Latvia is a country that is not too famous for its tourism. As one of the three Baltic states, it is slightly tucked away in a corner next to Russia, its beauty remaining mainly undiscovered. Nevertheless, Latvia attracts quite a few tourist from its neighbouring countries: Lithuania and Estonia. What was surprising to me is that all three Baltic states are rather flat, almost like the Netherlands. Despite this, Latvia has been able to create a significant enough skiing area near Sigulda, that attracts visitors from all over the Baltics.
Still, this attention from its neighbours does not make Latvia an ultimate skiing country and certainly not a place to go if you are looking for challenging slopes and descents Latvia is not the place to go. The ski-fun is more of an extra to your trip when you’re already there. Being there is in its turn no punishment, because Sigulda offers lovely hiking tracks past along all different sorts of sighseeing objects, both natural and cultural or artistic. More about that will follow in the post about Sigulda.
But obviously, I didn’t skip the capitol…. (See below).
Riga is a beautiful city for anyone who wants to feel like they ended up in a different world some long time ago. From the uneven roads to the coloured pitoresque houses, it sets the scene for and old English movie (and has been used for that actually, but more about that on the Riga page).
Looking for a bit more activity? Latvia welcomes you to that to. From dogsledding to hiking to a shooting range. All is there for you, and a lot is relatively centered around Riga.
The only thing I haven’t found in Riga (yet) is a proper night seen. On the other hand, there a lots of places where you can go for a drink and a happy karaoke bar, so your night can be what you make of it!
The thing I regret most about my trip to Latvia is that it was so short. Lack of time means that you’ll be forced to take decisions. Decisions in its turn mean that you can’t do everything you wanted now that you’re in the country that you wanted to see. Very unfortunate. The good thing is though, that my lack of time has left me with a bucketlist of things to share with you and I know I won’t be bored if and when I return to Latvia.
On our last free afternoon, the decision was mostly between dog sledding, a shooting range, Salaspils memorial or hiking in Sigulda. A large part of the group wanted to show off at the shooting range, but for me that option wasn’t really an option as I’d already shot many gots out in the open instead of at a shooting range. Therefore, I was fairly sure that I could spend my afternoon more interestingly. I chose to go hiking, because I wanted to see more of Latvia than just Riga.
1. Dog sledding
Because I was in Latvia in February, the country was still covered in snow and dog sledding was an actual option. Like hiking, it would have gotten me out of the city. However, as opposed to hiking, dog sledding is rather expensive. In addition to that, my focus would have probably been on the experience rather than on my surroundings, making for a shorter adrenaline trip instead of a beautiful hike. Would have been an awesome experience, but less to share with you. And because I’m a budget traveller and want to show that you don’t need a suitcase full of money to travel, hiking was the better fit and I never regretted it.
2. Salaspils Memorial
Salaspils concentration camp was a Nazi concentration camp during the second world war, although not officially listed as one. The Latvian authorities have always denied that the camp was used as a destruction camp during Sovjet times, but there is doubt about that. Either way, many people found the end of their lives in Salspils, if not because they were killed it was because they fell ill or starved to death. Large concrete statues have been placed at the site as a sign of respect.
Wars are unnecessary and cruel, but, or maybe because of that, their memorials and remains always have a certain atmosphere about them, that is sad but interesting. Whether your reason to visit a war memorial is to pay your respects to the victims, to learn about history or to try to understand what people must have felt at the time, it won’t be a happy visit, but it’ll be a meaningful one.
3. Shooting range
Even though I mentioned earlier that I considered shooting as one of the more boring activities, my love for shooting has never ceased. After I’ve seen more of the country, shooting would slowly make its way into my list of priorties.
Latvia is not the country you would go to for a beach-holiday. However, it still has a coastline and it would be interesting to compare the Latvian beaches to the mediteranean ones, or to see beaches covered in snow!
Jurmala is a beach-side town, but it has more than that. When you’re done with the sand in your clothes, you can find rest and fresh air in the Dzintari Forest Park. The park has a watch tower that enables you to get a sky-view from the beaches. There are some kids activities in the park too for those who travel with little ones!
5. Cesis Medieval Castle
Since I used to hate history classes, I’m not so sure why I love castles so much. However I’ve heard that they have tried to recreate the medieval atmosphere as much as possible by means of lanterns and candles, so I am really curious to this specific castle.
Cesis is also home to a professional annual art festival. Sounds like a plus if you go at the right time of the year!
6. Wintersports in Sigulda
Having hiked through Sigulda, which is actually an area meant for skiing, snowboarding and home to a bobsledding lane, there is no way I can not long to do that still. Can you feel the adrenaline keeping you warm already?!