Latvia may be sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania, but its capital, Riga, is the biggest and most vibrant city in the Baltics. Great day-trip destinations surrounding Riga include the coastal resort Jurmala, the Sigulda castles overlooking the scenic Gauja River Valley, and the Rastrelli Palace at Rundale. Latvia’s less-travelled roads are equally rewarding, form the dune-lined coast and historic towns of the Kurzeme region in the west of the country to the remote uplands of the east.
April to September (spring to summer)
Visiting Rastrelli’s lavishly Baroque Rundale Palace outside Riga Swinging across the Gauja river Valley in a cable car Strolling in the land of the Livonian people at Cape Kolka Beachcombing for washed-up amber along Latvia’s Baltic coast Burrowing in the Riezupe sand caves near Kuldiga Wandering through Riga’s massive Market
Read Latvia’s national epic, Lacplesis (The Bear Slayer), written by Andrejs Pumpurs in the mid-19 th century and based on traditional Latvian folk stories
Listen to AutoBuss Debesis, art rock with a Latvian twist
Watch Homeland, a documentary by Podnieks that captures the tumultuous events of the early 1990s
Eat piragi, meat pasties baked in the oven-Latvia’s answer to fast food
Drink the infamous Balzams, a thick, jet-black, 45% proof concoction-it’s best served with coffee or mixed with equal parts vodka
Sveiks (Hi, or even Goodbye)
Vibrant Riga; drinking sessions; scientists; sports-loving people; singing and dancing troupes
Pig’s snout is a traditional Christmas dish; Riga is over 800 years old; Latvia is a remnant of the Holy Roman Empire; Latvia became a member of the European Union in May 2004
Cobbled streets, chocolate-box collections of brightly painted houses and a trio of medieval Old Towns sufficiently historic to be included in Unesco’s World Heritage list are among the huge trove of treasures…Whole sweeps of history and a myriad of legends and myths little known outside the immediate region hide behind each castle, folk costume, forest and lake.