Kuldīga: A Latvian Retreat
As a Liden and Denz student in Latvia, the most common weekend-away trips I have heard about are to Daugavpils, Vilnius or Tallin. However, one of Latvia’s hidden gems lies in the Western part of the country in the Courland region. This idyllic town is situated very close to the coast with a river leading into the Baltic Sea. Kuldiga is one of the best preserved towns in Latvia and visiting there makes you feel as if you have transported back to the seventeenth century. The town boasts cobble-stoned lanes amongst the historic buildings, not to mention the glorious river running through it. These characteristic features have barely been changed for the past three hundred years. Part of the beauty of Kuldiga is that it can either be a fun-filled day trip from Riga or a tranquil week away.
How to Get to Kuldiga
Getting to Kuldiga could not be easier with affordable options ranging from buses, trains and, of course, driving there. I personally recommend the bus option as they leave numerous times per day from Rīgas SAO so if you miss the first bus you can jump onto the next. This is also very affordable with a round trip costing less than twenty euros per adult. Some of these journeys you have to change once, but direct trips are also available.
The train is also available which leaves Riga hourly. It will cost around five euros for a journey lasting an hour and a half. However, you will have to change at Tukums to catch a bus for a further hour and a half. This will set you back a mere four euros.
A more expensive option is by car which will take take two hours to drive one hundred and fifty kilometres. The benefit of having a car is the reliability of it, but also that you can travel easily around Kuldiga at your leisure.
What to do in Kuldiga
With a quick google search, you will find a huge amount of private tours in Kuldiga. To help you narrow down which one to go for, think about how long you want to spend on the tour and if you want to go hiking or would prefer a leisurely stroll around the historical sites. As the Kuldiga region is rather expansive, make sure to check whether pick-up is included or where the tours leave from. This activity ranges from lasting just a couple of hours to an entire day.
Venta Rapid Waterfall
You will find this extraordinary waterfall on the Venta River which is accessible by foot. It is the widest waterfall in Europe at 249 metres (817 ft), and becomes as wide as 275 metres (902 ft) during spring floods. When the weather is nice and visibility is good, you may even catch fish jumping out of the rapids. As this activity is free of charge, it is suitable for everyone’s budget! For active travellers, I recommend taking a dip in the water if you visit during the summer.
Kuldiga Orthodox Churches
- For history and architecture lovers, this Church is unmissable. The Church was built in 1871 and it has the smallest parish in the city. The dome frescos, as well as portraits of Holy Mary, the Archangel Gabriel and evangelists carved in the Tsarist gate are worth seeing if you have a few hours spare. Unfortunately, this little church only has services a couple times a month, but if you enquire directly with them you can find out when they are.
The Riezupe Sand Caves
- For a unique experience, consider visiting the Riezupe Sand Caves. There are several tours each day offered in Latvian, English and Russian. Why not take this opportunity to practice some Russian whilst on holiday?! The tour will delve into the fascinating history of the cave, how it came to be and some local folklore. As only a small section of the caves can be visited, the tour lasts around twenty minutes. As the cave is of course underground, make sure you wrap up well, and that your phone is well charged to utilise it’s torch!
In this free excursion, you will be led around a 19th Century house depicting the lives of a wealthy family. You will get to experience first hand how families lived before our time and see authentic artefacts from the period. This museum also occasionally hosts specialised exhibitions such as art, photography and war.
Where to Stay
There are a plethora of options as to where to stay in Kuldiga catering for all price ranges. For a luxury stay away, consider staying at the Boutique Hotel Virkas Muiža which offers exquisite, comfortable rooms at a reasonable price (and the breakfast looks divine!).
If you are more independent, entire apartments are available to rent. Try sites like AirBnB or booking.com to view the vast selection.
For nature lovers, try the Graveri kempings. Not only are these cabins cheap, they allow you to relax, recharge and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Kuldiga.
This blog was brought to you by Emily Gray, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz in Riga
These images were taken by Emily Gray.