Looking for reasons to visit Latvia?
Latvia is one of those countries that travelers don’t typically put top of their list but that somehow, when they finally get there, they realize it imprints itself onto their travel memories in surprising ways.
Visitors will usually fly into Riga, either as the start of their travel or from Tallinn, Estonia; Vilnius, Lithuania; or another European city, though Latvia is often lumped in with travel to the Baltic countries.
Why does this small nation appeal to travelers so much? The following are only a handful of the many reasons to visit Latvia.
1. Riga Is a Travel Hub
The ease of getting to other parts of Europe from Riga is one of the most obvious reasons to visit Latvia.
Riga, with its AirBaltic airlines, has become a travel hub for the Baltic countries. AirBaltic has attempted to gradually add more flight routes every year from Riga, Vilnius, and other cities.
AirBaltic may have relatively better connections or cheaper flights than options in neighboring countries, so some people travel from cities in Lithuania to Riga to catch their flight of choice.
Finding yourself in Riga means you can easily get to Estonia or Lithuania, of course, but AirBaltic has an expansive range of destinations all over Europe and beyond.
The drawback is that AirBaltic is not a budget airline, but it nickels and dimes you like Wizzair or Ryanair is known to do.
2. Reasonable Prices
Another one of the best reasons to visit Latvia is its budget friendliness.
Latvia, like its southern neighbor Lithuania, is still relatively inexpensive for travelers, especially those who are used to traveling to more popular destinations in Europe, such as Milan, Paris, or the countries of Scandinavia.
While Riga, the capital, will see the highest prices, especially in the summer season, it is still relatively inexpensive to stay in and dine out wherever you are in Latvia. That means if you’re on a budget, that you can extend your travel time or treat yourself to experiences you might not be able to in other countries with a higher standard of living.
Prices are, of course, rising in the Baltic region – especially the Baltic capitals and on the coast – but you will find your wallet significantly less stressed than you would in many other European countries.
3. Castles and Manor Houses
If you love historic architecture, it’s certainly one of the reasons to visit Latvia!
You may be surprised to learn that Latvia is full of historic architecture from days gone by, particularly in the form of castles and manor houses.
One of the most notable examples and perhaps one of the more extreme specimens on the spectrum is rune Rundale Palace, a palace built by the same architect and in a similar style as the palaces of Saint Petersburg.
However, medieval Latvian castles can also be found throughout Latvia. For example, Cesis is quickly becoming one of Latvia’s must-see cities, in part due to its castle and the culture that has been cultivated around it.
While you can visit some castles and manor houses out of interest, you can also stay in or have events at other manor houses that had been turned into hotels or wedding venues. Two examples include Abgunste Manor, with its shabby chic appeal, and the more traditional Mazmezotnes Manor, with its warm wood interiors.
4. Nature and Seaside
Beautiful nature and the Baltic Sea coasts are two reasons to visit Latvia.
Inland Latvia is flat and marked by fields and forests. Lithuania and Latvia are similar in that respect. Birch trees line long, straight highways that connect different points in the country, and soft pine forests fill the air with a fresh scent.
The coast, however, is also lovely. Beach lovers who don’t mind the more temperate climate and the lower temperatures of the Baltic Sea will appreciate the sandy shores of resort areas such as Jurmala, accessible from Riga, or Leipaja, near the border with Lithuania.
Latvia is a green country and cares deeply about its natural environment. It has a strong culture of conservation. Many national forests throughout the country are home to protected species of plants and animals and provide hiking trails and paths for visitors to enjoy and learn about the flora and fauna found here.
5. Riga as a Destination
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is larger than the capitals of Lithuania and Estonia. Riga alone is one of the reasons to visit Latvia.
This relatively larger city feel means that you will encounter and be able to explore many different aspects of one city, whether you like museums, art, food, architecture, boutique shops, music, exploring historic neighborhoods, or something else.
Riga is known for its Art Nouveau architecture, with over 400 buildings representing this particular style. You’ll notice it as you explore the city center and venture into the districts that have many examples of Latvian Art Nouveau.
Tours have been built up around this feature of the city, where you can learn about the period Art Nouveau was popular in Riga, discover how the Latvians adapted the style to their own national messages, and see some of the most beautiful existing examples of Riga Art Nouveau.
6. Folk Culture
Folk culture is also one of the best reasons to visit Latvia.
Latvia, once under Soviet rule, has experienced over 30 years of independence, which has given it plenty of time to assert its identity.
Though Latvia is also trying to make itself known as a place for business startups and technology, its folk culture may be a little bit more obvious to visitors. For example, shops in Riga sell traditionally made folk souvenirs, such as woven scarves and linen blouses. Latvian folk art makes an excellent souvenir.
Even modern-style souvenirs such as passport covers or pottery for the home may sport pagan designs and patterns.
For traditional Latvian folk culture, visit the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum.
As with the other Baltic cultures, Latvian culture places strong emphasis on song and dance, which has also played a part in its independence.
During festivals or holidays, you may be able to witness folk groups preserving folk song and dance culture and celebrating this long heritage. You may also hear reference to the Singing Revolution, a peaceful protest of Soviet rule that took place in the 1980s. Latvians continue to use singing as a way to honor their independence and identity in the region.
So, whether you’re a lover of Art Nouveau architecture, a nature lover, an enthusiast of traditional culture, a fan of budget destinations, or simply a curious person who wants to know more about this less traveled-to destination, you’ll find many reasons to visit Latvia.
You can easily combine it with seeing the other two Baltic countries to compare and contrast their differences and similarities. People who travel to Latvia come away with pleasant memories, peaceful and satisfying experiences, beautiful photos, and new knowledge.