The river increases in depth and width as it turns to the north and hurries toward Estonian borders. In these parts the river winds through forests and lush water meadows and there are fewer visitors than in the upper reaches. There is a astonishingly beautiful scenary as far as the eye can see in the area around Gulbene, Aluksne and Valka.
If you want to get a fair impression of the Gauja this is probably the right place to start your journey. Sandstone crags with towering pines looking down into dark and brooding pools are a well-known image of the Gauja, but there is much more to discover as well.
[Gunta Strautmane: The Gauja. Avots, 1983. Riga.]
Length of the river: 460.6 km
Suitable for canoeing at high water level in spring and after long rains from Taurene:
- – from Taurene (in spring when the level of vater is heigh after long rain period): 433 km
- – from Vireši (all season): 274 km
Average carrying capacity of water in Sigulda (56 km from sea):
- – Average in year: 70.7 m3/s
- – January: 43.3 m3/s
- – April: 183 m3/s
- – July: 43 m3/s
- – October: 59.6 m3/s
Total drop: 234 m
Average drop: 0.51 m/km
Average drop in section suitable for canoeing: 0.44 m/km
Downstream from the township of Lejasciems the Gauja is free of dams. The section from Vireši to Murjāņi(236km) is more popular for canoeing, and you can get description of this stage here.
Township Viresi [131 km to Valmiera ].
There is highest point on the river Gauja , where you can start canoe trip in the summertime, when the water level is low. The township center with shop is situated on right side 1km from the river.
Bridge over the river Gauja near township Vireši.
Township Gaujiena [118 km to Valmiera ].
In stage Viresi – Gaujiena the river Gauja have steep right bank and stones in a river bed. Next the bridge near Gaujiena landscape changes as the river flows through flat meadows till Estonia -Latvia border.
Downstream from Gaujiena the river Gauja flows meandering through wide meadows.
The river Gauja and the river Mustjegi confluence [101 km to Valmiera].
1 km up the river Mustjegi You can observe landscape from tower, specialy made for tourists.
There are 3 camp grounds in Estonian side (right bank ) in stage the Mustjegi river mouth – “Anni” bridge. One of them is well developed with dorms, sauna, shelter and small cabins. Camp place works on self service system.
Down the river Gauja tributary the river Mustjegi you will be able to see some classic Gauja landscapes with sandy beaches and forests on the banks. On the Latvian side, you will see meadows with many old oaks .
Classic landscape in the section near the Latvian – Estonian border.
In the picture you can see a typical old-style Latvian country house ,which is located on the border with Estonia.
If a stork makes his nest on an electricity post, the electricity supply company will never destroy the nest. The company puts in a new post and the stork live in his nest as long as he wants.
“Aņņi” bridge [81 km to Valmiera].
Near “Aņņi” bridge the Gauja turns left into Latvia teritory. The nearest town Valka is about 16 km away from the river on the right side.
Down the “Aņņi” bridge the landscape change little bit. There are more sharp meanders with steep sandy riverbanks in one side, where you can see many crashed trees, and wide sand beaches in other side.
Every year the Gauja change river bed and you always can see many fallen trees in the river banks.
“Spicramju” bridge [61 km to Valmiera ].
From this bridge township Valka is 12 km away on the right.
Next section down the river leads throw relative uninhabited territory, so you will not be able to see a lot of buildings and can concentrate on the nature. In many places the old river bed is far away from the river bed today location.
There are shelter near “Spicramju” bridge, next one similar shelter is 6 km down of the “Spicramju” bridge.
In the old river bed lakes scenery sometimes is like in jungles.
There are lot of beavers in the river Gauja and in old river bed lakes. Best time to observe them is near sun set.
In pictures you can see beavers created trees.
There are excellent possibilities for bird and animal watching.
Village Oliņas [42 km to Valmiera ].
You can see some buildings near the river ,but you will not find any shops and facilities for tuorists in village Oliņas.
Strenči-Smiltene Road Bridge [25 km to Valmiera].
Built in 1924, this is the second oldest reinforced concrete bridge in Latvia.
Township Strenči [24 km to Valmiera ].
You will find shops and public transport facilities here.
There in Strenči is Rafts men’s park on the right river bank. In the park you can see a sculpture of a rafts man, made from wood. Statue was unveiled in 2000 in honour of the Gauja rafters, author Guntis Priedīte. In the middle of the last century rafting was a very common profession, because wood was floated down the river Gauja to the sea near the Latvia capital Riga.
This fascinating festival with tradition is organized every year during the third week of May. In the festival the entusiasts have to design a real raft and then they have to ride on it two days. The distance to cover goes from Spicramis bridge till Strenči. While the rafters give all and try their best, the party goes on in the city, accompanied with a number of a different events, concerts and attractions.
Near Strenči the river is usual starting point for trips on rafts, kayaks and canoes. This is our company`s where You can rent rafts or canoes, put-in point for the one day trip Strenči – Valmiera.
Railroad bridge downstream Strenči [24 km to Valmiera ].
From this place the river Gauja streem in 4 km lenght are small rapids named “Strenču krāces”. There are 6 seperate steps in thoses rapids, one of them is direct under the bridge.
Last and more challenging part of “Strenču” rapids near village “Krāči”.
Village “Krāči” [17 km to Valmiera ].
In right bank you can see some buildings. In next stage till Valmiera town there are steep sand outcorps in the Gauja river banks. Some of them have special names.
Outcrops “Stāvie krasti” (Steep banks).
Sīmanēnu Svētozols ( Sacred Oak ).
In Latvia old big trees are protected as natural monuments. Some of them are in the river Gauja riverbanks.
The tree measures 8 m around and 21 m high. In the early 20th century three giant sacred oaks stood here, with seven people able to link hands around the stoutest of them. Two of the trees were detroyed by fire, set to their cavities.
Mouth of the river Abuls [6 km to Valmiera].
The Abuls is a nice, small river. We can organize 4-10 km trips down the river.
There is local beer brewery near the river in this side trip starting point.
Guest house,camping “Jaunaraji” [200 meters down the river Abuls mouth].
Cabins in the camping “Jaunarāji”
The river Gauja in stage Strenči-Valmiera.
The township Valmiera is the bigest township wich is located direct near the river Gauja. Population 25.000
The best possibility to do some shopping is on the main street in the direction of Riga (down the river) and on the way you will find a tourism information centre. In the next part of your trip the river bed is straight for 3 km. It was hand made in the last century by unemployed people. This installation was necessary because the river Gauja has been an important traffic way for wood transport in spring, when the water level is high. Of course there are many legends about the people jobs when they had to booze in every big stop near the river like Strenči or Valmiera.
You can visit in Valmiera:
a) Valmiera Castle ruins – ruins of the Livonian Order Castle and the remains of the town’s medieval fortifications. Castle was built in 13th century.
b) St. Simon’s Church – Built in 1283, it has mostly preserved its medieval appearance.
From the river in Valmiera you can see church and some buildings. Fishing near city center is popular activity for local people.
“Kazu” rapids in township Valmiera center.
At this place is a training camp for sport kayakers has been built. There are many obstacles of concrete or stones. This is the best water slalom course in the Baltics. Competition events are held here and water tourists use the site for practice.If there are kayakers training you can ask them to show the best way.
Tributary the river Jumara [ 6 km from Valmiera].
At this point you are entering the Gauja National Park. The park includes over 500 cultural, arhitectual and other monoments.
The park is locaeted in theritory from Valmiera to Murjāņi near the river Gauja. In the Gauja National park teritory you must camp in specialy developed places for tourists. There are privat run campings too’, for exmple in “Caunītes”(for “Baiļi”customers ), Cēsis, Līgatne, Sigulda.
Sandstone rock “Sietiņiezis” [16 km from Valmiera ].
Sietiniezis is the largest white sandstone rock in the Baltics, it is indented with a number of niches and is up to 15 m high and 400 m wide. It is located in the right river bank. Unfortunately you can only see a fragment of the rock from the river. Therefore the best possibility to explore this place is to make a short walking tour (about 2 km) around this natural monument.
“Caunites” [22 km from Valmiera ].
“Caunites” is an camp on the right side of the river. This is the Baili” company property, used as the finish point for one day trips from Valmiera and as the camp for Baiļi customers and customers ,who made reservation before.
Steep riverbanck from wich You can recognize camp Caunītes.
The Līču-Lanģu rocks.
In oposite river bank near camp Caunītes You can walk and observe rocks Grīviņu and Līču-Lanģu.Thease rocks are not situated dirrect near the river Gauja.There is developed walking path under the rocks.
“Kazu” rocks [26 km from Valmiera ].
This nice red sandstone rock will be seen in the left bank. Nature beauty is excellent.
Farmhouse “Ķeines” [30 km from Valmiera ].
This farmhouse is an example of what happens if your house is too close to the river Gauja. 30 years ago this house was 100 m from the river and there was a public road between the house and the river. The Gauja change the river bed very quickly.
Similar situation with farmhouse Mežparki at top section of the river Gauja.
“Ērgļu” rock [37 km from Valmiera ].
See the popular tourism attraction near the Gauja. The longest monolithic cliff face in Latvia. The total lenght is 700 m, with a 300 m strech washed by the waters of the Gauja. The first 130 m are formed by a 22 m high, vertical sandstone wall, and further along are several projections toward the river. There are many frectures in the cliff, and several blocks are also visibly sliding and collapsing.
Cesis town [43 km from Valmiera ].
Here you can visit an old reconstructed castle in the town centre. The Lithuanians, Estonians, Germans, Russians, Poles and Swedes have all fought battles near the stone walls of the Cesis Castle , which was the best fortified stronghold of the Livonian Order.
There are two campings 1km and 2 km next the bridge on the left bank.
Mouth of the river Gauja trebutary the river Amata [55 km from Valmiera ].
The river Amata is top of Latvian white water river two weeks in April.
Next 15 km down the river Amata mouth 15 km is the moust spectacular stage in the river Gauja.
“Ķūķu” Rocks [55 km from Valmiera ].
There are small rapids with 3 steps near “Ķūķu” rocks.
Sanatorium “Skaļupes” (on the left side) [57 km from Valmiera].
Soviet era top secret site – underground bunkers
The mission of this site was to provide basic living conditions for the leaders of Latvia Soviet Republic in the event of their evacuation from Riga in an emergency.
Today you can visit these bunkers as museum.
“Springu” rocks [59 km from Valmiera].
Mighty sandstone rock wall on the left bank of Gauja.. The most beautiful view towards rocks can see from the river.
Township Ligatne(old ferry) [60 km from Valmiera].
Before the second world war there was bridge with was destroyed during the war. After the war there build fery wich was used by local people who worked in paper factory situated in Līgatne township.
Now fery works mostly like tourism attraction.
There is no engine on the fery
Pedestrians as well as cars have to use the ferry because there is no bridge. this ferry technically has not change since middle of the last century. its the only surviving ferry over the river Gauja. Ferries were once the main method of crossing Latvia’s rivers. This ferry has a carrying capacity of 6t. Ferry possible to use all seasons except mid winter and during ice flows or droughts where the river’s water level is too low.
Camping in left bank direct near the fery.
“Katrīnas” rock [63 km from Valmiera].
The rocks will be on the right side, but the camp place on the left side. From the camp “Katrinas” we recommend you to make walk to the nature park of “Līgatne” where you can watch wild animals.
“Gūdu” rocks [64 km no Valmieras].
“Launaga” rock [66 km from Valmiera].
The river Gauja near Sigulda.
Township Sigulda [83 km from Valmiera].
Bridge near Sigulda
The camping “Siguldas pludmale” is situated 1.5 km next the bridge.
Murjāņi 101 km from Valmiera.