Sigulda is the perfect combination of adventure, nature and culture and makes a wonderful day trip from Riga. I visited Sigulda as part of a complimentary guided tour arranged by the WITS conference, and only got to spend the day there – but if you have more time you could easily spend a weekend in Sigulda exploring all the things to do in Sigulda and the surrounding Gauja National Park.
How to Get from Riga to Sigulda
To get to Sigulda from Riga there are regular direct trains which take around 45 minutes. There are also buses which are cheaper but take longer.
Getting Around Sigulda
Getting between the various attractions in Sigulda is easier with your own transport, if you don’t have a car then you could look at hiring a bike or e-bike to whizz around town. It is also possible to hike if you’re feeling energetic – start off in Sigulda and take the cable car across the valley to Krimulda, and hike down the mountain back to Sigulda, stopping off at Turaida Castle and Gutman Cave on the way
What to do in Sigulda
There are plenty of things to do in Sigulda to suit every taste, so it just depends on what you are into. The time of year might also change what you do in Sigulda, as warmer weather encourages different activities than you would do in Sigulda in winter! Most cultural attractions in Sigulda are fine all year round.
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Active Things to do in Sigulda
Sigulda could easily be the adrenaline capital of Latvia! If you enjoy outdoor activities with a dash of excitement, look no further!
Sigulda Cable Car & Sigulda Bungee
You can take a cable car across the Gauja River for spectacular views – adrenaline junkies may like to know that you can arrange to bungee jump from the cable car, although we didn’t take the plunge ourselves. During the summer you can also zipline across the cable car wire!
What to do in Sigulda – Rent an E-Bike
Sigulda Adventures have e-bikes available to rent by the hour or by the day. The e-bikes are very useful for the hilly terrain around Sigulda and can last between 30km – 60km on a single battery charge so you can explore the whole area. Even if the battery does die, you can still use it as a normal bike. We rented a bike just to go to Sigulda Castle, which was my first time on an e-bike, and I loved it! They can get up to fast speeds, so a bicycle or drivers license is required to ride them. Contact Sigulda Adventures if you have any queries about hiring the bikes.
AERODIUM is an outdoor vertical wind tunnel where you can get the experience of jumping out of a plane without actually having to do it! Open from May to October, prices start from €45 per adult.
Sigulda Bobsleigh Track
Have you ever dreamed of zipping down a bobsleigh track at the Olympics? Sigulda Bobsleigh track is where Latvian Olympians train by speeding down the icy track. It is open for public visitors, and for a bargain 10€ per person, you can have a go yourselves (if you have a team of 4 people). We zipped down the track faster than I imagined but emerged unscathed and having thoroughly enjoyed the adventure! I do recommend coming here before lunch though, as my stomach was doing somersaults as we were thrown around the corners!
Hiking in Gauja National Park
You could easily spend several days walking the various hiking trails around the Gauja National Park, close to Sigulda. We spent a separate day here walking with our fabulous guide Sigita from Cesis Inside and barely scratched the surface. The scenery is beautiful, and we hiked along the Amata trail along the Gauja River and part of the Cecīļu Nature Trail.
The Cecīļu Nature Trail is actually on private property, but the owners maintain the trails and allow public access. As we walked through the forest we came across waterfalls, dancing rivers (so-called because of the fast-moving water) and rustic cabins – even a sauna!
From there we hopped in the car to get to the Amata Hiking trail where we walked through the forest along the Amata River to Zvartes Rock, one of the steepest sandstone and dolomite bedrock banks of the river. The rock is more than 350 million years old and is 20m high, and in summer is a popular swimming destination where families picnic and camp. Sigita’s daughter Tereze runs the Tourist Information Centre at Zvartes Rock, where we finished our walk with a delicious lunch. You could also start your hike from there and pick up maps and supplies before you go. It isn’t open every day though, so get in touch before you go.
Cultural Things to do in Sigulda
The Livonian Order Castle of Sigulda was built in 1207, and although is now mostly in ruins, you can still climb part of the tower. There are lovely views across the valley where you can see the Turaida Castle in the distance.
Make Your Own Walking Stick
Around the old castle, the New Castle of Sigulda district has a host of craftsmen and artists where you can watch them at work and buy souvenirs. We stopped off at the walking stick maker’s, where the lady showed us how to make our own mini walking stick. Walking sticks are a symbol of Sigulda, as the first historical mention of a walking stick was in a 19th-century travel guide when the writer suggested that a walking stick may come in handy while walking in the valleys of Sigulda. You can buy walking sticks of all sizes, from tiny fridge magnets to full-sized usable walking sticks. In Sigulda, keep your eyes open for Walking Stick Park, which has models of walking sticks dotted around the grass.
Turaida Museum Reserve
Turaida Castle and Museum is the most visited museum in Latvia. The Medieval Castle has a fascinating history, and the views from the top of the tower are well worth the walk up – if you have a clear day! It was grey and foggy when I was there, unfortunately, but that added an air of mystery to the place. In the grounds, there is a Lutheran church which is one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia, built in 1750. There is also a sculpture park dedicated to Latvian folk songs, and the grave of the Rose of Turaida, a beautiful young woman who was slain by a jealous soldier.
Gutmanis Cave is the oldest tourist site in Latvia, and people have been writing their names on the walls here since the 17th Century. It may seem bizarre to have historical evidence in the shape of graffiti, but tradition is tradition! It is said that the springs emerging from the grotto have healing powers and that the cave got its name from a healer called of “Gut Mann” who lived here and treated people’s ailments with water from the spring. The cave is set within a park, and there are several trails to take around the area which lead up to Turaida Castle and Krimulda Manor, among others.
Fruit Wine Tasting at Krimulda Manor
Krimulda Manos used to be a luxurious private home in the Gauja National Park, but now it is a health spa and hotel with pleasant grounds. You can also arrange a wine tasting of some delicious fruit wines which were very nice indeed!
A Traditional Latvian Massage
I’d heard of Swedish massages but hadn’t realised that Latvians also have a long tradition of sauna and massage. We had a traditional Latvian massage experience at our hotel, where a bath master in a loincloth and little hat beat us with leaves, scrubbed our skin and dunked us in a cold-water pool. It was a bizarre experience (best done naked as a wet swimsuit would be problematic with the changing temperatures!) but a unique one, that I certainly recommend trying if you can throw your inhibitions out of the window!
Have you been to Sigulda? Would you take a trip from Riga to Sigulda to experience the best of Latvian history, culture and excitement? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what to do in Sigulda, please leave your comments below.
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Where to Stay in Sigulda
We stayed at the lovely Spa Hotel Ezeri which has an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna and a separate place at the bottom of the gardens for the traditional Latvian massages. My room was spacious and comfortable, the food was great and I would happily stay there again. It is about 40 minutes’ from the train station though so it is easier to reach if you have your own transport.
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