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Baltic beauty Latvia, along with neighbouring lovelies Estonia and Lithuania, must be one of northern Europe’s most enchanting and yet underrated destinations. While most visitors make a beeline for its breathtaking capital, Rīga, which boasts an alluring combination of medieval atmosphere, art nouveau elegance and contemporary big city buzz, the rest of the country is bewilderingly overlooked by most foreign visitors.
This means that for the most part, aside from destinations popular with Baltic, Scandinavian and Russian tourists, such as the gorgeous seaside resort towns of Jūrmala and Liepāja, and the majestic Rundāle Palace, Latvia’s Palace of Versaille, the rest of the country remains unspoiled by mass tourism. Even forest reserves such as Gauja National Park in Eastern Latvia, which would be teeming with tourists elsewhere, are blissfully peaceful.
This is all the more surprising (especially for travellers who have already discovered Latvia’s charms) when one realises how very easy the country is to explore. Aside from its natural attributes, one of Latvia’s biggest appeals is its diminutive size and accessibility, along with its slow pace of life, pristine environment, crystalline water and fresh air. This is a country easily experienced in a couple of weeks and during that time your trip might take in seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, crumbling castles, medieval villages, elegant seaside spa resorts, idyllic countryside dotted with timber farmhouses, fragrant pine forests and seemingly endless sandy beaches backed by soaring sand dunes, there are 500 kilometres of them in fact on the Baltic Sea coast alone.
Summer is the time to visit – when the sun can rise as early as 4am and doesn’t sink until around midnight. Winters are long and dark by contrast, motivating Latvians to get outdoors as much as possible in the warmer months. They hardly need an excuse, but added incentives are the music concerts and festivals held throughout summer in almost every city and town across the country.
Long lunches, weekend brunches and after-work drinks see Latvians filling the pavement tables at alfresco cafés while pop-up beer gardens sprout from almost every public square and pedestrian street. After dark, Latvians hit the dance clubs and DJ events, and it’s partly the nightlife that has given the country and Rīga in particular, as well as the Baltic Sea resorts, a reputation as something of a summer party destination.
Places of interest in Latvia
UNESCO World Heritage listed Rīga, the Baltic’s largest city, oozes history and culture from every cobblestone....
Known as the ‘Switzerland of Latvia’, the Gauja Valley, 50 kilometres east of Rīga, is distinguished more by its...
Activities in Latvia
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