Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, situated in Northern Europe is a member state of the European Union since May 1st 2004.
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shares land borders with two fellow Baltic States Estonia
to the north and Lithuania
to the south and both Russia
to the east. In the west, Latvia
shares a maritime border with Sweden
and the capital of Latvia
has been successively dominated by Germany, Poland, and Russia in the early 13th century, becoming an independent country in 1918 together with its neighbouring countries; Estonia
. These three countries became known as The Baltic States
Large parts of Latvia
are covered by forests, and the country has over 12,000 small rivers and over 3,000 lakes. Most of the country consists of fertile, low-lying plains with some hills in the east, the highest point being the Gaiziņkalns
at 311.6 m. Ethnic Latvians constitute a slight majority of the population, while Russians make up the largest minority group.
An inlet of the Baltic Sea
, the shallow Gulf of Riga
is situated in the northwest of the country. The capital city Riga
is located on the shores of this inlet, where the River Daugava
flows into it. Other major cities include Daugavpils
further upriver and Liepaja
along the Baltic coast. The Latvian climate is maritime and temperate in nature, with cool summers and wet, moderate winters.Latvia
has many opportunities for boating and walking and just enjoying the outdoors, there are many small medieval towns, country castles, museums and folk parks to be visited.Riga
is a city that has come to life with superb architecture, from the medieval to the Art Nouveau, an old city that rivals Prague, operas and concerts, an active artistic life, smart shops and intimate restaurants, all testify to her being once again a major European capital.
Latvia is one of Europe's great "get-away-from-it-all"
discoveries. In whichever direction you strike out from Riga
, the capital, you will rapidly discover new facets of the country.
Head north east and within an hour you're at the medieval town of Sigulda
, a base for exploring the Gauja National Park
, with a castle, hotels, restaurants and a host of sporting activities. Nearby is Turaida Castle
, set on a hill that was an ancient fortress of the Liv people. Near the centre of the park is Cesis
, a town of cobbled streets and wooden houses almost unaltered by the Soviets and rated a national treasure, with one of Latvia's finest historical museums.
Head south from Riga
and explore the 18th century grandeur of the Rundale Palace
, summer residence of the Duke of Courland and designed by the architect of the St. Petersburg Winter Palace. Thanks to restoration you would hardly believe that the Germans used it as a granary in World War 2!In fact Latvia is a country waiting to be discovered!