Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a European state located on the coast of Baltic Sea. It is bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and by a maritime border to the west with Sweden. Founded in 1918, Latvia is a popular ancient trading point, its famous route stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory along the river Daugava to the Kievan Rus and Byzantine Empire. Its coast is known for amber, which was valued more than gold during the Middle Ages. Latvia’s social development, economy, industry, and agriculture status have considerably improved following its independence. Its capital is Riga.
What to see & do
If you’re planning on going to Latvia, the best time to travel is from June to mid-September, when the weather is warm and there are plenty of local food offerings. Latvia’s lively and historic capital, Riga, is a great place to start exploring. Its beautiful old quarter is home to plenty of mesmerising Jugendstil architecture, winding cobblestoned lanes, and many steeples. Combined with the makings of a modern, metropolitan city, Riga is a beehive of community and is economically thriving. Wander through its large parks, and visit the impressive Riga Cathedral, St. Peter's Church, and the bustling Central Market. Other notable destinations include Sigulda, located just 40km from the capital, which houses a charming castle museum, as well as the Gutmanis Cave. Dubbed as the "Switzerland of Latvia", Gauja valley is known for its steep cliffs and banks, and also its excellent winter sports opportunities. There’s also the coastal city of Liepāja, which has a nice beach and a quaint town centre with a very interesting mixture of architectural styles ranging from wooden houses and spacious parks to Art Nouveau and concrete, Soviet-era apartment buildings.
How to get around within Latvia
You can get around Latvia on a plane. However, there are no intercity flights currently operating in the country. If you prefer to rent a car, there are plenty of cheap options to choose from. Just keep a couple of things in mind: driving with the headlights on is a must all-year round, winter or all-season tyres are required for the winter period (between December 1 to March 1), and the gasoline with octane ratings of 95 and 98 is available, along with diesel fuel. Also, hitchhiking in Latvia is favourable. If your destination is in Jurmala, Tukums, Jelgava, Salaspils, Jekabpils, Daugavpils, Rezekne, Sigulda, Cesis, or Saulkrasti, a preferable (and cheaper) option is to take the train. Check the official Latvian Railroad website first to make sure there are scheduled trains first. Also, be mindful of train station names since they sometimes differ from the name of town. It’s advisable to buy a ticket ahead of time to avoid paying extra fees. Navigating around Latvia by bus should be no problem due to the vast network of bus connections across the country. Bus stations are especially crowded during weekends. A romantic way to get from Riga to Jurmala during summer is by a river cruise boat. Biking around, especially early in the morning, is also a great way to explore Latvia.
How to get there
As a member of the Schengen Agreement, there are no border controls or visa requirements for visitors who are citizens of Schengen countries. If you are getting in by plane, you’ll arrive at Riga International Airport, the only airport in the country which offers commercial flights. It is served by several airlines including Aeroflot, AirBaltic, Brussels Airlines, Finnair, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, and Wizz Air, among others. These carriers fly to and from numerous destinations such as Moscow, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Helsinki, London, Istanbul, New York, and more. Alternatively, you can fly to Kaunas in Lithuania and take the Flybus to Riga. Latvia is also accessible by train (via SJSC Latvian Railways from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Vilnius), by bus (via Eurolines, Ecolines, and Flybus, with international bus connections to anywhere in Europe), via boat (by Tallink from Stockholm, Sweden and Riga), and by car (via the Via Baltica road from Warsaw to Tallinn via Kaunas, Lithuania, and Riga).
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