Latvia Travel Guide

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Today’s travel article is about Latvia, a small Baltic country located in the Northern Europe. Bordered by Lithuania on the south, Belarus on the south east, Russia on the east, Estonia to the northern border and the Baltic Sea on the west, Latvia is a parliamentary democracy with a land surface of just 64,589 square kilometers and a tiny population of only 2.2 million.

But rest assured, because the best essences are kept in small bottles, right? I think I already told you that, but the same situation applies to Latvia. So, getting along with the travel guide, Latvia is a member of the EU and adopted the Euro as its national currency. The main city and also the capital is Riga and after the fall of the URSS, Latvia became the most visited of the Baltic states.

In case you’re wondering why is that, well, my friends, the answer is blowing in the wind…the wind that blows over Latvia’s dramatic and fabulous landscapes.

 

The capital Riga was declared in 2014 as being the European Capital of Culture, and that was due to the city’s rich heritage, i.e. the outstanding collection of Art Nouveau architecture, some of the most impressive in the world. But wait, there’s more to it: Riga’s old town city center is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage, so you can bet your last dime that you have to pay a visit there if you’re going on a plane-trip to Latvia!

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Riga’s old town city center harbors antique buildings impeccably preserved from the Renaissance period, stunningly beautiful medieval churches and a vivid market. The Riga Cathedral dominates the old town, being the largest medieval cathedral in the Baltic countries and a true honey-trap for tourists everywhere.

And that’s not all folks, not by a long-shot! There are many other riches in Latvia to be “treasured”, admired and contemplated, like the ancient fort of Turaida Castle, a dramatic and mysterious place to visit, the rural scenery which is home for the Rundale Palace or the awe-inspiring Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum, along with Cesis and Kuldiga, two old and coquette medieval towns.

 

Speaking of natural beauties, let me mention the Gulf of Riga or the epic coastline along the Baltic Sea, where you’ll be flabbergasted by the apparently infinite sandy shores.

A half-hour drive from Riga will take you to Jurmala, a place that looks like in a Mediterranean country, a tourist resort boasting its gold sandy beaches, seafood restaurants, thermal mud pools and spas.

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Latvia is also home to inland national parks, the most beautiful and also most famous being Gauja National Park, featuring ancient sand-stone cliffs, picturesque river valleys, white cherry blossom in the spring and all the beauty in the world, in just one magnificent place.

What to see, what to do in Latvia

Well, let me begin with the famous Basilica of Aglona, a true pilgrimage itinerary for Latvia’s catholic population. This huge cathedral located close-by to Daugavpils has two  spires and it’s definitely worth visiting even if you’re a Muslim. The architecture and the place itself is absolutely stunning and the best place to get here is on August 15’th when over one hundred thousand worshipers gather and take part in a splendid torch lit procession.

 

The long and sinuous coastline of Latvia is the perfect place for bird-watching, especially in the wet lands of Pape, where the agricultural scenery attracts myriads of species of (some rare) birds. Pape can be easily located along the Kurzeme coast, near Liepaja and it stands exactly on the migration route for various seabirds and lots of other species, like the wildfowl, raptors and songbirds. Another great spot for watching the migrating avian populace is Cape Kolka and local people can arrange bird watching “safaris” for tourists.

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The aforementioned Cape Kolka is another must-see tourist attraction, especially the windswept beach which belongs to the Slitere National Park, offering an astoundingly beautiful view over the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga.

Cesis is one of the country’s oldest towns and a place filled with history and culture. While here, you can admire the ancient cobbled streets, the wood-made buildings, coquette churches and chic castles. Also while here you can take a sip of Cesu, Latvia’s national beer brand, which is brewed locally since the sixteenth century.

 

Food and Drink in Latvia

The local cuisine is pretty good and Latvians are known as meat eaters, hence meat is the king here. Red meat is on almost any menu, along with patties and all sorts of stews. Local specialties include meat patties, beet soup, sorrel soup, pastry filled with bacon and onions, potato salad with eggs, bacon and gherkins, sausage and other things, cheese with caraway seeds, potato pancakes and pork chops. Regional drinks include alcoholic herbal drinks like Riga’s Black Balsam, excellent local beers such as Aldaris, Cesu and Uzavas, fresh drinks like Kvass and various fruit juices.

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Visa Requirements

To enter Latvia from the EU requires just an ID card, except for UK residents, as they need a valid passport, and the same is required from US and Canadian tourists, i.e. a valid passport but no Visa.

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