One of the reasons I love what I do – which is exploring culture through food, tradition and lifestyle – is that I get to also go off the well-trodden path into regions and areas where tradition is being preserved and integrated into everyday living.
Such is the case of Latvia’s easternmost and less visited region, Latgale, which is best explored via a road trip. I’d been to Latvia before but exploring this remote part of its heart revealed a whole new side of the culture to me and one that is closely tied to nature.
A way of slow travelling through Latvia in a way that connects you on a deeper level.
On our last night in Latgale, we stayed in Rugaji, a small village with a population of about 600. Our destination was family-run Viesu Nams “Rūķīši” (Rukisi Holiday Home) which were a series of lakeside cabins in this tranquil region.
Black sauna experience
Upon arrival to our cozy wooden cabins, a traditional smoke sauna (also called a black sauna) was prepared for use to relax and destress. More importantly, to really marinate and let our experiences over the last few days soak in. I have enjoyed saunas before (having lived here in Northern Europe for years) and this was one of the more traditional experiences.
Smoke saunas (black bathhouses) are one of the oldest types. There’s a heated stove with layer of stones which you pour water onto to release more smoke and make the room hotter. The thickest darkest smoke is released through windows and doors before you actually step in to enjoy the wood-scented heat.
Though I didn’t swim in the lake afterwards, my sauna partners took several dips in the nearby lake right at the doorsteps of the sauna to rejuvenate before we headed back in for multiple sessions.
Traditional fish soup
Simplicity truly is in these days and presentation always matters. One of our wonderful dining experiences at Rukisi was dining on traditional fish soup which was cooked over open flames in a cauldron and presented simply with a beautifully laid out table in an outdoor setting. It was served alongside some local Latvian brew, a variety of cucumbers and pickles which the region is known for, as well as fresh vegetables and salads, all grown on the property.
If you could craft the perfect summer night out with friends, enjoying the solace this pristine remote location provided, Rukisi was it, and it remains one of my favourite moments while road-tripping through Latvia.
About Rukisi Holiday Home
Viesu Nams “Rūķīši” offers a large holiday house with a lounge for celebrations for up to 25 people, a classic sauna, a small swimming pool, a kitchen, a toilet, a shower and three bedrooms (a total of 8 beds). There’s also a small holiday house with fireplace room, two bedrooms (4 beds), kitchen, WC, and shower.
On site is a banquet hall for 80 – 100 persons for various events – weddings, anniversaries, weddings, presentations. And you can choose to have lunch or dinner outdoors surrounded by nature or in its cozy rooms.
Photo gallery from Latvia
You can view more photos in my Latvia image bank below.
I explored the Latgale region of Latvia as part of the #LatviaRoadtrip campaign in collaboration with Latvia Tourism and NordicTB Collective. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and travel content I share on here are my very own.