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Latvia – A Winter Road Trip Diary


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Kellie Mckoy

Latvia – A Winter Road Trip Diary

Latvia – A Winter Road Trip Diary


Embarking on an epic winter road trip through Latvia is an experience like no other. Nestled in the northeastern part of Europe, Latvia is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its picturesque landscapes, charming old towns, and welcoming locals, it’s the perfect destination for a memorable adventure.


As you buckle up and hit the road, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, and fairy-tale forests. Each day will bring new discoveries and moments that will take your breath away.


Over the course of ten days, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Latvia’s vibrant capital city of Riga, venture into the stunning Gauja National Park, and visit enchanting towns like Sigulda, Cesis, and Kuldiga. Along the way, you’ll experience Latvia’s rich history, indulge in its delicious cuisine, and marvel at its architectural wonders.


This road trip can be enjoyed at any time during the winter season, from December to March. The country’s mild climate, combined with its well-maintained roads, make it a safe and enjoyable destination for travelers of all kinds.


Whether you’re a nature lover seeking pristine landscapes or a history enthusiast eager to uncover the secrets of the past, Latvia has something for everyone. So, buckle up, grab your map, and get ready for an unforgettable winter road trip through Latvia!


Day 1: Arriving in Riga

As your plane touches down at Riga International Airport, you can’t help but feel the excitement building within you. You have officially arrived in Latvia, ready to start your winter road trip adventure. After collecting your luggage, you make your way to the car rental desk to pick up your trusty steed for the journey ahead.


Driving into Riga, the capital city, you are immediately enchanted by its old-world charm. The streets are lined with colorful, historic buildings adorned with intricate facades, creating a captivating atmosphere. You find your accommodation at a cozy hotel in the heart of the city, dropping off your bags before setting out to explore.


Riga’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is your first stop. As you walk through its narrow cobblestone streets, you can’t help but be in awe of the stunning architecture that surrounds you. Gothic spires, medieval walls, and pastel-hued houses make every corner a photo-worthy spot. Take your time to wander around, popping into quaint cafes and boutique shops along the way.


For lunch, indulge in some local Latvian cuisine. Head to one of the traditional restaurants and savor the flavors of hearty dishes like cepelinai (potato dumplings filled with meat), grey peas with bacon, and rye bread. Wash it all down with a glass of Riga Black Balsam, a delicious and warming herbal liqueur that has been made in Latvia for centuries.


In the afternoon, make your way to the Art Nouveau district, known for its stunning architecture. Marvel at the elaborate facades, intricate decorations, and ornate details that make these buildings truly unique. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history and significance of this architectural style in Riga.


As the sun sets, Riga comes alive with a vibrant nightlife. Explore the city’s trendy bars and clubs, where you can enjoy live music and mingle with locals and fellow travelers alike. End your first day in Latvia by relaxing and savoring a delicious meal in one of the city’s renowned restaurants.


With a sense of anticipation and wonder, you head back to your hotel, ready to embark on the next leg of your winter road trip. Day one in Riga has given you a taste of what Latvia has to offer, and you can’t wait to see what adventures await you in the days to come.


Day 2: Exploring Riga’s Old Town

After a restful night’s sleep, you wake up eager to continue your exploration of Riga’s Old Town. The crisp winter air fills your lungs as you step outside, ready for another day of adventure.


Your first stop is Riga Central Market, one of the largest and most vibrant markets in Europe. Located in the heart of the city, this market is a treasure trove of fresh local produce, tasty snacks, and unique Latvian souvenirs. Stroll through the bustling aisles, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of this lively place. Treat yourself to some freshly baked pastries or warm up with a cup of steaming hot mulled wine.


As you continue your exploration, make sure to visit the iconic Riga Cathedral. This majestic structure, dating back to the 13th century, is a testament to the city’s rich religious history. Step inside to admire the intricate stained glass windows and ornate altar, as well as the breathtaking views from the tower.


Next, head to St. Peter’s Church, one of Riga’s most recognizable landmarks. Climb to the top of its tower for panoramic views of the city below. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of Riga’s picturesque rooftops, the winding Daugava River, and the distant snow-covered landscapes.


Take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Daugava River, which offers a peaceful contrast to the bustling streets of the Old Town. The river is a central part of Riga’s history and culture, and you’ll find numerous parks and promenades where you can relax and take in the beautiful surroundings.


In the afternoon, explore the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, located in a former KGB building. This museum provides a comprehensive and moving account of Latvia’s history during the Soviet and Nazi occupations. Gain a deeper understanding of Latvia’s struggle for independence and the resilience of its people.


As the day draws to a close, cozy up in a traditional Latvian tavern and sample some hearty and comforting dishes. Try the famous sklandrausis, a delicious pastry filled with carrot and potato, or indulge in a bowl of creamy mushroom soup. Wash it all down with a glass of locally brewed beer or a traditional herbal tea.


Reflecting on your day’s adventures, you find yourself falling even more in love with Riga and its captivating charm. You can’t wait to see what the rest of your winter road trip through Latvia has in store for you.


Day 3: Journey to Sigulda

On day 3 of your winter road trip through Latvia, you bid farewell to the enchanting city of Riga and set off on a scenic journey to the charming town of Sigulda. With its stunning natural landscapes and historical landmarks, Sigulda is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.


The drive to Sigulda takes you through picturesque countryside, with rolling hills and snow-covered forests stretching as far as the eye can see. As you approach Sigulda, you catch a glimpse of the iconic Turaida Castle perched atop a hill, a sight that sets the stage for the adventures that await.


Upon arriving in Sigulda, head straight to the breathtaking Gauja National Park. This national park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities for all ages. Strap on your snowshoes and explore the park’s trails, meandering through snow-covered forests and across frozen lakes. Breathe in the fresh air and take in the serene beauty of your surroundings.


For an adrenaline rush, try your hand at winter sports like sledding or skiing at one of the many slopes in the area. The snow-covered hills provide the perfect backdrop for an exhilarating day on the slopes.


Make sure to visit the Gutmanis Cave, the largest cave in the Baltic States. Legend has it that the water found inside the cave has healing properties, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Take a moment to admire the ancient inscriptions on the walls, dating back to the 17th century.


End your day with a visit to the stunning Sigulda Castle. This medieval fortress offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, with the Gauja River winding its way through the valley below. Explore the castle’s grounds and immerse yourself in the rich history of this ancient landmark.


In the evening, relax and unwind at one of the cozy guesthouses or hotels in Sigulda. Soak in a hot tub or indulge in a traditional Latvian sauna to warm up after a day in the winter wonderland. Feasting on hearty Latvian dishes, such as potato pancakes or smoked meats, will satisfy your hunger and recharge you for the next leg of your journey.


With memories of snowy landscapes and exhilarating activities, you fall asleep with a renewed excitement for the adventures that lie ahead. Tomorrow, your road trip takes you deeper into the beauty of Latvia’s nature as you continue to discover the wonders of this winter wonderland.


Day 4: Admiring the Gauja National Park

Day 4 of your winter road trip in Latvia brings you deeper into the mesmerizing beauty of Gauja National Park. Wake up to the crisp morning air and embark on a day filled with exploration, adventure, and awe-inspiring landscapes.


Start your day by visiting the picturesque town of Cesis, often referred to as the “Gem of Vidzeme.” This charming town is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and rich cultural heritage. Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets and discover the hidden treasures that lie within.


One of the highlights of Cesis is the Cesis Castle, a medieval fortress that offers a glimpse into Latvia’s history. Explore the castle’s grounds, ancient ruins, and the breathtaking views from its towers. Immerse yourself in the tales of knights and nobles that once walked these very halls.


After visiting Cesis, venture further into Gauja National Park. This expansive park is a nature lover’s paradise, with its dense forests, rolling hills, and pristine rivers. Strap on your hiking boots and embark on a trek along one of the park’s many scenic trails.


Keep an eye out for the majestic resident wildlife, including deer, foxes, and even the elusive lynx. The park is also home to a variety of bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers. Take in the peacefulness of your surroundings as you make your way through the snow-covered trails.


For history enthusiasts, a visit to the Turaida Museum Reserve is a must. Located within Gauja National Park, this open-air museum showcases the rich heritage and traditions of the region. Explore the medieval buildings, including the iconic Turaida Castle, and learn about the life and customs of the people who once inhabited these lands.


As the day draws to a close, find a cozy spot to have a picnic amidst the stunning natural beauty of the park. Unpack some local delicacies, such as smoked fish, sausages, and hearty rye bread. Pair this with a thermos of warm tea or a flask of Latvian herbal liqueur to keep you warm in the chilly winter air.


As you bid farewell to Gauja National Park, you can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to witness such breathtaking landscapes. Your winter road trip through Latvia continues, and with each passing day, you are reminded of the country’s remarkable beauty and the sense of adventure that awaits you.


Day 5: Heading to Cesis

On day 5 of your winter road trip through Latvia, you bid farewell to the captivating landscapes of the Gauja National Park as you make your way to the historic town of Cesis. Known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and charming atmosphere, Cesis promises a day filled with exploration, culture, and local delights.


The drive from Gauja National Park to Cesis takes you through picturesque countryside, showcasing the natural beauty of Latvia. Snow-covered fields and rolling hills create a serene backdrop as you travel towards your destination. Upon arriving in Cesis, you instantly feel the town’s cozy and welcoming ambiance.


Start your day by taking a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Cesis. Meander past the colorful houses and admire the intricate details of the medieval buildings that line the cobblestone streets. The town’s rich history comes alive as you explore its narrow alleys and hidden courtyards.


Make your way to Cesis Castle, one of the town’s main attractions. This medieval castle, with its sturdy walls and impressive towers, offers a glimpse into the past. Explore the castle ruins and climb to the top of the towers for panoramic views of the surrounding area. Take a moment to imagine the knights and noble families who once called this place home.


Continue your exploration of Cesis by visiting the nearby St. John’s Church, a Gothic-style church dating back to the 13th century. Marvel at its stunning architecture and step inside to appreciate the beauty of its ornate interior. Light a candle and take a moment for quiet reflection in this peaceful sanctuary.


For a taste of local flavors, treat yourself to a traditional Latvian meal at one of the cozy restaurants in Cesis. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes like grey peas with bacon, potato pancakes, or sautéed mushrooms with freshly baked bread. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of local beer or a sip of Riga Black Balsam.


After lunch, take a leisurely stroll to the Cesis Brewery, where you can learn about the beer-making process and enjoy a tasting of their craft brews. Immerse yourself in the rich beer-drinking culture that is integral to Latvian traditions.


To end your day in Cesis, visit the Sculpture Park, located just outside the town center. This open-air museum showcases a collection of contemporary sculptures set amidst a beautiful natural landscape. Take your time to admire the artwork while enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings.


As night falls, find a cozy spot to relax and reflect on the day’s adventures. The charming guesthouses and hotels in Cesis provide the perfect retreat, offering comfort and warmth after a day of exploration. Rest well and prepare yourself for the next leg of your winter road trip in Latvia.


Day 6: Discovering the Turaida Museum Reserve

On day 6 of your winter road trip through Latvia, you have the opportunity to discover the rich history and natural beauty of the Turaida Museum Reserve. This cultural and historical gem is located within the stunning surroundings of Gauja National Park, providing an immersive experience into Latvia’s past.


As you approach the Turaida Museum Reserve, you are greeted by the sight of the iconic Turaida Castle standing tall against the winter sky. This medieval fortress, with its distinctive red-brick walls, transports you back in time to the 13th century when it was first built. Step inside the castle and explore its well-preserved rooms and exhibition halls, which showcase the history and heritage of the region.


As you walk through the castle grounds, you come across the Turaida Stone, a monument steeped in legend and folklore. It is said that if two people touch the stone while simultaneously making a wish, their desires will come true. Take a moment to connect with the mystical energy of the stone and make a wish of your own.


Continue your exploration of the Turaida Museum Reserve by visiting the Turaida Church. With its distinctive wooden architecture, this Lutheran church is a testament to Latvia’s religious heritage. Step inside and admire the ornate interior, adorned with beautifully carved woodwork and colorful stained glass windows.


Take a leisurely stroll through the ethnographic open-air museum within the reserve, which comprises several reconstructed 16th-century farmsteads. Each farmstead offers a glimpse into the traditional daily life of Latvian villagers of the time. Explore the houses, barns, and workshops, and learn about the customs, crafts, and traditions of the people who once lived here.


A highlight of the Turaida Museum Reserve is the Dainu Hill, also known as the Hill of Songs. This sacred site has been the setting for centuries-old Latvian folk songs or dainas, which are an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage. Take a moment to appreciate the significance of this hill and its role in preserving Latvia’s traditional music and poetry.


End your day in the Turaida Museum Reserve by embarking on a scenic walk through the enchanting landscapes of Gauja National Park. Follow one of the marked trails that wind through the park, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding forests, rivers, and valleys. The tranquility and beauty of the natural surroundings provide the perfect opportunity for reflection and rejuvenation.


As you leave the Turaida Museum Reserve, you can’t help but feel a deeper connection to Latvia’s rich history and culture. The experiences of the day have left an indelible mark, allowing you to unravel the layers of the country’s past. Tomorrow, your winter road trip will take you to another captivating destination as you continue to discover the wonders of Latvia.


Day 7: The Charming Town of Kuldiga

Day 7 of your winter road trip through Latvia takes you to the quaint and picturesque town of Kuldiga. Known for its charming old-world atmosphere, romantic cobblestone streets, and stunning waterfalls, Kuldiga offers a unique and unforgettable experience.


Upon arrival in Kuldiga, you are immediately captivated by the town’s timeless beauty. The well-preserved architecture, with its colorful wooden houses and ornate facades, tells stories of centuries gone by. Take a leisurely stroll through the town center and immerse yourself in its charm.


One of the main attractions in Kuldiga is the Venta Waterfall, the widest waterfall in Europe. Marvel at the powerful rush of water as it cascades down the picturesque landscape. In winter, the waterfall is transformed into a frozen wonderland, with icicles glittering in the sunlight. Take a moment to capture the magic of this natural wonder.


As you wander through the streets of Kuldiga, you come across the historic Kuldiga Town Hall. This architectural gem, dating back to the 17th century, is a symbol of the town’s rich history. Admire its elegant facade and imagine the important meetings and celebrations that have taken place within its walls.


Take a detour to the Aleksupite River, where you’ll find another charming feature of Kuldiga – the Old Brick Bridge. This elegant stone bridge, built in the 19th century, spans the river and offers a picturesque spot for a romantic stroll or a moment of quiet contemplation.


Experience a taste of Kuldiga’s culinary delights by sampling the local delicacies. Indulge in a plate of dumplings known as pelmeni, or enjoy some smoked fish, a staple of Latvian cuisine. Pair your meal with a glass of locally brewed beer or a hot cup of herbal tea to warm up on a chilly winter day.


For a cultural experience, visit the Kuldiga Art House, which hosts a variety of exhibitions and events showcasing the works of local artists. Take a moment to appreciate the creativity and talent of the artists, and perhaps even bring home a unique piece of art as a memento of your visit.


As the day comes to a close, find a cozy guesthouse or hotel to rest and reflect on the beauty and charm of Kuldiga. The town’s tranquil ambiance and warm hospitality provide the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.


As you bid farewell to Kuldiga, you carry with you the memories of its enchanting beauty and the feeling of stepping back in time. Your winter road trip through Latvia has been filled with unforgettable experiences, and there are still more adventures awaiting you in the days ahead.


Day 8: Venturing to Liepaja

Day 8 of your winter road trip through Latvia takes you to the coastal city of Liepaja. Known for its rich maritime history, unique architecture, and vibrant arts scene, Liepaja offers a mix of cultural experiences and natural beauty.


As you drive into Liepaja, you are greeted by the captivating sight of the Baltic Sea glistening in the winter sun. The crisp sea air invigorates you as you make your way to explore the city’s attractions.


Start your day by visiting the Karosta Naval Port, a former military base that played a significant role in Latvia’s history. Learn about the city’s maritime heritage and take a guided tour of the Karosta Prison, a fascinating and eerie landmark that offers insight into the lives of prisoners during the Soviet era.


For a change of pace, head to Seaside Park, where you can take a leisurely walk along the beachfront promenade. Breathe in the fresh sea breeze and admire the breathtaking views of the endless horizon. If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t miss the opportunity to try your hand at winter watersports, such as windsurfing or ice yachting.


Take some time to explore Liepaja’s unique architecture. The city is home to the iconic St. Nicholas Orthodox Maritime Cathedral, with its distinctive blue and gold domes that dominate the skyline. Step inside to admire the ornate interior, adorned with richly detailed mosaics and gilded iconography.


Delve into the city’s artistic side by visiting the Liepaja Concert Hall, a stunning piece of contemporary architecture that hosts a variety of musical performances. Experience the acoustics of the hall and perhaps catch a live concert or recital during your visit.


Indulge in the local culinary delights of Liepaja by sampling fresh seafood at one of the cozy restaurants near the harbor. Enjoy a plate of Baltic herring or smoked salmon accompanied by traditional Latvian bread. Don’t forget to try the local beverage, Liepaja Beer, known for its unique flavors and craftsmanship.


In the evening, immerse yourself in the city’s art scene by visiting one of Liepaja’s art galleries or attending a performance at the Theatre House. Liepaja’s vibrant arts community adds a touch of creativity and cultural richness to your winter road trip experience.


Reflecting on your day in Liepaja, you can’t help but be captivated by the city’s unique blend of history, natural beauty, and artistic expression. Liepaja has left an indelible mark on your journey through Latvia, and as you continue your road trip, you anticipate more remarkable experiences that lie ahead.


Day 9: Enjoying Ventspils and its Beaches

On day 9 of your winter road trip through Latvia, you make your way to the vibrant coastal city of Ventspils. Known for its stunning beaches, charming old town, and family-friendly attractions, Ventspils offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.


As you arrive in Ventspils, the fresh sea breeze welcomes you, reminding you of the city’s coastal charm. Start your day by taking a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of the Old Town. Admire the beautifully restored 17th-century buildings, quaint cafes, and unique boutiques that line the cobblestone streets.


No trip to Ventspils would be complete without visiting one of its stunning beaches. The city boasts some of the most breathtaking sandy shores in Latvia. Bundle up and take a walk along the snow-covered coastline, marveling at the vastness of the Baltic Sea. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not engage in winter activities like snowboarding or kite flying?


Next, visit the Ventspils Adventure Park, a paradise for both children and adults. Explore the outdoor trails, test your balance on the rope courses, and enjoy exciting activities such as ziplining and tree climbing. This park offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and unleash your inner adventurer.


For a taste of history and maritime culture, visit the Ventspils Museum of the Castle Order. Housed in a medieval castle, this museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of the region, including its role in the Hanseatic League. Explore the exhibits and learn about Ventspils’ past as a bustling port city.


Take a break from exploring and treat yourself to some delicious Latvian cuisine. Indulge in hearty dishes like rasols (a traditional potato salad), cepelinai (potato dumplings), or smoked fish. Enjoy your meal in one of the cozy restaurants, where the warm ambiance will make you feel right at home.


In the evening, take a leisurely walk along the Ventspils Seaside Promenade, stretching along the coastline. The illuminated sculptures and vibrant atmosphere create a magical setting for an evening stroll. Enjoy the serenity of the sea and let the peacefulness of the surroundings wash over you.


As you reflect on your day in Ventspils, you are filled with a sense of joy and contentment. The city’s beautiful beaches, welcoming atmosphere, and family-friendly attractions have made it a highlight of your winter road trip. Tomorrow, you continue your adventure, eager to uncover more of Latvia’s hidden gems.


Day 10: Returning to Riga and Departure

On the final day of your winter road trip through Latvia, it’s time to bid farewell to the enchanting destinations you’ve explored and make your way back to the vibrant capital city of Riga.


As you embark on the journey back to Riga, take the opportunity to reflect on the incredible experiences and memories you’ve made along the way. The picturesque landscapes, charming towns, and warm hospitality of the Latvian people have left a lasting impression.


Arriving in Riga, return your rental car and check into your chosen accommodation. Take some time to relax and reminisce about the adventures you’ve had during your winter road trip.


Spend your final day in Riga exploring any attractions or landmarks that you might have missed during your initial visit. Whether it’s revisiting Riga’s Old Town to immerse yourself in its timeless beauty once more, or exploring the city’s vibrant art scene by visiting art galleries and museums, Riga offers endless opportunities for discovery.


Indulge in a leisurely lunch at one of Riga’s renowned restaurants, savoring the delicious flavors of Latvian cuisine. From hearty soups and stews to delectable desserts, there is a wide array of culinary delights to satisfy your taste buds.


Before you depart, take a stroll along the banks of the Daugava River or visit one of Riga’s many parks, such as the picturesque Bastejkalns Park. Enjoy the tranquility of these green spaces and savor the peaceful atmosphere as you soak in the last moments of your Latvian adventure.


As the time for departure approaches, bid farewell to the captivating city of Riga and the beautiful country of Latvia. Carry the memories of your winter road trip with you, cherishing the experiences, the landscapes, and the warmth of the Latvian culture.


As you embark on your journey home, you can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Your winter road trip through Latvia has allowed you to connect with nature, uncover history, and immerse yourself in the unique charm of each destination.


But as with every adventure, this is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new chapter. You leave Latvia with a desire to explore more of the world, to experience the wonders that await in different corners of the globe.


So, until the next road trip, may your wanderlust continue to guide you on new adventures and may your memories of Latvia forever be etched in your heart.



As your winter road trip through Latvia comes to an end, you can’t help but feel a sense of fulfillment and gratitude for the remarkable experiences you’ve had. From the charming streets of Riga’s Old Town to the breathtaking natural landscapes of Gauja National Park, each day has been filled with awe-inspiring beauty and captivating discoveries.


Latvia has proven to be a hidden gem, offering a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural wonders. The welcoming locals, rich heritage, and warm hospitality have made this journey all the more memorable.


The road trip has taken you through vibrant cities, such as Riga, Sigulda, and Liepaja, where you’ve indulged in delicious cuisine, explored architectural wonders, and connected with the local culture. You’ve ventured into the serene depths of Gauja National Park, where pristine landscapes and picturesque towns have left you breathless.


Throughout your journey, you’ve embraced the winter wonderland that Latvia transforms into during this season. Snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, and cozy cafes have added to the magic of the experience.


As you depart, you carry with you a treasure trove of memories – from the taste of traditional Latvian dishes to the panoramic views from medieval castles, from the sound of waves crashing on the sandy shores to the feeling of serenity while strolling through enchanted forests.


Your winter road trip through Latvia has reminded you of the joy of exploration, the power of nature, and the interconnectedness of cultures. It has sparked a desire within you to continue venturing and discovering the wonders that await in other corners of the world.


But as you say goodbye to Latvia, you know that a piece of this beautiful country will always remain with you. The scenic landscapes, the charming towns, and the kindness of the people have left an indelible mark on your heart.


So, until the next road trip beckons, embrace the memories of your time in Latvia and carry them with you on your future journeys. Keep exploring, keep discovering, and may each new adventure bring you closer to the beauty that lies within and beyond.