Welcome to Daugava River Valley
Driving out of Rīga in the eastern direction, you can choose between taking the new E22 road or the much more scenic old road (A6) that passes through riverside towns and villages, with the Daugava in full view most of the time. The two roads merge after Koknese, 95km southeast from Rīga.
Stop at Koknese to admire the ruins of Kokenhausen, a 13th-century knights’ castle, which lie at the confluence of the Daugava and Perse Rivers. Built by German crusaders in 1209 and surrounded by a beautiful park, the castle ruins lost some of their dramatic cliff-top position after a hydroelectric dam increased the river’s water level. Today the twisting ruins appear to be practically sitting in the river, and the sight is enchanting. The next headland down the river is occupied by the Garden of Destiny – a project in the making, which – the authors hope – will become a symbol of Latvia, like Milda's statue in Rīga. Designed by acclaimed Japanese gardener cum philosopher Shunmyu Masuno, it is expected to shape up by 2018.
Not long after Koknese and just before the turn to Pļaviņas, stock up on rustic-styled bread and pastry – fresh from the oven – at Liepkalni Maiznīca, a rest area that boasts a scenic location on the bank of the river. There is a good cafe and a shop selling products made by Latvian craftsmen in the premises.
At Jēkabpils, 140km from Rīga, the A6 road branches off south and follows the Daugava Valley towards Daugavpils and Belarus. The E22 continues east towards Rēzekne and into Russia. If you take the latter, stop at the watchtower of Teiči Nature Reserve for sweeping views of the largest moss marsh in the Baltics. The hard-to-miss 27m-tall tower comes after the turn to Atašiene.