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10 reasons to visit Latvia in autumn
There’s no other way to say this - Latvia in autumn is a magnificent place. The sun is still high in the sky, shining a warm and golden light, reminiscent of the bygone summer. Forests become a kaleidoscope of colours - from flaming orange to bright magenta, from warm terra cotta to honey yellow, and a thousand shades in between.
We’ve come up with 10 great reasons to visit Latvia in autumn - make sure you add Latvia to your list before the whole world finds out how amazing it is!
Wonderful autumn colours
Admiring colourful autumn displays is definitely one of the top reasons to visit Latvia in autumn. Over 50% of Latvia is covered in forests, meaning you won’t have to search hard - even just a quick walk around Riga is enough to transport you straight into an autumn fairytale as you wander around parks and gardens.
Yet, we highly recommend renting a car and driving around - you can head to Jūrmala on the coast, to see colourful forests reaching as far as the sea, or drive to Sigulda, Latvia’s unofficial ‘autumn capital’, surrounded by colourful forests.
Autumn colours in Latvia are at their best in mid-October, which incidentally is also a great time to visit in terms of weather. The sweltering heat of summer has gone, and the cold winter winds haven’t yet kicked in. There’s also still a fair amount of sunlight, with the sun rising around 6 am and setting at about 7 pm.
We were lucky to visit during one of the warmest Octobers in history, with temperatures touching 23°C during the daytime. Average temperatures are about 10°C lower, sometimes dipping below freezing at night.
Perfect for bike lovers
Latvia is fairly flat, with its highest point measuring only 311 meters above sea level. This, combined with stunning landscapes and mild weather can only mean one thing - Latvia is the perfect cycling destination!
Travelling around the country, we’ve seen bike paths in both Riga and Jūrmala, as well as a multi-country cycle path network linking Latvia and Estonia, making it possible to travel between Riga, Tallinn and other major cities on the two countries by bike.
Outside Riga and surrounds, country roads are rarely busy and it’s easy to cycle around even when there are no bike paths. We cycled for over 30 km around Aluksne and surrounds, and barely saw another car.
Lots of adventures
If you don’t like cycling, fear not - there are plenty of other adventures to be enjoyed in Latvia! One of them is bog walking, which is especially spectacular in autumn as mosses and other small plants start to change colour.
10% of Latvia is covered in bogs, and it’s easy to explore these ecosystems even if you don’t have much time to venture away from Riga. A good place to go bog walking is the Cena Bog (Cenis Tirelis), where you can hike independently following a boardwalk or join a guided tour where you’ll have the chance to wear ‘bog shoes’!
Sigulda is also another hotspot for adventure lovers in Latvia. The hilly landscape surrounding the city makes it a great hiking destination, and the Tarzan Adventure Park on the outskirts of town will fulfill the desires of adrenaline junkies with attractions like the ‘human catapult’, adventure courses through the trees and even a zip line.
Not many tourists
A great reason to visit Latvia in autumn is that you won’t have to share the place with millions of other tourists. The country is blissfully unaffected by the over tourism issues affecting most of Europe in summer, and in autumn even fewer people visit. With the exception of Riga, you may be the only tourist for miles!
However, please bear in mind that even though tourists may not have yet found out about the beauty of Latvia in autumn, locals are very much aware of it! During the weekends, places like Sigulda, Jūrmala and the Gauja National Park are very busy with local visitors, but there’s hardly anyone if you visit mid week.
#5 It’s affordable
For European standards, Latvia is very affordable. You can easily have a delicious meal for less than 15 euro, rent a car for a week for less than 200 and enjoy a night on a comfortable hotel for as little as 40 euro.
Prices rise in summer as the tourist influx increases, and autumn is the perfect time to get some excellent deals on flights and accommodation, making your experience even more affordable.
Riga Restaurant Week
What do you know about Latvian food? If your answer is ‘not much’, we warmly recommend making your autumn adventure coincide with Riga Restaurant Week, an event taking place in mid-October as a way to showcase Latvian cuisine and seasonal products.
Restaurants participating in the event offer a three or four course menu for 15 or 20 euro, with creative dishes making use of products like forest mushrooms, wild berries, seasonal game and freshwater fish. You can also sample Latvian fruit wine and craft beer paired with the dishes on offer.
It’s easy to reach
Latvia is extremely well connected to Europe and beyond, with AirBaltic flying to a multitude of destinations from Riga International Airport and a fleet of comfortable buses heading to nearby countries like Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Germany and Poland.
There is also a railway network in Latvia, offering international rail links with Russia, Lithuania, Belarus and Estonia.
Easy to get around
If getting to Latvia is easy, getting around is even easier! A modern bus system connects all major cities with regular departures, and ticket prices are extremely affordable. Train lovers can also travel by rail, but buses offer more flexibility and more frequent departures.
If you’re planning to hunt for the best autumn scenes, we recommend renting a car to move around at will. Outside Riga, there’s next to no traffic and roads are very well signposted. On top of that, the country is fairly small and most towns seemed to be between one and two hours away.
This is definitely one of the top reasons to visit Latvia, in autumn or any other season really! Latvians have a reputation for being shy and not very sociable, to the extent that the country has been nicknamed ‘Europe’s nation of introverts’.
During our week in the country, we’ve crossed paths with nothing but friendly, welcoming people. What is called ‘introversion’ seemed to be more of a love for solitude, nature and silence, than flat out social awkwardness. We met a young man who said he loves taking long bike rides ‘to charge his batteries’, and a lady who ends most of her days walking along the Jurmala beach after returning home from her stressful job. If I lived in a place as beautiful as Latvia, I’m pretty sure that I would also escape to nature every chance I get.
Margherita Ragg and Nick Burns are the team behind thecrowdedplanet.com – a blog dedicated to sustainable travel and outdoor adventures.
They visited Latvia in October 2018.