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, frolic in the wave pool and relax in a massage pool or sauna to recover.
Not far from the beach, deep into the dunes and tall pines is pretty Dzintari Forest Park. Race through the greenery along one of the rollerblading tracks or practice your jumps in the skate park. Children will love the playgrounds. Watch them from one of the cafes or from the 12 balconies of the 33.5m high viewing tower with stunning views of the whole coastline.
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. And all with refreshing seawater to help you recover from the action available along the way, particularly at the Blue-flag beaches - volleyball, football, pedalos, canoes, windsurfing - it’s all here.
Head toward Smārde, near Tukums for more action at Milzkalnsor Giant’s Hill. A hectic ski resort in the winter, Milzkalns offers paintball, streetball, football and volleyball action for summer visitors, but its pride and joy is the lake with wakeboard towing cable - home of the Latvian championship.
At Jaunmoku Palace, Neo-Gothic forms intertwine with Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) elements. Built in 1901 as the hunting lodge of the then Mayor of Riga George Armitstead, it is home to an extensive exhibition of Latvian forestry and hunting. Legend has it that the palace is haunted by the ghost of the White lady.
Follow the steep-sided Abava River valley as it sweeps south to Kandava, first mentioned in 1230, but thought to be much older. The striking appearance of the Old Town, particularly evident in the houses around the main square, is a result of the whole town being rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1881. Many buildings are linked by decorative arches.
Head to Sabile and the legend of Zviedru cepure, the Swedish hat, constructed as the grave of a commander by the helmets of his soldiers in the 17th century. The steep slope of this busy ski resort is perfect for summer’s rodel track. Take the 950m nature trail to the summit and its viewing tower, or better still, ride a horse, just like the Swedish soldiers.
The pearl of Kurzeme, Kuldīga is packed with enchanting, romantic narrow streets and courtyards. The Alekšupīte river flows along the walls of Old Town houses. The vaulted red-brick bridge across the Venta river exudes a special charm. Upriver, Ventas rumba is the widest waterfall in Europe and is part of the Venta Valley Nature Reserve, abundantly forested and home to many rare and protected plant species.
Head west to the Baltic coast and the beautifully rugged, steep dunes of Jūrkalnes stāvkrasti. The appeal of this blend of 20m-high sand walls, rocks, clean water and stately pine trees dates back to the early 19th century when it was popular with the local landed gentry. These days it caters to a more active lifestyle with paragliding, windsurfing, kiteboarding and surfing.
Pāvilosta’shistory dates to Jēkabs, the Duke of Kurzeme (1642-1682) who had a port built at the mouth of the Saka River. The Duke was a renowned innovator, but one wonders what he would say to the equipment you can hire at the Pāvilosta Surf Club which caters to windsurfers, surfers and skimboarders.
The port of Pāvilosta has had a chequered history, having variously been blocked and destroyed during different wars. In recent years a fishing port, even that was fading out. That is why it is great to see the rejuvenation the town is undergoing following the construction of the Pāvilosta Marina and the visitors, both local and international, it has attracted.
Construction of Liepāja’s magnificent Karosta(Naval port) was commenced in Tsarist times, the late 19th century. Used exclusively by the Soviet Navy, ordinary people were not permitted to enter for 50 years. Today, it provides an evocative backdrop for participants in the game Escape From The USSR. This is no video game, this is the real thing - look out, they’re after you!
One of the original buildings of the old naval port, Karosta Prison functioned as a military jail until 1997. Sinister from the outside, even more unwelcoming inside. And just the place to act out the role of a Soviet-era prisoner. Different harrowing experiences are offered, but only the bravest visitors dare spend the night.
The fact that the 2012 World Championship was held in Liepāja is clear proof that this is a serious windsurfing centre. Host club Rietumkrasts(West coast) caters for the serious windsurfer, but also has an eye for the future as it offers training and equipment hire for numerous sailing and boating disciplines.
The largest and most modern swimming facility in Kurzeme, the Liepāja Olympic Centre’s Pool and Spa offers a relaxation zone, water massage, bubble baths, saunas, a water attraction zone for children and two swimming pools. Special spas include salt, aromatic and herbal, with a cold water bucket for instantaneous cooling down.
By commissioning specially designed cycle racks and developing several cycling routes, the city of Liepāja has shown it is serious about cycling. And why not, as there is plenty to see, all within easy cycling distance and with no long climbs. Hire a bike and head for Karosta, the historical naval port area, Liepāja’s harbour or old town, and of course the sea and dunes.
Liepāja Beach, as well as having a Blue Flag, has some serious swimming history behind it. Its fabulous swimming has been noted since the 1860s when the Russian Tsar and his court first came here. The beach is 50 to 80m wide and has fine, surprisingly white sand. If you around after a storm, look out for pieces of amber washed ashore.