Latvia isn’t one of those countries that come to mind when thinking about Europe but there are certainly other top reasons to visit Latvia. For instance, the small nation is yet to be discovered by most tourists and in that sense possesses an otherworldly charm. Below is a list of a few more reasons why you should visit Latvia.
1. Riga. The country’s capital is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore one of the best reasons to go there. The dynamic city offers a look at the country’s history with its old quarter and its cobblestone streets (make sure you can roll your suitcase, a holdalls with wheels are a good one) – , steeples, and Jugendstil-style architecture. In other parts of the city, Riga shows itself as a modern metropolis with a healthy nightlife. Further adding to its allure is the combination of Latvian and Russian cultures; with half of the city’s population having Russian origins. Three must-see places in Riga include the Central Market, St. Peter’s Church, and Riga Cathedral.
2. Old architecture. Riga has made it clear that Latvia is noteworthy for its old architecture but there’s much more going around in other places around the country. Cesisis, one of its most historic towns, also has an old town, impressive castles, and nice wooden buildings. Aglona has a colossal white cathedral and there are two Baroque-style palaces you can admire in Jelgava. Its wide array of old architectural buildings is one of the top reasons to visit Latvia.
3. Nature. Latvia tends to be a popular destination at least, for bird watchers and nature lovers in general. Most of the country is covered in wetlands and forests enclosed by nature preserves and national parks. Trails of varying levels are available to tourists. The largest national park is Gauja but Slitere is worth exploring if you’re after stunning beaches. Cape Kolka is a breathtaking beach at the Slitere National Park.
4. Festivals. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s always an event to liven up the atmosphere. During winter, families welcome New Year’s Eve by gathering and eating traditional food. By February, the International Ice Sculpture Festival attracts professional sculptors from all over the world. There are other notable celebrations held throughout the year and many of them reflect local traditions and culture.
5. Beaches. As with any country in Baltic Europe, Latvia has several beaches for swimming. The country has one of the longest stretch of sand beaches in Europe. Unfortunately, winter makes the water too cold for swimming. The best time to swim is in July and August when the water is warm enough. Water is always clean and there aren’t too many people around. Since the sea’s salt levels are relatively low, you won’t feel sticky after a swim and need not wash. The beaches of the country are some of the top reasons to visit Latvia, especially among beach lovers.
*Image of St. Peter’s Church in Riga via Shuttestock
*Image of Baltic sea shore in Latvia via Shutterstock