One of the most difficult things for us to believe when we crossed the Estonian-Latvian border was that we’d only cycled a total of about 300km in Estonia. Compared to Australia, the Baltic States are tiny. That being said it was late afternoon and still about 120 km to Riga, so we would need two stops along the way.
Handy Hint: The Estonian coast below Parnu has plenty of opportunity for camping – both in campgrounds and wild camping.
We made our first stop, just before Salacgrivas, around 15km from the border. That made it a respectable 78 km ride for the day in fabulous riding conditions (except for a couple of sporadic showers which we managed to dodge!)
Note: At the time of writing there were a lot of roadworks between Parnu and Riga which quite often worked for well for us. As the traffic came in spurts in either direction, we were able to ride on the roadworks themselves, away from the cars and trucks.
Our camp for the night was at the local Marina behind a very nice hotel(Kapteinu Osta – Captain’s Haven) with a very nice restaurant. The grassed area was excellent, the facilities clean and more than adequate. 10 Euros for us and the tent seemed pretty reasonable.
We pitched up behind a large mound that served as a windbreak. The restaurant looked very posh but was, in reality, quite reasonable and had great WiFi to boot. Our first real taste of Latvian beer was also very promising.
Day two, we followed the bike path into Salacgrivas for breakfast and then out onto the A1/E67 to mix it with the traffic again. We stopped at a historic farm at Mekes Krogs for lunch, a pleasant coffee and cheesy cauliflower soup in the sun.
If you have the time, make sure you follow the bike path sign off the A1 around two km from this restaurant. You’ll find yourself at the Baron Von Munchausen’s Estate. Lovely just to stroll around the grounds or you can visit the museum, take in lunch or relax with a refreshing beverage. It’s a large complex but you can ride straight through and join up with the main road, another couple of km on if you’re short on time.
From here, it’s another 7 or 8 km to the Saulcrasti turn off, which reduces the traffic quite a bit. Saulcrasti is a very long place. Be aware that many of the campgrounds are up to 15km north of the central area. We were already in the centre when we found this out.
Tim dropped into the Tourist Information office for maps and to inquire about places to stay. They rang a few places to check they had beds left as it was a very busy weekend. With rain on the horizon, we didn’t fancy doubling back to pitch the tent so we tracked down the most promising of the selection. It turned out to be a converted “container” next to a wide open concrete area that looked perfect for late night assignations between unsavoury characters! For 40 Euro a night. Not going to happen!
We pulled up at a little cafe with WiFi, did a quick search and found an awesome little room at Pie Maijas just down the road for 35 Euros….A secure shed to store the bikes, a supermarket about 100m away and a 10-minute walk to the centre. Done deal on bookings.com “Todays Deal”.
Riding out of Saulcrasti on a Sunday morning was a sleepy affair. The first place we could find to buy coffee and something for breakfast was a service station a couple of km south of the centre. The traffic stayed quiet for a good part of the ride into Riga. UNTIL, we hit the A2, which got a little scary. We were saved, however, by the roadworks. The road was being widened significantly and they were working on the weekend. With traffic controlled to one way at a time, it was probably one of the safer stretches of the whole ride.
Once again, Tim had studied the route well and led us to our Airbnb apartment on the north side of town. First impressions left a little to be desired, and we were wondering if we’d made our first big mistake. A decaying, communist style concrete block with unkempt gardens and its fair share of graffiti didn’t inspire us.
Note: Don’t forget, if you’re not already signed up to Airbnb, you can get $25 USD off your first booking just by using THIS LINK.
Thankfully, the apartment itself was great, as was it’s location. We had a huge shopping centre just down the road, a corner store for when we were feeling too lazy to walk 200m and a tram into the city centre about 100m from our front door. There was also plenty of space to secure the bikes, which is always one of our prime concerns.
The pictures we’d seen had Riga shaping up to be a rival for Tallinn on our list of favourites. But, it was late afternoon, so we did a quick shop, threw our stinky ride clothes in the washing machine, and settled in for the rest of the day to plan our assault on the city. Here’s hoping the weather would be kind.
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