Is it time for a summer getaway? Well then, let's find out what to see in Valmiera - a city that calls the picturesque river Gauja its main "street," is decorated with colorful Art Benches and hides a portal to the dreamland called Neonija. And since we're in this area, let's also visit Skaņaiskalns Nature Park, which is full of various attractions, from cliffs to wooden sculptures. It sounds like a perfect plan, doesn't it?
Well then, let's pack a picnic and go!
Since we're spending the night in Valmiera, it seems more reasonable from a logistical point of view to start with a sightseeing spot located outside Valmiera.
Skanakalns Nature Park - a jackpot of attractions.
Skanakalns Nature Park has definitely won the lottery of natural attractions - just as meadows in summer are full of various flowers, this nature park is full of various points of interest.
Do you like cliffs? In Skaņaiskalns, you will find three different ones - a cliff with the Angel's Cave, where you can see a stylized silhouette of an angel, the Neļķu Cliffs, which can be observed from a distance and, of course, the Skaņaiskalns Cliff, which is a massive stone wall.
Perhaps you're interested in caves? Along the nature trail in Skaņaiskalns, you will find a Devil's Cave that is big enough that you can enter. And you will need a flashlight.
Or maybe you enjoy wooden sculptures? On this trail, you'll find gnomes, birds, and even a witch flying not on a broomstick but with a propeller at the end, which she usually sits on.
Read the full adventure story with detailed descriptions of each Skaņaiskalns attraction here.
But now, let's head to Valmiera.
It's natural that after such a walk, you'll feel hungry. That's why the first stop in Valmiera is dinner.
Where to eat in Valmiera? Feel like you are in Italy at Vīnkalnu Pizza Place.
Is there anything that makes you think of Italy more than freshly baked pizza - the one that's not perfectly round and has a thick crust? Plus a glass of Aperol Spritz? PS - this summer drink is also available in a non-alcoholic version.
Taste preferences may vary, but I must say that Vīnkalnu Pizza is truly delicious.
And the atmosphere is great too. The pizzeria is set in an old building. The terrace is decorated with lights and flowers. And let's not forget the friendly service. In the end, the hostess even brings some kids chewing gum with the bill. It's impossible not to smile.
Valmiera Castle Ruins
Since the castle ruins are right next to Vīnkalnu Pizza Place, it would seem wrong not to visit them as well. I somehow expected to see just one brick wall. I don't know why, maybe because of the pictures? There is indeed a brick wall there
But it turns out that a small fragment of the foundation has also been uncovered, which you can walk around and read the information stands.
What to see in Valmiera?
We begin our exploration of Valmiera with a leisurely stroll around Dzirnavu (Mill) Lake.
Let's stretch our legs and take some beautiful pictures.
In the heart of the park, you'll find a picturesque lake with tall trees bending over its shores and water lilies blooming along the edges. But in the center of the lake, there's a fountain that performs a magical trick - it starts small, then grows big, and shrinks again... It's lovely to take a leisurely walk around the lake and chat with your fellow travelers.
Oh, look, a sundial!
And what's that? Isn't it another meditation labyrinth? There's no description, but it looks similar to the ones I've seen at Kubesele Nature Trailand Valguma Pasaule. What do you think?
In case you haven't read these adventure stories, let me remind you that a meditation labyrinth is a labyrinth that helps quiet the mind. Your task is to follow the winding path that leads you to the center. But you don't know when you will reach the center. And you don't have to think about it - you just need to walk.
An unexpected discovery of the day - Valmiera Museum's Herb Garden.
It's exciting to come across points of interest that you didn't expect.
As we head toward the Gauja River, a charming, green building catches our eye. It's one of those buildings that you want to photograph simply because it looks beautiful. And the courtyard is well-maintained too. There are strings of lights and flower beds. But what's that? It turns out there's a QR code on the gate.
The audio guide tells us that this building is the "Laundry House". And in its courtyard is a herb and medicinal plant garden that welcomes all interested visitors.
The plants are arranged in small rectangular plots. You can play a game of "How many can you recognize." I recognized basil and dill.
But if your knowledge of botany is as non-existent as my ability to function in the morning without coffee - there are also leaflets available with descriptions of the plants found in this garden.
If you had to choose just one thing to see in Valmiera, I would recommend a ride on the Gauja Tram.
Even though the ride on the small boat covered in paintings isn't too long, besides enjoying the views of the Gauja River banks, you can learn about the origin of Valmiera's name (you won't believe it, but it involves whale), hear about the mishaps of Valmiera's water tower and discover other interesting facts about Valmiera.
During the ride, you can also see the Kazu rapids and pass under a bridge. Did you know that you can make a wish not only when crossing a bridge for the first time but also when passing under it for the first time?
And another interesting thing you'll notice while riding the Gauja Tram is that all the benches along the riverbank in Valmiera are painted. They are Art Benches, transformed by various artists from ordinary benches into works of art.
The ride is very nice. But oh no, it starts raining... Don't worry! You can seek shelter in one of the indoor attractions in Valmiera.
Valmiera has a portal to another dimension - the Neonija Art Gallery.
It's like a romantic sci-fi...
Have you ever wished to visit another world? In Valmiera, there is a door that functions as a portal to the dreamland of Neonija. A place where fluorescent flowers bloom in abundance and everyday worries and concerns cease to exist.
So let's go inside! We are greeted by darkness, serene music, and the sound of flowing water. It reminds me of visualization meditations (if you've ever tried them).
In this parallel world, there is no sun, but every nook and cranny emits mysterious light. Magic undoubtedly lies in the details.
Each room is slightly different. In one, little birds splash in a bird bath with a neon fountain. In the next room, tiny dots twinkle above your head, resembling stars in the sky. And in yet another, beneath your feet, you find the universe... At one moment, you are in an underwater kingdom. And in the next, you're standing in front of an ancient, magical building.
Before heading back, let's grab something to eat at a café to recharge for the journey. As we sit at a nearby table, a lady says, "Nobody goes to Valmiera to relax..." How can that be? We came here, and it was fantastic! There's the beautiful Gauja River, and there's art. And right nearby, there's a fantastic nature park (Skaņaiskalns). Plus, there are plenty of other attractions in the vicinity of Valmiera that we didn't have a chance to visit this time.
Skāņaiskalns Nature Park and Dauģēni Trail