Why kayaking in Latvia?
When traveling to any destination you might look for things to do “near me” in the Gooogle. When traveling to Latvia our beautiful capital city Riga might be the first that comes that pops up in the Google. Yet, if dig deeper you might discover that Latvia has many other awesome things to offer especially if you like nature, outdoors and the concept of ecotourism. Hence you may wish not to limit yourself to Riga only. In this post, you will find the best “kayaking near me” (as well as for canoeing and any other boat trips) places in Latvia. Note: Just to be more concise I will use “kayaking” and related wording as an umbrella term for all kinds of boating in this article.
When you look for a kayaking trip, what do you consider first? Probably the southern countries or mountain rivers. However, how about trying new gorgeous “kayaking near me” places in Nordic Europe in one of the greenest countries in the world with pristine nature – Latvia? Latvia is rich with nature values and a very watery county. We have around 12,000 rivers and 3,000 lakes here. Many of them are perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and other boat trips.
Best time for kayaking trips in Latvia
You can go kayaking in Latvia from early spring in March till sometimes late October. Yet the best time to be on waters is from May to September.
Try kayaking in spring!
Kayaking season in Latvia starts already in April when the water is high and rivers are full of water. Adventurers start seeking for “kayaking near me” places as soon as the ice gets melted.
Early spring is only for the keenest water lovers and experienced kayakers. You will meet many groups of adventure and adrenaline seekers that go for kayaking at that time. The temperatures of air and water are still very low in April and sometimes also in May. It is not rare that the boats get tipped over in the fast and cold water streams. Yet, this does not stop people from coming again. “Why?”, you will ask. Because it is a thrill.
Spring is the time when boating lovers can experience something close to what we can expect in popular rafting destinations around the world. And all this for a fraction of the price compared to the popular rafting destinations.
May is one of the driest and sunniest months in Latvia. Nature wakes up and everything blooms around. Thus it is a perfect time for looking for a “kayaking near me” place. Just grab a warmer sleeping bag, if you plan overnight in a tent and warmer clothes for chilly evenings and nights.
Amazing kayaking trips in summer
Summer months (June, July, and August) are the best time for kayaking trips in Latvia. The water levels are not that high as in spring. However, the weather is warm and there are plenty of beautiful kayaking routes to choose from in rivers, lakes or even in the sea (see the list below).
Kayaking in winter?!
As strange as it sounds but it is possible to do kayaking even in winter. If the water level is high enough you can go for a kayaking trip in the flooded forests and meadows of Dviete River Floodplain. Probably this is not an experience for everyone but it is definitely a unique one. Check out this video for an insight.
You should be always ready to have a kinda tricky weather in Nordic Europe. Yet, during the recent years, we have mostly been lucky on our kayaking trips. The global warming leaves its traces everywhere and there are more and more of sunnier days here too. Additional information about travel and seasonality in Latvia you can find here and here.
Top 6 “kayaking near me” places in Latvia
There are lots of rivers and lakes that are great for kayaking in Latvia. As said before summer is the best time for this activity here. Here are the best “kayaking near me” sites in Latvia in late spring, summer, and early autumn.
#1: Gauja River Valley and its tributaries
Gauja River is the most popular river for kayaking, canoeing and other boating in Latvia. It is in the central part of Latvia called Vidzeme. Gauja is 452 km long. It is the longest and the second biggest river in Latvia and provides many great and scenic kayaking opportunities. Unfortunately, this also means that this river can get a bit crowded during the weekends and holidays. In the summer months, you will meet lots of fellow kayakers there. This does not mean that you cannot find serenity in Gauja River Valley.
Remember that Latvia is very scarcely inhabited country! This gives the locals a totally different perspective what a “crowded” place actually means. Thus Latvians would call a place crowded, where a person from London would see only trees and bare nature. This gives you plenty of chances to find an off the beaten path kayaking places here that might not seem that off the beaten for Latvians.
Besides, if you cannot avoid the beaten path, you can always choose to go off the beaten time there. I strongly recommend exploring Gauja River Valley on working weekdays.
Alternatively, you can choose to go more off the beaten path and combine a gorgeous kayaking trip both in the Gauja River and in its wild tributary Brasla. It is an amazing kayaking destination.
However, people usually want to see the famous sand cliff landscapes of Gauja National Park – the oldest national park in Latvia. The most popular kayaking trips in Gauja river are in between the cozy town of more than 800 years history Cēsis and the scenic Sigulda town. This kayaking section is about 50 km/31 miles long two days kayaking trip. You can divide it into two parts: Cēsis – Līgatne (30 km/19 miles) and Līgatne – Sigulda (20 km/13 miles): one day trip each.
Apart from the above mentioned popular sections, Gauja is a great river for kayaking in almost all its length. So I strongly recommend arranging at least one or several days’ trip there. There are also many camping sites on the banks of this river for kayakers.
#2: Kayaking on Irbe River
Dense forests and sand dunes
Irbe River is one of my favorite rivers for kayaking in Latvia. It is special. Irbe River is in the very western part of Latvia – near the open Baltic Sea coast in Kurzeme. So it is truly off the beaten path.
The most popular kayaking section is from Rinda village down to the delta of the river in the open Baltic Sea. This is a two-days’ relaxing yet wild kayaking trip or one-day good workout of 38 km/27 miles. We have had kayaking trips here in a good and not so good weather and have never been disappointed.
The trip actually starts in Rinda River, which is Irbe’s tributary. Irbe is special with dense forests and the high sand dunes on its banks. You can take a break here, enjoy the sun, sand and take a swim in the warm water of the river. Set-up an overnight camping site on the top of the dunes and you will have stunning views to wake up with.
Gorgeous beach of the open Baltic Sea
Irbe river is also special because you can end your kayaking trip in the open Baltic Sea. You will find a gorgeous, wild and sandy beach here. It is really memorable. Take a chill out on the beach after paddling. This is definitely an added value.
Options on Irbe river
You can also choose one day trip on Irbe River from Rinda village down to the place called Miķeļtornis (24 km/15 miles) or from Miķeļtornis down to the Baltic Sea (14 km/9 miles). However, I would definitely recommend taking the full distance from Rinda village down to the sea. It is diverse and beautiful. It is also doable in one long day if you start in early morning.
Rinda village is 200 km/124 miles from Riga, which is two and a half hour drive. Despite its distance from Riga Irbe river is also quite popular among local kayakers during the hot season.
Yet, I would not call the number of fellow water tourism lovers overwhelming. There is plenty of space and pristine nature for everyone. However, if you are looking for more tranquility I would recommend going there in working days during the hot season (especially in July). We can help you to arrange an unforgettable kayaking trip to this remote area.
#3: Abava River
There is no other kayaking place in the western part of Latvia Kurzeme that has so many different sightseeing places as the gorgeous Abava Valley Nature Park.
You can explore them while kayaking in Abava River. The river is beautiful. You have several options here. I will suggest the best ones here.
Traditional kayaking route
First is the one-day active kayaking trip from the town Kandava down to the Abava Rapid (29 km/ 18 miles).
This section is actually a well-beaten and popular path for kayakers and water tourists, but it is great. There are many interesting sightseeing places on its way.
You can choose to visit the beautiful Old Kandava Town before or after your kayaking trip with its gunpowder tower and castle ruins.
Taste the wine of Latvia!
On your way down the river, you can stop for a walk in another cozy town Sabile.
You will find the northernmost vineyard in the world here – Sabile Wine Hill. Do not expect the wines of French, Italian or Australian quality here. The climate in Latvia is too harsh and it is difficult to grow good grapes here. However, it is a nice place for a short visit. You will find interesting wines from other Nordic fruits like plums in Latvia. There is also some good apple and pear ciders here.
Kandava and Sabile towns are very cozy with its unique west Latvian charm.
There are some other interesting things to see on your kayaking trip on Abava river though. There is a nature trail in Čužu Mire Nature Reserve near Kandava. It is one of the oldest nature reserves in Latvia.
The nature trail itself is four kilometers long, and it leads across a small bog. What makes it special is that this is the only finding of the protected plant called “krūmu čuža” (Pentaphilloides fruticosa) in the country. Depending on the weather the plant blooms in May/beginning of June. Also, this is one of the few places in Latvia where you will see sulfur springs pouring out from the bog. They are smelly but of a medical value!
Devil’s cave & stone
During your kayaking trip on Abava River from Kandava Town, you can stop to see the so-called Devil’s Cave (Velnala) and Devil’s stone. There is another gorgeous view from the stone on Abava River Valley.
The second option is truly off the beaten path. This is two-days’ kayaking trip from Renda Village down to Nabas Lakes, where Abava meets bigger Venta River. It is a wild 43 km/27 miles long river section. There are no populated places and no shops here. Dense forest covers the river banks. It is a true paradise for nature lovers.
You might meet only some other paddlers or a casual fisherman here, but that’s pretty much it. Only you and your kayaking fellows in a gorgeous area, which is also the nature reserve.
Finally, if you have enough time you can go for a four-days kayaking trip in Abava River from Kandava Town down to Venta River. This is an exciting 92 km/57 miles long adventure in one of the most beautiful rivers of Latvia.
Whatever section and distance you choose on this river you will get amazing kayaking experience on Abava river. Ask professionals to arrange it for you.
#4: Salaca River
Salaca is another beautiful river in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve. It is in the very north part of the Vidzeme region. Salaca is the second most popular river for kayaking in Latvia after Gauja. However, for most non-local visitors, it is still off the beaten path and definitely worth visiting.
The best kayaking section I can recommend here is from Mazsalaca town down to Staicele town. This is a 39 km/24 miles two-days’ kayaking trip with many sightseeing places. There are gorgeous sandstone cliffs like Skaņaiskalns, Bezdelīgu Cliff, and other beautiful places on the way. The overnight place is a nice camping site “Puņmutes”. You’ll prepare your dinner on bonfire here and wake up after a good sleep surrounded by pristine nature.
#5: Off the beaten path in the “Land of Blue Lakes”
To get fully immersed in nature I recommend going for two or even three-day kayaking trip to our “Land of Blue Lakes” – Latgale. It is the eastern region of Latvia. We call it the “Land of Blue Lakes” not without a reason. Latgale is rich with lakes of different sizes. Hence it provides plenty of opportunities for kayaking.
Unlike in rivers, the downstream is not existent in lakes. Thus it will not help you in your efforts of getting ahead. Lakes are open waters, which are sometimes windy and choppy. Yet, kayaking in Latgale is absolutely amazing and totally worth it.
You can opt for several kayaking trips in the lakes in Latgale. Some are more and some less popular. However, all are off the beaten path and you will see pristine nature almost everywhere in Latgale.
Lakes Zolva, Rušons & Cirīšs
One of the most amazing trips is around 35 km/22 miles in the cascade of the lakes Zolvas, Rušons, and Cirīšs. These lakes are connected by the wild channels and the river Tartaks. Hence it is a combination of kayaking in the lakes and one of the wildest rivers in Latvia.
You will cruise around wild islands between wild roses and cope with the overgrown reed beds in the overgrown channels here.
Six lakes in one kayaking trip
Another good option is to do 30 km/19 miles and six lakes in two days. It is a cascade of lakes Drīdzis (the deepest lake in Latvia), Ots, Ārdavs, Lejs, Cārmins, and Jazinks. Plus you will see the most mysterious lake in Latvia Čertoks at the end of this trip. You will start this trip in the deepest lake in Latvia called Drīdzis. Or you can replace Lake Drīdzis with Lake Sīvers. Each lake has its own unique beauty. You can read more about this amazing trip in another blog post here.
Any kayaking trips in Latgale are for real wilderness lovers. Add camping at the bonfire and you get truly outstanding travel experience in Latvia.
#6: Daugava River
Last but definitely not least I want to mention the biggest river in Latvia Daugava as a great “kayaking near me” destination in Latvia.
Daugava is a magnificent river that is very special for Latvians. We call it the River of Destiny. The most scenic part of Daugava river is Nature Park “Daugavas loki” (or Daugava meanders in English).
You can go kayaking in Daugava river in the far east of Latvia from Krāslava town to Daugavpils city, or choose any kayaking destination downstream near Jēkabpils and Koknese towns. The key tip here is to go kayaking when the water level is low, i.e. in summer, so you can better see the beautiful banks of this river.
There are three large hydro electro stations on Daugava. Hence the water level largely depends on these structures in the middle and lower parts of the river. The upstream, however, is pretty wild and unchanged. It is far from Riga. Yet, going to a two-days’ 50 km/31 miles kayaking trip from Krāslava town to Daugavpils city is amazing off the beaten path experience. You can also combine your kayaking trip with the visit to these distant Latvian cities in Latgale region.
Kayaking in Riga
Finally, you can explore Latvian capital city from a different perspective, while kayaking in the Daugava river in Riga. There are many kayaking routes in Riga. You can enjoy the city center, go to the green natural areas of the city and even visit the harbor and ship docks on a kayak here.
Whatever you are actually looking typing “kayaking near me” in Google here is what you will get by going to any kayaking trip in Latvia:
- An easy way to “escape” to nature and get recharged;
- Trying something new;
- Discovering new amazing kayaking places that you never thought existing;
- Going off the beaten path.
The above list of “kayaking near me” places in Latvia is not exhaustive. Neither any of the top six destinations are better than another. Gauja, Irbe, Abava, Salaca and Daugava rivers, as well as the lakes in Latgale, are all great for kayaking trips in Latvia. It all depends on your preferences and time that you plan for these amazing experiences.