Riga, Latvia: Husky dog Sledding in the Great Latvian Outdoors

Rīga, Latvia

On the last leg of my Riga city break, I learnt how to be a real musher, crossing the Latvian countryside with a team of husky dogs and a sled. The wonderful staff at Gallery Park Hotel Riga made the arrangements - I was picked up from the hotel in the morning by a representative from Tour Point and drove to the 'base camp' in West Riga for a good two hours across long icy roads (with signs pointing to Moscow!) past endless stretches of pine forest. My guide (we'll call him R) told me fascinating stories about Latvian history, local legends, and about the high probability of the Holy Grail being lost somewhere in Riga - let's get digging!

My guide, R- a towering specimen of Latvian manliness at nearly 7 foot tall with old-fashioned manners and a wooden pipe.

When I got to base camp I was greeted with hauntingly beautiful, melodic howling: a group of huskies smelt another pack of huskies nearby and were communicating with them the way their wild cousins - wolves - would. Despite the Siberian husky's physical resemblance to the wolf and their wilder instincts (they are much harder to train then most domestic dog breeds), the husky isn't actually the missing link between wolf and dog. In fact, all dog breeds are as closely related to wolves as the husky is! But humour me, let me believe that I'm dancing with wolves.

The huskies were eager to run. Bred for hard work, with strong pack instinct and a real sense for pecking order (if you disrupt the order and put a husky in a different position than it is used to, all the dogs will get agitated and fight), Siberian huskies live for work. I felt privileged to witness them as they should be; living in packs in large expanses of land where they could exercise their natural instinct to run, pull, and work as a team. It was clear that these huskies (unlike so many I've seen kept as fashionable pets in apartments and don't get the exercise they need to stay sane) were happy and keen to serve. My guide picked six dogs for our team, and one husky was so desperate to join that when she realised she was being left out she started crying like a fat child on a strict diet in a candy shop. Another team picked her, so it's all good!

I went solo, without any help from a guide except for instructions on how to control the sled and direct the dogs. The huskies knew the route by heart anyway, so it was mostly up to me to keep us keep me on the sled during the five kilometre route. The dogs would run up to 50km/h through winding forest paths, leap across drops, dodge obstacles, and make sharp turns so balancing was quite tricky - at several points I seemed in real danger of tipping over especially whenever the dogs sped up to turn corners I managed to control the sled. I felt like the Snow Queen of Narnia in my fur coat, yelling 'Mush! Mush! Run! Jump! Rest! Rest!' at the dogs who mostly ignored me and just did what they are trained to do.

The sledding track got wilder with each kilometre, travelling across five kilometres of forest that paved way to a vast expanse of white - it could've very well been a frozen lake covered in snow for all we know - but never once did our confidence in the team falter. These huskies knew exactly what they were doing, and we were just fortunate enough to go along with the ride. Although after five kilometres of crashing through wintry forests I did emerge looking somewhat 'wilder'...

I named this blue and brown eyed beauty Mischka. 

Photo 1 courtesy of Tour Point.

I thoroughly recommend an excursion with Tour Point - not just for husky dog sledding; they also  do city tours around Riga, multi-day tours around Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, and offer customised tours just for you. I joined the husky dog sledding tour although it felt less like a tour and more like a trip with some friendly locals. I was treated like a friend - driven from the city to the countryside and had lovely banter all the way, fed mulled wine and delicious pastries, got to visit the other racing dogs, make friends with the huskies, and play in the snow, all for €95 each. Find out more on their website, here

And so, this posts marks the end of my Riga series. I hope you've enjoyed the trip as much as I have; from the ballet to the Art Nouveau to the shooting range to the dogs.  Our trip can be succinctly described as: "Ballet, bullets, and bitches." Charming! But Riga is just that - where else in Europe can you do both the elegant, sophisticated, and cultural side of Europe (ballet, luxury hotels, Art Nouveau architecture, UNESCO Heritage sites) and rugged, outdoorsy activities (firing Kalashnikovs at a shooting range, walking miles in a recreated village, and sledding with huskies)? Exactly. Riga awaits - the huskies are calling you. What are you waiting for? GO! 

Need convincing? Here are my blog posts on Riga:


Posh, Broke, & Bored. Theme by STS.