From hiking in Gauja National Park to the shores of Jūrmala to Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses – these are the best day trips from Riga, Latvia!
You know, it always weirds me out when people travelling to Europe just stick to the West and the South.
Riga is a hidden gem. No, really: it’s known as an architectural jewel, blending mediaeval buildings and Art Nouveau. It’s also very modern with lots of cool bars and restaurants dotted all over the place.
It’s also a brilliant base for exploring some of the coolest places the Baltics have to offer. There are tons of awesome day trips from Riga that’ll take you to amazing places.
I’m talking ancient, grandiose palaces and national parks. Latvian cities and seaside towns on the edge of the Baltic Sea. Eerie destinations like the Kryžių Kalnas, better known as Hill of Crosses, across the border in Lithuania.
And I’d really recommend getting out of Riga and exploring the countryside. From beautiful beaches to lush forests, Latvia will really surprise you. Curiosity piqued? Great! Now let’s get into the coolest Riga day trips!
Planning a winter trip to Riga? Then check out my guide with all the best things to do in Riga in winter!
13 Best Day Trips from Riga, Latvia
Jūrmala is a fantastic one day trip from Riga that’s at the top of my list.
This coastal resort sits on the edge of the Baltic sea. It’s bordered by a winding 32 km stretch of golden sand and pine forest. Unlike the other seaside resorts you’ve visited though, Jūrmala is characterised by sanatoriums left from the Soviet era and art nouveau villas.
There’s tons to get up to in a day, from unwinding on the beach to meandering around Dzintari Forest Park. Visit a local museum, or feast your eyes on the famous bronze statue “The Turtle”.
Jūrmala can easily be reached by train from Riga and takes around half an hour making it a perfect day trip. Head in the direction of Tukums, Kemeri or Sloka, and exit at Majori station. Or if it’s easier because you’re on holiday, you can take a guided tour!
Alternatively, if you’re planning your own trip here, then check out this article on how to plan the perfect day trip to Jurmala.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
A visit to Hill of Crosses will take you out of Latvia and into neighbouring Lithuania, where you’ll have a chance to see one of the most fascinating places in the country.
Known locally as Kryžių Kalnas, Hill of Crosses is near the town of Šiauliai. And while it looks a little eerie from a distance, it’s actually a sacred place and Lithuania’s largest pilgrimage site.
Hill of Crosses has a rich history. During the Soviet era, the crosses were confiscated by the authorities yet locals kept replenishing them. It’s known today as a symbol of faith and Lithuanian freedom.
Hill of Crosses is about a two hour drive from Riga, or you can take the bus. However, it’s probably simplest to book a tour to really get a sense of the place from your local guide.
Sigulda is easily one of the best Riga day trips. Famously known as the ‘Switzerland of Latvia’, Sigulda is located within Gauja National Park so it’s surrounded by its stunning, sweeping natural scenery.
Sigulda is a destination in its own right though, especially for the adventurers and adrenaline junkies among us. You’ll find obstacle courses, bungee jumping, ziplines to ride, plus activities along the river.
It’s a super easy journey: the train from Riga takes just over an hour. Alternatively, there are tours you can take to Sigulda combined with the national park or castle ruins.
Gauja National Park
If wild beauty is more your thing though, why not spend the entire day at Gauja National Park?
This is the largest of Latvia’s national parks, and you’ll have no shortage of incredible natural scenery to see. Picture a sea of pine trees, rivers (including the famous Gauja River) and cliff edges, populated by birds and animals such as bears, lynx, and wolves.
Gauja is perfect for hiking, cycling and kayaking, the wilderness is broken up with castles, manors, windmills, and even a Chair Museum, so there’s plenty to do. The park can be reached by train or bus in around 3 hours, but the simplest way to explore the area is probably to take a tour.
Turaida Museum Reserve
Also in Gauja National Park, not far from Sigulda, you’ll find Turaida Museum Reserve.
Now, technically, you could visit Turaida at the same time as either of the above. But I’d make a case for spending an entire day here. After all, the reserve covers a whopping 43.63 hectares.
Turaida is home to a sprawling mediaeval castle, packed full of history. From the top of its main tower, you can see the Gauja River and valley’s most breathtaking views. Standing alongside the castle ruins are a 1700s church and a park full of unique folk sculptures, so there’s lots to see.
The reserve isn’t far at all from Sigulda, but as I said you can combine both with a tour easily.
Kemeri National Park
Gauja is far from the only national park Latvia has to offer. Kemeri National Park is also one of the best day trips from Riga, for totally different reasons.
Firstly, the landscape of Kemeri is unlike what you’ll find anywhere else. It contains miles of forest and bogland, and even has one of the Baltics’ most famous, the Great Kemeri Bog. The landscape is both eerie and dreamy and the bog and mud are thought to have healing properties.
Kemeri is an hour from Riga, but the simplest way to visit by far is to take a guided tour of the highlights. This is a fantastic way of seeing what Latvia has to offer too.
Cēsis is another one of Latvia’s coolest towns that I’d really recommend exploring.
Only an hour away, this is one of the best day trips from Riga by train. The most popular local attraction by far is Cēsis Castle, along with its surrounding grounds and dungeons. It’s been standing since the 13th century and with a rich history and heritage, it has its fair share of stories.
Aside from the castle, Cēsis is a town home to pretty, narrow streets and an ancient church. This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Latvia in my books.
We’ve talked about castles and palaces, but none quite compare to Rundāle Palace. This is one of my absolute favourite buildings in Latvia; a beautiful Baroque palace steeped in 200 years of history, Rundāle Palace has been standing since 1768.
You can easily spend a whole day here, wandering through elaborate and ornate rooms and the gardens that surround it. It’s a 3 hour bus ride from Riga to the palace, so I’d recommend booking a tour instead so everything is taken care for you.
Kuldīga is one western Latvia’s prettiest villages and an off-the-beaten track destination I highly recommend ticking off your bucket list.
Roam through romantic, mediaeval streets adorned with 18th and 19th century houses, brimming with charm and character, and admire the historic bridge.
Kuldīga is only a couple of hours from Riga, but it takes a good 3 hours on the bus. Without a rental car, your best option is to take a tour. I recommend this one – you also get the chance to see the Venta Waterfall (otherwise known as the Kuldiga rapids), and the eerie town of Sabile, its record-breaking open-air vineyard and its eerie Garden of Dolls.
Jēkabpils and Krustpils
Jēkabpils and Krustpils are two cities divided by the Daugava River, but you can easily combine the two of them in a day trip from Riga. The journey is super simple too with a direct, 2 hour bus route.
Most of the attractions you’ll want to see are actually in Jēkabpils: you’ll find lakes, landmarks and museums, but the main highlight is actually Krustpils Castle. Standing since the 13th century and restored in recent memory, it’s home to some of Latvia’s richest history.
Cape Kolka is one of the coolest places in Latvia. Where the waves of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga meet, it’s a combination of dramatic scenery and rich heritage.
Explore the local village or climb the looming tower of the Kolka lighthouse. Embrace the rugged scenery of the coast, or head inland to explore Slītere National Park. The choice is entirely yours.
Again, Cape Kolka is tricky to visit without a car, so I’d recommend booking this tour – it’s one of my favourite Riga day tours and you’ll get the chance to see the White Dune of Pūrciems and explore the Ēvaži Steep nature trail too.
Nature Park Piejūra
Piejūra is a nature reserve located at the point where the Gauja River meets the Latvian coast. That means it’s a really biodiverse area, with lots of different ecosystems: from pine forests split by lakes to sandy shore beaches.
It’s one of the best places to see nature and the sweeping scenery that Latvia has to offer. Hiking is probably my personal favourite way to explore Piejūra and there’s lots of trails to take.
To get to Piejūra, you’ll need to get a 45 minute train from Gauja or Lilaste; you can walk the rest of the way from either. If that sounds like too much hassle, you can go with a guide (you’ll be shown the best hiking spots this way too).
While I do recommend visiting the city of Daugavpils – there’s lots of cool stuff to see, including Daugavpils Fortress – the main reason it’s a one day trip from Riga is because it’s a taste of the Latgale region.
Latgale is an ancient part of Latvia, one of the historic Latvian Lands. It’s huge; in fact, it makes up a quarter of the whole country. Locally known as the Land of Blue Lakes, it’s one of the coolest spots in the country for nature. From Daugavpils you can easily reach the lakes of Daugava and Šuņezers
Now I will warn you, Daugavpils is a fair distance from Riga. By car or by train, you’re looking at around 3 hours. But it’s an awesome base for exploring a slice of the Latgale region and in my opinion, that’s an absolute must!
And that’s a wrap! Are you planning an adventure in Latvia? What day trips have made it into your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!
Another really popular trip nearby is the Helsinki Tallinn ferry. This is one of the best ways of getting between the two cities and it’s super fun too. If you’re planning on doing this, you can check out my Tallinn ferry guide here.
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