Latvia is a small eastern European country in the Baltics. It is one of the three Baltic countries - the other two being Estonia (Estonia is also one of Europe's overlooked gems) Lithuania. Latvia is often forgotten when planning a European holiday, but it is a stunning destination and one that everyone should explore if given the chance. Latvia is a great part of a trip through the Baltics region or even further with a larger trip from Poland or Germany to Finland (once you reach land's end in Estonia, there is are continuous ferries from Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland).

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History And Background Of Lativa

One of the main historical parts of Latvia was known as Courland. At one time the Duchy of Courland had a small colonial empire. Courland was the second smallest of the European colonial empires after the Knights of Malta (history is really strange sometimes). Their colonial empire consisted of a river island in the Gambian River that they lost to the English and the island of Tobago (which they struggled with the Dutch). Tobago is the smaller island in modern Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. At the time Tobago was called New Courland and Courland intermittently controlled it between 1654 and 1689 (at the time The Duchy of Courland only had a population of around 200,000 people).

  • Capital And Largest City: Riga
  • Official Language: Latvian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Independence: 1991 (From The Soviet Union)
  • Population: 2 Million
  • Historical Fact: Courland Was One Of The Smallest Colonial Empires

The capital and largest city of Latvia is Riga, fortunately, this beautiful eastern city was spared the worst of the destruction in the Second World War (unlike other cities like Warsaw, Minsk, and Berlin).

Related: Rare And Stunning Places To Catch The Northern Lights

The best time to come to Latvia is in the late spring or in the summer months. Latvia is a small country and is quite flat. The people here are very friendly and hospitable. Most people speak Russian as well as English. People are generally very happy to talk in English with foreigners.

The country is only small and it is easy to reach any part of the country from the capital Riga which is in the center of the country.

  • Visa Requirements: Visa-Free Part Of The Schengen Zone
  • Understand: Lativa Has A Long History Of Foreign Occupation And People Are Proud To Be Independent Today And They Are Protective Of Their Language

What To See And Do In Latvia

Most of Latvia is fertile lowland plains with some moderate hills. It is extensively forested with about 56% of the total land area being covered in forests - that's the 5th highest in Europe behind Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Slovenia. Latvia has a number of untouched wetlands that are refuges for a range of plants and animals giving Latvia significant biodiversity. Latvia has long been a pioneer in conservation with some of the oldest regulations going back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Nationally protected areas of Latvia amount to around 20% of the total land area. Its national parks are:

  • Guaja National Park: Established In 1973
  • Kemeri National Park: Established In 1997
  • Slitere National Park: Established In 1999
  • Razna National Park: Established In 2007

There is a range of tours to choose from and pick from. There are two main kinds of tours, multiday tours through the Baltic States or even more. Or mostly day tours within Latvia itself.

Related: Finland Is The Happiest Country In The World, And Here's Every Reason Why

City Of Riga

Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia and has a population of around 600,000 - around a third of the country's population. This small but interesting city lies on the banks of the Daugava river as it follows into the Baltic Sea. Riga was founded way back in 1201 and its old city center is now UNESCO World Heritage-listed.

  • Do: Join A Free Walking Tour In Riga

Some of the places to visit in Riga include:

  • House of the Black Heads: Stunning Museum In The Heart Of Riga, First Built In The 14th Century, Destoried In WW2 And Rebuilt Afterwards
  • Riga Central Market: Europe's Largest Market And Bazaar
  • The Freedom Monument: Built-In 1935 (42 Meters High)
  • Latvian National Museum of Art: Houses More Than 52,000 Works Of Art
  • Rundāle Palace: Large Baroque Palace For The Dukes Of Courland Built In The 1700s
  • Museum of the Occupation of Latvia: Covered The Soviet And Nazi Occupations Of Latvia

Besides visiting the monuments, churches, and museums in Riga, like so many other European cities one should chill and feel the atmosphere. Riga is small and so is the country. So don't be in too much of a hurry to see and do everything. Make sure you find time to chill and enjoy a coffee and beer on the cobbled old streets of Riga - as is popular across Europe (except the United Kingdom for some reason).

Latvia is only a small country and one that is frequently forgotten about by tourists visiting Europe. Latvia is normally a country that you visit while touring the Baltic region of Europe and is normally not the sole destination of your trip. The capitals of Estonia and Lithuania are only around 3-4 hours drive away (if you are in Riga, be sure to visit Lithuania and its capital Vilnius).

Next: 10 Best Places To Visit When You Travel To Poland