Kurzeme is the westernmost region of Latvia, along the Baltic Sea.

Cities edit

  • 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.

Other destinations edit

  • 1 Livonian Coast  

Nature and national parks edit

Understand edit

Fortress ruins on the Baltic Sea coast in Karosta, near Liepaja

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.

Until 100 years ago the northern coast was populated with a small autochthonous nation called Livonians who spoke the Livonian language, but they were assimilated into the Latvian nation during the 20th century. Many Latvian cities' names have Livonian etymology. The last native speaker of Livonian died in 2013; there are about 40 reported speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. A traveller may find some remnants of their houses in villages around Mazirbe.

  Distribution where the last Livonian speakers lived
  Historic distribution of the Livonian language in Latvia

Get in edit

Get around edit

Itineraries edit

  • Kurzeme coastline: RīgaEngureRojaKolkaVentspilsJūrkalnePāvilostaLiepājaNīca. 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: RīgaSaldus – Skrunda – Aizpute – Pāvilosta – Alsunga – Kuldīga – Sabile – KandavaTukumsRīga. 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: RīgaTalsi – Dundaga – Pāce – Ance – Ventspils – Ugāle – TukumsRīga. 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.

See edit

  • 3 Irbene Radio Telescope / Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre (Irbenes radioteleskops / Ventspils Starptautiskais Radioastronomijas Centrs), 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.    

Nature edit

  • 4 Pūrciems White Dune (Pūrciema Baltā kāpa), Rojas pagasts (there is a car park right at the main road, from where it is 100 m), +371 63269594, . 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.
  • 5 Kaltene Stony Seaside and Bird-Watching Tower, Roja, +371 63269594, . Stony seashore, nature trails, huge stone stacks, bird-watching platforms, resting places.
  • 6 Small domestic animals at the farm "Apsisi", Ķūļciema pagasts, +371 63254404, +371 29421081, . Pheasants, fowl, crested ducks, geese, peacocks, rabbits, rabbit caves, bees, recreation for families with children, lodging.
  • 7 Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum (Pedvāles mākslas parks), Sabile, +371 63252249, +371 29133374, . Art expositions, modern art and installations in nature park, open-air workshops, open-air exhibitions, walking trails, cafés, lodging. €2.50 (may-october), €3.50 (nov-april).

Culture and traditions edit

Do edit

  • 1 Kalvenes Zoo "Cīruļi" (Kalvenes Zoo Park), Krusāta, +371 29386963, . 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.
  • 2 Sock pub (Zeķu krogs), Sabile, +371 63252789, . Socks, toys, drawings, ancient tools, ties, motorcycles, collection of music recordings, tasting of home-made wines.
  • 3 Zviedru cepure, Matkules pagasts, +371 26405405, . Rodelling track, skiing, snowboarding, horseback rides, lodging, café, ancient Abava valley, recreation for families with children.

Eat edit

  • Sklandrausis (or sklandu rausis) is a 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)
  • 1 Druva ice-cream (Druvas saldējums), Kuldīgas šoseja 4, Druva, Saldus pagasts, Saldus novads, LV-3862, +371 293 976 03, . 09:00-20:00. Try some ice-cream with local berries: quince (cidonijas), sea buckthorn (smiltsērkšķu), gooseberries (ērkšķogu) or even with chicory (cigoriņu). Extremely popular among the locals, hence such long working hours. Be sure to take from the scooping container instead of the packaged version, because they make this ice-cream in house. ~€0.5 per ball.
  • 2 Bakery and bistro Ķipītis, Selgas iela 4, Roja (right next to the Roja Lutheran Basilica), +371 26 373 806, . The place doesn't look like you would ever dare to eat there. But in reality the food is tasty and cheap, and many locals frequent this place; there are also an exhibition of old Soviet TV and radio devices. One should definitely try their delicious sweet carrot pie, or rhubarb pie. It is possible to order a big chunk of pie the day before driving there.

Livonian heritage edit

  • 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.

Festivals edit

  • 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.

Tours edit

Drink edit

Sleep edit

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.), +371 29365455, +371 29186127, . 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 "Ķipītis" hostel (Hostelis Ķipītis), Selgas iela 4, Roja (right next to the Roja Lutheran Basilica), +371 26373806, . A budget accommodation good for a night, but no luxury to be expected. Dorm from €12.
  • 3 Veccepli kempings, Veccepļi, +371 29256740. 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, +371 29168626. 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.

Go next edit

  • 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.

This region travel guide to Kurzeme is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.