Desolate and Meditative 46 km along the Baltic Sea: Coastal Hiking from Pāvilosta to Užava, Latvia

Text and photos by Solveiga Kaļva,

I have hiked the entire Latvian coastline of the Baltic Sea, about 500 km, and I can say with certainty – the route from Pāvilosta to Užava is the most desolate part of our seaside offering. A meditative hiking experience. My German friend Fabian and I were hiking for two days, and we only encountered one other person.

There is a song performed by a Latvian rock-band “Liepājas brāļi” which goes approximately like this “Oh, Pāvilosta, oh, Pāvilosta, you’re the belt bind in the sea knot! Oh, Pāvilosta, oh, Pāvilosta, no wind will destroy you!”. I couldn’t get rid of this song in my mind, as it suited so perfectly to the vibes of Pāvilosta – a tiny port town located at the mouth of Saka river in Courland. Pāvilosta is a very peaceful place where time stops and you are instantly pulled into a romantic atmosphere of colorful wooden houses, fishermans’ daily routine, sea wind and seagull screams.

Not far from Pāvilosta we still saw some lonely fishing boats, lying down on the sandy beach, but later on it felt that we were the only ones in the whole world. Almost an apocalyptic feeling. Gloomy weather intensified this sensation.

As we started our hike quite late, our goal for the first day was only 20 km from Pāvilosta to Jūrkalne. Our path led us through sandy beaches which from time to time were replaced by pebble beaches, but sometimes – decorated with large boulders. On the right side there was a never-ending cliff stretching the entire way, changing only its color and geological composition, sometimes more red, sometimes more yellow, and sometimes – covered with bright green grass. We were escorted by huge flocks of seagulls, and, honestly, we felt like walking on their lunch plate – so full of fishbones was the shore.

It’s very easy to spot Jūrkalne from faraway, as it has white letters on the top of the cliff saying JŪRKALNE. After my description, Fabian was expecting to see something like the HOLLYWOOD sign, as I described to him my childhood memories of visiting Jūrkalne, but as we all know – in childhood everything seems bigger than it actually is. So, please, don’t get me wrong. It’s not really a HOLLYWOOD-type sign you should be looking for. No, no. Still, JŪRKALNE is visible enough to know that you can call it a day and start looking for a place to set up your tent. Steep cliff walls didn’t make our search for a camping place any easier, but not far from JŪRKALNE sign, we found a tiny path going up, so we followed it and ended up camping in the woods. We set up our tent one second before the rain started.

The next morning it was still raining, the whole area was wrapped in a gray mist. Our plan for the second day was about 26 km from Jūrkalne to Užava. The cliff wall started to become lower and lower, as we were coming closer to Užava. On this day we met the only other person during the whole hike – a man who was hiking in the opposite direction. We stopped for a brief moment, exchanged some thoughts and continued our journey. The day was so cold that I was dreaming of gloves, although it was June…

When we noticed Užava lighthouse standing white on the shore and greeting us from the pine forest, our happiness was indescribable. We went to the lighthouse to take a photo, but a nice surprise was waiting for us there… it turned out that we can visit the lighthouse from inside! From the top we could enjoy an amazing view of the Baltic sea and endless woods.

This is a perfect hike for anyone who wants to feel the majesty of nature, experience a few days without civilization, an empty mind and blend with the sea and the wind.

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