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North Latvia (Vidzeme)
Rocky coastline, hills, gorges and valleys, lush locales along the banks of the Gauja River – these are just some of the unforgettable features of Vidzeme region, which covers the central and northern parts of Latvia. Why not get to know Vidzeme by boat, bicycle or during a good concert at the outdoor Sigulda Castle stage or the new, modern Vidzeme Concert Hall in charming Cēsis. Vidzeme is a perfect place for those hungry for the more extreme kinds of recreation - it is a treasure trove for nature lovers, aficionados of art and life!
To find out why - read on.
At the Gauja River, noted for the beautiful sandstone cliffs along its banks, Latvia’s largest white sandstone outcrop, Sietiņiezis, stands, surrounded by awe-inspiring pine forests. The largest cavern in Latvia, Gūtmaņala, is also located on the Gauja.
To see these and other striking attractions with your own eyes, visit Gauja National Park, which is not just the largest, but also the oldest national park in Latvia.
The number of visitors to the park usually peaks during the so-called golden autumn period. Indeed, this is when the park may be at its loveliest, with leaves coloured in thousands of shades as nature bids farewell to summer.
Cities and towns in Vidzeme
Sigulda, also called Switzerland of Vidzeme because of the multiple hills and mountains in and around the town. The only cable car in the Baltic countries is also located here, connecting two sides of the Gauja River gorge. For history buffs - a visit to the Turaida Museum Reserve is recommended. The most popular museum in Latvia, here visitors can learn the legend about the tragic love story of the Rose of Turaida, or climb up the 30-metre-high tower to enjoy a magnificent view of the Gauja River gorge.
Cesis (Cēsis) may have clinched the title of culture capital of Vidzeme with the opening of the new concert hall in the center of town. Local activists each summer put together a top-level contemporary arts festival, and bars and cafes here are so attractive that young people from near and far make the trip to Cesis, even from Riga.
Cesis takes pride in its Medieval castle, and it is a tourist favourite. Guided tours tell the story, special programmes like jousting lessons and/or an alcohol-fueled feast, await one and all.
Valmiera, located on the steep sandy cliffs of Valmiera, names as one of its feature sights - the 2.7 meter long Sajūtu taka (pathway) which, if strolled barefoot, enlivens all five senses.
Just outside Valmiera - a brewery producing the best beer Valmiermuižas alus - if not the best, then most certainly in the top three; its fame is sure to stretch far beyond Latvia’s borders as foreign tourists here have also given the product rave reviews.
The Vidzeme town of Līgatne and its hiking trails is a good opportunity for you to view wild animals and birds characteristic of Latvia’s fauna. Or check out an architectural landmark from the 19th century - the Līgatne Paper Mill village and its authentic unspoiled surroundings. The defunct Mill’s territory includes many caverns or grottoes that are still to this day utilised as cellars, like, for example, the one at Lustažs is a “pit stop” to sample and enjoy locally-produced wine and schnapps.
For those travelers who yearn for rest and relaxation seaside, the charming towns of Saulkrasti and Salacgrīva are just for you. Here your friendly fisherman will be glad to offer you various seafood - smoked with methods centuries old. .
Boaters are invited to experience the twists and turns of the Gauja and the rapids of the Amata, while cyclists can take off on one of the designated routes in Gauja National Park, or, how’s about taking in the semi-rugged gulf coast beaches between Salacgrīva and Tūja.
Ever wanted to fly like an eagle? Don’t miss Aerodium - the vertical wind tunnel. When in Sigulda, visit the Tarzāns Amusement Park or challenge the multiple obstacle courses, or - even crazier - bungee jump from the Sigulda cable car, high above the Gauja.
Winter sports buffs can find resort slopes and tracks in Cesis, Sigulda or Valmiera.