Relax on the Baltic Sea during an 18-hour summer day. Tour a frosted medieval castle on a bitter winter morning in this post-Soviet country with an ancient history.
Medieval ruins stand against Soviet monuments in the Baltic nation of Latvia. With a millennium-long trading history due to its strategic position, Latvia is filled with ancient forts and fortresses. It is also Eastern Europe’s summer vacation destination with beach-lined Baltic coast amid an otherwise beach-free region.
Tour Riga, Latvia’s capital, to see an impressive collection of medieval and modern architecture. The Old Town features a high concentration of ancient buildings. Riga Castle, built in the 15th century, today houses the Latvian president. Take an elevator into the steeple of Saint Peter’s Church to overlook the city from 236 feet (72 meters). Riga is also proud of its modern buildings, including 800 art nouveau structures and the Soviet skyscraper of the Latvian Academy of Sciences.
Latvia’s Baltic coast has long been a popular vacation spot for Eastern Europeans from throughout the region. Head west from Riga to reach Jurmala, Latvia’s main resort town where 20.5 miles (33 kilometers) of Baltic beach await you. Follow the coastline north to Cape Kolka, a pointed cape where the waters of the Gulf of Riga meet those of the Baltic Sea. A lighthouse looks over the tumultuous waters.
Explore Latvia’s inland countryside to find a wide variety of ancient castles and forts. Gauja National Park, a hilly forest east of Riga, hides many 13th-century ruins among its trees and valleys. The two towers of Turaida Castle rise high above the small town of Sigulda. Tour the town’s surroundings to find the Sigulda New Castle and Krimulda Castle, with a cable car offering picturesque views of the surrounding valley. Cēsis Castle stands deeper within the forest, with well-preserved stone walls built in 1213.
Fly into Latvia via Riga’s international airport or reach the city by train or a ferry from Scandinavia. Within Latvia, you can reach most cities from Riga by train. Maximize your trip by visiting during summer with very long days.