This route has a flying start at the Aerodium just outside Sigulda. That is meant literally because Aerodium, a Latvian invention, is a vertical wind tunnel which allows people to take to the air. See how quickly you can start performing the acrobatic stunts and moves perfected by Aerodium’s team who have ‘flown’ all over the world, including at an Olympic opening ceremony.
Reaching Sigulda itself, first stop is the Mežakaķis Adventure Park where you can again take to the air, this time with the help of trees. ‘Walk’, clamber, slide or glide on ropes, nets and cables as you make your way through the trees on this obstacle course which takes full advantage of the steep side of the Gauja valley. Hardly surprisingly, it’s a ski resort in the winter.
The imposing white tower at the top is your guide for finding Sigulda’s very own Bobsleigh and Toboggan Track. Impressive isn’t it - not unexpected that it is used for Word Cup races. And in the summer you can try it out yourself by speeding around the 17 steep banked curves on a Vučko or a wheeled bobsleigh with an experienced pilot. 80km/h anyone?
Still not had enough action? Then you will find something at the Sigulda Adventure Park to use up your excess energy. Choose from a rollercoaster of a toboggan ride, Tarzan-inspired tree-top obstacle courses, catapult, climbing wall, chair lift and more. With many other options for children and, naturally, skiing in winter
We now have to cross the deep Gauja valley and easily the best way is by the 43m-high cable car. Opened in 1969, it is the only one in the Baltic States and provides spectacular views up and down the valley and the Turaida castle. But why is it stopping in the middle. It’s so someone can bungee jump into the valley! Want to give it a try?
Over the valley, the Turaida Museum Park hosts a vast collection of historical artefacts and buildings. One of its iconic symbols is the Dainu kalns sculpture garden dedicated to Latvian folklore. Explore the medieval stone castle, climb its tall tower, learn about the different occupants over the centuries and the sad tale of the Turaida Rose.
Just around the next hill, take another breathtaking journey through the tree tops at the Meža Reinis obstacle course. If you want to stay grounded, play a round of golf on one of Latvia’s few courses or join in a game of football or volleyball, hire bikes or canoes. Winter time is skiing time, but in summer you can take to the slope on grass skis and wheeled boards.
The Cēsis Medieval Castle was built in the 13th century, but the remaining tower dates from the 16th century. Go medieval by climbing the tower’s winding stairs by lantern light. View the area’s history in the museum in the more recent palace, or visit a working jewellery workshop. Keep a look out for announcements regarding the medieval festivals held in the green castle grounds.
They say the Gauja is Latvia’s true river, as it arises in Vidzeme and doesn’t leave it until it enters the Baltic Sea. It is beautiful, tree- and cliff-lined and Žagarkalns offers a number of ways to enjoy it at close quarters. Decide your route, choose from canoes, inflatables and rafts and the Žagarkalns team will transport you to the start and bring you back to base.
Like its neighbour, Ozolkalns is a popular winter ski resort. Summer sees a transformation from the top to the bottom of the steep Gauja valley side. Up top you can take to the treetops on the Squirrel obstacle course featuring Latvia’ longest cable runs, see how accurate your archery technique is or race downhill on a mountain bike. When you get there, choose from canoes, boats and rafts.
We now move upriver to Valmiera, where active leisure centre Baiļi runs a now familiar riverside winter-summer operation. It’s skiing in winter, but taking to the river in the summer. In this case it’s two rivers as you can choose between the Gauja and the narrower, but equally pretty Salaca. Once again you can choose from canoes, inflatables and sturdy rafts holding up to 15 people.
Away from the river, the Avoti leisure complex offers some dry land options. Take in typical Latvian birch copses on the 9-hole golf course, downsize to mini-golf, stretch out on the breathtaking catapult or grasshopper attractions. Visit the BMX museum and find out how local rider Māris Štrombergs won two Olypmic gold medals.
Whatever the season, whatever your preference, the people at the Eži Active Tourism Centre will have the gear to suit you: skis, skates, bikes or boats. The Eži (hedgehogs) team will also provide transport for river trips, advice on cycle routes, even coaching. Look out for the new Tower - a feat of engineering erected as a genuine test of courage and agility.
Head south toward Riga and take the Kocēni turnoff for the Zirgaudzētava Kocēni stud-farm and its 80 horses. Whether you are a beginner or a serious rider, you can hire a horse suited to your riding skills. Whether taking a straightforward gallop or wanting to leap show-jumping fences, coaching is available. An indoor riding hall enable year-round operation and you can even buy a horse.
Near Sārumezers, the Vējiņu caves contain the only known underground lakes in the Baltic States. Formed by rock falls blocking underground streams, they are replenished by spring floods from the Brasla river. Because of the perilous state of the sandstone roofs and walls, you will need a guide to accompany you.
Further south towards Riga, cross the Gauja to Rāmkalni and its rodel track and tow, the longest in the Baltics at 400m with seven unyielding curves into the Gauja valley. There are many other activities, more or less strenuous (anyone for Zorbing or bungee-jumping?) on land or on the Gauja, but in winter downhill skiing takes over.