Kurzeme is the westernmost region of Latvia, along the Baltic Sea.
- 1 Liepāja – Named "the city of wind", and the southwestern most city of Latvia. Famous for its sandy beach, numerous music events, and the largest organ in the world. It features modern architecture and a long history along with the formerly secret Soviet military neighbourhood of Karosta (literally: War Port).
- 2 Ventspils – A modern and artistic sea resort city in the north-west part of Latvia, has many things to see, and is one of the tidiest places in the region. A long-stretching beach and recreational park provide everything for a relaxing holiday week or weekend. It gets its prosperity from the huge ice-free port, which is the busiest port in the Baltic states, and the oil transit business.
- 3 Kuldīga – The capital of Duchy of Courland, Venice of Latvia, with unique and wooden architecture, red-tile roofs, bridges, cobbled streets, the widest widest waterfall ledge in Europe, and nearby the longest underground (sand) cave labyrinth in the Baltics.
- 4 Saldus – An important cultural, educational, business and trade centre that boasts a very active cultural life, with local musicians, poets, painters and artists. It is home to a music school (1946) and an art school (1984).
- 5 Talsi – A town on nine hills with old town, lake, cobbled streets, picturesque hills, walking trails, and the "Kokletajs" monument (Kokle player).
- 6 Aizpute – A town of medieval atmosphere with little irregular streets, old wooden buildings, small lakes and castle ruins
- 7 Roja – A town with a port and some sights (see below).
- 8 Pāvilosta – A small fishing village with nice beach, camping and museum.
- 1 Livonian Coast (everything between Cape Kolka and Ovīši). Livonians, a homogenous ethnic group, have survived the longest in Northern Kurzeme. During Soviet times, many Livonians were “pushed out” by the military, due to the strategic importance of the region. The remaining 12 Livonian villages,have managed to survive till today, are: Ovīši, Lūžņa, Miķeļtornis, Lielirbe, Sīkrags, Mazirbe, Košrags, Pitrags, Saunags, Vaide, Kolka and Melnsils. Here you can learn about the history and culture of the Livonia, see an authentic tavern and community house.
- 1 [dead link] Livonian Folk House, Kolkas pagasts, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The only Livonian folk house in the world, Livonian culture, exhibitions, collection of household objects, celebration of Livonian holidays.
- 2 Oviši Lighthouse (Ovišu bāka), Tārgales pagasts, ☏ . The oldest navigation building (1814) in Latvia with a 37 m high tower and a lighthouse history exposition at the seashore.
- 3 Miķeļbāka Lighthouse, Miķeļtornis, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
Nature and national parksEdit
- 2 Slīteres National Park (Slīteres nacionālais parks), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Nature trails, bicycle routes, Livonian shore, blue hills, guides, tours, bird-watching. Slītere National Park is a specially protected nature area founded in 1923 as the Šlītere nature monument at Šlītere Manor. In 1957 the territory was expanded and renamed Slītere Nature Reserve. The current area was established in 2000, when it was named a national park, and covers 16,414 ha. The national park protects the stunning Cape Kolka – between it and the Bažu bog 150–180 dunes and depressions alternate, marvellously visible on a satellite map. Also, the park includes the Slītere Lighthouse and at least two observation towers (see sleep section).
- 4 Cape Kolka (Kolkasrags), Kolkas pagasts, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Cape, lighthouse on an artificial island, sandbank, bird-watching, café, boat rental, smoked fish, fishermen villages. Also, see: http://kolkasrags.lv
- 5 Bažu bog (Bažu purva rezervāts). The largest swamp of the Slīteres National Park, covering 1,880 ha. The bog is not as impressive as the Great Ķemeri Moorland, but worth while you are there. A satellite image provides a good map of potential trails, many of which are artificial tracks running through the swamp in horizontal and vertical direction.
- 6 Slītere Lighthouse (Šlīteres bāka), ☏ . Sa Su 10–17:00. Located near the Šlītere Blue Mountains, 5.3 km from the coast. The 5th floor of the lighthouse is 100 m above sea level with a magnificent view of the Slitea National Park and the Baltic Sea.
- 3 The Grey Dune of Pavilosta (Pāvilostas pelēkā kāpa). A nature reserve of 42 ha protecting Latvia’s widest dune (1.5 km long, 812 m wide) and its biotopes and species. A 7 two-storied watching platform is there to savour the scenery.
- 4 Pape Nature Reserve (Dabas parks Pape). Has wild horses and wild boar and a wild coast. A large park near the Lithuanian border with accommodation options and a lighthouse.
The main attraction of this region is the Baltic Sea coast, an end of the world landscape beaten by the winds. The coastal roads allow to appreciate its wonderful landscapes.
During the period of Soviet occupation the coastline was a restricted military area, because it was easy to leave the country on a boat. One could reach Pelēkā kāpa if one didn't leave footprints on the sand. To get around this problem locals wore tin cans under their shoes.
100 years ago the northern coast was populated with a small autochthonous nation called Livonia, but they were assimilated into Latvian nation. The last native speaker of Livonian died in 2013. A traveller may find some remnants of their houses in villages around Mazirbe.
- Kurzeme coastline: Rīga – Engure – Roja – Kolka – Ventspils – Jūrkalne – Pāvilosta – Liepāja – Nīca. A 400 km route along the Baltic seashore, abundant in natural and cultural heritage, gives an opportunity to learn how locals live and rest at the sea. Apart from many ancient fishermen villages nestled along the seashore, two beautiful cities: Ventspils and Liepāja — are worth visiting.
- Romantic small towns of Kurzeme: Rīga – Saldus – Skrunda – Aizpute – Pāvilosta – Alsunga – Kuldīga – Sabile – Kandava – Tukums – Rīga. One of the most picturesque routes in Kurzeme, as it offers to see the beautiful nature of Kurzeme, manors, castles and churches surrounded by centuries old trees, ancient Aizpute with its romantic wooden buildings, the sweetest town in Latvia – Saldus, the rich in traditions Suiti region in Alsunga, the old capital of Kurzeme – Kuldiga, and the ancient Abava valley rich in landscapes and cultural heritage.
- The Green Circle of Northern Kurzeme: Rīga – Talsi – Dundaga – Pāce – Ance – Ventspils – Ugāle – Tukums – Rīga. Northern Kurzeme offers natural diversity – listen to bird songs at Lake Kanieris and Engure, watch the blue cows and wild horses, enjoy the sunrise and the sunset and watch the waves of two seas meet at Cape Kolka etc.
- 8 Irbene Radio Telescope (Irbenes radioteleskops / Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre), Irbene (1.5 km from the Livonian Coast highway). The biggest of northern Europe and the world's eighth-largest radio telescope. Before reaching the telescope, one will pass by an former Soviet and now abandoned ghost town, which allows for some distinct pictures.
- 9 Pūrciems White Dune (Baltā kāpa), Rojas pagasts (there is a car park right at the main road, from where it is 100 m), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Dune at the bank of the River Pilsupe, 20 m high, nature trail, wooden footbridges, viewing platforms, resting places, parking lot. It is not really white though, more a yellowish. Also, do not expect a dune in a regular sense, more a high and steep hang of sand towards the river. The dune itself is covered by forest, so the rest looks pretty much like an ordinary hill. Not worth coming here just for the sight, only if you go by anyhow. It is a nice 1.5 km nature walk.
- 10 Kaltene Stony Seaside and Bird-Watching Tower, Roja, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Stony seashore, nature trails, huge stone stacks, bird-watching platforms, resting places.
- 11 Small domestic animals at the farm "Apsisi"., Ķūļciema pagasts, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Pheasants, fowl, crested ducks, geese, peacocks, rabbits, rabbit caves, bees, recreation for families with children, lodging.
- 12 Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum, Sabile, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Art expositions, modern art and installations in nature park, open-air workshops, open-air exhibitions, walking trails, cafés, lodging.
Culture and traditionsEdit
- 13 Roja Marine Fisheries Museum, Rojas pagasts, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Fishermen traditions, tools, souvenirs, pier, beach, boat tours, yacht harbour, horseback rides, golf in the meadows.
- 14 Museum of Latvian Agriculture, Talsi, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. 19–20th century household tools, agriculture machinery, exhibitions, events, library, tours.
- 15 [dead link] Folklore Trail "Jankalni", Lībagu pagasts, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Ornaments of ancestors, Latvian deities, Latvian food, folksongs, labyrinth, countryside bathhouse, lodging.
- 5 [dead link] Kalvenes Zoo "Cīruļi" (Kalvenes Zoo Park), Krusāta, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Nov–Feb 10–16:00, Jun–Aug 10–18:00, rest 10–17:00. It is worth visiting this park, which is very big and where animals have bigger space to live than usually in city zoos. Adults: €4.
- 6 Sock pub (Zeķu krogs), Sabile, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Socks, toys, drawings, ancient tools, ties, motorcycles, collection of music recordings, tasting of home-made wines.
- 7 Zviedru cepure, Matkules pagasts, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rodelling track, skiing, snowboarding, horseback rides, lodging, café, ancient Abava valley, recreation for families with children.
- Sklandrausis (or sklandu rausis) is traditional dish in Latvian cuisine which has a Livonian origin; it's a sweet pie, made of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot paste and seasoned with a caraway. It's widespread in Kurzeme.
- Many fish dishes
- biguzis (layered rye bread dessert)
- bukstiņputra (pearl barley or fine-ground barley with lard and boiled potato)
- For Livonians, fish represented the main foods, particularly flounders and Baltic herring (boiled, baked, salted, dried or smoked).
- During the 19th and 20th centuries, Livonians also ate porridge (rok), sour porridge (appõnrok) made from wheat flour and milk. Fermented milk was then added to the hot porridge. The porridge was eaten when it was cold and soured.
- No-yeast buns stuffed with potatoes, carrots and cream (sūrkakūd) were popular. These were baked for celebrations and remain popular today
- White sausages made of groats (sūrmõd mõka) were an ancient food. The sausages did not involve blood, but they were stuffed into cattle intestines with boiled groats, bacon and onions.
- Rye bread (riggi lēba) was baked on Saturday and eaten frugally.
Traditional Livonian foods today can be found at the Ūši campsite in Kolka and the Stūrīši-Branki guesthouse in Mazirbe. Some of the foods are also served in Dundaga Castle.
- Home Cafe Days (Mājas kafejnīcu dienas), Dundagas pagasts, Kolkas pagasts. June 1-2. Some local farms and cafes offer tasting some local cuisine around Kolka and Dundaga.
- 8 Latvian Dairy Museum, Rudbāržu pagasts, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Milking a cow, churning butter, tasting cheese, games, attractions, manor.
- 9 Sweets Tour in Saldus #1, Saldus, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Sweets production facilities, milk toffee "Gotiņa", cakes, honey, bread, degustation, baking pasties.
- 10 Sweets Tour in Saldus #2, Kuldīgas šoseja 4, Druva, Saldus pagasts, Saldus novads, LV-3862, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-16:00. Sweets production facilities, ice-cream.
In the following a list of various accommodation options in the region worth mentioning and outside of the above covered cities, towns, and parks:
- 1 Rindas Skola, Rinda (Walk from the coastal "highway" by the abandoned soviet town and the impressive and largest Radio Telescope of Northern Europe.), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Not as great as the online ratings suggest, but decent and good value for money. Double bed rooms with shared bathroom. Their main business is renting canoes and giving tours. 2nd email address. €10 per person (1–4 people).
- 2 [dead link] Hostelis Kipitis, Selgas iela 4, Roja (right next to the Roja Lutheran Basilica), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A budget accommodation good for a night, but no luxury to be expected. Dorm from €12.
- 3 Veccepli kempings, Veccepļi, ☏ . A family vacation place, with carousel and other amenities for kids. Specialised in providing fishing boat and supporting gear. The interior of the accommodation is minimalistic, and a small shop is a little more than 2 km away. Double from €15.
- 4 Ivandes Muiza, Skolas nams, Īvande, ☏ . Incredible surrounding (2 monuments, 2 parks, etc.) and palace-like accommodation. Even though a little worn. But who would argue at this price. Dorm from €11.
Sometimes observation towers with roof can be good solution for overnighting in the middle of nowhere, if you got a sleeping bag and mattress.
- 5 Cape Kolka Observation Tower (Skatu tornis). 20 m in height. Space for 4–6 mattresses. Very windy on the top level, which could spoil the shelter functionality.
- 6 Šlīteres National Park Observation Tower (nearby the Šlīteres Lighthouse, right at the road). Space for 3–6 mattresses. At the road, which can be loud in the morning.
- Riga region – Starting or finishing point for most people coming to Latvia, and also home to numerous sights worth visiting, like Riga and its old city, the holiday and sea resort town of Jūrmala, Sigulda and its castles, as well as The Great Ķemeri Moorland.
- Zemgale – Flattest region in Latvia, and famous for the neighbouring and historically related Jelgava Palace and Rundāle Palace, near Jelgava and Bauska, respectively.
- Lithuania – Popular sights include Klaipeda with the famous Curonian Spit, Šiauliai with the Hill of Crosses, the interesting Kaunas, and the number one attraction of the Baltics, its capital Vilnius.
- Kaliningrad – A Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania.