|ĶEMERU National park
Visitor centre: Meža māja, Ķemeri, Jūrmala
|Distance from Riga: 45km
Phone: +371 67146824
The Ķemeri National Park was established in 1997 and mostly involves wetlands – the shallow shores of the Bay of Rīga, an overgrown seaside lake, vast swamps, damp forests and fens, and flood-land meadows. The park is enormously important for protecting plants (25% of those recorded in Latvia’s Red Book are found in the park) and animals, particularly nesting and migrating birds.
The once-famous Ķemeri Spa was based on the availability of these resources. Most of the cultural and historical objects in the Ķemeri National Park relate to the seashore as a place for leisure and recuperation.
- Guided tours in nature trails: walking trail of Lake Sloka with a bird-watching tower (the main circle ~3km, there are alternatives to extend a walk up to 12 km), the Dumbrāji trail (550m), the restored Slampe River and watching the livestock adapted to life in the wild at Dunduri meadows.
- Guided bird watching. In a short period of time it is possible to see about seven species of birds. Ķemeri National Park is one of the best places for woodpecker watching. In the autumn and spring, thousands of migrating geese and cranes use the park to rest and spend the night.
- Ķemeri National Park – the Great Ķemeri Bog Boardwalk (walking distances 2 or 4km).
|GAUJA National Park
Visitor centre: Sigulda regional tourist information
|Distance from Riga: 54 km
Phone: +371 67971335
The Gauja National Park, established in 1973, was Latvia’s first national park, and it has a wealth of tradition in environmental protection and tourism. The main “artery” of the park is the 95km long ancient Gauja River valley, which was left behind when Ice Age glaciers receded. The territory has a great diversity of species – some 900 plant species in all. The Gauja is Latvia’s most popular river for water tourism. The Gauja National Park is one of the best-appointed protected territories in Latvia in terms of nature trails and tourism routes. Nature trails at Līgatne pass along paddocks of wild animals – the largest and most complete object of its kind in the Baltic States. The park also features cultural monuments of pan-Baltic importance – the Turaida Museum Reserve, the medieval old town of Cēsis with its famous castle ruins and St John’s Church, the lake castle at Āraiši.
- Guided walks in Līgatne nature trails. The total distance is more than 5 km long trails. Visitors can see wild animals and birds characteristic for the fauna of Latvia: roe deer, wild boar, bears, foxes, elks, lynx, owls, eagle-owls and aurochs.
- Guided fungi tours with a professional mycologist in a forest collecting or taking photos of edible and non-edible mushrooms: chanterelles, russulas, Chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus), Lurid Bolete (Boletus luridus), edible tree-fungus – Sheep polypore (popular in Scandinavian cooking) (Albatrellus ovinus), Golden corall (Ramaria aurea), (Hapalopilus croceus), European bolete (Boletus edulis), golden Coral Tooth (Hericium coralloides). Fungi tours are available in mid-August to end of September when mushrooms are growing in the forests.
- Canoeing Gauja river from Cēsis to Līgatne (~17 km, 4-5 h) which is one of the picturesque parts of the river Gauja where sand stone banks are visible.
|SLĪTERE National Park
Visitor centre: SIA Kolkasrags, Brigas, Kolka, Kolkas pagasts, Dundagas novads
|Distance from Riga: 192km
The Slītere National Park (established in 2000) is known, with good reason, as an open-air museum which shows the historical development of the Baltic Sea. Nowadays evidence of geological events is seen in the Blue Hills of Slītere, which stand 20 to 30 metres high above what was the shore of the Baltic lake of ice 10,000 years ago. The gentle climate is the reason why so many rare plants are found in the park – some 860 in all including Common Yew (Taxus baccata) and Baltic Ivy (Hedera helix var. baltica). Of certain value in the preservation of these treasures was the Soviet military machine, which has left behind army bases and other military objects in the area. The presence of the military meant that the area of what is now the Slītere National Park remained largely undisturbed for 50 years. The park includes one of the most popular tourist destinations in Latvia – the Cape of Kolka. During the spring migration of birds, more than 60,000 birds cross the cape each hour. Along the shore of the Baltic Sea is the so-called Livonian coast, which stretches from Kolka to Sīkrags and Ovīši. Fishing villages and other cultural objects established by the world’s smallest ethnic minority, the Livonians, can be found here along the beautiful, unpopulated golden sandy beach.
- Guided walks in nature trails: 0.3-3.5km long nature trails presenting the protected nature values and landscapes.
- Hiking routes: 3-7km long hiking routes introducing the local heritage of nature, history and culture.
- Wildlife. The geographic location and diversity of biotopes of the Slītere National Park ensure a wealth of mammals. You have every opportunity to hear hooting owns, rooting bucks and howling wolves. You may smell a racoon dog, run into a doe with her fawns, watch a beaver building a home, or spot a group of stags swimming in a lake during the foggy morning. Most of the more than 40 species of mammals in the Slītere National Park are shy and hard to spot. The afforested nature of the territory ensures diversity of fauna, but it also makes it more difficult to spot animals.
Animal-watching at the Slītere National Park is only possible in the presence of a guide, and only for small groups of one to five people.