It’s not every day that you get to take the Lonely Planet on a 4 day trip into the wild. But that is exactly what we did back in November 2019. Together with Magnetic Latvia, we have the pleasure of taking Clifton Wilkinson into the wilds of the Gauja National Park, for 4 days of hiking, eating and diving into Latvian culture.
As soon as Clifton arrived we drove out to the beautiful Mālpils manor for an overnight stay. The manor is an outstanding sample of the 19th century Classical architecture featuring an extensive Baroque style park. It’s also renowned for its restaurant, which focusses on local, seasonal produce and is regularly featured in Latvia’s top restaurants.
Entering The Gauja National Park
Well-rested and well-fed, we started day two with a trip to the Bobsleigh track. This is one of only a handful of tracks around the world that allow the public to ride a real bobsleigh. So, naturally, we had to send Clifton down the track in order to give a more accurate account of what you experience during the 48 seconds of twists and turns.
Once Clifton had recovered we ventured deeper into the Gauja National Park. Visiting cafe Zeit in Līgatne, we stopped for a delicious lunch, however, the main attraction here is the fun net park. Suspended up in the trees, the net park (which is perfect for families) lets you bounce around 7 metres up in the air. After jumping about like children, we figured it was a good time to do something a bit more grown-up. We wanted to test Clifton’s woodworking skills at the Vienkoči woodcraft museum.
With these tasks chalked off and nursing tired arms from the woodworking, we headed to the town of Cēsis. Considered Latvia’s most medieval town, due to the castle remains and narrow, cobbled streets. Here we sat down to enjoy dinner at the fantastic H.E. Vanadziņš restaurant, ready to put to bed another action-packed day.
Līgatne Secret Bunker
Up nice and early for day 3, we wanted to show Clifton one of the most top-secret areas of the former Soviet Union. Hidden away in the Gauja National Park, is a huge cold war era Soviet bunker. It’s fair to say that Clifton was quite surprised, not only at the size, but also the condition the bunker is in. This is always a great place to bring anyone who grew up outside the Societ Union, just to give some perspective on how things worked on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Suitably filled up on Soviet time propaganda, we took Clifton to a far more traditional Latvian past time. Brewing and drinking beer. At the popular Valmiermuiža brewery, we treated Clifton to a selection of local beers as well as a tour of the Valmiermuiža brewery. The beers are now shipped all around the world, but this was Latvia’s first real ‘premium’ beer. One that they take great pride in.
Latvian Sauna Traditions
As we arrived at Lantus guest house, it’s clear to see that this is a traditional bathhouse. The perfect place to introduce Clifton to some Latvian sauna culture. Part of this culture included brushing with birch & oak leaves, before running outside and cooling down in the snow (or lake depending on the time of year).
The whole experience lasts around 2hrs, after which it was time to get some good sleep before a busy 4th day in the Gauja National Park.
Bog shoe walking in the Gauja National Park
If there is one activity that we like to share with people more than any other, it’s probably bog shoe walking. This activity always surprises people and it’s one of the most interesting activities you can do in the Gauja National Park. With his bog shoes on, we sent Clifton out with his guide for a special tour of this ancient, diverse area. Even those with little interest in nature often find bog shoe walking in the Gauja National Park a standout experience.
To read Cliftons full review of the Gauja National Park and his time with us, click the link below.
For more information on media and FAM trips, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.