The bus departed the pier at 9:20am on a cloudy day to begin the Scenic Sigulda tour.
We began with a 1-hour ride to Sigulda, crossing territory home to many wooden castles. On our ride, we observed beautiful pine forests that looked to be dense primarily at the tops. This allowed you to look right through the entirety of the forest. I found this alluring and tried my best to click a suitable photo as we traveled down the road. These roads seemed in disrepair and were bumpier than most.
We continued the drive through the Gauja River valley, arriving in Sigulda at 10:15am. We rode past a Bobsled Track used in the 2006 Olympics looming over this modest village. At 10:25am we exited the bus and took a brief walk to the ruins of the 13th century Sigulda Castle and the 19th century Kropotkin’s Manor House. It disheartened me that we entered neither of these structures. Instead, we merely viewed from the outside.
We returned to the bus at 10:50am and made our way to Gutmanis Cave, the largest Grotto Cave in the Baltic. It was a short walk from the bus to the cave entrance. At only a few meters deep, we did not have to step in far to take in the Grotto’s entirety. We saw fascinating inscriptions carved into the rocks, some as far back as 1667. Afterward, we walked around the general area, returning to the coach at 11:25am.
Now we headed to the Turaida Museum Reserve just a few minutes up the road. At the entrance they handed us tickets for entry to the outdoor museum area. Our group headed straight for the 13th century Turaida Castle. We climbed the 138 step spiral staircase of this fortified tower. We were treated to great views throughout the entirety of the climb. At the towers top sat a simple room with plenty of windows. This allowed clear access to look out upon the broad property below.
After returning down the spiral stairs we walked the castle walls and visited a modest church. There were many separate areas to explore here but given a minimal amount of free time we decided to head over to the Folk Song park.
We only managed to see a portion of the stone sculptures in the park due to the limited time at hand. There were many unique sculptures placed on this tract. We tried our best to capture the most impressive ones.
Making our way back to the meeting point at the entrance of the reserve, we briefly stopped to visit the Turaida Stone Church. While there, we were told the story of the Rose of Turaida, this being a bona fide love story of the 17th century.
We were back on the bus at 12:45pm headed for a group lunch at Kungu Rija Restaurant about five minutes away. This was a modern log cabin restaurant. Our lunch began with a basic salad followed by a generous serving of Beef Stroganoff and potatoes. During lunch, I had the finest strawberry-infused ice-tea of my life. Afterward, we had a dessert of Strawberry Ice cream topped with Strawberry sauce.
Leaving the restaurant around 2:30pm we began the return to Riga Old Town. During our drive we passed Ikskile Church the oldest stone church in Latvia. By 3:10pm we had arrived at the old town of Riga and began a bus tour admiring facades and architecture.
At 3:45pm everyone left the bus for a 45-minute walking tour of the old town of Riga. Here we gazed upon the Art Nouveau buildings and several splendid churches. The streets were a photographer’s wonder, with opportunities seemingly in every direction.
At 4:30pm our walking tour ended, and we re-boarded the bus.
There was no free-time allotted to shop, as advertised in the tour description. On this tour, sitting on the left side of the bus may afford the best view.
Cruise Port: Riga, Latvia
Cruise Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Tour Name: Scenic Sigulda
Tour Guide: Julia