Here is an overview of Latvia. From general information, the geography, the eventful history to the untouched nature in Latvia. Here you will find everything you need to know about the Baltic state.
Extensive and in many places untouched nature, places steeped in history, culturally and historically significant manors, palaces and monastic castles – Latvia is waiting for its visitors. The enchanting Baltic Sea coast, a distinctive singing culture and, last but not least, the flourishing metropolis of Riga with its pretty Art Nouveau buildings and the medieval old town complete the portfolio and ensure a diversity that is second to none. And so visitors with the most varied of interests feel addressed by Latvia.
Riga is the center of the country. Many holidaymakers start their visit here and are welcomed by a pulsating city, the history of which is manifold. The well-preserved medieval old town and the Art Nouveau buildings from the early 20th century are the most famous architectural witnesses. The old Hanseatic city is often referred to as the “Pearl of the Baltic States”, and this is hardly an exaggeration: the magnificent House of the Blackheads, the cathedral, the imposing Town Hall Square, the Riga Castle or the “The Three Brothers” building ensemble are just some of the most beautiful sights Riga holds ready.
And one can be curious: in 2014 Riga will be European Capital of Culture together with the Swedish Umeå. The already culturally diverse metropolis will surely come up with something for its visitors.
Jurmala is very close to Riga – certainly the most famous seaside resort in Latvia. Pretty wooden houses in the style of spa architecture and the extensive sandy beach attract crowds of people looking for relaxation, especially in summer. Definitely worth a visit!
And then there are still smaller, historical places such as Kuldiga, Cesis and Sigulda, the castles and manors in the southern Zemgale territory – above all the baroque castle of Rundale – as well as the port cities of Liepaja and Ventspils.
Beyond the cities and their eventful history, Latvia also offers an impressive natural landscape. Four national parks give a good insight into the diverse nature of the country with its deep forests, numerous rivers and lakes and a wonderful coastline. A boat trip on the Gauja in the national park of the same name is a highlight that active nature fans should not miss. The river landscape is breathtaking! The Kemeri National Park near Riga, with its nature trails through the moorland, offers great terrain for hikes or long walks. And in the east of Latvia, in Latgale, the “land of blue lakes”, birch forests, lakes and flocks of migratory birds beckon. Take a deep breath here.
Latvia has developed rapidly, and a lot has happened since independence from the Soviet Union. Latvia has been a member of the EU and NATO since 2004. But the economic crisis from 2007 onwards hit the country significantly. Unemployment rose sharply and the economy collapsed sharply in comparison with other EU countries. One more reason to visit this beautiful country and fuel the economic boom again!
According to Countryaah.com, Latvia is located in northeastern Europe in the center of the Baltic region on the Baltic Sea and the Riga Bay. Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and Estonia are immediate neighbors. With less than 65,000 square kilometers, Latvia is slightly smaller than Bavaria and, with hardly more than 2 million inhabitants, it is also very sparsely populated.
Latvia is relatively flat with a gently rolling landscape. Lakes and rivers are typical landscape features. The Daugava is the largest river in Latvia and flows into the Baltic Sea near Riga. The largest lake is the Luban Lake in Eastern Latvia, it has an area of 82 square kilometers. Latvia has around 500 kilometers of coastline. Pine forests are dominant here. In general, large parts of the country are forested.
Latvia is divided into four historical provinces: Courland, Northern Latvia, Zemgale and Latgale.
Courland (Latvian: Kurzeme) is the westernmost province. The cities of Liepaja, Ventspils and Kuldiga are located here. Coast, wide sandy beaches, forests and Cape Kolka in Slitere National Park are defining elements of the landscape.
Northern Latvia (Latvian: Vizdeme) includes the Gauja National Park, the historically significant cities of Cesis and Sigulda and the coast north of Riga. Deep forests, the impressive river course of the Gauja, steep banks, sandstone cliffs and caves, which have formed in the sandstone from the Devonian, are worth seeing in this region. The area is part of the ancient Livonia region, which originally stretched as far as Lake Peipus in what is now Estonia.
Zemgale (Latvian: Zemgale) is located in southern Latvia and borders with Lithuania. There are large agricultural areas here, so the area is also known as the breadbasket of Latvia. In terms of cultural history, Zemgale is rich in manors, palaces and castles.
The fourth province, Latgale (Latvian: Latgale), is known for the hilly landscape, the multitude of lakes and for its birch forests.
With almost 700,000 inhabitants, Riga is by far the largest city in the country, followed by Daugavpils (110,000 inhabitants), Liepaja (85,000 inhabitants) and Jelgava (65,000 inhabitants).
The climate is cool-temperate with warm summers and cold winters. Temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius can be reached in midsummer. The late summer is usually rainy and turns into a damp autumn. The first frosts can appear as early as September. The coast remains mostly free of ice in winter. However, snow falls frequently in Latvia.