The origins of the ancient Gauja River valley go back more than 350 million years, but its current ravine-ridden terrain was moulded by the glacier meltwater at the end of the Ice Age. The Gauja, which is the longest river in Latvia (452 km), winds through the national park. The river once served as a trading route, and the Livonians built their settlements on its banks. Strong stone castles, which were enclosed by steep slopes and deep valleys, were built in the 13th century. The cities and the social and cultural life grew around these castles.
Today, the park is a place where legends of the past live alongside modern and cosy guest houses, restaurants and leisure spots. Here you can enjoy the aura of antiquity in old castles, receive a burst of energy at one of the ancient sacred places or experience the healing properties of the springs. You can also touch trees planted by kings, hear your voice echoing off sandstone rocks, or let the nature trails carry you off into rich forests. All of this should be enjoyed slowly, letting the taste, smell and colours introduce you to the rhythm of the local life. This is best done by hiking, riding a bicycle or a horse, or even taking a boat down the gentle stream of the Gauja River.