airBaltic – the world’s first airline to issue non-fungible tokens (NFTs), releases its next edition (#11) in airBaltic City collection. Each of the limited collector NFTs is a digital art piece showcasing an individual Airbus A220-300 with its registration and one of the most beloved cities of Latvia to promote tourism and Latvia in the world. Previous cities features have been Kuldīga, Cēsis, Alūksne, Liepāja, Bauska, Sigulda, Jelgava, Ogre, Valmiera and Gulbene. All airBaltic NFTs have been issued on the OpenSea marketplace and are placed in Metaverse 3D gallery.
Edition 11 is showcasing an individual Airbus A220-300 and one of the smallest towns in Latvia – Smiltene, surrounded by many forests and lakes.
Smiltene is one of the many charming, inviting small towns in northern Latvia. Situated on the banks of the Abuls River 132 kilometres northeast of the capital, Riga, it invites visitors to walk its green parks, listen to the burbling waterfall in the heart of the town, and hop on a bicycle to explore the surrounding forests and lakes. Smiltene municipality also includes several other pretty towns, including Rauna and Ape.
To fully enjoy and explore what nature offers in this part of Latvia, pack the necessities for cycling, hiking, swimming, rowing, paddling, or, in winter, cross-country skiing. Keep in mind that this area is attractive in any month of the year, bringing out new qualities as the seasons change.
Where to find history
The present-day Smiltene Evangelical Lutheran Church was rebuilt in 1859 and remains the only cross-type church in Latvia. It is surrounded by beautiful greenery and flowers in summer and is one of the most beloved sights in Smiltene. The interior is decorated with an outstanding altar and wood carvings. The altar painting, The Resurrection of Christ, is by Russian-Estonian painter Ernst von Liphard and was renewed by famous Latvian painter Janis Rozentāls.
Photo by Agnis Melderis on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Another culturally and historically significant site is the Smiltene Manor complex. Built between 1767 and 1771, it now serves as a technical school for students from around the country. The complex is situated in the heart of Smiltene right next to Vidusezers Lake and the Abuls River, with a beautiful view overlooking the beloved Old Park.
Photo by Elīna Kubuliņa – Vilne on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Swans, squirrels, wilds ducks, and beavers are the local inhabitants of the lovely and peaceful Old Park. It’s also a favourite spot for families, locals, and visitors to enjoy a slow stroll. Indulge in the scenery of Vidusezers Lake and the Abuls River and savour the gentle breeze, the green surroundings, and the burble of the nearby waterfall. The waterfall connects Teperis Lake with the Abuls River and is the site of the first, albeit small, modern hydroelectric power plant in the Baltics. The waterfall and the park as a whole are a perfect place for a leisurely picnic.
Photo by Kaspars Liepiņš on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
What to do
Smiltene has many fun activities for those who enjoy being near the water. Teperis Lake is situated near the town centre and connected to it by the paths of the Old Park. Take a paddle board, pedal boat, or canoe and explore the picturesque views surrounding this artificial lake. On the other side of the lake, you’ll find a recreation and sports complex with numerous activities on offer, including a tennis court, a BMX track, a beach volleyball court, a go-kart track, and much more.
A few kilometres outside of Smiltene you’ll find Niedrājs Lake, which is enveloped by forest and beloved recreational areas. The lake is also popular with divers, who appreciate the clean, transparent water. The hilly terrain surrounding the lake make it a perfect place for walking, running, cycling, and cross-country skiing in winter – a win-win situation, because the cardio exercise comes along with a breathtaking view. If you’re visiting in summer, take a dip in the clear water or rent a paddle board.
Photo by Evija Ziemiņa on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Where to hear legends
A bizarre little place on the outskirts of this town is known locally as the Stonehenge of Smiltene. While many believe it resembles the famous prehistoric site in Great Britain, its origins are quite different. The symmetrically arranged columns of rock are actually the ruins of just an ordinary barn. It’s an unofficial tourist attraction that’s popular not only for its name but also for the picturesque rural scenery, its proximity to Smiltene, and the pretty views of the sunset. It’s a must-visit for photography enthusiasts.
Another unusual place with an intriguing name is the Smiltene Meteorite Crater. This round depression with a small dam is full of mystery. It is perhaps the result of the same natural processes that have shaped the terrain in the rest of this area. But according to an alternative hypothesis, it’s the impact crater created long ago by a meteorite. Despite the name, however, this latter explanation of the cosmic origin of this natural feature has not been proven. But the mystery remains. And, seeing as it’s within walking distance of the centre of Smiltene, why miss it?
Where to go for an adrenaline rush
Hop on a bicycle to explore the ups and downs and the endless forests and blue lakes of this region. If you feel adventurous, take the 29-kilometre circular route that passes several lakes and also goes through the centre of Smiltene. It’s considered a medium level trail in terms of difficulty, but there are also shorter routes available. Download route maps from the Smiltene Cycling Trails website and conveniently follow along on your smartphone.
Photo by Agnis Melderis on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Where to go with children
There are several places for children to enjoy in Smiltene, including the playground in the New Park, which is situated on the western side of the Old Park. There you’ll find modern playground equipment and a calming view of the Abuls River.
Photo by Jānis Ūdris on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Children will also love the Ezerlejas Zoo, which keeps more than 50 breeds of local and exotic birds and animals. The zoo offers fun and educational activities as well as guided tours. Pet and feed the animals as you explore the zoo!
Photo by Evija Ziemiņa on visit.smiltenesnovads.lv
Where to find the best view
Rauna, one of the most beautiful little towns in the region, lies just a little more than 20 kilometres from Smiltene. Rauna Castle, or Ronneburg, was one of the main residences of the Archbishop of Riga. Construction on the castle began in 1262, but the fortress was destroyed in the 17th century and never rebuilt. Nowadays, however, one of the towers has been restored, which you can climb for a beautiful view of the town from the top. It humbly merges with the centuries-old ruins and reminds visitors of the great history here.
Where to enjoy culture
The ‘Anniņas’ property that once belonged to the famous Latvian composer and professor Jāzeps Vītols now houses a cultural venue and museum. Located in the town of Gaujiena (40 kilometres northeast of Smiltene), the property was once a part of the Gaujiena Manor park. It’s a majestic place, and the composer himself once exclaimed that Gaujiena was his paradise. Every year the museum hosts free concerts, inviting choirs and a symphonic orchestra to perform by the terraces in front of the house. These structures merge with the hilly surroundings to serve as a stage for the enjoyment of breathtaking art.
Where to enjoy nature
If you want to feel the closeness of nature, plan some time to walk the nature trail in Rauna, which follows the banks of the Rauna River for two kilometres and includes several noteworthy sites. Here you’ll also see Raunas Staburags, a unique freshwater cascade formation along the Rauna River. This rock wall overgrown with moss feels like a mystical fairytale setting, with water seeping through the green mass as it passes on its way to join the waters of the river. In winter, the water forms hundreds of icicles that amaze visitors.
Another sight on your way is a sandstone cave that’s 13 metres long and three metres high. According to legend, it once housed a devil who guarded his gold inside the cave, hence the name Devil’s Cave. The devil might have been on to something, because in winter the entrance to the cave is shielded by a curtain of icicles.
Where to dine
In Smiltene, follow the locals when choosing a place for a meal. A beloved spot is the cafeteria in Kalnamuiža (also known as Smiltene Manor). Enjoy a hearty meal while visiting the historical manor complex and gain strength for all the cycling you’ll be doing while visiting Smiltene.
If you crave fast food, the popular Re-Kebabs is at your service. Juicy kebabs, fresh pita bread, and crunchy fries are the speciality here. The menu also includes burgers and fried snacks.
A café owned by local wine producers offers coffee, wines, refreshments, and sweets from Spain. Ziemeļu vīns, meaning ‘northern wine’, hits the spot for a relaxing cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the heart of Smiltene.
Smiltene Municipality takes pride in having so many local producers, from a famous beer brewery to a cheese and pasta factory.
The Abuls artisan cider brewery is situated in the rural home of its owner located near the Abuls River. The brewers believe that cider contains the flavour of the local summer. Open to experimentation with Latvian apple varieties and brewing methods, Abuls continues to enhance its products and invites visitors to hear their story and taste this refreshing beverage produced from apples.
The Malduguns microbrewery in Rauna produces much-loved beer consumed all across Latvia. Its beer is famous not only for its excellent flavour and quality; the bottles also stand out with their creative design.
Rauna also has a family-owned cheese and pasta factory. Called Cheese Factory (or Siera ražotne in Latvian), it claims to be the only dairy in the Baltics to produce green cheese. Take a guided tour of the factory and learn how to make homemade pasta infused with mushrooms, hemp, garlic, herbs, and other goods from nature. The factory also has a self-service store to purchase its products.
Where to stay
Find tranquillity and rest at the beautifully designed Donas guesthouse located 11 kilometres from the Smiltene town centre. With well-preserved architecture and details chosen with great care, Donas exudes a historical mood and exquisite elegance.
For those wishing to spend the night closer to nature, the unique DiDille glamping site south of Smiltene offers fully equipped dome-shaped tents right next to Draudzesskola Lake. And yes, they even include a bathroom and tiny kitchen. The large windows open to a captivating view of the lake as you wake up from a good night’s sleep.
Read more about Smiltene at visit.smiltenesnovads.lv.