Don't Miss: Muižas of the Gauja
Beyond the park’s four main towns, there are plenty of hidden treasures tucked deep within the Gauja region. If you have a little extra time, try checking out these gems, particularly the area’s muižas (manor houses).
- Ungurmuiža Beautiful Ungurmuiža is one of the best preserved manor houses in all of Latvia. The stately red mansion was created by Baron von Campenhousen, who served under the Swedish king and Russian tsar. Descendants of the baron lived here until WWII, when the government swiftly seized the property. It was, rather miraculously, kept in mint condition and today the delicate mural paintings and original doors are a delightful throwback to aristocratic times. Tours can be easily arranged for €35 per group.
- Bīriņi Castle Like a big pink birthday cake sitting on a verdant lawn, Bīriņi Castle governs a scenic tract of land overlooking a tranquil lake. Located on the northwestern edges of the Gauja towards Saulkrasti, the baronial estate has been transformed into an opulent hotel swathed in a Renaissance style focused around the grand foyer staircase. Daytime visitors can still reap the benefits on a guided tour (€15), or by taking in the lovely scenery with a picnic or a boat ride. Operating hours can be erratic (especially in the summer when there’s a wedding every week). Call first and make a reservation to avoid difficulties.
- Dikli Castle It was here, in 1864, that a priest organised Latvia’s first Song Festival, which gives Dikli Castle an important place in the nation’s history. This aristocratic manor has been transformed into a luxurious retreat with hotel rooms and spa services. Visitors can also enjoy strolls in the 20-hectare park and boat rides; tours detailing the history and restoration of the manor are also available.
- Annas Hotel Originally built in the middle of the 18th century as Annas Muiža, Annas Hotel is a modern inn that fuses historical charm with thoroughly modern motifs. There’s not much to do around the property, it’s all about relaxation, and the hotel provides just that – spa sessions, and lovely grounds peppered with trees and ponds.