If you are in Latvia, you definitely need to visit Sigulda. Just one hour drive away from the capital city, Riga, you can arrive in Sigulda, and spend a beautiful day in that part of Gauja National Park. Sigulda is also called Little Switzerland, because of the sandstone rocks and caves in the area.
During my 3 days in Riga I decided to have a day trip to Sigulda, to visit the castles and enjoy the nature of Gauja National Park a bit. I took the train from Riga to Sigulda, which takes about an hour and costs only 3.70€ return.
Here are the highlights of my day in Sigulda.
After getting off the train first thing I visited the nice information office. They were very friendly and explained how the typical tour in Sigulda goes. They also had good maps.
Sigulda New Castle
After walking for approx. 15 minutes and passing by the idyllic white church you’ll see the NEW Castle of Sigulda, which dates back from 1878. It was home of Dimitri Kropotkin who supposedly made Sigulda to a touristic destination back then. You cannot visit it inside but can walk around the ground.
Sigulda Medieval Castle
After passing by the garden of Sigulda New Castle, you’ll see the Medieval Sigulda Castle (admission fee 2€). This castle dates back 1207! After many restoration work, it is today possible to walk around the ramparts and even go up to the tower. I guess it is a nice place to spend some time with children on a summer day thanks to the medieval games like archery.
From here you have some beautiful views of Gauja Valley and even of Turaida Castle far away.
Next stop is Krimulda which is on the other side of the Gauja river and what other way do you know to cross a river valley? Yes, of course a cable car (7€ one way / 12€ return). Alone this short drive over the Gauja River Valley was it worth this day trip from Riga. The colours reminded of the indian summer (I was there in May). By the way, watch out for the bear hanging on the top of a tree!
After arriving on the other side of the river and walking west for a little while you’ll reach Krimulda Manor, which dates back 1897. It was once a castle for romantic escapes, then it turned into a hospital for tuberculosis patients, today it is a rehabilitation centre. From its terrace you have beautiful views of the Gauja Valley.
After walking down the serpentine road I made a stop at Gutmanis Cave, which is the largest cave in the Baltics. Newly wed couples and couples celebrating their anniversaries come here to drink from the “holy” cave water, which is believed to be healthy helping to live a long life. Another attraction of this cave is the countless inscriptions. Some of them date even back 16th century.
After following the way I finally arrived in Turaida Castle and its heavenly gardens (admission fee 5€), which dates back 1214! It is not a surprise that Turaida means “God’s Garden”.
From the top of the round redbrick tower you have amazingly beautiful views of the Gauja National Park.
When you walk in the area you will see the tomb of Maija Roze, whose romantic love story is probably the most famous legend of Latvia. In the gardens you can see the huge sculptures of some Latvian heroes.
Tip: If you don't fancy walking from Krimulda till Turaida Castle, consider hiring a golf cart with a local guide. You can find them at the cable car in Krimulda. The drive from the station to Turaida Castle via Krimulda Castle and Gutmanis Cave costs 6€.
From Turaida Castle you don’t need to walk all the way back. You can just take the bus line 12 for 0,50€ back to the train station of Sigulda. Check the bus schedule at the ticket office in Turaida Castle.
How to go to Sigulda?
Sigulda is 53 km away from Riga and the drive takes only about 1 hour.
I took the train from Riga to Sigulda, which was a very nice drive through the countryside of Latvia. Check the train schedule from Riga to Sigulda here t the website of Latvian Railways. Check the schedule carefully as it is different during weekends and public holidays. Single ticket costs 1.90€ , while the return ticket costs 3.70€. The last train is at 21:35.
From Sigulda back to Riga I took the bus for 2,50€ one way. You can buy the bus ticket also inside the train station in Sigulda. The ticket office closes at 18:00. Still, after that, you can buy your ticket inside the bus from the driver directly. However you need to wait till everyone else with ticket already took a place. So be careful during high season as it is possible that the bus is already full.
For more insights I recommend Lonely Planet's Travel Guide for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which include chapters for Riga, Jurmala and Sigulda.
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