Gauja National Park

- favourite place of tourists, birds and nature lovers!

Gauja National Park is the first national park in Latvia. It was created to protect a unique nature complex: the ancient valleys of the Gauja River and its tributaries. Nowhere else in Latvia may one find as many slopes, valleys, springs, sandstone and dolomite cliffs and caves located as closely together. Located within the park, the Sudas purvs bog is one Latvia's 38 most important bird locations.

The history of the ancient Gauja valley reaches 370 - 380 million years back to the Devon period. It was then that the red sandstone and dolomite consituting the steep rocks and caves of the banks of the Gauja River and its tributaries were formed.

Today, almost half of the national park area is forested. Almost all the forest types characteristic of Latvia are represented there and, above all, it is the areas close to the rivers that are forested. The most common forest types spruce and pine forests, but there are also large oaks, aspen, ash growths - not least in the valley at Sigulda.

In Gauja National Park there are no less than 17 spots that correspond to the CORINE criteria. CORINE (COoRdination of INformation on the Environment in European countries) is a European programme initiated in 1985 by the European Commission, aimed at gathering information relating to the environment on certain priority topics for the European Union (air, water, soil, land cover, coastal erosion, biotopes, etc.). Since 1994, CORINE is integrated in the work programme of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Species abound!
While rare plants and animal species do not occur in abundant numbers, the Gauja National Park is famous for its exceptional biodiversity. In terms of flora, this is one of the most species-rich regions in Latvia!
Until today, 876 vascular plant species have been identified, corresponding to 90% of all species in the North Vidzeme geobotanical region.

The fauna is no less variable. More than 200 vertebrates reside in the Gauja National Park. Half of those species are birds. Species otherwise rare in Europe breed here: Black stork, eagle-owl, kingfisher and white-backed woodpecker.

Trade route and settlements
In addition to its natural assets and biodiversity, the Gauja National Park is also characterized by a high concentration of historical monuments. The banks of the Gauja River have been inhabited since ancient times. the river was an important trade route between Scandinavia and Russia and constituted a border between the countries of the Livs (Finno-Ugrian people) and the Latgallians (Indo-Europeans). There are no less than 19 ancient castle mounds in the area, as well as numerous settlements and graveyards. Together with more than 500 architectural, archaeological and art monuments they tell the tales of the inhabitants of the Gauja River banks.

Tourism through 500 years
The Gauja National Park was not created in an unknown territory. Sigulda and the Gauja valley have been the favourites of tourists since the 16th century. In the 19th century, the vicinity of Sigulda gained was called Vidzemes Šveice ("Switzerland of Vidzeme"), mainly beacause of the reddish sandstone forming the steep slopes and caves along the river banks. 

Today, new recreational possibilities are created in the Gauja area in Līgatne and Āraiši. Meanwhile, improvements have been made at favorite tourist destinations such as Sigulda, around Cēsis, the Zvārtas iezis cliffs, Sietiņiezis and Ērgļu klintis.

Creating campsites for tourists on the Gauja and Amata Rivers have helped protect the river banks. Likewise, campsites and resting places for visiting motorist have reduced the wear and tear in the area.

For more information about the 3 Visitor centres in Gauja National Park, please e-mail: ac@daba.gov.lv

Gauja National Park in brief
Established on 14 September, 1973
Area 91 745 ha
Length of park borders 250 km
Length of the Gauja River within the Gauja NP 93.5 km
Width of the Gauja valley 0.8 – 2.5 km
Maximal depth of the Gauja valley 80 m
Forests 47%
Bogs 6%
Waterbodies 2.7%
Lakes 33
Tributaries of the Gauja River  13
Nature reserves 4
Protected cultivated landscapes 9
Culture and history monuments ~500
Geological monuments 50
Vascular plant species 876
Bird species 168
Mammal species 48
Total length of tourist trails 140 km

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