The Baltic Coast Trail is a unique long-distance trail in Europe: it follows a stunningly beautiful coast line and it is one of the few hiking trails in Europe where you can still find solitude.
In total the Baltic Coast Trail is 1,200 kilometers long, following the coasts of Latvia (580 kilometer) and Estonia (620 kilometer). It is part of the 5,000 kilometer E9 European Coastal Path that goes all the way from Portugal to Estonia.
In late May and early June of 2019 we spent two weeks hiking what is considered to be the most beautiful and most remote section of the Baltic Cost Trail known as the Big Waves section or the Great Wave Sea section.
For most of the hike we walked on the actual beach, just steps away from the water line. The beaches are very clean and wide, typically between 25 meters and 100 meters wide. They are covered in white sand or small pebbles, and fringed by dunes and forests.
Amazingly, most of the beaches are completely deserted. Except for two or three days when we were close to a major town, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. This is a legacy of the fact that Latvia was part of the Soviet Union up until 1991. The Latvian coast was the Western-most border of the Soviet Union and off-limits for civilians. On the hike you will see the remains of the old Soviet bunkers on the beach. Towns and tourism are slowly returning to the coast, but for now, huge stretches are still completely pristine and uninhabited.
The hike is usually described going South to North, but we did it the other way around: we started in the small village of Kolka and hiked down to the village of Nida, right on the border with Lithuania. That way we had the sun in our faces and the wind in our backs.
When to go
We did this hike from 26 May until 9 June 2019, and we were quite happy with that choice. This is just before the high season of mid June when the school vacations start in Latvia.
The advantage of going so early in the season is solitude: you will see almost no other hikers (or even other people for that matter) while walking on the beach for most of the hike. Also the hotels are cheaper than in the high season. The disadvantage is that some hotels and restaurants are still closed.
If you go later in the season (after mid June) you will probably have the opposite problem: hotels may be fully booked. For example, one of the hotels we stayed in was empty in May but required a minimum stay of one week after mid June.
We stayed in a hotel or guest house every night, which allowed us to travel light with only small backpacks and without a tent, sleeping bags, mats, etc.
The hotels and guest houses are very thinly spread out. It is often 10km or 20km or even more from one lodging option to the next lodging option.
You need to plan your lodging very carefully in advance: you need to choose your daily itinerary in such a manner that you end up at a hotel or guest house at the end of each day. This is more difficult than it seems.
Our detailed itinerary below includes the distance for each section and the details for each hotel we stayed at (address, GPS coordinates, phone, website, cost, etc.) We tended to choose hotels towards the higher end (i.e. more expensive side) of what was available, which was still very cheap by European standards. There are also some cheaper options available; see the resources section at the end of this blog. We had quite a range of accommodations: most were very well appointed and quite luxurious, but there were a couple of really basic places as well.
We strongly recommended contacting each hotel in advance to make a reservation. Early in the season (late May, early June) this is needed because the hotel might not bother opening up unless they know a guest is coming (we were usually the only guests in the place). Later in the season (after mid June) the hotel might be full. You can call ahead (most, but not all, of them speak excellent English), or you can e-mail. Often you can book on booking.com, but if you do so, still call to confirm that they will actually be open and will have food for you if required. If you just “wing it” and try to arrange something when you arrive, there is good chance that the hotel will be closed or full. In that case, the nearest hotel might be many kilometers away.
One more thing to point out is that the hotels and guest houses are often difficult to find. Make sure that you download off-line maps onto your phone and set waypoints for the hotels (GPS coordinates are in the detailed itinerary below).
Some, but not all, towns also have official camping grounds. Wild camping on the beach or in the forest just behind the beach is not allowed: there are signs at each beach entrance clearly forbidding it (although we met one person who did it anyway). Also, there are no fresh drinking water sources and any other facilities anywhere along the hike; you can only get drinking water in towns.
Don’t assume that just because you found a hotel or guest house to stay in, you can also get dinner or breakfast there or that there is a restaurant nearby.
A few places offered breakfast. Even fewer offered dinner as well. But most offered neither. At least not by default: some were willing to provide breakfast and dinner as long as you contacted them well in advance (at least a few days) by phone or by email to make special arrangements. There is, of course, an extra cost: usually 10€ or 15€ per person for dinner and 5€ per person for breakfast.
Some of the lodgings were bungalows that included a kitchen suitable for self-catering (i.e. a stove with pots and pans, plates, cutlery, etc.) But none of them had any supplies (not even basic things like cooking oil or salt and pepper). Also, in many cases there was no nearby shop for buying supplies nor any restaurant.
We carefully investigated the food situation for each stop on our itinerary (see below for details). We made advance arrangements for dinner and breakfast to be provided whenever possible. A few times we had to buy food in a town and carry it with us so that we could cook for ourselves one or two days later on the route. On top of that, we carried three freeze-dried meals “just in case” and we ended up eating two of them.
As far as lunch is concerned: you will have to pack it and bring it with you. Most days, there is nothing to be found along the way, neither shops nor restaurants nor cafés.
Finally, there is never any water along the way. Make sure you fill up your water bottles at the start of each day with enough water for the whole day. Tap water is not always drinkable, but when it is not, the hotel can provide bottled water (usually free of charge).
The following gives you an idea of the costs:
- There is no permit, and hence no fee, required for any part of the hike.
- Hotels and guest houses are around 40€ for a double room, usually (but not always) with private bathroom and shower. Sometimes there are private bungalows for around 50€ – 70€.
- Meals (when available) are 10€ or 15€ per person for dinner (excluding drinks), and 5€ per person for breakfast.
- The bus from Riga to Kolka is 6.25€ + 1.50€ for luggage.
- If you book far enough in advance, there are very cheap budget airline tickets available to Riga from several cities in Europe.
There is no ATM (cash machine) is most villages along the way. There are only ATMs in Lipaya. Many hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and shops along the route don’t accept credit or debit cards, so make sure you bring a sufficient amount of cash (Latvia uses Euros).
What to bring
When we were there (late May, early June) the climate was quite variable.
In the first week we had clouds, a stiff breeze, and sometimes a drizzle. We were lucky not to get any heavy rain, but you might be less lucky, so be prepared for it.
In the second week we had blue skies and temperatures up to 33 degrees Celsius. We often took a dip in the sea (which has very low salinity) at the end of the day to cool down.
We did the entire hike with a light daypack, without a tent and without carrying any food except for water and lunch snacks. We stayed in a hotel room or in a bungalow every single night, and we ate in a restaurant or relied on the hotel owner to cook dinner for the entire trip. This is perfectly feasible, even in mid May, but it requires very careful planning ahead of time.
Make sure you have a European SIM card for your phone, so that you can call hotels or guesthouses or restaurants when plans change. A SIM card from any European Community country will do, since roaming is free within the European Community. We had coverage for most of the hike (maybe 75%). All of the villages where you stop for the night have coverage, but there is no coverage on some of the loneliest stretches of beach.
The entire trail is reasonably well-marked with white-blue-white blazes and/or with signs. Still, it is confusing in some places and it is sometimes hard to find hotels, shops, and restaurants. For that reason it is recommended to come prepared with maps and phone apps.
The best maps by far are on the coastalhiking.eu website. This contains a very detailed map for each section (for example, this map for the Nida to Pape section). These maps are much more accurate than Google maps or maps.me in terms of where the walking trail is, and they also indicate the locations of shops, restaurants and hotels including contact information such as phone numbers. From this website, you can also download GPX waypoints and routes to download into your GPS device or your navigation phone app.
Google maps is useless for this trek, even in offline mode: it refuses to find a route over the beach and (incorrectly) insists that you walk further inland. The maps.me phone app works much better; make sure you download the map of the area for offline use while you still have Internet before you start the trek.
Many hotels, restaurants and shops are not or not accurately positioned on Google maps and maps.me. Use maps on the coastalhiking.eu website or the GPS coordinates provided below to set waypoints on your offline map before you start your trek.
Getting to the start: Kolka village
The day before starting the trek we took the bus from Riga to Kolka, which is the village at the Northern end of the big waves section of the Baltic Coast Trail.
The bus from Riga to Kolka leaves from the Riga International Bus Terminal which is also known as the SOA bus station. It is next to the central market, close to the train station.
There are five daily direct buses from Riga to Kolka (see the time table at https://www.autoosta.lv/time-table/?lang=en for the up-to-date schedule). We took the 1:15pm Nordeka bus which arrived in Kolka at 4:35pm and which cost 6.35€ + 1.50€ for luggage per person.
There are at least three hotels in Kolka.
We stayed in the Ūši guesthouse which is a 5 minute walk north of the bus stop. Ūši guesthouse is a small farm with two rooms (the “yellow room” and the “blue room”) which share a common bathroom, common shower, and common kitchen / dining room. We stayed in the bright and airy yellow room. We had the common areas to ourselves because the other (blue) room was not occupied; I can imagine it would be a bit less private if both rooms are occupied. The owners live in another separate section of the same building and are super helpful and friendly.
Ūši guesthouse offers breakfast for 5€ per person. They can also provide dinner for 10€ per person, but only if you make arrangements by calling in advance. We arranged both dinner and breakfast in advance and got a delicious traditional cold beet soup with bread and tomatoes and a rhubarb-cream desert.
Another lodging option in Kolka is hotel Zìtari (also known as hotel Zīriņi) which seemed a bit institutional. It has a snackbar-ish restaurant were all the locals hang out and a shop next door. A third another loding option is hotel Vītoli which looked okay but which was closed when we passed by Finally, there is resort Saulesmājas which is quite a bit further (about 2.5km from the bus stop). It has some funky barrel-shaped tiny cabins right on the beach.
Kolka lodging and food:
Ūši guesthouse: room with shared bathroom and shared kitchen
GPS 57.748582, 22.595027
Phone +371 29475692
2019 low-season price: 38€ per room
Booking: we booked by phone (online also available: http://www.booking.com/Share-BQ6aFO)
Breakfast (5€ pp) and dinner (10€ pp) available. Must call ahead for dinner.
Day 1 (Monday 27 May 2019): Kolka – Saunags – Košrags (20 km, 5½ hours)
From the Ūši guesthouse it’s just a hundred meters or so to the beach, and then just a one kilometer to Cape Kolka. The beach is covered with fallen trees and can be narrow at high tide, but obstacles are easily avoided by taking the parallel trail in the forest just 10 meters above the beach.
Once you round the cape both the beach and the view dramatically widen up. The sand becomes harder and easy to walk on. The pine forest next to the beach is dense and devoid of any signs of civilization.
Right around the corner of the cape you pass Saulesmājas cabins which are super cute tiny “barrel” cabins right on the beach. If the weather is good and if the nearby summer café Divjūrinas is open (which it wasn’t when we passed by) then Saulesmājas would be a romantic lodging option.
After 8km or so of easy walking along the beach, the official trail leaves the beach and veers inland for a few hundred meters to follow a dirt road (without any traffic) through a series of tiny traditional Liv villages: Vaide, Saunags, Pitrags, and finally Košrags.
You can also reach Košrags by continuing along the beach, but I recommend taking the slight inland detour through the picturesque Liv villages for some variation of scenery.
Once you leave the breeze of the beach and enter the forest, there are lots of mosquitos and some repellent comes in handy.
The Liv villages are tiny and mostly deserted, but the traditional wooden houses are beautiful.
It took us a leisurely 5½ hours (including photo stops) to complete the 20km to Košrags. Since we got there quite early (around 2pm) we rented some bicycles (3€ per bicycle per hour) and cycled 3½ km over the beach to explore Mazirbe.
In retrospect we could easily have continued walking to Mazirbe or even further. In Mazirbe you can visit an old cemetery, an abandoned boat yard, and a nice church.
Košrags lodging and food:
Guesthouse Pītagi: large private bungalow
GPS: N57.6950, E22.3624
Phone: +371 29372728
2019 low-season price: 55€ per bungalow
Booking: we booked on booking.com (http://www.booking.com/Share-BUHjoMa) and followed up with an e-mail to make sure they were actually open in May.
Food: Guesthouse Pītagi does not have a restaurant nor was there any other restaurant open in or near Košrags in May. We e-mailed in advance to arrange dinner and breakfast.
Day 2 (Tuesday 28 May 2019): Košrags – Mazirbe – Skirags – Mikeltornis (29 km, 8 hours)
From Guesthouse Pītagi we took the 3½ km trail through forest (which is the official route) to Mazirbe. Alternatively, you can walk to Mazribe along the beach.
In Mazirbe we did some last minute essential shopping (a bottle of wine) since we won’t pass any more shops for the next couple of days. A couple of local drunks who were already drinking beer at 9am in the parking lot gave us two thumbs up in approval as we poured the wine into our Nalgene bottle.
In Mazirbe, we returned to the beach, which was still wide and easy to walk on. We continued along the beach for several hours past Sīkrags and on to the mouth of the Irbe river near Jaunciems Užkilā where we veered inland along.
Once we left the beach, we first walked along the shore of the river through a large camping area, then we followed some winding dirt roads through a forest, then a very straight dirt road (formerly a rail road), then we crossed an extremely rickety but just barely passable bridge across the river, then some more dirt road, and finally we got back to the beach.
The blue-and-white markers which were so abundant and clear up until Mazribe have completely disappeared for this last section. I don’t think we would have be able to find the correct path without our WikiLoc GPS application.
Once back at the beach, we could already see the light tower of Mikeltornis faintly in the far distance. It is another 8km and it took us another 2 hours in a slight drizzle to get there.
Once we reached Mikeltornis, we stayed in a cabin in camping Mikelbāka. The cabin was spartan and charmless with a bunk bed, a double bed, a table, a fridge and a heater but no en-suite bathroom or shower. All cabins are circled around a grass-field. The building with the communal toilets and showers is in the middle of the field. At 40€ we thought it was rather overpriced for what we got.
Camping Mikelbāka also offers a few nicer cabins with private bathroom but they were not available yet that early in the season. The nearby Pizā guest house apparently has nicer rooms, but they were already full for the night.
Mikeltornis lodging and food:
Basic cabin in camping Mikelbāka
GPS: 57.597437, 21.964763
Phone: +371 27884438
2019 low-season price: 40€ per cabin
Food: Has restaurant that was still closed in May. Still, breakfast and dinner is available upon request if you call ahead.
Day 3 (Wednesday 29 May 2019): Mikeltornis – Oviši – Liepene (29 km, 8 hours)
After two cloudy days with rain in the afternoon, we woke up to blue skies for the first time.
After a quick breakfast we made the short walk back to the beach, and from there the route was very straightforward: we just followed the beach for most of the 29 km to Liepene. After 5 km there was a small well-marked detour into the town Lūžna. Even though it would have been easy to skip the detour by continuing straight over the beach, it is worthwhile going into Lūžna to see the old Soviet bunkers.
After passing through Lūžna we soon returned to the beach which we followed for the remaining 5 or 6 hours to Liepene. The beach was sandy and wide; the part right next to the water was flat and hard and easy to walk on. The landscape was constant: the sea waves on the right and dense pine forests on the left. At the very end, once we got close to Liepene, we passed some small cliffs in the dunes; here the beach was covered with stones and more difficult to walk on.
Just as the two days before, the beach was completely deserted. During the entire day we only saw one other couple walking on the beach.
In Liepene we had made reservations at holiday home Vējciems which is just 200 meters from the beach and which offers stunningly beautiful bungalows with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a fire place, and a TV for 70€ per night. The bungalows are dispersed over a beautiful grassy area.
There are no restaurants or shops within walking distance of Liepene, but the very friendly owner of holiday home Vējciems offers a “grocery service”: he can buy supplies for you from the shop if you contact him in advance and let him know what you need. You can prepare the food yourself in the kitchen of the bungalow.
Liepene lodging and food:
Beautiful large private bungalow in holiday home Vējciems
GPS: 57.492303, 21.647508
Phone: +371 2 922 5912
2019 low-season price: 70€ for bungalow
Food: No restaurant or shops nearby. Bungalow has small kitchen for self-service cooking. Upon request in advance, owner of hotel can purchase groceries for self-cooking.
Day 4 (Thursday 30 May 2019): Liepene – Staldzene (9 km, 2 hours walking), Staldzene – Ventspils (9 km, bus or hitchhiking)
After breakfast we made the short walk back to the beach and continued South along the beach in the direction of Ventspils.
Almost immediately after leaving Vējciems we could already see the industrial installations of Ventspils harbor in the distance. After several days of uninhabited beaches, we noticed we were getting closer a city: whereas the beaches were pure white and pristine before, we could now see a little bit of trash (tires and plastic) washed up on the beach.
As in the days before, the beach was wide and easy to walk on for much of the way. There were a few sections with pebbles and stone that slowed us down a little bit. Along the way we passed a few sand cliffs and in one place the water lapped right up to the bottom of the cliff; we had to take your shoes off and wade through the very shallow (just a few centimeters) water.
After about 2 hours of walking we reached the wooden staircase that brought us to the the parking lot at the end of the road from Ventspils. We followed this road; at first it was a tiny dirt road through the lovely fields, but soon it turned into a tarmac road, which eventually turns into a rather busy highway.
We had absolutely zero interest in walking along a busy highway, so we hitchhiked a ride for the remaining 9 km to the center of Ventspils. Alternatively, we could have taken a bus at one of the bus stops that we passed (the time schedule is posted).
We arrived early (around noon) in Ventspils and checked in to studio apartments “40 Saules” (34€). I highly recommend these apartments: they are minutes away from the center of town, and amazingly comfortable and clean.
Ventspils is a nice small city to wander around in for a day. The old town has several good restaurants; we dined in the informal and popular Skroderkrogs (which has “Fried bull balls with onion and sour cream” on the menu). Walking along the quay gives you a good view of the loading and unloading activities in the large harbor, and brings you to Ostgals neighborhood on the West side of the harbor with cobble stone streets and a good icecream shop Bolers. There are also some museums and a castle which we didn’t have time to visit.
Ventspils lodging and food:
Studio apartments “40 Saules”
GPS: 57.390330, 21.558882
Phone: +371 29488533
2019 low-season price: 34€ per apartment
Food: restaurant Skroderkrogs.
Multiple other hotels and restaurants are available.
Day 5 (Friday 31 May 2019), Ventspils – Užava (23 km, 5 hours)
We walked a bit more than 1 km through town to get back to the beach. Once on the beach, the remaining 20 km to Užava are very straightforward: just follow the beach.
The day started with a stiff headwind which blew a drizzle rain into or faces. But as we went along, the weather slowly cleared up.
As in the previous couple of days, the walk invites contemplation: the landscape is pretty constant, with the sea waves on the right, the pine forest and the cliffs on the left, and the beach in the middle. Once again, the beach was pristine and deserted; we literally did not see another person for the entire day. There were a bit more sections with pebbles or small rocks than in the previous days, which made the going a bit more slow.
Once we reached the sign for the Užava exit from the beach, it was another 1.5 km along the road (first dirt, then tarmac) to reach Gānibas: a collection of ultra-modern and super comfortable bungalows (60€ for a small bungalow). The bungalows are self catering (there is a tiny little kitchen) but the nearest shop is another 1 or 2 km down the road. We did not feel like walking any more, so we prepared one of the freeze-dried meals we had brought along “just in case”.
Užava lodging and food:
GPS: 57.239074, 21.436924
Phone: +371 29 474 730
2019 low-season price: 60€ per bungalow
Food: bungalow has a kitchen but the nearest a shop about 2km walking (instead, we cooked a freeze-dried meal we had brought with us).
Day 6 (Saturday 1 June), Užava – Sārnate – Jūrkalne (32 km, 9 hours)
This day was the longest section of the entire hike: first the 1.5 km back to the beach, then 29 km along the beach, and finally 1.5 km inland to reach the our accommodation in Jūrkalne, for a grand total of 32 km.
After 8 km or so of following the beach, we reached the Užava lighthouse. We dropped our packs on the beach and took the short path up to reach the lighthouse. If the care taker is present you can up into the lighthouse tower for a small fee (0.80€ per person) to see a brilliant view of the coast and appreciate how deserted it is.
From there the long but very beautiful and enjoyable remaining 21 km to the beach exit for Jūrkalne simply follow the beach. We had perfect weather: blue skies with just enough clouds and a light breeze to keep us cool.
We reached the well-marked beach exit for Jūrkalne around 6pm. We stopped at hotel and restaurant Pilsbergú Krogs for a well-deserved beer and then continued the remaining 750 meters to hotel Avoti (66€), which is actually a large log house in the backyard of a private family. Avoti has a seventies style interior which reminded me of the Soviet days. It appears to cater to large families: the 2nd floor which is one huge bedroom has enough beds for 8 people. If the Pilsbergú Krogs had not already been full when we made the reservations 2 weeks before our trip, we would have stayed there.
Jūrkalne lodging and food:
We stayed at hotel Avoti (We would have preferred to stay at hotel restaurant Pilsbergú Krogs but it was already fully booked 2 weeks ahead).
GPS: 57.005864, 21.392912
Phone: +371 28320219
2019 low-season price: 34€
Food: Restaurant Pilsbergú Krogs is nearby
Day 7 (Sunday 2 June): Jūrkalne – Pāvilosta (20 km, 6 hours)
After a short stop at the small LaTS shop for stocking up on snacks and at restaurant Pilsbergú Krogs for breakfast, we were back on the beach at 10am for a late start. That was okay because after the very long day yesterday, 20km was easy peasy.
Once again, the route was straightforward: it just follows the beach. Most of it was easy walking on hard sand right next to the water edge, but there were a few sections with pebbles and stones towards the end.
The beaches are still pristinely clean, but unlike the previous couple of days where the beach was completely deserted without any people and without any buildings, we started seeing a few signs of civilization along the way. About once per hour we would see some small sign of humanity: a ladder going to the top of the cliffs, or a small bench on top of the cliffs, or sometimes even a couple walking their dog on the beach.
By now, the route description must start to sound monotonous. Yes, it is true that every day is pretty much the same: walking in a nice breeze along a pristine and deserted beach, with the ocean waves on the right, and the pine forests on the left. Maybe that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but there is something profoundly relaxing and “zen” to do that for a couple of weeks.
We already saw the radio tower of Pāvilosta from a great distance, probably 15 kms away. As we got closer, we saw the breakwaters for the harbor and the white changing rooms on the beach.
Pāvilosta is clearly a popular tourist town. The town brochure lists about 20 or so guest houses, there are at least a couple of restaurants, there is a shop, there is a tourist information center, there are lots of facilities on the beach, etc. But when we were there, in the first days of June, only a handful of guest houses and two restaurants were open, and they closed at 6pm.
We stayed in a meticulously clean room with private bathroom in the wonderful guesthouse Viga (50€). We had a delicious dinner in the large restaurant of hotel Ākagals and breakfast in coffee shop Laiva (opens at 10am).
Pāvilosta lodging and food:
Guesthouse Viga (there are many other options as well).
GPS: 56.889193, 21.176701
Phone: +371 26 424 389
2019 low-season price: 50€
Food: Restaurant of hotel Ākagals (there are many other options as well).
Day 8 (Monday 3 June): Pāvilosta – Ziemupe (21 km, 6 hours)
For the past week the weather was chilly (10 to 16 degrees celcius) and cloudy with an occasional drizzle. We constantly had a stiff breeze in our face and the sea was choppy with waves. Perfect for hiking and it gave the landscape a dramatic atmosphere somehow appropriate for the ex-Soviet frontier.
On day 8 the weather changed dramatically: blue skies, bright sunshine, hardly any wind, and the sea was smooth as a mirror. We swapped our fleece and rain jacket for a long-sleeved shirt and lathered up in sun screen to avoid burning to a crisp.
The distance was once again around 20 km – what we have come to know as a “short day” after the 32 km on day 6. The landscape was identical to the previous days: wide white beaches, mostly soft sand but packed sand on the edge of the water where the walking is easiest, sea on the right and cliffs with pine forest on the left. You’ve got the idea by now.
We could have easily covered the distance in 6 or even 5 hours, but the good weather invited spending an extra 2 hours lingering around on the beach, taking long breaks, and soaking up the sun. We even saw the occasional Latvian already swimming in the sea, which was still ice cold.
While checking the temperature of the sea, we also noticed that is not very salty; just brackish in fact. A quick Google search taught us that the salinity of the Baltic Sea is only 0.1% in the shallow parts as compared to 3.5% of an ocean. Evidently this is due to the abundant inflow of rivers and it would explain why we saw so many fresh water birds such as swans and ducks in the water. One nice side effect is that you don’t get that sticky feeling on your skin when walking along the Baltic coast.
When we arrived at the beach exit for Ziemupe we got ice creams at the tiny shop in the parking lot at the end of the road. This shop is too tiny to buy real supplies, and there are no other shops or restaurants around, so we had brought food from Pāvilosta.
We stayed in hotel Stellas, which is a few minutes up the road, which is large very modern and well appointed hotel. It has rooms with and without private bathroom, it has multiple shared kitchens for self-catering, a large shared room with dining tables and a TV, and a large balcony. This early in the season we were the only ones there and we had the entire place to ourselves.
Ziemupe lodging and food:
Hotel Stellas (king suite with private bathroom)
GPS: 56.740928, 21.066402
Phone: +371 26 989 168
2019 low-season price: 55€
Food: Hotel has a kitchen for self-catering, but there are no nearby restaurants or shops; buy food in the shop in Pāvilosta and carry it with you.
Day 9 (Tuesday 4 June): Ziemupe – Karosta (22 km, 5 hours), Karosta – Liepāja (bus)
The temperatures sky-rocketed even further and climbed well above 30 degrees celcius. Although the sea breeze kept us cool, I started to miss the cooler days from early in the hike.
The initial part of today’s section followed the familiar beach. I have to admit that several days of pretty much identical landscape and no dramatic clouds or waves to draw our interest, it almost started to get boring.
But then a new element came to the rescue. After the initial 2 hours of walking or so, we started passing a series of old Soviet military bunkers that were crumbling into the sea. The bunkers are in various state of decay and quite photogenic. Every time we reached a set of bunkers, we had to make a very slight detour inland because the bunkers are not usually not passable on the water side.
From a great distance we could already see the breakwater of the Karosta harbor on the horizon. As we got closer and closer to it, more and more people starting appearing on the beach, enjoying the first hot days of summer.
When we finally reached the breakwater itself, there a couple of beach restaurants where we sat down for a nice cold beer (you can also get a full meal there). We also walked up the long breakwater which was filled with fishers.
The last several kilometers to Liepāja are not interesting to walk because it go along busy roads. So, we walked about one km from the parking lot on the beach to the bus stop on the main road, and there we took bus 22 to the center of Liepāja (it leaves every 15 minutes or so and it costs 0.80€ per person — you must pay in coins).
Liepaja is a decent size city with lots of lodging options. We stayed in the absolutely lovely Boutique Hotel Roze, which is in a quiet part of town right next to the park and which has a lovely outside restaurant.
Liepāja lodging and food:
Liepāja is a city with many hotels and restaurants. We stayed at:
Boutique Hotel Roze
GPS: 56.503789, 20.998641
Phone: +371 63421155
2019 low-season price: 65€ per room
Food: Hotel has restaurant (a huge and delightful breakfast buffet is included in the room price)
Day 10 (Wednesday 5 June): Rest day in Liepāja
We actually ended up staying an extra day in Liepāja due to some stomach issues, and the staff of hotel Roze were super helpful calling the remaining hotels on the trip to move the reservations by one day. With or without stomach issues, Liepāja is worth spending a day.
Day 11 (Thursday 6 June): Liepāja – Bernāti (19 km)
Day 11 was a relatively straightforward and short day, with not much exciting to report (except, possibly, from the beach fashion while leaving Liepaja). After about 5 hours of walking along the (once again) pristine and empty beach and a short diversion inland, we reached Bernāti.
Bernāti lodging and food:
GPS: 56.373537 20.987003
Food: Truly excellent Kafejnīca Dzintariņš about 200 meters North from Guesthouse Vilcini
Day 12 (Friday 7 June): Bernāti – Pape (25 km)
After returning to the beach, we set of on the 25km to Pape. A few hundred meters before reaching the lighthouse in Pape we took a short-cut through the dunes to reach the main road.
The short-cut took us through the large camping Pūkarags. To our surprise it was already filled with campers and huge overland vehicles from Germany, and the all of the little wooden cabins were filled with local tourists. Evidently, the first weekend in June was the official start of the high season.
We headed for hotel Papes Čakstes across the street from the camping to have a beer and to make sure that their restaurant would be open for dinner (the sign says the restaurant is open from 8am until 10pm, and there seems to be enough traffic from the camping to rely on dinner being available without making arrangements ahead of time).
Papes Čakstes also offers camp sites (which seem slightly less mosquito infested than the ones at Pūkarags) and rooms (we did not look at them, but the reviews are not stellar).
We continued North on the road for about 1.5 km to reach hotel Aulaukio Baltija, which is a large three floor hotel with maybe 50 rooms or so. The staff is very friendly but speaks only Latvia and Russian (Google translate did wonders). The rooms have private bathrooms and a balcony and are very clean, but they are more functional than charming. Still, judging from the number of BMWs and Mercedes with Lithuanian license plates parked in the parking lot, it must have been the best hotel in the vicinity.
Aulaukio Baltija has a small shop where you can buy beers and snacks, but it does not have a restaurant and it is not suitable for self-catering. So, we headed back to Papes Čakstes for dinner. They had a rather extensive menu (in English!) with various salads, soups, and main courses. Although they won’t win a Michelin star, the food is filling and inexpensive.
We headed back to our hotel around 9pm, just in time before a summer thunderstorm broke loose and the rain started pouring down.
Pape lodging and food:
Hotel Aulaukio Baltija
GPS: 56.171140, 21.020365
Phone: +370 656 05061
2019 low-season price: 48€
Food: Hotel-restaurant Viesu nams Papes Čakstes about 500 meter south walking on the road.
Day 13 (Saturday 8 June): Pape – Nida (12 km); Nida – Rucava (hitchhike)
From Pape, we only had a short 12 km remaining to the end-point of our hike: the border with Lithuania at Nida.
We passed by Aulaukio Baltija for breakfast which was excellent: an omelet and pancakes with ricotta cheese and honey.
After a few minutes we reached the Pape light-house, where we had to take an inland detour for a few km to cross two bridges over rivers (clearly marked on the map and on Wikiloc, but no signs on the road).
After we returned to the beach, it was a straight shot along the beach to the border crossing. This section had more than the usual amount of pebbles, so the going was a little bit more difficult. But it did not matter much, because we only had 12 km to go. Unlike most of the previous days, where the beach was completely deserted (except close to the major cities), this stretch of beach was quite popular and filled with sun-bathers.
About 2 km before the actual border, we made a brief stop at a hotel and restaurant (forgot to note down the name) for a celebratory drink and lunch. This hotel is brand spanking new (it was opened only a year ago) and it offers luxury rooms should you decide to end your hike in style. They also offer massages to recuperate your weary legs.
After our break, we soon reached the border with Lithuania, the official end-point of our hike. Since both Latvia and Lithuania are in the Shengen zone, the only indication that there is a border are two small border markers in the dunes.
At the border markers there is a trail that heads East inland for a short distance, and then turns back North to connect to a road which goes a little bit further North and then East to connect with route 11, which is a major highway. The total distance from the border marker to the highway is about 4 km.
Once you reach highway 11, there are busses back to Rucava and further on to Liepaja (about 40 minutes by car). I actually don’t know what the bus schedule is, but it is safe to assume that they go very infrequently (check with the tourist information center in Liepaja). Worst case, you can try to hitch-hike back to Rucava or Liepaja; there is certainly enough traffic on highway 11.
But we were not heading back North to Liepaja; we were heading South to Vilnius in Lithuania. The Liepaja tourist information office had told us that there is one single bus per day (including Sundays) from Rucava to Klaipėda in Lithuania. And then, from Klaipėda there are many busses (about one per hour) on to Vilnius.
Since the bus from Rucava left at 8:40am, we had to spend a night in Rucava. We were very lucky, and someone offered us a ride (for 20€) to Rucava, so we did not have to walk the 4 km to highway 11 and look for a bus. But, that was a very lucky break, and you should probably count on having to walk to highway 11.
Rucava lodging and food:
In Rucava, there are about 4 places to stay; we stayed at:
GPS: 56.165801, 21.171162
Phone: +371 26402106
2019 low-season price: 23€
Food: Delightful restaurant Radošā darbnīca “Ligate” in the center of town, about 10 minutes walking
Additional information resources
We posted our full resolution photos of the hike on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/brijsman/albums/72157714650763992
Official Baltic Coastal Hiking website
The official Baltic Coastal Hiking website coastalhiking.eu provides useful information for the entire Baltic Coast Trail, not just the Big Waves section in Latvia that we hiked, but also the other sections in Latvia and Estonia. It is available in English, Estonian, Latvian, German and Russian. It contains a detailed map for each section including the GPS coordinates and phone number of each lodging option, restaurant, shop, and attraction. You can download these maps as PDF files and print them or store them on your mobile phone. We did not follow the official itinerary exactly: we preferred longer daily sections and often combined 1.5 or 2 official sections into a single day.
Liepāja tourist information center
The tourist information center in Liepāja is extremely helpful and super knowledgable.
Address: Rožu laukums 5/6, Liepāja, LV-3401, Latvia
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/piKoyYuGTXAgYXNFA
Phone: +371 63 480 808
I very much enjoy travelling around the Baltics – but I never considered doing a hike like this. Sounds like quite the adventure.