If you haven’t heard of Sigulda, you probably aren’t in the minority. Described as the ‘Switzerland of Vidzeme’, Sigulda is popular with both locals and tourists alike. It is well worth a Google to see if it’s your thing.
Sigulda is a small town about 50 kilometres from Riga, Latvia. To get there from Riga takes about 45 minutes by car or around an hour by either train or bus. Sigulda sits on the edge of the Gaujas National Park, so there’s the opportunity to do both urban and natural sightseeing. The bus is 2,15 euros and the train 2,35; both are good, regular services.
The journey from Riga is very scenic, and if there’s any doubt that Latvia is the land of trees, this will quickly be removed the further you get into the countryside. Miles and miles of coppiced trees as well as trees left to succession, mostly birches in the deeper parts of the forest and silver birches lining the roads. In some places there are clumps of a species of bluebell and if it weren’t for the girth of the trees giving away their youth, you could be forgiven for mistaking some of the park as ancient woodland from England.
If you have two days to spare then you can see and do pretty much everything that Sigulda has to offer, but if you only have one day then that is ample time to have a good look around.
Sigulda is cute. It’s quaint. Cute little buildings, quaint little streets, homes that look like they are out of someone’s summer house dreams. Daisies are scattered throughout every area of grass, and there are wildflowers everywhere you look. A beautiful river, dramatic views where likely glacial erosion has shaped the landscape into an undulating wonder of a painter’s paradise. Which, coincidentally, is the name of one of the places suggested to visit.
Here’s a quick rundown of the ten best things to visit in Sigulda…
1. Bob Sleighing
You can follow the luge track from the Winter Olympic Games of 2014, and even if you’d rather just have a look at the site rather than take part, it’s an impressive view.
2. Sigulda Adventure Park Tarzan
If you’ve ever been to Go Ape, it’s pretty much the same deal. In other words, a lot of fun, in scenic surroundings.
3. Old Sigulda Castle
There are so many to choose from and if you’re pushed for time this one is (in my opinion) the prettiest. The original castle was built back in 1207 and the walls have been fortified multiple times owing to the tourist interest in the site.
4. Gutmanis Cave
If you like your caves this is a good alternative to Wookey Hole [in Somerset, England]! This is apparently both the largest and highest cave system in Latvia. It is thought to have begun forming 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.
5. Gauju River
You have two options here. You can either climb down a very lengthy but beautiful set of wooden stairs and walk over the bridge yourself (prepare yourself for the climb back. You will mostly likely have to stop a few times unless you have super-strength lungs or an incredible level of fitness). Or, if that sounds far too active for you, you can take the cable car that flies right over the top and gives you incredible views of the valley below. And as if that isn’t exciting enough, you can also bungee jump from the cable car. Obviously, this is optional.
6. Painters’ (Paradise) Hill
Stand on the top of this and you can look down on a valley at an almost never-ending tree line that is cut by the meandering Gauju River.
7. Town centre architecture
The town centre really is the most adorable little place to wander around aimlessly, lots of cute buildings with interesting facades. If you don’t feel like a ‘nature’ day you can happily amuse yourself here.
This is a giant wind tunnel that you can pretend you are sky-diving on, and is a lot of fun.
9. Sigulda Evangelic Lutheran Church
What list of things to visit would be complete without the obligatory church? This one is actually very pretty and definitely worth a look.
10. Mr. Biskvīts
Last but not least, there must be somewhere to eat and drink. This place is conveniently placed next to the train/bus station/central square and has an excellent range of hot and cold drinks as well as some very delicious food. Simply a must.
If you visit Riga, and this is highly recommended, a day trip to Sigulda during your stay is definitely worth your time. The tourism office is right next to the waiting room for the train/bus station and the staff will fall over themselves to help you. And if you want to plan ahead, check out the Sigulda Tourism site.