A land of breathtaking contrasts, Latvia delights with its extraordinary natural landscapes, cutting-edge architecture, historic landmarks and vibrant city life.
While it may often be somewhat overlooked as a holiday destination, Latvia has plenty to impress its curious visitors. Having been an important trading hub for several centuries, the country is full of fascinating history to explore. This is perhaps most evident in the range of architecture on display, with everything from quaint wooden homes and Gothic cathedrals to grand Baroque palaces and ultra-modern glass skyscrapers viewable across the country. It may have had something of a choppy past, suffering a series of invasions from many of its neighbours, but today the country is enjoying more modernisation than ever. It remains happily affordable, however, with Latvia holidays proving to be much more budget-friendly than those in other European destinations.
One of the country's biggest draws is its beautiful and largely unspoiled natural scenery. Away from the city, Latvia tours encompass truly spectacular landscapes, with rolling countryside, serene lakes and dense forests all waiting to be discovered. With the added benefit of a number of sandy beaches and miles of hiking paths, the country offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. One of the best places to make the most of the stunning natural scenery is undoubtedly the Gauja National Park, with the chance to glimpse its resident wildlife, which includes brown bears and elk. The small towns that are dotted around the park provide the perfect base for walking, wildlife watching and exploring the nearby medieval castles.
The first stop on the majority of Latvia guided tours will undoubtedly be the country's vibrant capital, Riga. Here visitors will find captivating architecture, an abundance of cultural attractions, and a wide range of dining and drinking options. Its pedestrianised Old Town dates back to Medieval times and is UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a charming location for the city’s atmospheric Christmas market. Elsewhere, the picturesque town of Kuldīga provides the chance to wander through streets lined with buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, while the resort town of Jūrmala delights visitors with its art nouveau buildings and sandy beach.
With a heavy reliance on staples such as meat, potatoes and cheese, Latvian cuisine is hearty comfort food at its best.
While visitors to the country's capital will find a more varied and contemporary food scene, for the most part Latvian food has retained its traditional charm. Dishes are based around humble but delicious ingredients, with roasted meats, potatoes and vegetables being mainstays on the nation's dining tables. Fish is also popular - particularly smoked - and includes varieties such as trout, herring and salmon. Cottage cheese and curdled milk are frequently used in dishes, and rye bread is ubiquitous and makes a healthier accompaniment to dishes than its wheat counterparts.
Latvia tours should begin with a traditional breakfast, and most often that consists of cold meats, fish, bread and cheese. When it comes to dishes to look out for on restaurant menus, potato pancakes, usually served with sour cream are a great place to start. For those with more adventurous tastebuds, cold beetroot soup is a popular dish, as is meatball soup and karbonāde; the Latvian of wiener schnitzel. The country's national dish is pelēkie zirņi ar speķi; a stew consisting of peas, onions and diced speck - smoked bacon made from pork belly. Desserts and other sweet treats are plentiful here, too. Fruit pies and tarts are easily found, and bread soup, made with rye bread, dried fruits and sugar, is a much-loved favourite throughout the country.
With unspoiled landscapes, rich history, beautiful beaches and a vibrant capital city, Latvia holidays offer something for everyone.
Riga is a happily affordable holiday destination, particularly when compared with countries in Western Europe. Visitors will find that food, accommodation and transport all represent great value for money.
Latvia is famous for its art nouveau architecture, stunning natural landscapes, and the UNESCO-listed Old Town of Riga. It also boasts one of the fastest WiFi speeds in the world.
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