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Latvia Travel Guide

Between wide beaches on the Baltic Sea and dense, sprawling forests the capital city Riga has one of the finest collections of Art Nouveau buildings.

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Interesting Things to Know About Latvia

Latvia is one of three Baltic States, along with Estonia and Lithuania. Although this area of northern Europe has been well connected to other parts of Europe for many centuries, Christendom arrived relatively late here. Many popular celebrations still have a distinctly pagan feel to them. One such celebration is Jāņi, or the Līgo Midsummer’s Night Celebration. To mark the change from sowing to harvesting, festivities take place each year on 23 June, the longest night to the year. Traditionally Latvians would celerate throughout the night, believing those who slept during the night would sleep through summer.
Over half of Latvia is covered by forest, making this Baltic destination a must for nature lovers. A vast network of nature trails criss-cross four national parks, allowing visitors to enjoy incredible diverse natural environments and explore out-of-the-way castles and manor houses.
With over 800 Art Nouveau buildings in the Latvian capital alone, it is not surprising that Riga is known as northern Europe’s Art Nouveau capital city. This is one of the reasons why the historic centre of Riga is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Art Nouveau architecture can also be found in other cities in Latvia, most notably the port city of Liepāja.
Europe’s widest waterfall, the Venta Rapid, can be found in the town of Kuldīga, eastern Latvia. Although it has a width of 249 m, increasing to 270 m during spring floods, the height of the waterfall ranges between 1.80 and 2.20 metres. Kuldīga developed at the site of the waterfall because it formed a natural obstacle to medieval trade routes going further inland. There have been various attempts to build a canal to by pass the waterfall. All have failed because of the hardness of the Devonian dolomite, the rock type that forms the waterfall.

Latvia has two UNESCO World Heritage sites, as of 2023. These are the historic centre of Riga, a prominent Hanseatic city, and the Struve Geodetic Arc. The Arc is a series of triangulation points set up by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve between 1816 and 1855 to calculate the size and shape of the Earth. Originally, 265 station points were set up. Of these 34 now make up the World Heritage Site, spread through ten countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine), two of which are in Latvia.