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The Gauja valley is a winter sports centre, and has a bobsleigh run at Sigulda and a ski jump at Valmiera. Riga has an outdoor ice skating rink that opens when temperatures fall below -3°C (27°F).

Canoeing is very popular on the Gauja, Salaca and Abava rivers and in the Latgale lakes region. Gauja National Park can be visited on horse-riding excursions arranged in Sigulda. Private companies offer guided bird-watching trips from Baldone, about 20km (12mi) south of Riga.


The first national song festival in Latvia was held in 1873 and has evolved into one of the most emotive events on the calendar. It's held every five years and climaxes with a giant choir singing in a huge open-air amphitheatre in the national capital.

Big midsummer celebrations start on 23 June, when people flock to the countryside to celebrate amid the lakes and pine forests. Special beers, cheeses and pies are prepared and wreaths strung from grasses, while flowers and herbs are hung around the home to bring good luck and keep families safe from evil spirits.

Gadatirgus is a big arts and crafts fair held in Riga in the first weekend in June. The Baltika Annual International Folklore Festival, which has taken place in each Baltic capital in turn since 1987, is a weeklong affair of music, dance, exhibitions and parades usually held in mid-July. It's next due to be held in Riga in 2000.

Other music festivals include the International Festival of Organ Music, held in the capital in June; the Opera Music Festival, held in Sigulda in July; the Festival of Ancient Music, at Bauska Castle in July; and Liepajas Dzintars, a rock festival held in Liepaja in mid-August. Ascension Day, a big Roman Catholic gig, is celebrated between 14 and 16 August in Aglona.

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