Latvia is a small country situated on the Baltic Coast, between Estonia and Lithuania. For over half a century Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. With entry into the EU in 2004 and a booming economy, Latvia is slowly becoming a popular tourist destination. The divisions between occupying nations throughout history have meant the country has social and cultural differences between regions, which make Latvia an interesting place to explore.
Despite Latvia's small size there is an incredible amount to see and do, Riga, the Latvian capital has so much to offer, not only a rich history with architectural sights but many bars and clubs to entertain you. Most other sights can be seen as daytrips from the capital. With such a diverse range of attractions on offer, Latvia is one of Europe's hidden treasures just waiting to be explored.
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Time Zone: GMT + 2. (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October.)
- Language: Latvian
- Telephone services: Country Code +371, International Access Code 00
- Emergency numbers: Police 02, Ambulance 03 and Fire 01; or 112.
From early November until April, temperatures struggle to rise above 0°C. The sun makes an appearance briefly during the day, but it drops to well below zero at night. Between the months of June and August highs can reach around 20 to 22°C. July and August are the warmest months, although persistent showers can occur. Snowfall is common in winter months.
Things to see and do
Riga, the beautiful capital, is Latvia's major tourist attraction. Rich in history and culture, Riga has some remarkable buildings and architecture. The centre of Riga is considered to have some of the finest Art Nouveau buildings in Europe and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History lovers should visit the Dome Cathedral; dating back to 1211, this spectacular building has a blend of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles. The Cathedral's organ holds nearly 7000 pipes and is considered to be one of the world's greatest musical instruments. Frequent musical concerts are held here.
Riga also offers a great number of museums and art galleries. Climb the spire of St Peter's Church for a panoramic view of the city or maybe sip some champagne in the Skyline Bar on top of the Reval hotel for a perfect view, but be warned if you are on a budget, drinks are expensive.
Apart from ancient cities and picturesque towns, this small Baltic country also offers 310 miles of beautiful beaches and lovely unspoilt landscape. So, why not take a break from the city and visit the recreational resort of Jurmala. With endless sandy beaches, sun and fresh scented air from the forests this great resort has something for everyone.
Jurmala is the largest resort in the Baltic States and extends over 19 miles along the Gulf of Riga, making it an increasingly popular tourist destination. With great pubs and inns, and only 15 minutes on the train from the capital, Jurmala is ideally situated to be easily included on your itinerary, even if your stay is a short one. Why not recover, strengthen or boost your health by enjoying the healing effects of the mineral waters and mud bathing?
For history lovers the ancient city Valmiera in the Northern region of Latvia has much to offer. The beautiful Gauja River running near makes the city picturesque and attractive. St Simon's Church and The Livonian castle ruins are very popular among both the locals and visitors of Valmiera. Other cities of historical interest are Cesis, Limbazi and Jelgava.
Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the natural surroundings. Gauja National Park is situated around the River Gauja and features woods, rocks and caves. Wildlife includes brown bears, deer and wolves. Why not try one of the special nature trails where you can see the wildlife for yourself. The largely unspoilt landscape also offers great opportunities for hiking and in the summer months, hikers can take to the many trails of protected areas and national parks. A great favourite includes the Amber Trail.
Riga's airport is located about 6 miles west of the city centre. You can take a taxi or a bus to the airport from the capital.
Buses and trains seem to go everywhere in Latvia although services to more remote locations are less frequent. Travel is inexpensive but can be very slow. There are express connections to major towns which will save you time. If you have luggage you may need to pay extra depending on the bus company. For bus timetables visit www.autoosta.lv.
For more information about trains, check out the following website. Riga also has a network of trams, buses and trolleys which can reach all parts of the city. Usually these run from 6am till about midnight and you buy your ticket onboard.
Driving and bicycling in Latvia are very popular, as most journeys are short distances and roads are good. If you would rather hire a car to explore the country, both Avis and Hertz operate services in Latvia and have desks at the airport. Car hire link
For accommodation in Latvia it is advisable to make reservations well in advance of your trip. Several of the main hotels in Riga have recently been renovated and a number of newer hotels including some major international chain hotels have recently opened. A star grading system has also been introduced. There are various different types of hotels ranging from luxurious to modest. For more information and accommodation listings, check out the following website.
Renting a room in a guesthouse is an option to consider if you are staying in the countryside. Most of Latvia's campsites are located along the main highways and the gulf of Riga. Many of the campsites and information on youth hostels in Latvia can be found at hostellinglatvia.com and you can check our Latvia hostel listings page.
No vaccinations or health certificates are required to enter Latvia, although visitors are advised to have an inoculation against tick-borne encephalitis, if you are planning to hike in the country and forests or stay in rural areas.
A reciprocal agreement between EU member states enables you to get free or reduced cost necessary treatment is available if a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is produced. This has replaced the E111 which was no longer valid as of 31 December 2005. The EHIC gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, so it is advisable to take out comprehensive travel insurance before visiting Latvia. For information, and how to apply for an EHIC online, please check Department of Health
Latvia Tourism Development Agency Pils Lauqums 4, LV-1050 Riga, Latvia Website: www.latviatourism.lv
Embassy of Latvia 45 Nottingham Place, London W1U 5LY, UK Website: www.london.am.gov.lv
British Embassy J. Alunana Street 5, LV-1010 Riga, Latvia