For any traveler longing to explore one of Europe’s hidden gems, Latvia is the ultimate jackpot. Still relatively undiscovered by the masses, this intriguing country is on the up, and is soon to be the continent’s newest obsession.
Still somewhat in transition from its days as part of the Soviet Union, modern day Latvia is swiftly cutting all ties to its old image, with the Latvia of today being a vibrant, exhilarating and enthralling place to be – perfect for enticing even the weariest of travelers.
1 of 3 Baltic States. Situated on the Baltic Sea’s coastline, Latvia is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus on the south east. It is a country rich with wildlife, with many lakes, river valleys and beaches on offer to its visitors, as well as various towns, villages and metropolitan cities.
More than 5 million airborne visitors each year. With just one major airport in the country, Riga International Airport carries more than 5 million visitors to the country each year, and is the largest airport in all of the Baltic States.
500 kilometers of sandy beaches. Located along the Baltic Coast, Latvia’s shoreline is a diverse one. Beginning with the beautifully untouched Kurzeme beach, and ending with one of the country’s most popular seaside resort cities, Jûrmala, the Latvian coastline is an incredibly unique one. Along with its array of glorious sandy beaches, the Baltic Coast has so much more to offer, from the ancient Liv villages, the 16 metre high dunes at Jurkalne the fishermen’s harbors on the coast of the Gulf of Riga and the Veczemu Cliffs near Salacgrīva, to the unique Randas Meadows, the non-freezing ports in Ventspils and Liepaia and the unusual pebble beaches of Kaltene and Tuja, whether you’re a sailing enthusiast, a nature fanatic or a culture lover the Latvian seaside has something for everyone.
42 nature parks. With extensive woodland areas, large marshes and meadows and countless lakes and rivers, Latvia has some of the most diverse wildlife in the world, making it the perfect location for any traveler with an aptitude for the outdoors. As well as having 42 nature parks, Latvia is also home to an impressive four national parks, four nature reserves, one biosphere reserve, and two botanical gardens, offering travelers the chance to explore vast and varied locations, unique nature trails and rare eco-systems. Latvia is crisscrossed with various bird migration paths, and so for bird watchers, Latvia is an absolute nature haven. One of the very best places to visit for bird watchers is Pape, in the south-west of the country, as here an amazing ornithological station has been set up, allowing visitors to observe a huge diversity of birds. Similar sites have also been created in Cape Kolka and Lake Engure, as well as various bird watching towers which can be found throughout the country. For a more formal approach to bird watching, travelers can book a place on one of Motacilla’s bird tours. Other outdoor activities include wild mushroom-picking, berry-picking and fishing. These foraging trips ensure that you eat nothing unless you know exactly where its from, although be careful not to eat the wrong berry!
9 cities. 67 towns. With more than 600,000 inhabitants, Riga is one of the largest cities in the country, standing at both a geographical and cultural cross-roads. As well as being Latvia’s capital city. Earlier this year Riga was named the European Culture Capital. At the heart of the city is the Old Town, this is the part of the city that is most loved and cherished by the locals. Growing through the ages, the city is architecturally rich, and is famous around the world for being one of the largest complexes of Art Nouveau buildings set in one concentrated location. Within the Old Town are numerous restaurants and cafes of various nationalities and styles, intriguing bars, museums, exhibitions, and art shops. Renowned as a vibrant, metropolitan city, Riga offers travelers the chance to enjoy its rich culture, complete with various festivals, concerts and events, as well as bars and various night clubs offering a good mix of styles musical styles and entertainment. Within the city itself there are plenty of sights and attractions to see, from magnificent churches, markets and cultural centres, to walking sites, historical sites and an old fashioned fort, not to mention the city’s beaches. Riga is a city on the water, with the sea on one side and lakes on the other. For any traveler with a love of history, spending some time exploring some of Latvia’s many seashore villages is an absolute must. The best way to get around is undoubtedly with a hire car, which will give you the freedom to explore this fantastic area.
For centuries life in Latvia has been related to the sea, with thriving fishing villages at the very heart of Latvian life. Whilst some of the once smaller fishing villages have now developed into port towns, others have emptied, leaving behind abandoned houses and tiny communities. This has made them a popular spot for photographers trying to capture human development against a natural background.
More than 1000 sights & attractions. From beach holidays, art centres and historic castles, to markets, spa centres and cocktail bars, Latvia has something for every taste. One of Riga’s most popular attractions is the Central Market, filled with colorful stalls and friendly vendors, this is a place where visitors can really become immersed in the local culture. An absolute must-visit for heritage lovers is Cesis Castle, founded by the Knights of the Sword in 1209, the castles most famous feature are its two towers located towards the western end. For art and culture lovers, though, the Riga Art Nouveau Centre is the best place to spend a day. Resembling a middle-class 1920s apartment, complete with period furniture and an explanatory video, this is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
So there you have it. Despite its small size, the numbers in Latvia add up to an action packed holiday destination.