Adventure Tour to Latgale: Day Second

The Sunday morning is nice and the day starts with a little fog over Lake Rāzna. I wake up at 8:00 AM to perform a ritual – go to swim in the lake. The water here is warmer than in Lielupe, I think it could be some 13°…14°C. But to reach the depth that is suitable for swimming one must go quite far from the shore, which I don’t do otherwise my legs would freeze.

After the breakfast at 9:50 AM we get into our off road jeeps and continue our off road adventure tour. For today we have planed to go up in the hill of Lielais Liepukalns, visit and the workshop of local potter and drive the off roads that our host Staņislavs suggested.

Abandoned house in Latgale

We warm up slowly and after first kilometres on gravel road we turn to off road and pass 2 abandoned houses, wondering how people used to live here and how did they ever get somewhere. Both houses looked untouched from outside, all the glazing in windows was also there. But after we looked inside, we discovered that the ceiling and floors has been collapsed. Judging by the different household objects we found in the houses, nobody has lived there for at least 20 years. As we continue our adventure tour we reach the shores of the small and scenic Lake Astica, with flock of sheep and some fisherman on the shore.

We drive on the ancient and winding highway of Dagda and reach the hill of Lielais Liepukalns. We have enough time so we yield to the temptation to discover a new off road. It is marked on the USSR army map, but neither Edvīns, nor any of us have ever driven it. We set our Terratrip Rally Computer to zero to have a precise record of the performed distance and continue our off road driving on the avenue covered with orange leaves. Soon we realize that the road is very passable, it’s just pity that it is relatively dry.

After a few moments we must take out and use our saws and machetes to brake through the bushes and get to the house that is marked on the map. After every 100 metres the work of clearing the road gets harder and harder. All we see is trees, bushes and blue sky. We use all the available off road navigation devices to find the exact place of the road. After intensive sawing and 800 metres driven we arrive in the meadow with ruins of the house. Behind some fresh dug-outs, probably made by wild boars, we manage to find the road that leads to the ancient cemetery. But there is so many fallen trees on the road and it is so scrubby, that we decide not to spend our time there and continue our off road adventure tour on a known route.

While driving through the woods we keep the windows open so that we could feel and smell the special autumn-like scent of the leaves and thus increase even more the sense of off road adventure.

As we continue the adventure tour we drive along a beautiful off road, reach the hill of Lielais Liepukalns and get on the top of it. With its 290 metres it is the third highest hill in Latvia. There’s a little platform on the top of the hill with enough space for only 3…4 off road jeeps. The hill is covered with trees, but in between them opens a wonderful and unforgettable view over the open spaces of Latgale. We take some pictures, have a little meal and proceed to the potter’s workshop and on the quest for the suggested off road.

Potter Evalds Vasiļevskis meets us with a wide and philosophical introduction about what is clay, what is baking and how exactly the pottery are moulded. Latgale is famous with her ancient pottery tradition, because clay that is found in this region is considered to be one of the cleanest natural clays in the world. It can be used also in medicine, for facial masks, etc.

Not far from Ubogova Devil’s stone there’s an off road that our host in the guest house recommended as especially “interesting” and so we throw ourselves in another quest for undiscovered off roads in the frames of our adventure tour.

This off road starts with some dug-outs of wild boars. We gently roll our 4×4 off road jeeps over them and after a minute we start the next round of road clearing activities. Then for some 600 metres we have quite a successful drive, if we compare the distance with the effort put on the clearing of the road. The off road itself turned out to be relatively dry and passable and so we didn’t get the level of difficulty that was promised, because the forestry machinery hasn’t driven there for some 3 years.

However we are again forced to capitulate before the off road, because we understand that the clearing of the road can last longer than it would be necessary, besides we had almost run out of the fuel for the power-saw. Nevertheless we have found a new and promising off road for the next adventure tours.

Little by little we start our way back to Riga still wondering at the beautiful landscapes of Latgale. We visit also the little and mystical Lake Velnezers (Devil’s Lake) called also Čortoks, not far from Aglona, that is also one of Latvias clearest lakes. There are many different legends about this lake, that’s why a lot of people visit it.

Aglona basilica – popular Catholic Pilgrimage destination in Latvia

Aglona Basilica

We stop at the Aglona basilica as well. This church is international sacred site and a part of Latvia’s cultural heritage – a cultural monument, the most important Catholic Church in the country and a place of pilgrimage. This Baroque style church with 2 towers of 60 metres attracts every year thousands of pilgrims that arrive in Aglona for the magnificent and grandiose complex of events on the day of the Assumption of Mary. Different healing qualities have been ascribed to the altar piece of Aglona basilica “The Miracle-worker Our Lady of Aglona”. This icon is being uncovered only in ceremonious activities when religious celebrations are taking place. The impressive basilica is known also for its interior, made in 18th and 19th century, and attracts not only pilgrims but also art lovers and tourists.

Edvīns shows us some more scenic roads of Latgale. Especially beautiful seems the road from Jaunokra to Grāveri – along the right side of the road there are a lot of lakes surrounded by golden autumn-like trees that all together looks like a string of beads.

A wonderful conclusion of our off road adventure tour is the crossing of a wide ford on river Dubna. Near Višķi we drive out on Višķi – Nīcgale highway to continue our way home. This off road adventure tour to Latgale will remain in memory for long time because of the sense of the real backcountry that it gave to the participants, as well with the beautiful nature and landscapes.

Read previous:
Adventure Tours to Latgale: Day 1

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Length of the tour in 2nd day: 10 hours
Tour distance in 2nd day: 300 km
Tour route in 2nd day: guest house “Rāznas pērle” – Dubuļi – Andrupene – Grāveri – Aglona – Višķi – Nīcgale – Jēkabpils – Rīga
Difficulty level: Easy-Medium
Group size: up to 21 person (min. 3 persons)
4×4 off road jeeps in group: up to 7
Self driving: Yes
2 day tour pricing per person: 240 EUR (includes all taxes, breakfast, dinner and 2 picnic meals)

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