The Republic of Latvia
Latvia, a small green country, is located in Northern Europe. It is famous for unique architectural monuments, fascinating museums, famous amber, pristine pine forests, healing mineral water and unique cultural traditions.
Latvia occupies a small area. However, the richness and diversity of its nature make it unique. Here you can notice tree-covered hills, large green forests, plains, grain fields and pastures. Ancient river valleys are considered the Latvian landscape’s feature. They are quite wide and deep with rocky cliffs and ravines. Pure lakes, as well as sandy and rocky beaches make the country especially picturesque. In the west, Latvia is washed the Baltic Sea. The length of the coastline is about 500 kilometres. It might be interesting for you that since ancient times the Baltic Sea has been called the Amber Sea. Ancient pine trees grew on the sea shore many thousands of years ago. Due to the heat, sap leaked from the trees down and after many years turned into stone. Amber got into the sea and travelled all over the world. Since then, the sea has become to be known as the Amber Sea. Today, it’s quite difficult to find such stone on the Latvian coast. However, if you're still intent on finding it, the best time would be after a storm. Come here in May, when the water is warm, and the weather is sunny and dry.
It is believed that amber has got healing properties and vitality, still being a mystery. Previously, knights used to wear it as a talisman and women have used it as a beautiful decoration since then. For the present day, a high level of amber production has been reached in the country. Here you can buy necklaces, bracelets, brooches, beads, rings, gifts, amber panels, stained glass, and this is not a complete list of amber products.
Latvia is one of a few countries where its natural ecosystem hasn’t almost been touched by humans. Almost half of the Latvian territory is covered by forests, mostly softwood forests. Famous national parks Gauja, Slitere and Razna, reserves Grini and Moricsala, as well as Skriveri and Kazdanski dendrological parks offer you to feel their wildlife.
Numerous lakes are considered to be one more country’s feature. Most of them, including the deepest Dridzia Lake, are located in Eastern Latvia, that’s why this part of the country is often referred to as "the land of blue lakes". Latvia is also known for its winding rivers. The Daugava River valley with its steep banks is so picturesque. In addition, you are well advised to visit Daugavas Loki Nature Park, where you can see rare species of plants. A great place for recreation and fishing is the Gauja, the most beautiful river in Latvia. You can observe unforgettable, colourful views by reaching every bend of the river.
Along with the Latvian virgin nature, you might see a lot of beautiful old buildings in the country. Despite the fact that the country occupies a relatively small area, there are more than one thousand of palaces, castles, churches and manorial estates in this northern state. All these ancient buildings remind of the long and interesting history of the country.
Once, there have been three independent principalities on the territory of Latvia. In the early 13th century, German merchants founded Riga, and after 14 years, knights of the Teutonic Order conquered the entire country. For centuries, Latvia has been under control of different states. After the Germans it went to the Swedes, then to the Russian Empire, and only in 1991, this small country declared its independence and became the Republic of Latvia.
Today, in the architecture of Latvia you can notice Gothic traditions harmoniously combined with elements of late Renaissance. Dutch and Russian cultures influenced the Latvian architecture as well. Rundale Palace in the village of Pilsrundale is one of the most beautiful places in the country. It was designed by renowned architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The palace is surrounded by the magnificent French garden and a huge hunting park. Jaunpils Castle might be interesting due to the fact it used to belong to the Livonian Order. This knight castle has retained its original shape.
The largest number of attractions and places of interest are located in Riga, a capital of Latvia. This charming city harmoniously combines concrete and glass modern structures with ancient buildings. The historical centre of Riga is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. St Peter's Church is one of the most famous places in the capital. In Riga, you can also see Powder Tower, the one survived part of the city fortifications C14th. This building is a symbol of the Latvian capital. Riga won’t leave anyone indifferent, as you can see such combination of antiquity and modernity only there.
Next to the capital, there is Sigulda, a favourite town of both tourists and locals. Here you can admire the oldest castle in Latvia – Turaida. The second largest and most popular city in Latvia is Dauvgapils, where you can notice a lot of castles and fortifications of the 19th century. Two small towns Cesis and Kuldiga are well known for their amazing architectural ensembles built in the style of Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque and Rococo. You should definitely visit Dunte estate, which is 55 kilometres from Riga. The Munchausen Museum, located there, presents rich collections of weapons, hunting trophies. The highest in Europe oaks grow in the estate’s surroundings.
Seaside cities Jurmala, Baldone, Liepaja, Sigulda have gained their fame due to unique natural resources – healing mineral water, pine forests, peat mud and wonderful climate. In summer, the city of Jurmala hosts numerous festivals, including famous "Singing KiViN" and competition festival for young singers "New Wave", which for more than ten years has been welcoming participants from all over the world. Along with music competitions, residents and visitors of Jurmala are offered to enjoy concerts of famous artists as well as beach tennis and football tournaments.
If you desire to learn local traditions or folk songs you are well advised to visit one of Latvian villages. There you’ll have an opportunity to try yourself in such trade as grinding the grain on the stone, jewellery forging, chair weaving, baking bread according to ancient traditions. Then you are advised to go to Ozolnieki, Pocelujevka, Pilsrundale and other picturesque villages.
The country is famous for a variety of beers and national dishes. The Latvian cuisine is mostly based on meat and fish. In Latvia, you can be offered to taste dishes with on the face of it incompatible food combinations. For example, beer soup with dried fruit, rhubarb kissel with cream, bread kissel or brown bread with honey and cranberry juice. Here you can taste delicious bread, a real masterpiece. Riga’s bread has got one almost magic property – it can be stored for a month and doesn’t get stale.
Under the influence of European and world’s traditions, Latvia has retained its colour, the Baltic tranquillity and hospitality. This little country attracts tourists with its beautiful architecture, traditions and unique colour of towns and villages. Once you have come to Latvia, you’ll desire to visit it again.
Administrative division — Latvia
Riga Population: 742596
- Aizkraukle Population: 40690
- Alūksne Population: 25667
- Balvu Population: 29780
- Bauska Population: 51666
- Cēsu Population: 58890
- Gulbene Population: 27424
- Jelgava Population: 36054
- Krāslava Population: 35778
- Kuldīga Population: 37112
- Limbaži Population: 39018
- Ludza Population: 34113
- Madona Population: 45093
- Mērsraga novads Population: 1832
- Ogre Population: 61120
- Preiļi Population: 40536
- Saldus Population: 37892
- Talsi Population: 48425
- Tukum Population: 52357
- Valka Population: 33348