Best “Kayaking near me” Places in Nordic Europe: Top 5 kayaking/canoeing trips in Latvia

by Rolands Ratfelders September 28, 2017 0 comment
Best “Kayaking near me” Places in Nordic Europe: Top 5 kayaking/canoeing trips in Latvia

Best time for a “kayaking near me” in Nordic Europe – Latvia

When looking at the Google we are more and more looking for the places of “kayaking near me”. We want to enjoy nature that is not far from our home. Nature supercharges us for all kinds of other daily activities. Thus many of us want to spend our free time outdoors as much as possible. Kayaking is also not very tiring. Thus, unless you are going to a competition or handicapped on both hands, you can do it. Many, who do not like walking a lot or running also choose kayaking for obvious reasons. You do not have to use legs.

When you look for off the beaten path kayaking, what do you consider first? Probably the southern countries or mountain rivers somewhere far away. However, how about trying new gorgeous “kayaking near me” places in the Nordic Europe in one of the greenest countries in the World with pristine nature – Latvia!

Latvia is rich with nature values and a very watery county. We have around 12,000 rivers and 3,000 lakes here. This makes it perfect for kayaking starting from early spring in March (!) till I would even say late October.

July and summer, in general, is the best time to come to Latvia for a great off the beaten path kayaking trip.

Note:  Just to be more concise I will use “kayaking” and related wording as an umbrella term for all kinds of boating in this article.

Try kayaking in spring!

Kayaking season in Latvia starts already in April when the water is high and rivers are full of water. Adventurers start seeking for “kayaking near me” places as soon as the ice gets melted.

Early spring is only for the keenest water lovers and experienced kayakers. You will meet many groups of adventure and adrenaline seekers that go for kayaking at that time. The temperatures of air and water are still very low in April and sometimes also in May. It is not rare that the boats get tipped over in the fast and cold water streams. Yet, this does not stop people from coming again. “Why?”, you will ask. Because it is a thrill. It is the time when boating lovers can experience something close to what we can expect in popular rafting destinations around the World. And all this for a fraction of the price compared to the popular rafting destinations.

May is one of the driest and sunniest months in Latvia. Nature wakes up and everything blooms around. Thus it is a perfect time for looking for a “kayaking near me” place. Just grab a warmer sleeping bag, if you plan overnight in a tent and warmer clothes for chilly evenings and nights.


Amazing kayaking trips in summer

Sumer months June, July, and August are the best time for kayaking trips in Latvia. The water levels are not that high as in spring. However, there are still plenty of beautiful kayaking routes to choose from in rivers, lakes or even in the sea.

More information about travel and seasonality in Latvia you can find here and here.

I do several kayaking trips in Latvia during the season. However, I and my friends have one special 2-3 days kayaking trip, which is almost “obligatory” each year. This is the time we all come together and go off the beaten path altogether. When on this trip we forget about our everyday duties. We are together, enjoying the nature, laughing, camping, endless talks at a bonfire and jokes.

Kayaking near me in LatviaWe choose our time for kayaking at the end of July or beginning of August. However, if you ask me, there is no one best time for this exciting activity. Now is the time, if you decide on it or agree with your friends. With proper clothing, it is doable even in winter.  Kayaking along partly frozen snowy river banks has its special charm.

You always have to be ready for the rain and kinda tricky weather in Nordic Europe. Yet, during the recent years, we have mostly been lucky on our kayaking trips. The sun has lolled us during those days. Besides good company compensates for any inconveniences, doesn’t it?


Top 5 “kayaking near me” places in Latvia:

There are lots of rivers and lakes that are great for kayaking in Latvia. As said before summer is the best time for this activity here. Hence the top 5 will be the best sites for “kayaking near me” in late spring, summer and early autumn. I’ll come back to the best sites for more extreme kayaking in the high spring waters in another post.  It is a totally different experience.

#1: Kayaking in Gauja River Valley

Off the beaten path and time kayaking

Gauja River is the most popular place for “kayaking near me” in Latvia. It is in the central part of Latvia called Vidzeme. Gauja is 452 km long. It the second biggest river in Latvia and provides many great and scenic kayaking sections. Unfortunately, this also means that this river is not that off the beaten path. In the summer months, you will meet lots of fellow kayakers there especially during the weekends.

This does not mean that you cannot find serenity in Gauja River. Remember that Latvia is very scarcely inhabited country! This gives the locals a totally different perspective what a “crowded” place actually means. Thus Latvians would call a place crowded, where a person from London would see only trees and bare nature. This gives you plenty of chances to find an off the beaten path “kayaking near me” place here that might not seem that off the beaten for Latvians. Besides, as I always say, if you cannot avoid the beaten path, you can always choose to go off the beaten time there.

With the off the beaten time, I mean mostly working days or early mornings during the season. You can also choose remote kayaking sections in this river up-stream. However, people usually want to see the famous sand cliff landscapes of Gauja National Park – the oldest national park in Latvia. This kayaking section starts from the cozy town of more than 800 years history Cēsis down to scenic Sigulda. Besides Cēsis is a place worth seeing itself. This is the most beautiful and the most popular “kayaking near me” section in Gauja. It is 50 km long two days kayaking trip. You can divide it into two parts: Cēsis – Līgatne (30 km) and Līgatne – Sigulda (20 km): one day trip each.kayaking near me _ Gauja riverApart from the above mentioned popular sections, Gauja is a great river for kayaking in almost all its length. So I strongly recommend taking at least one or several days’ trip there. There are also many camping sites on the banks of this river for kayakers.

Lastly, you can always ask professionals to help you arrange the best memorable trip for you.

#2: Kayaking on Irbe River

Dense forests and sand dunes

Irbe River is my favorite river for kayaking in Latvia so far. It is special.

Irbe River is in the very western part of Latvia – near the open Baltic Sea coast in Kurzeme. So it is truly off the beaten path. The most popular kayaking section is from Rinda village down to the delta of the river in the open Baltic Sea. This is a two-days’ relaxing yet wild kayaking trip or one-day good workout of 38 km.

We have had kayaking trips here in a good and not so good weather and have never been disappointed.

The trip actually starts in Rinda River, which is Irbe’s tributary. Irbe is special with dense forests and the high sand dunes on its banks. You can take a break here, enjoy the sun, sand and take a swim in the warm water of the river. Set-up an overnight camping site on the top of the dunes and you will have stunning views to wake up with.Kayaking near me _ Irbe River _ Latvia

Gorgeous beach of the open Baltic Sea

It is also special because you can end your kayaking trip in the river’s delta. You will find a gorgeous, wild and sandy beach of the open Baltic Sea there. It is really memorable. Take a chill out on the beach after paddling. This is definitely an added value.


You can also choose one day trip here from Rinda village down till the place called Miķeļtornis (24 km) or from Miķeļtornis down to the delta of the river (14 km). However, I would definitely recommend taking the full distance from Rinda village down to the sea. It is diverse and beautiful. It is also doable in one long day if you start in early morning.

Rinda village is 200 km from Riga, which is two and a half hour drive. Despite its distance from Riga Irbe river is also quite popular among local kayakers during the hot season. Yet, I would not call the number of fellow water tourism lovers overwhelming. There is plenty of space and pristine nature for everyone. However, if you are looking for total tranquility I would recommend going there in working days during the hot season (especially in July).

We can help you arrange unforgettable kayaking trip to this remote area.

#3: Abava River

There is no other “kayakng near me” place in the western part of Latvia Kurzeme that has so many sightseeing places as Abava Valley Nature Park. You can explore them while kayaking in Abava River.

The river is beautiful. You have several options here. I will suggest the best ones here.

Traditional kayaking route

First is the one-day active kayaking trip from the town Kandava down to the Abava Rapid (29 km). This section is actually a well-beaten and popular path for kayakers and water tourists, but it is great. There are many interesting sightseeing places on its way.

You can choose to visit Old Kandava Town with its gunpowder tower and castle ruins. On your way down the river, you can stop for a walk and visit a vineyard (!). Yes, it is the northernmost vineyard in the world – Sabile Wine Hill. Do not expect the wines of French, Italian or Australian quality here. The climate in Latvia is too harsh and it is difficult to grow good grapes here. However, it is a nice place for a short visit.

You will find interesting wines from other Nordic fruits like plums in Latvia. There is also some good apple and pear ciders here. All these are mostly sweet or semi-sweet though. The Sabile town itself is also very cozy with its unique west Latvian charm.

There are some other interesting things to see on your kayaking way here. There is a nature trail in Čužu Mire Nature Reserve near Kandava. It is one of the oldest nature reserves in Latvia. The nature trail itself is 4 km long. The trail leads across a small bog. What makes it special is that this is the only finding of the protected plant called “krūmu čuža” (Pentaphilloides fruticosa) in the country. Depending on the weather the plant blooms in May/beginning of June. Also, this is one of the few places in Latvia where you will see sulfur springs pouring out from the bog. They are smelly but of a medical value!

Truly off the beaten path kayaking place

The second option is truly off the beaten path. This is two-days kayaking trip from Renda Village down to Nabas Lakes, where Abava meets Venta River. All paddlers call this the most interesting section of this river. It is totally wild 43 km long river section. There are no populated places, no shops. Dense forest covers the river banks. It is a true paradise for nature lovers. You might meet only some other paddlers or a casual fisherman. That’s pretty much it. Only you and your kayaking fellows in a gorgeous area, which is also the nature reserve.

Finally, if you have enough time you can go for 4-days kayaking trip in Abava River from Kandava Town down to Venta River. This is an exciting 92 km long adventure in one of the most beautiful rivers of Latvia.

#4: “Kayaking near me” places on Salaca River

Salaca is a beautiful river in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve. It is in the very north part of Latvia. Salaca comes the second in popularity after Gauja. Thus, it is quite a beaten path for local kayakers. However, for other visitors, it is still off the beaten path and is worth visiting.

The best kayaking section I can recommend is from Mazsalaca town down to Staicele town. This is an easy 39 km two-days kayaking trip with many sightseeing places. There are gorgeous sandstone cliffs like Skaņaiskalns, Bezdelīgu Cliff, and other beautiful places on the way. The overnight place is a nice camping site “Puņmutes”. You’ll prepare your dinner on bonfire here and wake up after a good sleep surrounded by pristine nature.

#5: Off the beaten path in the “land of blue lakes”

Finally, to get immersed in nature totally I recommend going for two or even three days kayaking trip in our “land of blue lakes” Latgale. It is the eastern part of Latvia. We call it the “land of blue lakes” not without a reason. Latgale is rich with lakes of different size. Hence it provides plenty of opportunities for kayaking.

Unlike in rivers, the downstream is not existent in lakes. Thus it won’t help you in your efforts getting ahead. Lakes are open waters, which are sometimes windy and choppy. Yet, kayaking in Latgale is absolutely amazing and totally off the beaten path.

A short encouraging kayaking story

This summer we did 35 km kayaking in a cascade of open lakes Zolvas, Rušons and Cirīšs. These lakes are connected by the wild river Tartaks. It was amazing cruising around wild islands between wild roses. We coped with the overgrown reed beds in the channels and even had some wild stream in the connecting river. On a top of all that camping at the bonfire lights with friends is what made this trip special again. My friends are like-minded travelers. Thus it makes such an experience truly outstanding.
Latgale’s lakes give the sense of peace and connection with nature. While the stream on the connecting river Trtaks required steering our kayaks as a team. This is the only way to cope with river’s curves and to avoid the fallen trees. Yet, in the summer waters, this is easy to handle and gives much fun.
The river recalled me the life itself. The same as life, the river has curves. Some get stuck in one place and let others pass. While others may struggle somewhere else. Still, at the end, all reach the ultimate goal. And what’s interesting as more we will help others, as better are our chances to get to our target sooner. I also came to another conclusion: summer is too short only for those who do not move! Isn’t this applicable
I also came to another conclusion: summer is too short only for those who do not move! Isn’t this applicable to the life as well?
Amazing wilderness, views, and tranquility are what everyone can expect in Latgale’s lakes. I can help to get you there.


Difference between kayaking and canoeing

I have always had this one question from my friends. “What should we choose for cruising in different waters? Is it a kayak, a canoe or maybe some another type of boat?” What is actually the difference between kayaking and canoeing? The inflatable boats always come as the last choice, but I will come to this point later in this post.

Well, your choice depends on what exactly you expect from your kayaking experience. It also depends on where you plan to go. As far as it concerns technical details about kayaks and canoes you will find them easy on the web.  I will give an insight based on what you should choose coming to Latvia and our Nordic-Baltic region.

#1: Kayak

Good things about kayaks

Kayak is to say the most fun way to cruise most of the waterways. There are different types of kayaks. The two-blade paddle allows you to track your kayak and explore surroundings easily. The boat also does not get so wet, such as, for instance, canoe. In a canoe, you have to switch paddling sides with the one-blade paddle.

Besides, it is strange but paddling a kayak gives you a feeling and looks of a professional kayaker. Even if you are not yet one. I’ve seen so many friends’ spine getting straight as soon as they get into a kayak and take the paddle in their hands. For obvious reasons, this position is hard to maintain several days in a row. Yet, the confidence is always a good start, isn’t it?

For a kayaking trip in rivers and lakes, we usually choose double touring kayaks (Vista or similar). They have enough capacity both for a couple of adventure seekers and for basic baggage items. Besides these boats have great stability, endurance, and versatility.

On the top of other advantages, kayaks have benches with backrest. These benches will not compete with your guest room sofas. They are even nowhere close to the “comfort” that your garden chairs give, but you don’t expect them to. At least I hope that you don’t! Yet, they are no doubt better than benches with no backrest at all, like the ones in canoes and other boats.

Not so good things

There are, however, some downsides for the kayaks too. You can’t pack all your baggage items in there if you are going for two or more days kayaking trip. Or, you can plan your trip so that the majority of baggage awaits you in the camping sites. So you do not have to take it on board. This, sometimes, takes extra transport planning, but you can ask someone to do that for you.

Thus there are some some drawbacks. Yet, I always prefer kayaks for their versatility and ease of tracking.

#2: Canoe

Good things about canoes

The canoe is known as a good choice for its stability and large space for baggage. In case you are going for a more than one day trip, this might become an important issue. You can literally load everything you need there. And still there will be plenty of space to lay down and chill out on a deck (or on your packed items, if you wish).

Not so good things

Not surprisingly canoes have some drawbacks too. They are bigger and sometimes more difficult to track than kayaks. The one-blade paddle may also not appeal everybody. The floor gets wet when you change the paddling sides. Paddling long distances with one-blade paddle also gives more pressure on your spine. Thus it might be that after a couple of days paddling, you may need a recovery day. This is inevitable unless you are very young and/or have healthy and strong lower back. I am not and I don’t have a strong back, and I know that many don’t. This is a result of our modern lifestyle – sitting and working for long hours at the desk.
Unlike in kayaks, you will not have benches with backrest in canoes. This makes sitting and paddling there much less comfortable.

In any case, going for a longer trip you should know your limits and you want to feel as comfortable as possible.

Kayaking near me _ Latvia _ Irbe river

Recommended canoes

Here in Latvia we use some popular canoe brands. These are Loxia, Ni-Grande, Explorer, Cherokee and others. I always recommend renting (or buying) canoe with 3 spaces even if you are two. They are not much bigger. Yet, they still give you more space for baggage and for one more non-paddling person, if necessary.

#3: Inflatable boats and others

I usually suggest avoiding inflatable boats as much as possible. Unless it is really necessary. First of all, they are very slow and difficult to track. Secondly, they are inflatable, which means they are prone to perforations. You can damage your bot on a sharp rock or a tree branch. This might take a lot of your precious time until you repair the boat at the best. In the worst scenario, your trip will end in the middle of nowhere.
Sometimes inflatable boats are a good choice though. First, this might be the time of high rapid spring waters. Secondly, it is a logical choice, when you go for white water rafting somewhere. Yet, this is not an option in our region, as we do not have mountains here. Inflatable boats are also good for fishing. They are stable and you do not have to cruise for long distances during this activity.

Other types of boats we use here are mostly row-boats. These you can rent for fishing or for a romantic evening on a lake but not for an adventure travel on the waters.


Thus what people are actually looking for when they type “kayaking near me” in Google? Are they are looking for:

#1 An easy way to “escape” to nature and get recharged?

#2 A reason to try something new?

#3 New kayaking places close by?

#4 New off the beaten path places?All the above answers are right. Yet the motivation can be various.

The above list of the places for “kayaking near me” in Latvia is not exhaustive. Neither any of the top 5 destinations is better than another. Gauja, Irbe, Abava and Salaca Rivers and the lakes in Latgale are all great for kayaking trips in Latvia. Yet, it all depends on your preferences. There are plenty of other kayaking destinations, which I will describe in other posts.

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You are also welcome to contact me for more details. We can also arrange any type of individual or small group kayaking trips in Latvia for you.


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