Travel,  Latvia

A Great Day Trip from Riga to Kemeri

We had more than a few days in the lovely city of Riga, Latvia and so it was a good idea to explore some place outside town as well. Kemeri National park [Latvian: Ķemeru nacionālais parks] – about an hour away from the city has some unique and abundant nature to explore. The beach town of Jurmala was also on our mind as it’s en route to Kemeri but thanks to the weather and lack of time we had to skip it. Surely, the beach would be amazing in summer but now it’s the beginning of autumn and the winds are chilly.

This day trip from Riga to Kemeri needs a detailed post as it’s not straightforward as to how to get to Kemeri bog boardwalk or what exactly to do in the Kemeri National Park area. Let’s start with how we got there.

Getting to Kemeri

Public transport. We took the train from Riga Central Station, which is walking distance from the Old Town. Google maps directions suggested the next train going towards Kemeri at about 11AM. This train stops at a place called Sloka, from where google suggested taking a Bolt ride to Kemeri. Bolt, as you might know, is the Uber around here and is quite affordable. This is, however, a tricky option because the Bolt rides so far out of the city were few and the waiting times may be long.

There’s also trains going to the Kemeri station. This is the best option if you’re taking public transport. But the trains don’t go so frequently, once an hour or so. One tip I would like to give you already – leave earlier! Unlike us, at 10.30AM. We would reach Kemeri only around noon and find that there’s great distances to cover.

Anyway, we bought tickets to Sloka from the ticket counter at the station. A roundtrip ticket costs 4€ per person. The trains are pretty old fashioned. A conductor comes to check everyone’s tickets and in our case she also tried to give us some advice, in Latvian and some Yes and Nos.. maybe we looked like lost tourists? In the end I just nodded like yeah, yeah, we know where we are going 🙂 One thing that’s nice about Riga – the people are helpful. Their English might be limited but they try anyhow.

The train ride was really nice, the sceneries, vintage like train, uncrowded, kind people, small town stops with interesting names.. made us think that taking the train was totally worth it.

Some snaps from the train journey that was approx. 1 hr and below some screenshots of the route. We followed Google maps directions on this one. It was interesting when the train was going parallel to the shoreline, we could almost see the the open beach at one point.

Arrived at the last stop – Sloka station. Few people around and just a pigeon to greet us. Trains continuing to Kemeri station go a few more stops from here. The guy at the small kiosk by the station gave us some info as I asked how to get to Kemeri while getting a coffee. He spoke English and came out of the shop to point out the bus stop too. Oh by the way, you can find some good snacks at this kiosk which would be very handy for the trip! There were basically NO shops, restaurants or cafes in the national park area. We had a few oat flapjacks, nut mix, chips and water with us.

Ok so, google did not suggest this but there’s a Bus no. 6 going from Sloka to Kemeri from the stop right near the station. We went there to wait not sure when it would arrive. I checked the Bolt app and as it happened there was a ride 5 minutes away. We decided to ditch the bus and get the cab so that we could reach Kemeri before the weather turns. It was a sunny but cool 16°C that day and the forecast said it would be rainy after 3PM.

Kemeri National Park

An area of unique biodiversity including the wetlands and the Great Kemeri Bog – largest of it’s kind in Latvia and the largest one I’ve ever seen – Kemeri National park was in general a large area and it’s not possible to cover it all on foot in a day. All I knew is that I want to do the Kemeri boardwalk trail through the Bog. This was especially interesting to me as I’ve done some research on boreal peatlands for my Masters thesis 🤓.

We also wanted to check out the birdwatching tower plus reed trail but this happened to be in the opposite direction to the bog. There is some info on the official website of the park, only in Latvian though so you will have to open it with google translate.

We had set the drop off location to Kemeri National Park (the place marked as ‘Kemeri National Park’ on google maps) on the Bolt App. We didn’t know where else to start. After the 10 minute drive (cost about 6€) we were dropped off at the ‘centre’ of the national park area. Here we see a signboard – it was also the start of the ‘Green Dune’ hiking trail. Ok, this was not on our to-do list for the day but we started following it while wondering if it would take us towards the bog.. or the bird-tower.

Would suggest using Baltic Maps. Google maps was of no help here as it did not show the hiking trail at our location. I checked the distance to the Great Kemeri Bog and it simply showed a walking route back towards the main road from where the cab brought us.

And we did it. Walked an extra 5km or so, crossed the A10 road, past the Kemeri station and walked towards the bog. A tip for anyone planning to go here – take the car upto the ‘The Great Kemeri Bog’ start of the boardwalks, there is a parking lot. It will save you from walking a few extra miles. Sure we would have liked to do the Green dune hike as well but there just wasn’t enough time. For bird watching, the reed trail and bird tower near the seaside Lake Kaņieris would be a great thing to do and I really wish we could have covered it as well. Although this would be perfect during the spring migration time. Maybe we have to come back here 🙂

So here started our trail, after crossing the highway it was still about half an hour walk to the beginning of the boardwalk and moorland. On the way we crossed railway tracks, came across the popular Kemeri resort and walked along forested paths. On the road to the Bog you will definitely notice the Kemeri cemetry [Ķemeru kapi], stretching for a distance, almost like a part of the forest on one side. There were few people on the road and a couple of cars passed us, going toward the bog area probably. There were mushroom pickers in the forest as it was a mushroom paradise and we saw many different types of shrooms along the way.

Kemeri Bog Boardwalk

Finally we arrived at the beginning of the bog trail. A signboard has information on how it developed.. the formation of this bog began approximately 10000 years ago.

Now begins a different world, a moorland. It’s covered in spaghnum mosses, heather and stunted tree growth. We came across few people along the boardwalk trail, that goes in a loop of about 3.5km. An observation tower is located at the outer edge. We did come across many tiny creatures – hairy caterpillars, bright green grasshoppers, dragonflies and even lizards. There didn’t seem to be any birds around, surprisingly. It was a calm, peaceful path with a light breeze over the soft land.

Perhaps the most interesting flora you will see is this carnivorous plant species – a species of Sundew. They trap insects with their sticky stuff and then dissolve and digest them. Yup, plants can be evil too. You need to have a sharp eye to spot these as they are pretty tiny yet bright red in colour and found close to side of the footboards.

What’s also unique here is that the bog is interspersed with small ‘bog lakes’ or ponds as well as sulphur springs hidden in the depths. We have to walk carefully, because even though the wood boards were sturdy, one slip and you may be swallowed by the swamp. Ok, maybe at a few dangerous spots..

Apparently some tanks from World War II have sunk here.

The trail went on and my legs were starting to feel heavy. Another great thing, there were benches installed on wooden platforms along the way where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. Very thoughtful. It was still a kilometre or so till the tower and we could see it in the distance.

Observation tower

A two storied wooden tower is at the edge of this boardwalk and from here we can observe a larger area of the Great Bog and it’s pools. We see how far we’ve come and the vast lands that surrounded us. The breeze was strong so we stayed only a few minutes and continued the trail.

We followed the loop back, it was quiet and peaceful. The sun shined through clouds from time to time and some of the little Eurasian lizards came out to bask on the wood. Make sure to look for the larger sundew plants (Drosera anglica ?) – this unique species is found only here! They are still tiny, growing to be about 4cm.

Getting back

We spent a good hour or more on this trail. At the end of the boardwalks there’s a small walk through the forest to the parking area. If you arrived by car then it’s easy to get back from here. We were stuck with no means of transport, no Bolt rides available, phones low on charge, hungry and tired after walking continuously for miles. It was around 5PM by then so there was no chance of doing the other trails or the beach today. We just wanted to get back to Riga and find some good food.

With no other option, we started to walk back the way we came, towards the highway. There is a bus stop at the cemetery but the last bus of the day had left according to the timetable. So we walked all the way back to Kemeri station and boarded the next train back to Riga.

Trip from Riga to Kemeri

Vegan haven 8/10, minus points only for lack of proper transport and info points. I hope this information helps whoever is planning to visit Kemeri! If you have any questions, drop us a comment below! A trip to the Kemeri bog is something we recommend, especially for nature lovers and hikers. The Great Kemeri Moor was magical.

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