Liepāja is undoubtedly considered to be the most accessible city in Latvia. In 2013, it won the international EDEN competition and was awarded the title of the European destination of excellence for people with disabilities. Māris Ceirulis with the Liepāja Society of the Blind actively work on the improvement of access and introduction of universal design principles in the city, therefore there are lots of tactile objects, information in Braille, public transport and traffic lights with sound signals and guiding lines on the streets for people with visual impairment. There is also a specific route for the blind created called “Hear, smell, touch Liepāja”, which is lead by a blind guide along the most significant culturally historic objects of Liepāja.
There are lots of options to walk in the city itself, but there are also 3 nature trails, which are accessible to all – the Lake Liepāja boardwalk, Lake Liepāja Horse island trail and walking paths at the Liepāja Seaside Park. The route can be started with any of them.
Lake Liepāja boardwalk is the shortest of the three trails – it is a wooden boardwalk stretching into the lake and its length is 1 km in one direction. There is a watching tower in the end, which is, unfortunately, not accessible to wheelchair users, yet even without that, the walk surrounded by the lake reeds will bring a true pleasure to everyone.
Lake Liepāja Horse island, in its turn, is the largest of all the 15 islands of the lake. Once the Horse island served as the city’s dump area, yet nowadays the territory of the island is significantly improved. There is a new, modern Nature House at the start of the trail with several pathways and a wide, good quality wooden boardwalk along the coast of the lake with several viewing platforms. Along the boardwalk, a number of outdoor gym devices and resting areas with picnic tables and grilling sites have been installed. At the end of the boardwalk, the trail continues along a narrow dam with a watching tower for bird watching in the middle (not accessible to wheelchair users). Please note that movement on the dam stretch may be challenging due to small stones on the pavement. Yet, if you manage to, you shall be really surprised of how far the dam stretches into the lake and of the birds seen on the coast. The total distance of the trail is 2 km in one direction, therefore way there and back will take a bit more than an hour. There are accessible toilets at the parking lot and at the Nature House, as well as a tactile information stand with the silhouettes and descriptions (also in Braille) of the hand-size birds living here. When parking a car, try to park nearby the Nature House, as the surface of the parking lot area is pretty uneven.
Make sure to visit also the Liepāja Seaside Park, which is one of the largest dendrological parks in Latvia with more than 140 local and foreign tree species. Paths here are accessible to all and stretch for about 3 km all through the park. The Park is located on the sea coast and Liepāja beach has been assigned the “Blue Flag” award certifying its good quality. It is also the first beach in Latvia, which is adapted to people with visual and movement impairment, therefore everyone can access the beach up to the water and enjoy a nice swim, by using the special equipment available at the Rescue Station. There are also accessible toilets at the park, as well as tactile information boards (incl. in Braille). If you want to spend some more time in Liepāja, on the next day it is possible to visit the newly constructed wooden boardwalk at Bernāti beach and walking paths at the rehabilitation centre “Dvēseles veldzes dārzs” of the Liepāja Society of the Blind in Ziemupe (overnight stay possible as well).
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