While I was in Riga I was told that I had to visit Gauja National Park and to go to the town Sigulda. It takes about 1 hour 15 mins on the bus from Riga and costs 2.50 Euro each way.
When I arrived I went into the tourist information office located next to the train station and got a map of the area and found out the main points of interests to see.
My first stop was to the Sigulda Castle Complex. Walking in I saw Sigulda New Castle which was built in 1878 in a neo gothic style, it now houses the Sigulda City Council. The grounds and the castle are just stunning and are a must see.
I walked around the back of the house and got my first view of Sigulda Castle, it was built in 1207 as a fortress and was later rebuilt as a convent. You can climb the north tower and main gate tower and walk along part of the walls. The castle also has a stage set up in the grounds and during summer concerts are held there. It costs 2 Euro to enter the castle but it’s well worth it for the views from there are amazing.
After exploring the castle and seeing the views of Turaida Medieval Castle and Krimulda Manor I walked back through town and past Sigulda Evangelic Lutheran Church.
To get across the valley to Turaida Medieval Castle, you can either get a bus from the bus station, walk along the road for 5km or get the cablecar across the valley. It costs 7 euro one way or 12 Euro return but the views down the valley are amazing.
I opted for the cable car so I could see the views of the valleys and from the other side it’s a 4km hike to Turaida Castle. Just turn right from the cable car and either the top path or bottom path will eventually lead to the same place, the path is very up and down, lots of stairs but worth doing. They are in process of putting sign posts up, which unfortunately wasn’t finished when I was doing the hike meaning it was easy to get lost in places.
Firstly you walk past Krimulda Medieval Castle which is in ruins, this is if you take the top path. It was built in 1255 and after burning down in 1601 was never rebuilt.
Then Gutman’s cave, this is after going down all the steps to the bottom of the valley. It is the biggest cave in the baltic region and the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia. It has ancient inscriptions written on the walls.
From here it was back into the woods, up lots of stairs, down lots of stairs, get lost and then finally arriving at Turaida Castle. Admission is 5 euros. The massive red brick tower you can see for miles, you can climb to see the amazing views looking down towards the Guaja river. The complex is a museum telling you the history of the area and is the most visited museum in Latvia. It was originally built in 1214 and restored in the 1970’s.
This area is stunning and you could walk around the 42 hectares of grounds for hours, there are miles of paths and a sculpture park too. The native people referred to this area as the Garden of God.
The wooden church of Turaida is one of the oldest in Latvia built in 1750 and has largely remained unchanged, this is on the estate and is a beautiful setting for the wedding I saw.
You can also see the old houses and gardens, it’s certainly a beautiful area. There is also a little cafe serving tea and cakes and I can imagine on a warm summer’s day it’s even more beautiful.
After my visit I then got the bus back to Sigulda bus station where I caught the bus back to Riga. It’s a beautiful day trip, certainly worth doing if you are in the area but you do need a full day to see everything. It would be quicker if you had a car but it’s very easy to do without.
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