The Kurzeme coastline is the coast of the Baltic Sea or the Dižjūra in the western part of Latvia. For many years, this was a completely closed territory, as this coastline of Kurzeme was the western border of the former USSR, and was thus guarded and militarised. Owing to this fact, the seacoast of Kurzeme is proud of its wild nature and is now accessible for everyone to experience its charm. Walks along the coast, lazy lounging on the sunny beaches, collecting amber (locals will be able to tell you how to tell it apart from other materials), tasting of smoked fish, experiencing the joys of windsurfing and kite boarding... This is all offered by the coastline of Kurzeme.
Nature Park and Untouched Beaches
The Kurzeme coastline starts in the south of Latvia near Nida. In the village of Nida, there is not only an unusual fisherman’s farm “Gaigalas”, where the house owners around the house have made an interesting exposition from the items that have washed ashore, but there is also the pebbly beach atypical for Latvia – a 25 metre wide and 0.5 metre high natural, pebbly coast slope.
To the north of Nida there is Pape – an old fishermen village with buildings from the 19th century – and Pape Nature Park. It was established in the territories adjacent to Pape Lake, which are important places for bird migration. In Pape Nature Park, various paths and bird watching towers have been established and there is horse pastureland in the meadows by Pape Lake – tarpans and even urus live there!
From Pape to Liepāja, the wild coastline of Kurzeme is notable for the high Jūrmalciems dunes. Legend has it that one could get into the heaven from there. In turn, Bernāti is the westernmost point of the land territory of Latvia and its sandy beach is a favourite among holidaymakers and has many campsites and guesthouses.
Liepāja, the City of Winds
The pearl of the Kurzeme coastline is Liepāja– the third largest city of Latvia. It was built on the 2 kilometre wide spit between the sea and Liepāja Lake. Liepāja is called the city of winds and the Latvian capital of rock music; every summer the massive music festival “Baltic Beach Party” is held there, as is the rock festival "Fontaine". Liepāja is a favourite among holidaymakers and creative personalities.
Liepāja not only has wide and sandy beaches, but it also has interesting cultural-historical sightseeing objects, especially in regard to military heritage. The 19th century fortress and fort systems have been maintained around Liepāja, and the northern part of Liepājais even a separate area – the former Naval Port (Karosta). This is a unique complex of military and fortification buildings favoured among tourists of the shores of the Baltic Sea. Unforgettable experiences will be created on a visit to the Karosta Prison, whichoffers a special experience – staying the night in the prison.
Jurklane's Steep Seacoast
Upon travelling north of Liepāja, the ancient bank of the Baltic Ice lake can be seen near the Liepāja-Ventspils highway not far from Medze – the area has a 30 metre high slope, from which a picturesque view of the Piejūra Lowlands can be enjoyed. Not far from Pāvilosta is the Grīni Reserve – a protected nature area with a deposit of plant cross-leaved heath, which has been include in the Red Data Book.
The paradise for active recreation lovers is the small town of Pāvilosta. Every summer, surfers from all over Latvia gather there, as do other holidaymakers who value the secluded beaches of Pāvilostaand the beauty of the small port – fresh smoked fish and the opportunity to fish at sea. The biggest sea stone in Dižjūra can be seen at the Pāvilosta beach, a mere 100 metres from the coast.
Jūrkalne is popular among tourists for its unusual nature – from Pāvilosta to Sārnate there is an impressive creation of nature – the steep coast of the Baltic Sea. It is a 20 metre high steep slope that runs several kilometres long. Not far from Jūrkalne one can also find an unusual wooden bridge over the Rīva River near old mills.
Active Recreation and Interesting Destinations in Ventspils
In the northwestern part of Kurzeme is one more important port of Latvia – Ventspils. It is a pleasant, clean city with many recreation and sightseeing opportunities, as well as a Blue Flag beach (since 1999), proving that its has water and a facilitated environment in conformity with international standards.
There are many interesting sightseeing places in Ventspils, such as the narrow gauge railway and the Venstpils Castle. The boardwalk is also very exciting and makes the city an interesting destination. In the city itself, great attention is paid to active recreation possibilities. In summer, active recreation lovers can have a good time at the Ventspils Adventure Park and the Ventspils Aquapark, while winter sports can be enjoyed at the hill "Lemberga hūte”. The city is ideal for families.
The Liv Coast
The furthest coastline of Kurzeme reaching up to Cape Kolka is both untouched by civilisation and full of interesting fishermen villages. Ovisrags with the oldest active lighthouse in Latvia, Miķeltornis with the highest lighthouse in the Baltics, and even the eighth biggest radio telescope in the world – the Irbene radio telescope, which was a secret military counterespionage centre during Soviet times.
From Ovisi to Kolka lies the Liv Coast or Līvōd rānda. It is a cultural-historical territory where the Livs – a Finno-Ugric people – lived; nowadays only a couple of hundred Livs remain. The Liv Coast is interesting with its old fishermen villages (Lielirbe, Košrags, Pitrags and Saunags, the buildings of which are construction monuments), old traditions, tasty smoked fish and relaxed recreation on a quiet seacoast.
The northern part of the Kurzeme coastline is also included in the territory of Slītere National Park, where one of the most interesting objects is Cape Kolka – the largest cape in Latvia and the place where the Baltic Sea meets the Gulf of Riga, creating impressive swirls that can be dangerous for swimmers. Cape Kolka is a unique place where one can see both the rising and setting of the sun; it is paradise for sailing fanatics, but is a dangerous place for ships.
Many ships have sunk near Kolka because of the complicated navigation conditions. There are still legends today of the pirates who stranded the ships by force in order to rob them, and of how the boots were cut off from drowned sailors, legs and all. Today, many sunken vessels can be seen in the Cape Kolka waters, which are exciting objects for divers.