Gauja National Park

Gauja National Park


Location: Cēsis    Map

Area: 917 km² (92000 ha)


Gauja National Park is a natural reserve in Cēsis region in Latvia. This nature reserve derives its name from a valley of a Gauja river. Covering an area of 917 km² it is largest and oldest national park in the country found in September of 1973. The banks of the river are largely made up from sandstone cliffs that were formed during Devonian period. In some areas they reach a height of 90 meters. Despite temptation to jump from these geological formations it is not advisable to carry out this practice due to low water level in some places. Nicknamed a "Livonian Switzerland" it attracts thousands of tourists every year. Some of the caves in the sandstone cliffs preserve graffiti of hikers who visited these places in the 19th century. Most of the land area of the Gauja National Park are covered by pine and spruce forests as well as 900 other plant species. Additionally there are 48 species of mammals and 149 species of birds. Reserve has several lakes within its borders, but its largest lake is a Lake Ungurs.

One of the most notable sights in the ancient valleys of Gauja National Park is a medieval Āraišu Lake Castle as well as Soviet secret underground bunker of Ligatne that was constructed to protect population in case of a nuclear war between Soviet Union and United States.


Hiking in the park
Walking through the entire park from Valmiera to Sigulda is 90 kilometers along the Gaujajoki (Koivajoki), but by changing the starting place, the distance can be shortened or extended. The flow of the Gauja River is quite fast for the paddler, but it does not have difficult rapids. Due to its rapids, the Gaata tributary Amata is clearly more demanding for paddlers, especially during the spring floods. There are canoe rentals, campfire sites and campsites for hikers.

The park also offers cycling. The body of the route is the part of the LatEst bicycle route from Valmiera via Cēsis to Sigulda. The entire route extends all the way to Southern Estonia, and there are many cultural sites and accommodation along it.