Like I said in the previous post, I purposely came to Latvia just for this Gauja nature park. I have had the opportunity to visit several national parks, most of which are so beautiful such as Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. But Gauja is definitely and forever will be one of my favorite parks in particular, due to its simplicity and extreme locality. It was only in this park that I had an extremely pure experience. So, how to get from the capital of Riga to Gauja National Park and what to do in Sigulda Latvia, the peaceful town near Gauja? Let’s check out my Gauja Latvia travel guide to visit Gauja National Park and the town on my Sigulda-Gauja itinerary 2 days!
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Because I was so fascinated with this national park, I came here for two days in a row. On the first day, I spent most of my time walking around the market and visiting some prominent tourist attractions in Sigulda town at the edge of Gauja park. Although it is said to be places to visit, in reality, there were very few visitors and there was a feeling of relaxation. On the second day I came back again and spent all my time hiking and walking along the river. In these two days, my love for nature has definitely reached new heights.
In this section, I will share my first day journey.
Guide to Gauja: How to get from Riga to Gauja national park?
If you want to go to Gauja park, the easiest way is to go to Sigulda town in Gauja (I have shared my trekking experience / going to a nature park in related posts below). Getting to Sigulda is incredibly easy. To getting from Riga to Gauja national park, you just need to catch a bus or train, take about an hour or a bit more. Both bus and train fare is about… 2 euros/one-way. Honestly, it couldn’t be cheaper.
If you want to take the bus, go to the bus stop right next to Riga station. Check this page for departure and return times. There are about 18 buses a day, so please don’t rush.
And if you want to take the train? Go to the station, buy a ticket. Tickets are cheaper than taking the bus. Check this page for the train timetables.
I have tried both train and bus, and I find the bus is more comfortable. In addition, with the bus you will also has the option to go directly to Sigulda castle. I was not going to the castle, I visited Sigulda town.
Note: The return trip from Sigulda is usually around 5, 6pm. Schedule a reasonable time if you just want to visit during the day. If you just go to Sigulda, one day is enough. Or just climbing and hiking in Gauja park, it will also takes a full day. You can’t do both in one day. In addition, inside Gauja there are also hotels and guesthouses. Usually in the town of Sigulda.
What to do in Sigulda Latvia?
Visit the poetic ruins of Sigulda Castle
Address: Sigulda, Siguldas pilsēta, LV-2150, Latvia
Hours: 10AM–5PM/Monday: Closed
Once upon a time, around the 13th century, the Brothers of the Swords built this castle to mark and guard the territory on the left bank of the Gauja River. It is a symbol of Livonian culture – a people now considered a minority (the last Livonian-speaking native died in 2013; today the language has been reborn and is inhabited by about 40 people. so to speak, and 200 with some understanding). This castle was destroyed during the Nordic wars of the 18th century, and has remained in its current state ever since.
Medieval castles I visited many times. Like Warsaw, the whole red brick wall protects the Old Town, or like the majestic Malbork castle, etc. But this castle ruin has a particularly poetic feel to it. If you have time to climb up and visit the rows of broken bricks, the walls have faded over time, you will feel curious about the stories of princesses and medieval knights that once captivated curious minds with the ancient world.
Strolling around the local plant market
Outside the town of Sigulda, in a national park, at the foot of the giant Ferris Wheel and a short distance from the cable car across the Gauja River is the local plant market! This local market is not open often. Looks like it’s only open on weekends. The time I went was Friday, luckily on the occasion of the market. This is a great market not only because I usually love markets, but also because it’s particularly local. In the market selling all kinds of goods but usually specialties. Come here, it is highly recommended to buy some fish soaked in sesame oil (traditional dishes of the Baltic people); dried spices. Sigulda is also famous for its exotic soaps and sugar candies.
Plant market and ferris wheel
However, this market is more famous because it is a plant market. Latvians especially come here to buy ornamental plants or garden furniture every spring. The atmosphere of the market is bustling but not noisy. The music is always soft. In the middle of the market is the traditional Latvian food court, so aromatic. If possible, schedule a weekend trip to the market!
Sigulda in particular and Gauja park in general is also a place for traditional festivals and events of Latvia. If you visit Sigulda in the summer, you should visit this site to be able to attend a Latvian cultural event!
Take the cable car across the Gauja River
As I said, about 10, 15 minutes from the market, there is a cable car service that crosses the Gauja River. If you do not have time to hiking like me (next post), it is highly recommended to take the cable car to see the green Gauja River with your own eyes once. This river is big and very gentle, so beautiful.
Tip: Each cable car ride can only accommodate 5, 6 people or something like that. If you plan to take the cable car from the beginning, you should buy tickets to queue in advance. If you can go right after, but have to wait, then turn to the market to kill time. There is only one ride per hour. The trip is not very long, only ten minutes. I find walking down the river more fun.
Krimulda Serpentine Road
Get off the cable car and you will be able to continue on the long brick Krimulda Serpentine road that goes around the area that has been turned into a park of Gauja. This path is especially comfortable, taking only about 20 minutes. Go all the way down to the park road leading to Gutmanis cave.
Address: Turaidas iela 4, Sigulda, Siguldas pilsēta, LV-2150, Latvia
Hours: Open 24 hours
Sigulda covers a very large area, not just a small village. Having finished walking around the market or visiting a few attractions such as Sigulda Castle or Turaida Castle, you can continue walking in the area with a marked path for tourists, such as the road leading to Gutmanis cave for example (I just wander around, not visit the cave, it’s just a small gorge). This walking area feels like a park, passing through lakes and ponds and many dirt roads look very cool! I especially enjoyed this walk.
The first day of relaxation passed in the satisfaction of being close to both the people and nature of Latvia. It was the wonderful first day that made me determined to return to Gauja the next day to trek along the Gauja River.
Some tips to visiting Sigulda
- Definitely have a good pair of shoes. The walking time is quite long.
- It is not necessary to prepare food because the town of Sigulda has many restaurants and eateries. If you come at the market time, there are many specialties to try. However, remember to bring water. And still should have some food in case. Because outside the town and in the market, Gauja is very wild and not particularly many tourist attractions.
- Arriving in Sigulda, the first thing to do is to have a map to track the journey.
- However, the maps are available online. The first day I went on this journey. (Click here too see a map). However, there are many other routes for you to choose from. (Go to this page for a comprehensive travel guide to Sigulda).
Alternatively, you can visit this page to get an overview of Latvia. Do not forget to visit the following section to see the experience of hiking along the Gauja River!
After a relaxing first day in the town of Sigulda in the Gauja national park, the next day I quickly returned with a complete determination to “immerse myself with nature”. And I have to confirm, this is a completely right choice.
In this section, I will share my experience of day trekking in Gauja national park.
Some useful tips to visiting the Gauja national park of Latvia
- Gauja National Park is an extremely easy place to go, easy to visit, easy to find information. Unlike many other parks with confusing information, Gauja park has a system of trails for the public that are clearly marked and easy to understand.
- The hiking trails of the park are generally quite to conquer but not too challenging. It is a perfect destination for those who are love nature, love to explore but not adventurous.
- Gauja has a lot of types of trails to choose from. Types such as hiking, cycling, or trails aimed at birdwatchers, looking for fish, or “hunting” animal silhouettes, etc. You can refer to the list of hiking/trekking/walking/cycling routes here. (This page includes a map, which can be downloaded directly).
- Obviously the length of the trails is different due to their different terrain. For example, a bicycle path is usually 40 to 50 km. The fish watching trail along the river is sometimes only 20km. Furthermore a lot of trails are marked as going for two to three days.
- So, if you decide to only travel during the day, you should choose the routes under 10km only. For example, two moderate routes are “On foot along the banks of Loja” 5km long, or Green Valmiera with a total of about 10km.
- In addition, there are many interesting outdoor activities in Gauja, professionally organized. Bungee Jumping, kayaking (or river activities), Tarzan park, horseback riding, golf, even hot air ballooning, etc. You can find a list of activities here.
- Check gear. Not including activity-specific things, here are a few basics to have: A good pair of climbing/hiking shoes; A hat (will pass through many sunny places); A windbreaker (the river wind blows people away); Drinking water (of course); Light picnic food (there’s nothing wonderful like eating by the river); Bring lots of fruit, protein bars for quick energy; Should have a spare pair of socks; Power bank (Battery backup); A map.
Well informed and ready to hit the road?
One day itinerary in Gauja national park, Latvia
Since I visited Sigulda the day before, and I have to go back to Poland to study again, I decided to visit Gauja only for the day. I chose (roughly) a combination of two hiking routes: Green Valmiera and One day on the outskirts of Cesis. The total distance I traveled was probably more than 15km.
It’s basically like this. If you plan to going for a day, you have to find an end point with public transport to either return to Sigulda, or go directly to Riga (or to the place where you stay. Except for the case of staying in Gauja or going for a few days. You can find accommodation on the above page).
Which points have the public bus? Sigulda and Cesis. At the foot of Cesis Castle there is a bus to Riga, with a stop in Sigulda. The homepage of the bus company runs to and through Gauja.
Thus, I still choose the starting point of Sigulda, passing through points in the town of Valmiera, hiking to the official point with the first river view, Valterkalniņš, located on a fairly flat cliff.
After that, I continued to follow the trail leading down to the river. From this point, the tranquil, serene with lush greenery views gradually appear! I fell in love with this river. Its rustic and simple poetry is especially suitable for my concept of “simplicity makes wonder”.
After hiking along the river for about an hour and having a picnic by the river, we reached the section with a bridge connecting the two banks of Gauja river. If going during the day, at this point, you should cross the bridge, to get the way to Cesis.
Crossing the bridge to climb up, you will continue through the grasslands in the forest, the dirt roads are absolutely quiet, flowers bloom, butterflies fly, birds chirping.
From this point we began to meet people. This is a popular resort area next to Cesis. Keep hiking – be careful because this stretch of trail to Cesis is easy to get lost. When you reach Cesis, you will reach the bus stop.
I hiked from quite early in the morning (around 7am) to 5pm to finish at Cesis. It was late spring when I went, so there weren’t many buses. The last trip is around 5 or 6 pm or something like that. You should clearly know the bus schedule.
Where to stay in Sigulda?
If you plan to stay in Sigulda for a night, you can check out some top and best hotels on Agoda.com or Booking.com below.
- Hotel Sigulda (Agoda, Booking)
- Spa Hotel Ezeri (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Pils (Agoda, Booking)
- Livonija (Agoda, Booking)
Back to Riga, the first thing I did was go to a Lido restaurant to have a full meal. Right next to the train station (next to the bus station).
I hope these experiences will help you plan your visit to this wonderful land effectively. Share your trip with me!
Riga travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Riga you can refer to
- Tallink Silja Cruise between Stockholm and Riga
- Riga Classical Old Town 2-Hour Walking Tour
- Sigulda Hiking Tour: A Day in the Switzerland of Latvia
- From Riga: Cēsis, Sigulda & Turaida Castle Tour
- Kemeri National Park & Baltic Seaside Tour Bog Boardwalk
- Eurail Pass for Latvia (3, 4, 5, 6, or 8 Days)
Are you looking for more top things to do in Latvia: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here.