Memories are among the most wonderful things to bring back home from any trip. Vivid and extraordinary, surprising, and perhaps a bit scary, pleasant and uplifting – no matter what experience you're seeking, you'll find it here. There is something for everyone in Latvia: from barefoot trails in the blazing summer heat to swimming in ice-cold water in December.
Experience the swamp
Few other places in the world have bogs as magical and vast as Latvia. Here you can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and endless to-do lists. Despite its name referencing a Latvian literary classic, Purvu bridēji (Swamp Waders) is not a book club, but a group of enthusiasts who organise hikes in swamps with bog shoes or snowshoes, depending on the season. The memories of the sun rising above the fog in the mystical morning hours or a glimmering winter day in the bog will stay with you forever. There are several bogs that are open to travellers both in the vicinity of Riga and in the regions of Latvia: Salas Swamp in Latgale, in Rēzekne Municipality, Kodaja Bog in Vidzeme near the border of Estonia, Dunika Bog in the far South of Kurzeme, and others.
Test your limits in winter swimming
Latvians love the heat, and the sauna (in Latvian called “pirts”) is considered an essential part of life: a fact we already discussed in previous articles about bathing rituals. However, cold or winter swimming has also become increasingly popular in recent years. Armed with tools to chop a fresh hole in the ice, dressed in wool hats and gloves knitted by their grannies, cold-loving Latvians both young and elder one’s line up to take a dip in freezing water, to push their limits and grow stronger. In Riga, winter swimmers flock to the swimming areas by the Daugava River, while the most popular winter swimming spots in the suburbs are Beberbeķi Lake in Mārupe Municipality and Dubkalni Reservoir in the Ogre Zilie Kalni (Blue Hills) Nature Park.
The adrenaline rush of bungee jumping or flying with Zērglis
When ice is gone and the water has become too warm to release those endorphins, you can catch a dose of adrenaline by going bungee jumping. If a 43 m free-fall in Sigulda above the Gauja River sounds like fun, this activity is for you. You can jump alone or paired up with a friend whose courage matches yours, and get it all filmed, too. Those feeling especially fearless can take part in the annual Naked Jump which takes place in mid-summer – the name of the activity speaks for itself.
Excited screaming is ever present on the Zērglis zipline ride – the first attraction of its kind in the world, where you take a ride down an aerial cable car track. The opportunity to spread your wings and fly 55 meters above the Gauja River to Sigulda attracts adventurers regardless of the season, but the most beautiful views can be observed in autumn when the ancient valley of the Gauja River turns fiery red and gold. Don’t miss out on the chance to record a video of your ride so you can relive the thrill of soaring through the sky at 60 km/h!
Bake your own bread
Bread has a special place in Latvian cuisine, and rye bread has gained the status of an especially fragrant and delicious souvenir to take back home. But what if you had baked this bread yourself? Several museums offer master classes where you can learn the secrets of Latvian breadmaking. For the most authentic experience, head to the Bread Museum (yes, that's how obsessed we, Latvians, are with bread) in Aglona to both learn the tricks of the trade and try your hand at baking a warm and crisp loaf of bread on your own.
Barefoot trails – for children and adults
Barefoot walking is especially recommended for children to promote development, but it is just as beneficial for adults. While Latvia's pine forests, beaches and meadows are all great for barefoot walking, you can also visit one of the specially designed barefoot paths. These trails offer the opportunity to experience walking on various materials, such as pine cones, glass beads, various stones, sand, clay, peat, wood chips, millstones and others. Some of them feature mud baths, bound to bring out the inner child in just about every adult. The most popular barefoot trail in Latvia is Valguma World, located in Tukums, and it is also the oldest such trail in the Baltic States. However, various barefoot trails can be found in every region, i.e. on the banks of Aiviekste River in Madona Municipality or Valmiera or on the Steep Banks of Gauja River where the Park of Senses is located.
Horseback riding and sleigh rides
Historically, a horse in a Latvian homestead would be used to work the fields, but today, anyone can enjoy the overwhelming freedom of horseback riding like a true aristocrat or curl up in a warm woollen shawl and take a relaxing horse-drawn sleigh ride in a winter wonderland. A truly magical adventure! Stables offering horseback riding can be found throughout Latvia: one of them is Zirgzandales, located in Mārupe Municipality just outside Riga, offering both horseback rides in summer and sleigh rides in winter, while Jūras zirgi in Saulkrasti offers rides along the seashore. If you are curious about horse breeding, try visiting one of the many riding schools, such as the Young Riders School in Inčukalns or the Valmiermuiža Riders School in Valmiera Municipality, where educated staff will happily share their knowledge with you.