Lighthouses in Latvia

fetch_53142Slītere lighhouse

An aura of secrecy and a specific appeal is added to the lighthouse by stories of the robber David, who made false fires on the shore to endanger the passing ships. There had been a humongous oak in the precipice of the Zilie kalni before the Slītere lighthouse was built and it was also marked in all the sea maps. The oak was destroyed by lightning. The Slītere church built by the Danish Vikings had served as an orientation point for several centuries. The tower itself was built in mid-19th century, but it became a round-the-clock lighthouse only in 1961. During the active years of service as a lighthouse (till 1999) it was one of the highest lights in all the Baltic shore (more than 100m above sea level). The precipice of Zilie kalni had determined another peculiarity – no other lighthouse in Latvia is that far inland – 5.3 km from the sea. The lighthouse has become one of the tourism objects of the Slītere national park. The lighthouse houses the exhibition about lighthouses in Latvia, the Baltics and in the world.

Kolka lighthouse


The history of lighthouses in Kolka horn began in the 13th century with signal fires, so that the seamen would know where to turn between the Irbe strait and the Riga gulf. The horn itself, where the shelf continues underwater for 6 km, has always been a navigational hazard and is the place of the largest ship graveyard in the Baltic Sea. Here, on an underwater ridge is the place where the Sur mer and Piški mer (the Big sea and the Little sea in Liv) meet. The first wooden lighthouse in this place was mentioned in 1532. In the middle of the 16th century there were two lighthouses here that created a line of navigational fires by the axle of the shelf. One had to turn at the exact moment when the lights were right on top of each other and seemed to blend. The fires were replaced by oil lamps in 1818 and the lighting became constant or, as the seamen like to say – firm. The costs of maintaining the Kolka lighthouse were more than 3 000 silver rubles per year and were the responsibility of the owner of the Dundaga estate Ostanken. During the Crimean war the British sailors have raided the lighthouses. The towers were repaired in 1858 and the shore by the Northern lighthouse was fortified. The tower was destroyed by the sea twenty years later. An point for observation of the sea traffic and the movement of ice was created in the Southern tower. Nowadays, only ruins are left of the tower. From the 1858, the dangerous Kolka shelf was marked by a light ship that made white, sparkling light. The ship was endangered by the floating ice for several times and it was no longer used since 1875. The Kolka lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Latvia on an artificial island. It is 5.14 km from the ruins of the old lighthouse. The island was made from boulders that were brought to the place by boats and sleds from Kurzeme and Estonia. The building of the lighthouse was started on 1872, but the light in the lighthouse was lit only three years later. A house for the lighthouse crew was built on the island and a special foghorn was brought from Paris and put in the lighthouse. The lighthouse began its active duty in 1884. The foghorn was replaced by a steam siren. In 1915 the immobile lens was replaced by flashing light. In 1934 the source of light was changed to spotlights on a rotating desk. The lighthouse was modernized in the 1960-ties and was automated in 1979.

image-135Ovīši lighthouse
It is the oldest active lighthouse in Latvia and has not undergone any visual changes since the day it was built. The light here was lit in 1814. There is a second tower in the middle of the first tower. The peculiarity might be explained by military reasons, for the lighthouse might have been built to double as a fortification unit. The lighthouse was modernized in 1860 and 44 years later a separate tower was built for the foghorn.











Irbe lighthouse
The building of a stationary lighthouse in the Mihaila shelf was started in 1979 and it was called the largest nuclear lighthouse in the Soviet Union by the soviet press. A lightship built in Finland was anchored in the Irbe strait and was used till 1985.
The lightship was replaced by a tower with an open platform on the top (a helicopter pad). The lighthouse is no longer in Soviet waters and is powered by solar energy.








A lighthouse in the old Liv settlement called Pize (pize means sallow twig) and is the highest lighthouse in the Baltics (65 m). The lighthouse was never called a Pisa tower though, but was named Mikhail lighthouse for it was erected to warn the sailors about the shelf of the same name. The name was Latvianized later and the lighthouse became Miķeļbāka (Michael’s lighthouse) or Miķeļtornis (Michael’s tower). The lighthouse was torn down twice and the tower one can see today was built on 1957.