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Gauja National Park
The territory is established to protect the ancient valley of the Gauja River and the unique natural values of its environs. One third of all Latvian natural preserves and more than 500 cultural and historical monuments can be found here. The Park is located in Amata, Cēsis, Inčukalns, Krimulda, Līgatne, Pārgauja and Sigulda Regions.
Gauja National Park (GNP) was established in 1973 and it occupies a territory of 91 745 ha. The most picturesque part of the Gauja ancient valley is from Valmiera to Murjāņi, where the valley is 20 metres deep at Valmiera and 85 metres deep at Sigulda, while the river span at times exceeds 2.5 km.
This 95.3 km long section of the Gauja is distinguished for its impressive diversity of nature and the availability of cultural and historical monuments.
GNP is a “Natura 2000” territory which is established to protect the ancient valley of the Gauja River and the unique natural values of its environs, simultaneously ensuring both recreational and nature protection in the territory. There are also several detached areas that have special biological value – the areas of Nurmižu Gravis, Roču forest, Inciems ancient banks and Sudas marsh reservation.
Every year the distinctive landscape of the Gauja ancient valley, the largest Devonian rock exposures in Latvia, sandstone steeps, rocks (Raven Gorge, Devil’s Cave Rock, Spriņģu Rock, Fine Clay Rock, Zvārtes Rock, Maiden Rock, Ķūķu Rock, Eagle Rock, Riddle Rock) and caves (Gūtmans Cave in Sigulda is the widest and the highest cave in the entire Baltic region!), as well as its cultural and historical wealth rich with legends and tales, attract thousands of visitors.
All of the natural and historical values of Gauja National Park can hardly be counted. There are so many of them and, besides, they are concentrated in a relatively small territory, and, one way or another, one day will not be enough to enjoy the magic of all of the GNP’s natural attractions. More than 500 cultural and historical monuments are located in the National Park – hill forts, stone castles, churches, watermills and windmills, as well as other archaeological, architectural and artistic monuments. The chief tourist destination is Sigulda, which is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Vidzeme”, and Turaida Castle, as well as Cēsis, but this is not all.
The true lover of nature should not miss the Ligatne nature trails, where one can see all sorts of wild animals; those who are fond of ancient times will be interested in visiting a settlement of ancient Latgalians (the 9th - 10th century) at Āraišu Lake Castle; fans of military heritage will gain an unforgettable experience from a visit to the Ligatne secret underground bunker which was built for the Soviet Latvia Leaders in case of a nuclear war. And a unique opportunity for fans of extreme entertainment is the vertical wind tunnel “Aerodium” where one can enjoy free flight. By the way, “Aerodium” also is participating in Expo 2010, and there is also the Sigulda toboggan and bobsleigh track that offers rides both in winter and in summer. Many champions and participants of the Olympic Games have had their training at this track.
Sigulda and its environs are especially beautiful in spring when, during the blooming period of bird-cherries, the Gauja River ancient valley becomes almost entirely white. In summer, the Gauja has a lot of boatmen, and in autumn, when leaves of the trees become golden and red, everyone goes there to enjoy the "golden autumn", and in winter Sigulda turns into a skiing centre – there are several ski runs on the steep slopes of the Gauja ancient valley.
GaujaNational Park has routes offered for car tourists, hikers, cyclists, as well as camps and overnight accommodation for water tourists on the banks of the Gauja, Amata and Brasla Rivers. Further information about Gauja National Park is available at the Sigulda Tourism Information Centre.