National Geographic Traveller (UK)



Latvia has created its own stretch of the Camino de Santiago — Camino Latvia — which runs diagonally across the country. Mostly flat, it can be tackled in 18 stages from Valka, bordering Estonia, to Žagarė, across the Lithuanian border. Here are three of the best.


Riga sits two-thirds of the way along the 350-mile pilgrimage route. Still, most internatio­nal visitors will start here and dip into the final six stages through western Latvia. The first 10-mile stretch leaves Riga’s St Jacob Catholic Cathedral and slices across the pretty, pastel-hued old town before crossing the Daugava River. Pedestrian and bicycle paths weave through the leafy residentia­l suburbs that segue into hobby farms. Soon they meet up with the Mārupīte River and hug the riverbanks toward Jaunmārupe, a town of Sovietstyl­e brutalist architectu­re and asymmetric, modernist houses.


Serious walkers might opt to tackle the 16 miles onwards to Tīreļi.

The path ducks into the woods just outside Jaunmārupe and crosses acres of birch forest in the Cenas Tīrelis nature reserve. Halfway along, it meets a former First World War battlefiel­d, where Latvian soldiers vanquished the Germans at Christmas in 1916.

Near Tīreļi, on a gravel path amid fields of wildflower­s, is an observatio­n tower with views over the treetops to the sea, while pinstraigh­t paths stretch through the woods to the town’s crossroads. Just beyond Tīreļi, walk across the Lielupe River on a truss bridge overlookin­g the countrysid­e.


The easiest section of the Camino unfolds 11 miles from the sleepy village of Līvbērze, an hour’s drive from Riga. Start at the town’s only crossroads and follow the old trackway to the artfully peeling one-room church in Bērze. Empty country roads carry on across the plains — just off-piste in a heritage farmhouse is the Pikšas museum, devoted to agricultur­al livestock and farm implements. After a few hours, Dobele emerges from the grasslands. The gothic ruins of Dobele Castle — built in the 14th century during the Livonian Crusade — rise dramatical­ly over a bend in the River Bērze.

 ??  ?? The forest meets the beach at Jūrkalne,
a village a short drive west of Kuldīga
The forest meets the beach at Jūrkalne, a village a short drive west of Kuldīga

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