Top 3 Hiking Trails along the Latvian Baltic Sea Coast That Will Blow Your Mind

by Rolands Ratfelders September 10, 2017 0 comment
Top 3 Hiking Trails along the Latvian Baltic Sea Coast That Will Blow Your Mind

Latvia – hidden jewel for nature travelers

It the autumn here in Nordic Europe. Thus, it is time to round-up the most exciting adventure trips done this season. You may have never heard about this but Latvia is an amazing place for nature tourism. Hence, if you love hiking, cycling or kayaking/canoeing this is the place to come. The bird watchers and nature photography lovers will also feel pleased here.

Our friendly people are proud of their land. However, they do not express this too loud. So you will still “hear” your own personal identity while visiting us.

Hiking trails _ Pokaini

Hiking in Pokaiņi Forest

Hiking trails Latvia

Ķemeri bog

Hiking trails along the Baltic Sea Coast

The activity in nature that almost everyone can do is hiking. I love hiking because it gives me total freedom. In fact, there is no need for any specific gear, except comfy hiking shoes. Hence, I can just pick an off the beaten path destination and there we go. Hiking allows feeling close to nature. Hence you can go as quickly or slowly as you want and still get precious new impressions again and again.

In Latvia, you can choose from various exciting hiking trails. You can hike along the Baltic Sea shore, in the wild pristine blog-land or in the vast forest areas. Forests cover more than 50% of our territory and around 12% are bogland! Hence unspoiled Baltic-Nordic nature is what you can expect here.

Coastal hiking trails _ Latvia

Hiking along open Baltic Sea coast

 
Beautiful sandy beaches, long days and beautiful sunsets make coastal hiking special. Note that in summertime the sun sets only around 10 or even 11 p.m. here. So you have plenty of time for any outdoor activity. Around 500 km of diverse coastline gives vast opportunities for coastal hiking. All the hiking places are easy to reach. Hence, you can hike the entire Latvian coastline or any of its section and you won’t be disappointed. We do not have many people here. Thus, apart from the regions around some bigger cities, you will find total serenity.
 
The diversity of the coastline will surprise you too. There are wide sandy beaches on our Western coast of the open Baltic Sea. While on the Eastern coast of Riga Bay you will find stony seashore (Vidzeme Stony Beach). Latvia has only around 2 million people. As Nordic people, Latvians are friendly but also rather shy. Thus, nobody will bother you on your trip not to speak about tourist crowds – not existent here at all.
 
Baltic Sea of Latvia coast might be great off the beaten path discovery for you. Thus, this is a great choice for those aiming to spend their holidays somewhere close to nature. It is a different experience than popular Southern seas with buzzing, crowded beaches.
Hiking trails _Baltic coast_Latvia

Baltic Sea coast near Ventspils

Here in Latvia, we distinguish “two seas”:
#1: The open Baltic Sea coast starts at the very South-Western point of Latvia (village Nida). From there we go up to Kolka Cape, where the open sea and Riga Bay meets;
#2: The coast along the Riga bay from Kolka Cape down to our capital Riga and again up to Estonian border at the town Ainaži.

Soviet legacy

The most distant and as a result the wildest part is the open Baltic Sea coast. In the Soviet times of the “iron curtain” it was the very Western border of the Red Empire. Thus, this cost was a restricted area. The Soviet army did not welcome any visitors in the area. Therefore, only the local inhabitants could use it for fishing and other daily activities. The Soviet occupation lasted for 50 years. This had some positive effects on nature though. The natural processes in this area developed without almost any human-economic disturbance. When the “iron curtain” dropped the area became available for public again. The coastal area revealed us amazing pristine natural values.

Protection status

Nowadays, these nature values are of EU importance.  There are Slītere National Park and other smaller protected areas set-up along the cost. They provide protection for natural habitats and species in this area. Additionally, the entire Baltic Sea shore in Latvia is protected from harsh development. Management and building activities are restricted within 300 meters from the sea. Fewer restrictions are up to 5 km along the entire coastline. This means that outside villages and cities you will find pristine forest here.

A new amazing long-distance hiking trail in Europe

A new Interreg Estonia-Latvia project is ongoing now. Its goal is to develop a hiking route along the Baltic Sea’s coastline in Estonia and Latvia.  This route consists of many hiking trails.

The route will stretch along the Southwest coastline in Latvia. It starts at the border with Lithuania and goes along Latvian coastline (~532 km). It continues along Estonian coastline (382 km). Further, it ends in the capital of Estonia – Tallinn. In total, you can choose to hike the distance of ca. 1,200 km here.

This is new sustainable tourism product. It highlights cultural and natural heritage along the coastline of Latvia and Estonia. It is friendly to nature, cultural environment and local economy.

I’m sure that this new amazing hiking route will become a “must do” for long-distance hikers. We aim to make it a hiking trail of an international importance. Thus, I see it as a new Baltic alternative of the famous Santiago route (Camino de Santiago). Meanwhile, you can jump ahead the time. You can enjoy the most beautiful hiking trails along the Baltic Sea coast already now. All these trails will also be a part of this new great long-distance route.

Here are the top 3 coastal hiking trails in our country. These hiking places are definitely among the best in the entire Nordic Europe too.

Top 3 Coastal Hiking Trails in Latvia

Here are the top 3 coastal hiking trails in our country. These hiking places are definitely among the best in the entire Nordic Europe too.

# 1: Coastal hike from Jūrkalne to the cozy fishermen town Pāvilosta

Hiking trails_Baltic coast_Latvia

Steep Baltic Sea coast

The hike from the small village Jūrkalne to Pāvilosta or vice versa is amazing. It is 21 km one way. The hike is along the gorgeous steep coast of the open Baltic Sea. It takes around 5 hours walk (at a rather slow pace of 1 km in 15 minutes). Walking is on the beach. This is the only real steep cost in Latvia and it provides amazing views.

The coast is not accessible everywhere. Thus, it stays a remote destination. You will find total serenity and sandy beaches here. In some places, the sea washes the steep sandy shore. Thus you might have to walk in the water and get a bit wet. Here and there you will have to cross the piles of stones. Yet, none of these obstacles is something that cannot be handled by any hiking lover.

I would not recommend this cost for biking. It has loose sand and in several sections, where the water meets the steep shore. Thus, there is no other way to bypass these places except for going straight into the water.

Pāvilosta fishermen village

During this hike, you start or end at the fishermen village Pāvilosta. It is a cozy place to stay.  Be sure you try the traditional smoked fish here. The most popular are flatfish. Latvians call it “bute”. It is delicious. You can also buy these smoked wonders in other villages along the Baltic Sea coast, of course.  Yet, Pāvilosta has a special charm. It is also the main spot for windsurfers and kite surfers in Latvia. You will also find the biggest gray dune in Latvia here. It is the protected area of EU importance (Natura2000) and it is amazing.

Hiking rails _ Latvia

The largest grey dune in Latvia

These days Pāvilsosta has become an attractive place for chilling out on sunny summer days. It has a non-repeatable tranquil atmosphere.  There are several nice places to stay in this village. One of them is Das Crocodill, which perfectly represents the chill out the mood of this place.

This summer we did a gorgeous hike here. It is definitely my favorite destination for coastal hiking in Latvia.

#2: Hiking trails from Kolka Cape to Mazirbe or Sīkrags: Old settlements of Liivs’ fishermen

Hiking trails from Kolka Cape to Mazirbe (20 km) or Sīkrags (30 km) or vice versa is another great choice. Besides, you can choose hiking or cycle along the beach or in the coastal forest. Take a chance and visit several traditional fishermen villages on the way. This will be a special experience. These villages are old Liivs’ fishermen settlements. Liivs are one of the smallest nations in the World. There are now only about 250 Liivs’ people left in Latvia. Only a few speak Liivs’ language, which is Finno-Ugric language.

The area itself is one of the most remote in Latvia. Therefore, until the beginning of 20th century, it was not accessible by any other means than by foot. Dense, beautiful forests cover a large part of this area. The pristine old pine forest is amazing and provides a true sense of wilderness.

The area is at Slītere National Park. The beach is gorgeous here. It is wide and sandy and the sand is pretty solid. Thus, you can also go with MTB on the beach. Besides the forest roads here are marked as cycling route 558. Thus, you will not get lost.

This summer I did around 60 km cycling tour here from Kolka to Sīkrags and back. It was challenging and fulfilling at the same time.

#3: Hiking trails along the Vidzemes Stony Seashore

hiking trails coast latvia

Vidzemes Stony Seashore

Coastal hike along the Vidzemes Stony Seashore is a totally different experience. It is on the eastern coast of Riga Bay. So, it is not the open Baltic Sea. Depending on how much time you have, you can choose different hiking trails here.

An often used hiking route in this area is from Vitrupe River delta to Tūja village. This is about 20 km hike. Yet, you can also continue further on to the South. In Tūja surroundings you will find the many camping sites and guest houses if you seek for that.

The beach is different here. It is mostly stony and very beautiful. A popular place of attraction here is Veczemju Cliffs (Veczemju klintis). The cliffs are about in the middle of the hike. This hiking trail is much closer to Riga and other cities and towns. Thus, it is also more touristic and not so off the beaten path. Yet, if you choose the distance of at least 20 km or so you’ll have a great time out there.

Hiking trails Vidzeme Stony Beach Veczemju cliffs

Veczemju Cliffs

There are no overcrowded places in Latvia. So, you will find serenity and different experience here as well. Extra fun and challenge will be jumping from one stone to another in some parts of this beautiful route. Be careful though, when it is wet!
 
This summer we took this hiking trail with the class of schoolchildren. They did this in 9 hours. How many hours do you need for that?
Hikng trails_Baltic coast_Latvia

Fishermen boats at Vidzeme Stony Beach

Conclusion tips

Please keep in mind that Baltic Sea shore is changing all the time. Every autumn harsh autumn storms change the coastline. Sometimes these changes are dramatic. Thus, you might expect different landscapes every year. Some years ago a huge storm filled the Riga Bay coast near Kolka Cape with lots of fallen trees. This made the landscape wild and beautiful at the same time.

 
In addition, there are some practical things that you should keep in mind while planning your hike. I would recommend checking the weather forecast first. Especially pay attention to the wind direction. If it is a windy day you will definitely want to avoid going against the wind. First, it is more difficult and, second, after the first hour, you might lose any fun out there. Your hike will be enjoyable even if the wind is rather strong. Yet, you have to choose to go before the wind. This will “help” you to move ahead more quickly. Besides, the wind will not blow straight into your face.
 
I highly recommend the hiking trails along the Latvian Baltic Sea coast. These are definitely among the best coastal hiking trails in Europe.
 
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