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Vidzeme (sometimes Livonia) is a region in northeastern Latvia, bordering Estonia.


  • 1 Cēsis – One of the country's oldest towns. It has an impressive castle complex of Livonian Order origin, a charming city centre with some cobblestoned streets, and historic wooden buildings.
  • 2 Ligatne – A village fairly well known for its nature trails, with a great natural park with wildlife animals and "fairy tale" forests with characters from famous Latvian fairy tales. Nearby, also an old Soviet bunker complex can be visited, which was built in case of a nuclear war.
  • 3 Madona – A scenic town surrounded by hills, forests and lakes, and a winter sports centre.
  • 4 Seda – Founded in 1953 in an uninhabited area, it still embodies the pomp of Communist and Stalinist shock-work aka architecture. Nearby a vast man-made peat bogs nature area can be found, and is not to be missed. Both occurrences are historically tied to each other.
  • 5 Valmiera – Features the only professional theatre in the region, castle ruins, a medieval church, a famous brewery, and is the start of the Gauja National Park.
  • 6 Alūksne – A summer holiday destination with Lake Alūksne, recreational activities and start/destination of the only narrow gauge railway in the Baltics
  • 7 Gulbene – A small town with the only narrow gauge railway in the Baltics, to/from Alūksne.
  • 8 Strenči – Features a mental hospital in a nice surrounding.
  • 9 Valka – A unique town on the Estonian border, which runs through the town centre, creating Valga on the other side. It is close to regaining the status of an important cultural centre.
  • 10 Smiltene – Features a manor, some castle ruins, and a watch tower over the surrounding area. Not very interesting, but quite cosy and slightly larger than Valka, and not far from the Pskov highway.

Other destinations

  • 11 Cesvaine Cesvaine on Wikipedia – A small town that is home to the eclectic 19th century Cesvaine Palace, and ruins of medieval castles. The oldest palace in the country, its magnificent landscapes of pine forests are cut by Gauja river.
  • 12 Straupe – A large village, drawing its history from times, when somewhere in these region the largest fort of the Livonians existed. At the time of the Livonian Order, two castles were built in Straupe. Even though the city itself was part of the Hanseatic League, it was under the control of Riga, using it as an outpost for fighting the mighty Wenden. The wars of the second half of the 16th century completely destroyed Straupe. Later, it resurrected in the form of a village and apparently not quite where it was before.

National parks and reserves

  • 1 Gauja National Park Gauja National Park on Wikipedia – Latvia's largest national park and one of the most famous natural attractions in Latvia with remarkable sandstone rocks and medieval castles, noblemen's estates and ancient churches of varying degrees of preservation, and the interesting and picturesque cities and towns of Sigulda, Ligatne and Cēsis. It is located to the northeast of Riga, where the Gauja River forms a deep valley with steep cliffs of sandstone. Along the river bank numerous caves and a beautiful mixed forest can be marvelled at. Also, the valley of Gauja is a wonderful opportunity to see small towns, rural life and nature of Latvia.


Castle ruins in Cesis

The main tourist attraction of this region is the Gauja National Park, which offers superb natural landscapes and several castles. The old town of Cēsis as well as its two castles have been totally restored – it is an unmissable destination of the region. Further south, the city of Madona is surrounded by numerous winter sports centres.


  • Latvian is the official language of Latvia.
  • English is the best option with youth as it is normally being taught as the first foreign language in the schools.
  • Russian is widely spoken by mid-age and elderly people.
  • People of northern areas (near Valka) may speak Estonian.
  • German was taught in some schools during the Soviet times, some people may still speak it at a basic level.

Get in

[edit] provides up-to-date bus and train schedules, route planner and prices.

By bus


Many bus routes exist in the region. Direct connections between Riga and all major cities and towns exist and departures are fairly frequent - usually once an hour.

Many buses in the region provide free WiFi access, especially on longer distance routes.

By train


Two trains a day run between Riga and Valga on the border with Estonia, connecting Cēsis, Valmiera, and Seda. The train is a good option if you're coming from Estonia, with four daily trains from Tallinn to Valga via Tartu. Information for changing trains can be found here.

By car


Getting into the region by car is fairly simple. In remote places of the region the road might be unsealed.

Get around



Cesvaine Palace
  • 1 Cesvaine Palace (Adolf von Wolf Palace / Cesvaines Pils), Pils iela 1, Cesvaine, +371 64852225. Tu–Su 10:09–18:00. Enclosed by a romantic park and an ancient manor houses. The palace is considered one of the brightest architectural achievements of the 19th century. It is a masterpiece of eclectic art, which combines architecture, metallurgy, sculpture and painting.
    The castle was built between 1893 and 1896. Since 1919, a school inhabited the castle. In 2002 a fire destroyed the castle roof. Thus, a new school was built in Cesvaine, and the castle gradually recovered its former appearance. Between 2003 and 2006 the left wing and a castle tower were restored, with restoration work continuing today.
    The castle also inhabits a museum.
    It is closed for renovation of the roof until end of 2018, but it should still allow for great pictures and a visit to the surrounding area.
    Cesvaine Palace (Q2970697) on Wikidata Cesvaine Palace on Wikipedia
  • 2 Tirza Ski Museum, Ziedukalns, Tirza, +371 26954827, +371 25650809, . The museum presents an exhibition of ski equipment of the past, and additionally provides equipment for active recreation during the winter (skis, sticks, sledges) and during the summer (equipment for Nordic walking).
  • 3 Museum of Emils Darzins, Jāņaskola, Jaunpiebalgas, +371 64162354, +371 64100351. Famous Latvian composer, who lived between 1875 and 1910. Emīls Dārziņš (Q2607045) on Wikidata Emīls Dārziņš on Wikipedia
  • 4 Sestu-kalns (Ziestu). The Sestukalns marker of the world heritage listed Struve Geodetic Arc is a bit off built-up areas but not that difficult to access if you have a car. It is about 100 m from the P79 road into the forest, the hill (216.5 m ASL) is nowadays called Ziestu.



Lielstraupe Castle is one of the six medieval castles in the Gauja Valley. Despite being heavily reconstructed, it maintains its historical significance. The castle, likely constructed in 1263, served as a vassal castle for the archbishop of Riga during the 14th century. Over time, it endured destruction and rebuilding, eventually adopting a Baroque style. The adjacent church, the only surviving structure, connects to the castle through a covered passage. The church also underwent changes, from fire damage to conversion into a one-nave design in the 18th century. After being burned in 1905 and later restored, the castle housed a Narcological Hospital during Soviet times.

In contrast, nearby Mazstraupe Castle was built about a century after the Lielstraupe Castle. It was significant restructured during the late 18th century – the result was a smaller and less impressive palace. In 1938, a portion of the palace was demolished due to financial constraints. Today, the palace serves as a school and has lost a good portion of its historical allure.


Lake Lubānas
Teiču Swamp Nature Reserve
  • 1 (Mount) Gaiziņkalns. The highest point of Latvia (311 m). But it is more famous for winter and summer recreation possibilities offered by numerous ski slopes, lake Kaķītis (rafting, fishing), the Lido recreation complex, etc. Gaiziņkalns (Q1122342) on Wikidata Gaiziņkalns on Wikipedia
  • 2 Lake Lubānas (in the far southeastern corner of Vidzeme). The largest lake in Latvia by area, but also one of the shallowest ones with average depth of 3 m. A great place for windsurfing and under-ice fishing in winter. Lake Lubāns (Q1282738) on Wikidata Lake Lubāns on Wikipedia
  • 3 Teiču Swamp Nature Reserve (Teiču dabas rezervāts) (in the far southeastern corner of Vidzeme). Take some of the wood-board walking paths to observe wild animals and birds. It is necessary to contact the reservoir's guide for entry permission. Teiči Nature Reserve (Q16353610) on Wikidata Teiči Nature Reserve on Wikipedia
  • 4 Krustkalnu Nature Reserve (Krustkalnu dabas rezervāts) (located between Mārciena, Lazdona and Ļaudona). Rich in wildlife and forest-covered steep hills. Krustkalns Nature Reserve (Q16360397) on Wikidata Krustkalni Nature Reserve on Wikipedia







In the following a list of various accommodation options in the region worth mentioning and outside of the above covered cities, towns, and parks:

Go next

Estonia's border and the town of Valga viewed from the Valka side.
  • Riga region – Starting or finishing point for most people coming to Latvia, and also home to numerous sights worth visiting, like Riga and its old city, the holiday and sea resort town of Jūrmala, Sigulda and its castles, as well as The Great Ķemeri Moorland.
  • Latgale – A less touristy and more Russian influenced region, but with the amazing Basilica of the Assumption near Daugavpils.
  • Zemgale – Flattest region in Latvia, and famous for the neighbouring and historically related Jelgava Palace and Rundāle Palace, near Jelgava and Bauska, respectively.

  • South Estonia – From Valka a stone's throw away is Valga, the gateway to South Estonia, with the beautiful Sangaste Castle, the winter sports and nature centre Otepää, the Seto ethnicity in its far southeast, the intellectual hub and university town of Tartu, the picturesque and folk-focused Viljandi, as well as the centre of Estonian wine production, Põltsamaa. Hiking, skiing, fishing, clubbing, folk music, and beaches – South Estonia leaves nothing left to be desired.

This region travel guide to Vidzeme is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.