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Resources for Latvian Tourism

Latvia has experienced a steady increase in international visitors since re-gaining independence in 1991. However, it remains a largely undiscovered gem and lacks the crowds, traffic, expensive nature, and over-commercialization of many other European tourist destinations.

The Natural Environment: Latvia's environmental attributes have attracted international tourists for many generations. Its many miles of white, sandy beaches have been popular with the German and Russian gentry since the 19th century. The territory of Latvia varies from hill country, to pristine forests, with farm and pastureland dominating the lowlands, and most parts of the country contain abundant wildlife. Latvia boasts some 12,000 streams and rivers, around 3,000 lakes and some of Europe's most active Salmon spawning grounds. Latvia also enjoys a mild, maritime climate with summer temperatures averaging lows of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and highs of 83 degrees. Contrary to popular notions, wintertime temperatures are not especially cold, rarely dropping far below the freezing point, and Americans would find wintertime in Latvia very comparable to the U.S. Northeast or Northwest coast.

Late Fall through early Spring is a wonderful time to visit Latvia in order to take advantage of unique outdoor and cultural activities, the wonders and beauty of the holiday season--which the Latvian people celebrate in lavish fashion, and of course to enjoy significant savings in the price of travel, accommodation and other touristic expenses. But even in high season, Latvia is a bargain and a unique and hospitable option as a European tourist destination!

Latvian Eco-Facts - Did you know...
* 44% of Latvia is forested - one of the highest percentages in Europe
* 40% of Latvia is farmland and pastureland
* Latvia is blessed with clean air, water and soil
* For its area of nearly 25,000 square miles, Latvia has one of the most incredibly diverse ecosystems in Europe
* Outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, skiing, horseback riding, and nature photography abound in Latvia and are popular activities


The Human Landscape: In addition to the pristine natural beauty of its physical landscape, Latvia is a cultural and historical treasure as well. A multitude of museums, art galleries, and cultural events can be found throughout the country. Reflecting its storied past, castles and sites of archaeological interest are common in Latvia. Riga, the capital is simultaneously a modern thriving city of nearly one-million people, and an 800-year-old cultural, historical, and architectural treasure.

Deciding which buildings to photograph will prove to be a daunting task as Riga contains many structures dating to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as well as one of the largest concentrations of breathtaking Art Nouveau and Classical architecture in the world! Walking the winding, cobblestone streets of Riga and other Latvian cities has been described as walking back in time to a more peaceful and genteel era. A full range of tourist accommodations are available ranging from charming bed and breakfasts in the countryside to world-class modern hotels, eateries, as well as a wide range of shopping, cultural, and entertainment venues.

Latvian Cultural/Historical Facts - Did you know...
* Latvia and the Baltic States are similar in appearance, culture and history to Scandinavia.
* Riga's historic old quarter is a United Nations "World Cultural Heritage" site.
* Latvia is the birthplace of the tradition of decorated Christmas trees.
* Latvia contains over 75 castles and castle ruins dating from the Middle Ages, in addition to castles/palaces from other eras.
* It boasts 8,325 protected cultural heritage sites including: 3,412 architectural, 2,514 archaeological, and 2,251 artistic sites!
* Riga was a part of the famous Hanseatic League & for centuries was one of Europe's most prosperous & cosmopolitan cities.
* For centuries Latvia and its Baltic seacoast was a popular vacation destination of the German and Russian nobility.
* The Russian Tsar maintained an elaborate baroque palace (Rundale Palace) in Latvia as a summer vacation home---today it is open for tourists.

On behalf of the people of Latvia, I invite you to explore the scenic and cultural wonders of what is truly one of Europe's most beautiful and special places, and experience the friendship and hospitality of one Europe's most welcoming and distinctive people. The photos below illustrate the beauty of the country and the range of things to do and see during your visit---please click on each thumbnail to view a larger image of each photo. Please also explore the tourism-related links at the bottom of the page to learn more about one of the best kept touristic secrets of Northeastern Europe, the Republic of Latvia!

Dr. Barry Mowell
Honorary Consul - Republic of Latvia


OFFICIAL TOURISTIC LINKS:
Latvia Tourist Board - http://latviatourism.lv
Latvian Museum Guide - www.muzeji.lv/index_e.html
Riga Tourist Portal - www.rigatourism.com
Nature & Ecotourism in Latvia - http://www.li.lv/en/?id=27
Latvian Tourist Development Agency - http://tava.gov.lv/tava/index.php

Bauska Guide - www.bauska.lv/tourinfo/eng/castles.htm
Cesis Guide - http://cesis.lv/en/
Kemeri National Wildlife Park - www.kemeri.gov.lv/ENGsakums.htm
Kuldiga Guide - www.kuldiga.lv/indexe.html
Jurmala (beach resort area) Guide - http://www.jurmala.lv/en/home/default.aspx
Liepaja Guide - www.liepaja.lv/page.php?id=927
Preili Guide - www.preili.lv/page.php?id=832
Riga This Week City Guide - http://www.rigathisweek.lv/
Riga Virtual Guide - www.virtualriga.lv/default.asp
Sigulda Guide - http://www.sigulda.lv/?pid=2266
Talsi Guide - www.talsi.lv/pub/?doc_id=31140
Tukums Guide - www.tukums.lv/
Valmiera Guide - www.valmiera.lv/en/index.php
Ventspils Guide - www.ventspils.lv/ENG/Ventspils+pilseta/frontpage.htm




*Some photos courtesy of Patricia Tourist Office, Riga Latvia: www.latviatourism.info
Many additional Latvia photos from the Patricia Tourist Office may be viewed online: www.latviaphoto.com

Old world charm of Riga's streets and shop fronts

The sights of Riga's city center must be seen
in person to be fully appreciated

Office Building in the Latvian Saeima (Parliament) Complex

Christmas Market

Serene lake scenes such as this
can be found throughout Latvia

Riga skyline

Old Town Riga

One of many architectural wonders of Riga

Outdoor cafes in the historical quarter of Riga

800 year-old Turaida Castle overlooking the Gauja River. Latvia has many other castles and sites of archaeological and histiorical significance.

Tall-masted historic ships in Riga harbor

Pristine uncrowded beaches line the Latvian seacoast
and are as yet, largely undiscovered by tourists

Christmas is a cherished tradition in Latvia and the
holiday season is a wonderful time of the year to visit

Riga boasts one of the largest concentrations of
Classical and Art Nouveau architecture in the world

Many homes and offices throughout Latvia are
elaborately decorated for the holidays

Did you know that Christmas trees were
first used in Latvia?

Latvia's cities and towns exude a warm charm
as well as historical character

Fragrant flower stalls are found in Riga's
historic quarter and in the downtown areas
of many other cities, adding to their charm

Riga's colorful and vibrant Central Market. Contemporary, well-stocked supermarkets and most any shopping venues imaginable are commonplace.

Well landscaped/maintained
parks are commonplace

Lake front homes in the Latvian countryside

Forests are prevalent throughout Latvia, providing
beautiful folliage in the fall and outdoor activities year-round