Communing with nature in Latvia

Cūkmens sticker

Stickers urging people to clean up after themselves when visiting state forests are part of the Cūkmens campaign.

If you are planning a trip to Latvia—or are already in Latvia—do you have an interest to be at one with nature? Where can you turn to find out the best picnic and fishing spots, childrens’  nature activity parks and other outdoor recreation areas?, a literal translation of the term Mother Nature, is an initiative created by Latvijas valsts meži (Latvian State Forests, that encourages travel to the countryside.

By countryside this state institution means the forests, the rivers, the lakes—not just the towns. The hope here is that locals as well as tourists will find these trips to the countryside enjoyable and will return and pass this information on to others. The Web site is great for ideas for the best spots for all kinds of activities, from the local Latvian favorites of berry picking, mushrooming, fishing, bird-watching and hunting to cycling routes, orienteering and nordic walking routes. So far there are around 300 areas of state-owned forest territory under the stewardship of Latvijas valsts meži that have been cleared for recreational public use.

If you’ve headed out to the woods but want to stay longer than just one day your best bet for accommodation options is Atputa laukos. The Web site is created by the country tourism association Lauku ceļotājs, which also publishes brochures that can be purchased in most bookstores. For more sites on the environment and various options for outdoor recreation have a look at the links page.

Latvijas valsts meži has also for the past two years been involved in a campaign to increase public awareness of the dumping of rubbish in Latvian forests. Cūkmens is the public face of this campaign, a litterer-turned-pig in a superman-style pink pig costume actively urging the public to clean up its act: “Nemēslo mežā! Par cuku pārvērtīsies!” (Don’t dump your rubbish in the forest! You’ll turn into a pig!). This year the campaign has focused on coastal rubbish dumping. Cūkmens has visited local school in coastal regions, educating the children as well as getting the public involved in cleaning up the coastline. Jāņi was another perfect target for a Cūkmens intervention; with so many people heading to the woods to celebrate, there has always been a tendency to leave the post-Jāņi waste behind. Learn more about the Cūkmens campaign and see video and listen to audio from the campaign at

School-aged children can learn more about the forests of Latvia by taking part in a program, Izzini mezu, a joint initiative of Latvian State Forests, the Foundation for Environmental Education and the Forest Development Fund. The patron of this program is Latvian writer and poet Imants Ziedonis. The aim is to teach kids the importance of the forest habitat from an ecological and cultural perspective in the early years to more complex concepts in the later years of their school life.


Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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