Water, steep slopes, pipes and curves are always accompanied by the shouts of children (and their parents?) enjoying themselves. And the Līvu Aquapark, just over Lielupe in Jūrmala is no exception. Venture down one of the 13 different slides with speeds up to 60km/h or watch it all from the wave pool or a relaxing massage pool.
Not far from the beach, deep into the dunes and tall pines is pretty Dzintari Forest Park replete with playgrounds, walking and rollerblading tracks, skate park and cafes. Climb the 33.5m high viewing tower and see the whole coastline from one of its 12 balconies.
Many places claim to have white sand, but when you see the 32.8km long stretch of Jūrmala beach you are seeing the genuine, white-quartz article. But the character changes as you pass each suburb - the Blue-flag beaches are the most popular but other spots are perfect for quietly watching languid sunsets.
In one of Jūrmala’s many beautiful summer residences, in Majori, you will find the Inner Light Art residence. Inspired by his work in the restoration of Riga’s Nativity Cathedral’s murals, artist Vitaly Yermolayev has invented a new, unique painting technique. Will his paintings help you find your inner self?
The Great Ķemeri Heath or raised bog has been formed over 8 000 years by the action of Sphagnum or peat moss, creating layers of peat as much as 8m thick, but still living. All the rain and snow falling on the heath is collected in the bog which can hold up to 20-25 times its weight of water. Only a few shrubs and stunted trees can survive, hence the eerie landscape.
Follow Lielupe upstream to Jelgava where, on Pils sala (Palace island), one of the last remaining floodplain natural grasslands is a protected reserve. A valuable and important habitat for birds recognised by many international organisations, the island is also home to two herds of wild horses.
Jelgava’s Holy Trinity Church Tower has had an eventful history. A rare survivor of the city’s destruction in world War II, the tower was used by the Soviet military. Now wonderfully renovated and hosting historical expositions, you can enjoy the panorama from the 9th floor or eat in its stylish restaurant.
Tērvete Nature Park is the site of an ancient Zemgalian fort, and famous for its tall 300-year-old pines, used to create the park’s sculptures - fairy-tale characters of Anna Brigadere. Ramble the lush nature trails, row or fish in beautiful Swan Lake with its many birds, ride on the train.
One of the mission’s of the Dobele Local History Museum is to establish the true character of the region’s residents. A number of creative workshops contribute to this: painting with sand, discovering herbal teas in the Duchess’s garden, court ladies’ games and board games featuring Dobele.
Just by Jaunpils castle, in a walled yard built by Swedish prisoners of war in 1605, Niedru lija (Marsh-harrier) offers truly medieval activities: crossbow shooting, archery, axe and spear throwing, coin-making, blacksmithing, armour, weapons and even medieval feasts.
In the Latvian language, Saldus implies sweetness and there is no shortage of it in the town by that name. Vote for your favourite ice-cream flavour at Druvas saldējums (how about chicory?); discover the delights of Latvia’s milkier version of fudge, the gotiņa, at Saldus pārtikas kombināts; watch tasty bread, cakes and pastry being made at Saldus maiznieks.
Kuldīga is packed with enchanting narrow streets and courtyards. The Alekšupīte river flows along the walls of Old Town houses. The redbrick Venta bridge exudes a special charm. The Pilsētas dārzs gardens are embellished with sculptures. With its rapid flow and extraordinary width of 249m, Ventas rumba is the widest waterfall in Europe.
A little to the north, the Riežupe sandstone caves are man-made. Carved out over centuries, the sand was first used for domestic scouring and later for glass-making. It is the longest cave system in Latvia, rumoured to be even longer, with underground passages lost to collapses. In winter, look out for hibernating bats.
Our journey ends at Ventspils, which has a lot to offer, not least its Blue-flag beach. Its 1.2km of fine white sand, 80m wide with dunes reaching heights of 9m are a wonderful place to enjoy the sea. Swim, join in volleyball and football games or just lie in the sand - there are also special paths for pram and wheelchair access.
Just off the beach itself is the Beach Waterpark, an open-air water amusement park with three different pools and slides for all ages. Younger visitors will appreciate the octopus, boat, frog and mushroom pools. On colder days, warm up in the saunas or bubble baths.
The recently renovated Water Amusement Park offers large and small swimming pools, a gym, aerobics classes and a new Complex with lively water attractions like the wave pool and a variety of spa treatments, with the stress-relieving salt room being a favourite.
The Ventspils Creativity House is home to Latvia’s largest digital planetarium, the most modern in the Baltic region, with an observatory equipped with an up-to-the-minute telescope. The planetarium uses special software to show full 360° moving views and unique star shows which can be watched by up to 40 people.
The Centre Sports Hall is extensive at over 2 000m2 and features several innovations: a modern 8-lane shooting range, the highest external climbing wall in the Baltics, weightlifting hall and gym. It is a public facility but is so up-to-date, it is also utilised by the armed forces.
Downhill skiing on Latvia’s flat west coast? And why not if there is an imposing artificial slope as there is at Lemberg’s Panama. And the slope is getting higher each year. Its use is not limited to the winter as the Adventure Park uses the slopes for attractions such as downhill boarding and the crazy Rotocycle. The park’s latest attraction is the wakeboard-towing lake.