Welcome to Ķemeri National Park
Ķemeri’s park information centre is located in an old barnlike hotel and restaurant called the ‘Funny Mosquito’. Although most of the info is in Latvian, you can rent bikes and sign up for lectures and programs such as bat- and bird-watching. A scenic 600m trail starts at the info centre and circles through a slice of flat plain forest.
The pungent smell of rotten eggs wafts through the air at the national park’s spa resort, also called Ķemeri (pronounced kyeh-meh-ree or tyeh-meh-ree, depending on who you ask), known for its sulphurous springs. Ķemeri’s first mud bath opened in the late 1800s, and until WWII the resort had a widespread reputation as a healing oasis. The area’s spring water is perfectly potable and apparently quite healthy. Try filling your water bottle at the Lizard, a stone sculpture at the mouth of a spring that trickles into the river. Sip your pungent brew while meandering past faded mint-green gazebos and small wrought-iron bridges with romantic names such as Bridge of Sighs or Bridge of Caprices – everything remains exactly as it was during the height of the resort’s popularity in the 1930s.
It’s hard to miss Hotel Ķemeri. Known as the ‘White Ship’, it was built during Latvia’s brief period of independence in the 1930s, and has one of the most impressive facades outside of Rīga. At the moment, only the exterior can be appreciated due to a lack of renovation money. Have a wander across the park and take a look at St Peter-Paul Orthodox Church. Built in 1893, it is the oldest place of worship in Ķemeri and, if you look closely, you’ll notice that this large wooden structure was constructed entirely without nails.
Fish smoking and canning remain traditional occupations in the villages further afield along the coastal road leading north towards Cape Kolka. Nowhere smells fishier than Lapmežciems, overlooking Lake Kaņieris, 3km west of Jūrmala. Sprats are canned in the factory on the right at the village’s eastern entrance. The village market sells freshly smoked eel, sprat, salmon and tuna, as does the market in Ragaciems, 2km north.