At a time when we spend most of the day indoors, it is very important to get some exercise outdoors. Outdoor activities have an enormous benefit for our bodies: firstly, pores are cleansed, the lungs can get rid of carbon dioxide better, the body is strengthened, and nutrients can be absorbed better. Forest bathing is an activity that should definitely not be missed in Latvia as it is rich in different forests and there are plenty to choose from!
Photo: Kristaps Selga
In Europe and Latvia, forest bathing and forest therapy are gradually becoming recognised. Ideally, forest bathing is a slow and purposeless walk in the forest for several hours, without having any electronic devices with you, to fully enjoy nature. Even a 20-minute walk, however, positively affects health and well-being. Japanese scientists have proven that forest bathing can help normalise blood pressure, lower stress hormones, improve memory and concentration, and strengthen the immune system.
In fact, ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’, was introduced into the Japanese health care programme at the end of the last century and is still popular today. Modern discoveries also show the importance of relaxing outdoors, in the fresh air.
A forest between the sea and two lakes
In the village of Gauja in Carnikava Municipality, near the mouth of the River Gauja, there are 2 lakes – Garezers I and Garezers II. Along both lakes there is a walking trail leading to Lilaste. Walking along the lakes reveals the beauty of the coastal forest, while the calm and dark waters of Garezers are calming. The trail is approximately 3,5 kilometres long in one direction, giving you a choice of walking along the sea, dunes, or lakes on the way back.
The fresh air on the banks of the River Egļupe
At the point where the River Egļupe crosses the Rīga-Sigulda-Veclaicene highway, a beautiful walking trail starts, leading along the picturesque banks of the River Egļupe all the way to the River Gauja. The total length of the trail is approximately 4 kilometres, following the banks of the River Egļupe on the way there and the straightest route on the way back. However, there are also many small paths in the forest, where you can wander aimlessly and relax, taking a break from the stress and rush of everyday life. To help you find your way around the forest, we recommend using the mobile app LVM GEO.
The diverse forests of Tome
Photo: Kristaps Selga
Tome Rural Territory in Ķegums Municipality is rich in forests. About an hour’s drive from Riga, you will find beautiful, diverse forests – pine groves, young stands of various trees and old spruce forests. Different small rivers run through the forests, and the forest is rich in hills offering beautiful views of the surroundings. Multiple paths wind through the forest, and by following them you can enjoy forest bathing.
The charm of Ogre Zilie Kalni
Ogre Blue hills or Zilie Kalni is a nature park, most of which is covered by coniferous forest, a protected biotope of European importance. There are 18 protected plant species, six protected bird species and several protected insect species.
A beautiful panorama can be seen from the highest point of the hills, where an observation tower has been built. The beautiful Ogre pine forest in Zilie Kalni will suit those who do not mind the company of others – especially at weekends, as it is quite a popular destination. However, the walk will be particularly picturesque!
Nature reserve Garkalne forests
Not far from Riga, in Garkalne Municipality, is the nature reserve Garkalne forests. The largest part of the territory of Garkalne forests is covered by pine forests. There are also species of grasses typical of dry meadows. The ground vegetation of the forests consists of mosses and lichens. Part of the forests are boreal forests, a biotope type protected in Europe. Although the rules governing nature reserves must be respected in this area (e. g., the ground vegetation must not be damaged), it is possible to follow a variety of walking routes – there are many wider and narrower paths in Garkalne forests, allowing you to vary the length of the route and, if you visit the forest several times, choose a different path each time.
Lake Engure Nature Park
Lake Engure Nature Park is located near Engure – here you can enjoy the pine forests of the coastal area. Here, the main paths lead directly along Lake Engure, while smaller paths or those a little further afield will take you on a walk in a marshier area. Lovers of long walks can go as far as Mērsrags!
Forest bathing is undeniably fantastic and contributes greatly to our physical and emotional health, and there are plenty of forests in Latvia where one can enjoy it! However, it is better to go to forests that are under the supervision of Latvia’s State Forests to avoid accidentally entering a private territory.