Sigulda: outdoor activities, walks and meditation
Weekend in Sigulda

Sigulda: outdoor activities, walks and meditation

The Latvian town of Sigulda is a place of mass domestic tourism. Every Latvian family travels here, and many do so several times a year. The incredible topography of the area provides mesmerizing views at any time of year and plenty of entertainment for supporters of an active (and fun) lifestyle, while historical and natural monuments are just a short walk away.

Locals are less likely to know Russian than in Riga, but you won’t be lost with English.

Sigulda Aizrauj!, i.e. Sigulda inspires — this is the town’s tourist slogan. Every opportunity of terrain here serves to organize driving entertainment for guests of all ages and at any time of the year. At the end of this article, I make a selection of Sigulda’s adventures, but I will tell you more about the hiking and cycling routes of the Gauja National Park, for which the city is really famous.

Gauja River. View from the automobile bridge
Gauja River. View from the automobile bridge

How to get to Sigulda

The road to Sigulda takes an hour and a half, but if you go in season and not by train — and the season here is considered the golden fall, September-October — then make time for traffic jams.

You can find train schedules here, and bus schedules here.

Gauja National Park: hiking and biking routes

The national park is located right in the city, and wherever you go, you’ll find forest paths. Almost everywhere you can ride a bicycle, there are special bicycle signs.

The two main difficulties of the walking trails are the high stairs on the steep banks of the Gauja River and the mud on the paths in spring and fall. Most of the paths have already been improved with good dense soil and stone chips, and only in some places along the river you still have to knead clay, but the problem with stairs is almost impossible to avoid. Therefore, people with small children or health problems should allow more time to walk all the routes.

The two main joys of these trails are the stunning views and the amazing local nature. It is really a great aesthetic pleasure. There are several caves and small beaches on the slopes of the river.

View of the Gauja river valley
View of the Gauja river valley

Gutmanja cave routes

The easiest and most popular route of the national park leads to the Gutmaņa cave, Gutmaņa ala. It is a simple route with no elevation change: on one side of the river there is a serpentine road with a slope of about 30 degrees, and on the other side the road is flat all the way to the cave. There are several benches along the way, and in one place there is even a small public toilet.

The cave itself is small — in fact, it is a grotto. It is interesting for the inscriptions on the walls, the oldest of which date back to the 18th century. Near the cave there is an information center, a coffee shop and a small pond.

If you follow the trail further along the highway, you can come to the medieval castle of Turaida, which was the bishop’s residence. There is also a hiking trail up to the numerous local mountains. On the trail there are turn-offs to Krimulda — there are ruins of a medieval castle and a castle of new times, and also a cable car station. But these are quite different routes.

Gutmania cave route. Serpentine, view of Gauja from the left bank
Gutmania cave route. Serpentine, view of Gauja from the left bank
Gutmanja Cave
Gutmanja Cave
Gutmania Cave. Inscriptions
Gutmania Cave. Inscriptions
On the route of Gutmanja caves
On the route of Gutmanja caves

The route along Gauja

In my opinion, this is the most scenic route — the paths stretch along the river on both sides, connecting the automobile and pedestrian bridge. It starts in the center of Sigulda and continues for many kilometers. If you cross the suspension bridge and continue along the other side of the river, you will pass through two small caves made of the same red sandstone as the Gutmanja cave.

How to get there: on the map

Forest Trail. On the route along Gauja
Forest Trail. On the route along Gauja
On the route along the Gauja. River bend
On the route along the Gauja. River bend

On the right bank you will meet Velnalas cliff and cave — Velnalas klintis, velnalas ala, and Piķenes cliff — Piķenes krauja. On the left bank there is a city beach and bungee park, lookout points, picnic and bathing places. There is a curious art object «Tsar’s Throne» in the forest and a viewpoint «Tsar’s View» nearby.

On the route along the Gauja. View of the river
On the route along the Gauja. View of the river
On the route along Gauja. Suspension bridge
On the route along Gauja. Suspension bridge

Paradise Mountain Route

This is the third route, about 10 km long, and it is a bit off from the first two. It starts in the area of the city cemetery and takes you to the memorial of the Kropotkins — local noblemen and beautifiers. The cemetery itself is also very cozy and beautiful, worth a visit.

How to get there: on the map

Paradise Mountain. November view of river valleys
Paradise Mountain. November view of river valleys

The main attractions of the trail are the Artists' Mountain (Gleznotājkalns), also called Paradise Mountain, Kraukļa ala (Kraukļa cave) and Petera ala (Peter’s cave). The paths are covered with stone chips, there are benches and «mushrooms» where you can hide from the rain.

The mountain offers a breathtaking view of the old bed of the Gauja River and the ravine where the Vējūpite River flows. This is where artists come for plein air painting — hence the name. Down below the mountain, near Vējūpite, there is a comfortable picnic area with a small beach. Along the creek, as in the entire Gauja valley, there are paths and steps, and the caves can be accessed both from above and below.

Sigulda city cemetery
Sigulda city cemetery
Paradise Mountain. Stairs to the Vejupite creek
Paradise Mountain. Stairs to the Vejupite creek

Bobsled track

The bobsleigh track, the only one in the Baltics, is laid from a special tower down into a deep river valley. The maximum length is 1200 m, and it takes about a minute to cover it — at such a speed it takes your breath away.

Tower tours are always open to admire the national park, the town and the nearby castles from the top. You can go through all the turns on foot and see how the chimney is organized.

In winter you can ride beanbags, wuchko or «frogs», in summer — on summer beanbags, sledges with wheels. For schedule and prices, please visit the trail’s website.

View of the toboggan run
View of the toboggan run
Bobsledding sleds by the track.
Bobsledding sleds by the track.

What else to do in Sigulda

The cable car (Siguldas vagoniņš) connects Sigulda with Krimulda, a settlement on steep banks, here areprices and timetables. From the carriage in summer you can bungee jump from a height of 43 meters. You can also fly on a ziplane or in a wind tunnel.

Electric bicycles are used in the national park — they have thick tires and are suitable for riding on the local hills. To conquer the Gauja River, you can take SUP boards or go rafting. In winter, there is a ski slope.

Children (and their parents) will enjoy the Mežakaķis rope park, Brinumzeme Layout Club, water park, Fisher Ski Center — open all year round, electric cars, Tarzan Adventure Park, soccergolf park, laser tag.

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