There is so much more to Latvia than Riga and it’s a shame that many travellers overlook this in favour of a quick weekend city break. But even us residents often forget how many amazing little adventures lie right on our doorstep. Latvia is the perfect size for weekend expeditions, be it for the full two days or just a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon.
One of my resolutions for 2016 is to explore more, and document it along the way in the hopes that this might inspire you to do the same. The adventure list will naturally grow with time, and some adventures may merit a blog post of their own.
For a while now some of the prettiest pictures of Latvia on social media have been pictures of bogs – the natural kind. People seem obsessed with the surreal beauty of bogs at all times of day. Even The Daily Mail picked up on the trend. And then there were all those awe-inducing photos of the Northern Lights dancing across the clear night sky over Ķemeri bog.
As we learnt on a recent bog walk, Latvia has reason to be proud of its bogs since it’s one of few European countries to have as many of them left in their natural state, and most of them are protected. Elsewhere in Europe, bogs have been depleted for peat.
Since late 2015, there’s a new way for Latvians to appreciate bogs and capture even more amazing Insta-moments – bog shoeing. The hikes are organised and led by two self-proclaimed bog enthusiasts, and participants are equipped with snow shoes which allow walking over the bog without damaging it and getting deeper into the bog than you would via a boardwalk. That way you can also feel the ground move underneath you since bogs aren’t solid ground.
Currently only held in Latvian and advertised via Facebook, the hikes seem to take place most weekends and get booked up very quickly. Join the waiting list or book a private tour from Purvu Bridēji!
Food and beer at Zoltners
Another Instagram favourite is newly-opened hotel, restaurant and brewery Zoltners in the picturesque rural setting of Kroņauce in Southern Latvia, just over an hour’s drive from Riga. It’s the kind of place where you feel like you have to check in on social media because you want everyone to know you’ve been. Perhaps it’s just that everything about it is so on-trend, from craft brewery to crockery, to colour scheme. Worth going to for the food and surroundings alone but also perfect in combination with nearby Tērvete Nature Park.
A compulsory stop on the way there or back is Svētes maize organic bakery. Not only do they bake some of the finest bread in Latvia, but also their ice cream blows minds, even by Latvian ice cream standards.
Jelgava Locomotive Depot
Also south of Riga is Jelgava with its railway museum. Book in advance and get bonus access to the old locomotive depot, a 15 minute walk along the railway line. Fascinating vintage locomotives and carriages in an abandoned-looking hangar of a depot. Visitors are given the freedom to clamber over the fine specimens of old school technology, but beware of the dead pigeons, empty beer bottles and other debris littering both the interiors and surrounding floor. This is an incredibly off-the-beaten-path experience!
What adventures have you been on recently?