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There’s one very long hiking trail in Latvia.
It’s called Mežtaka (Forest Trail), and it connects Lithuania to Estonia.
A couple days ago I decided to try and cycle one part of this long distance trail, to check out if that’s even possible on the Valmiera – Sigulda section, and to see how hard is it. I thought that it must be doable, so I didn’t do any research, and just went on a cycling adventure from Valmiera to Cesis to Sigulda.
I did it. It was challenging at some parts, but I loved it.
Here are the things I learned along the way + a lot of photos.
1. Cycling Valmiera – Cesis – Sigulda: Basics
Not all of this trail is marked yet in 2020, but this part is.
That means it is possible to do the whole ride without looking on the map. I, however, used an offline map of the trail. I downloaded the GPX file and imported it into Osmand app. Worked perfectly.
GPX FILE OF THE ROUTE (by day and whole route): click here.
Download the version with waypoints to learn about beautiful sights on the way.
DISTANCE: around 59 miles / 95 km.
TIME: around 12 hours.
That included a few stops, visiting some beautiful sights on the way, and rushing on the last part from Ligatne to Sigulda to arrive there shortly after the sunset. It’s not a very easy ride.
It’s better to split this into two days, or be ready that it can be challenging.
TIPS: remember that as a day trip it is a challenging ride. Especially if you want to visit at least a few of the sights on the way. In these places often you have to push or carry your bicycle up and down the stairs. As a challenge – it’s a very beautiful challenge. Shops, cafes and guest houses are in the towns. There are some campsites on the trail.
If you need a bike, it’s very easy to rent a bicycle in Riga.
2. What is the Trail Like on Mežtaka?
It varies a lot.
There are forest trails with roots, even trails, small hills, gravel roads, muddy paths, wooden pathways with stairs you have to take, like in the very last part – it’s a LONG climb up the stairs to get to Sigulda. Some 30% of the trail are on tarmac roads in the woods. In some parts you are cycling across the grass fields.
Here are some photos of the trail.
3. Valmiera – Cesis
My initial plan was to cycle all the way from Valmiera to Riga.
I thought it’s gonna be around 68 miles / 110 kilometers, and it seemed like an okay distance for a challenging day trip in the woods. Turned out that the distance is longer when you are cycling in the woods, and you can’t really carry your bicycle too fast. What a surprise, huh?
Valmiera to Cesis section starts with a short ride through the city.
Then there’s a bit more of tarmac road, then you are on the fields, and in the forest soon afterwards.
There are two particularly beautiful sights on the Valmiera – Cesis section.
The first one is Sietiniezis rock / cliff. It’s closer to Valmiera.
It’s very easy to miss the best part of it. One stairs lead to river Gauja. It’s not the best part of this cliff. The other is a 5-minute walk further. There are wooden stairs all along the cliff. And it’s a really beautiful place.
The other one is Erglu Cliffs. Near Cesis.
We visited the place a week earlier on a day trip from Riga to Cesis.
Here are a few photos of this section.
4. Cesis – Sigulda
This is the moment I realized that my progress is too slow.
Getting from Valmiera to Cesis took me around 5 hours, the total distance was around 30 miles / 48 km.
So, I thought, okay, I’ll just cycle from Cesis to Sigulda, and then I’ll see.
Whether I’m taking a train from Sigulda to Riga, or I’m cycling.
There are two sights on the Cesis – Sigulda section I remember the best.
The first one is Zvartes Rock.
It’s a beautiful cliff, and it’s definitely worth to put in the extra effort to cross the river and to climb the stairs on the other side of the cliff.
The other one is the Amata Geological Trail. It starts from the same place.
A very beautiful trail right next to Amata river. Ends in a car park.
About 1/4 of it you’ll be walking and pushing your bicycle.
Here are a few photos of this section.
4.1 Ligatne – Sigulda
The part of the ride I was just pushing on. Not taking photos or videos.
I knew that the sun is setting very soon, so I just pushed on.
There’s one thing I remember this part for. The trail and roads there are very good for cycling / mountain biking. Yes, these still are forest trails, but if you put in some effort (if you still have energy), it can be a very fun ride. It was fun for me. So I pushed my bike very little bit, riding the biggest part of this section.
And I also remember the stairs.
The seemingly (almost) never-ending climb up to Sigulda.
Then that was it. The beautiful Valmiera – Cesis – Sigulda ride was over.
5. It’s a Very Beautiful Route
Yes, the Mežtaka (Forest Trail) is very new.
But it’s made of a bunch of hiking trails that have been there for decades.
These are the trails that our parents and grandparents knew about. These are some of the most beautiful places in Latvia that have been visited by generations. So it’s not just some trail through some forests.
It’s a trail connecting some of the best sights in Latvia.
Here are some more photos from my Valmiera – Cesis – Sigulda ride.
Have you been to Latvia? Have you tried cycling in Latvia? What was your experience?