. So, it is “The Small Sea” and not the open Baltic Sea. Depending on how much time you have, you can choose different hiking trails here.
A hiking trail you can’t get go wrong with is the one from Vitrupe River delta to Tūja village. This is a bit more than 20 km/13 miles hike. Yet, you can also continue hiking further on to the South, if you wish. In Tūja village you will find many camping sites and guest houses if you plan to stay there. Yet, you can go for a day hike there as well.
The beach is diverse here. In some sections, it is stony, in some sandy. This hike is amazing. A popular place of attraction here is sandy Veczemju Cliffs (or Veczemju klintis in Latvian). The cliffs are about in the middle of the hike.
It is popular
This hiking trail is much closer to Riga and other cities and towns in central Latvia (called Vidzeme). Thus, it is also more touristic and not so off the beaten path. Yet, if you choose the distance of at least 20 km/13 miles or so you will have plenty of tranquility out there. There are no overcrowded places in Latvia. So, you can find serenity and unique experiences almost everywhere.
Looking for an extra challenge? Jumping from one big stone to another will guarantee fun on this beautiful beach. Be careful though, when it is wet out there. The stones can get slippery.
Hiking on this hiking trail is mostly on the beach. It is not rare that you can see fishing boats on Latvian coastline. The fishing traditions are still alive here.
#4: Kaltene Stony Beach
There is another stony beach on the opposite (western) side of The Gulf of Riga. It differs from the Vidzeme Stony Beach described under #3 above. Unlike in Vidzeme, there are very few sandy places on Kaltene beach (there are some though). Yet it is a great place for hiking and it is still pretty much off the beaten path. I would recommend hiking from Kaltene village to Roja town and back or vice versa. It is altogether around 20 km/13 miles hike. You can choose a shorter roundtrip too, of you wish.
As pretty much anywhere along the cost of The Gulf of Riga, you will not find the same raw wilderness as on the western Latvian coast of the open Baltic Sea. That said there are scarce private houses on the coast. Yet, it is closer to Riga and still a very tranquil place to go. This hiking trail offers amazing landscapes that you will not find anywhere else in Latvia.
Apart from hiking, Kaltene beach is a great birdwatching spot. There is even a birdwatching tower on this hiking trail. You can find more details about quite beach holidays and hiking on the amazing Kaltene beach here.
#5: Hiking trails near Riga
Not keen driving around too much? There are actually great coastal hiking trails near or even in Riga city itself.
Unlike many other European cities, Riga is a very green ad non-crowded place to go. It is also a coastal city. Hence you can go hiking on the city beach and you will be surprised, how beautiful it is.
Apart from the public beaches, there are secluded places to go to enjoy nature. You will not be as undisturbed as in other coastal hiking trails described above. Yet, you will be out in nature for sure. Vakarbuļļi beach in Riga is the most amazing place to go.
You can also go on a day hike on the beautiful hiking trails outside but not far from Riga in the Nature Park “Piejūra”. Saulkrasti is also the perfect town to go for short day hikes and you can get there by train, if you wish.
Also the fishing villages Lapmežciems, Ragaciems and Klapkalnciems are popular places to go, as they are only some 50 km/30 miles from Riga. They are on the western coast of the Gulf of Riga and great destinations for short day hikes from Riga. Take a hiking trail called “Slow Mile” from Ragaciems to Klapkalnciems! It is only 6 km/4 miles one way. The name of the “Slow Mile” comes from the old days when, according to the local tales, this place was dangerous for travelers due to the pillaging robbers. Today you will find a gorgeous beach and coastal pine forest here. It is excellent for hiking and catching the sun rays. Yet, due to its proximity to Riga, all these coastal villages are not that secluded on sunny holidays anymore.
None of these places will disappoint you though, and you can choose hiking on different hiking trails and different distances here both on the beach and in the amazing coastal forests.
Even in the resort city Jūrmala, which is very close to Riga, you will find amazing coastal hiking trails. Look for Nature Park “Ragakāpa” or just walk along the public beach in Jūrmala city. You will not have a feeling that you are in a city. Coastal forests are also protected in the cities. Hence you rarely see any buildings on or near the beach in Latvia.
The number of people you will meet on hiking trails near Riga depends on when you decide to go hiking. I strongly suggest you avoid weekends and holidays though. Locals love going out to nature in Latvia.
The Baltic Sea coast is changing all the time. Every autumn harsh autumn storms have a great impact on the coastline. Sometimes these changes are dramatic. Thus, you might expect different landscapes every year. The storms fill some of the beaches with lots of fallen trees. This makes the landscape wild and beautiful at the same time.
The Latvian cost is awesome for hiking during all the seasons. In summer you will enjoy warm sand and will also have great chances to get a great suntan here. Winter will bring amazing sceneries of the frozen sea. Yet, note that usually, only The Gulf of Riga may get frozen (not the open Baltic Sea on the Western coast). The autumn comes with storms and waves, while the spring is the amazing time when nature wakes up.
I also recommend checking the weather forecast before hiking regardless of the season. Pay attention to the wind direction. If it is a windy day you will definitely want to avoid going against the wind. It is more difficult to walk and after the first hour or so you might lose any fun out there. Yet, your hike can be enjoyable even in the windy and cloudy days. You just have to go before the wind. This will also help you to move ahead more quickly (as the wind blows you in the back).
Finally, I highly recommend the hiking trails along the Latvian Baltic Sea coast. These are definitely among the best coastal hiking trails in Europe.
“i-Dā” Adventures will organize any type of hiking or other outdoor activities in Latvia for you. They also apply original Improv-travel approach for small groups. Check it out!