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Latvia


Latvia highlights

Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since Latvia's independence in 1918, it has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates the climate, although the country has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.






Last reviewed: 25 October 2020

Latvia description

Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since Latvia's independence in 1918, it has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates the climate, although the country has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.

The name Latvija is derived from the name of the ancient Latgalians, one of four Indo-European Baltic tribes (along with Couronians, Selonians and Semigallians), which formed the ethnic core of modern Latvians together with the Finnic Livonians. Henry of Latvia coined the latinisations of the country's name, "Lettigallia" and "Lethia", both derived from the Latgalians. The terms inspired the variations on the country's name in Romance languages from "Letonia" and in several Germanic languages from "Lettland".

Around 3000 BC, the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Rome and Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals. By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Semigallians, as well as the Finnic tribe of Livonians speaking a Finnic language.

Although the local people had contact with the outside world for centuries, they became more fully integrated into the European socio-political system in the 12th century. The first missionaries, sent by the Pope, sailed up the Daugava River in the late 12th century, seeking converts. The local people, however, did not convert to Christianity as readily as the Church had hoped.

At the beginning of the 13th century, Germans ruled large parts of what is currently Latvia. Together with southern Estonia, these conquered areas formed the crusader state that became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. In 1282, Riga, and later the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera, became part of the Hanseatic League. Riga became an important point of east–west trading and formed close cultural links with Western Europe. The first German settlers were knights from northern Germany and citizens of northern German towns who brought their Low German language to the region, which shaped many loanwords in the Latvian language.

The capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710 and the Treaty of Nystad, ending the Great Northern War in 1721, gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the Riga Governorate). The Latgale region remained part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as Inflanty Voivodeship until 1772, when it was incorporated into Russia. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia became an autonomous Russian province (the Courland Governorate) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into the Russian Empire.

After centuries of Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away from the Russian Empire and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime. The country's de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia's forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 (Courland Pocket in 1945) to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.

The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the Communist regime's illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990 and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991. Latvian is the official language. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages.

Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. However, as a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, 26.9% of the population of Latvia are ethnic Russians, some of whom (10.7% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is historically predominantly Lutheran Protestant, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic. The Russian population is largely Eastern Orthodox Christians.

During these two centuries Latvia experienced economic and construction boom - ports were expanded (Riga became the largest port in the Russian Empire), railways built; new factories, banks, and a University were established; many residential, public (theatres and museums), and school buildings were erected; new parks formed; and so on. Riga's boulevards and some streets outside the Old Town date from this period.

Between the 13th and 19th centuries, Baltic Germans, many of whom were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into German culture, formed the upper class. They developed distinct cultural heritage, characterized by both Latvian and German influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, in spite of their dispersal to Germany, the United States, Canada and other countries in the early 20th century. However, most indigenous Latvians did not participate in this particular cultural life. Thus, the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging with Christian traditions. For example, one of the most popular celebrations is Jāņi, a pagan celebration of the summer solstice - which Latvians celebrate on the feast day of St. John the Baptist.

Latvian cuisine typically consists of agricultural products, with meat featuring in most main meal dishes. Fish is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the Baltic Sea. Latvian cuisine has been influenced by the neighbouring countries. Common ingredients in Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs, and pork. Latvian food is generally quite fatty, and uses few spices.

Grey peas and ham are generally considered as staple foods of Latvians. Sorrel soup is also consumed by Latvians. Rupjmaize is a dark bread made from rye, considered the national staple.

Riga, the capital of Latvia, was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga's historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture.

Latvia related tours

We at Monterrasol Travel welcome you to see Latvia during multi-day small group car tour. Contact us if you would like to customize your tour to Latvia.

We have developed several small group tours that visiting beautiful Latvia. But, if you have a special conditions or any from these tours fit you, please do not hesitate to contact us, we can organize a tour exactly as you would like. We charge nothing for develop a custom itinerary. And remember, we have no problems to take you from almost any place where you stay, hotel or private accommodation.


All seasons Baltic tour 21 days from Warsaw. UNESCO medieval towns and Teutonic Knights castles. Discovery tour across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and north of Poland.

tour starts in: Warsaw, Poland

tour finishes in: Warsaw, Poland

tour duration: 21 days (20 nights)

tour countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland

tour destinations: Augustów, Gdańsk, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Kwidzyn, Liepāja, Malbork, Olsztyn, Ostroda, Pärnu, Reszel, Riga, Sopot, Sztum, Tallinn, Tartu, Trakai, Ventspils, Vilnius, Święta Lipka

Discover Baltic in 21 days all seasons tour from Warsaw. Open to yourself three Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and north of Poland. Visit UNESCO Teutonic Knights castles and medieval European towns. We will start this tour in Warsaw, Poland and visit Augustow on the north of Poland, well known town for relaxing vacations. After that we going to Lithuania, where in Kaunas we need to see a medieval fortress with historical exhibitions and located in old town Kaunas Cathedral Basilica; continue with Lithuania, we will walk in Klaipeda castle. After we move to Latvia to see historical center of two coastal towns Liepaja and Ventspils, and old town of Latvia's capital Riga (UNESCO site). Next we will move to third Baltic country, Estonia, and first place there is historic center of town Parnu and Estonia's capital Tallinn (UNESCO site). We will visit also the cafe-filled Town Hall Square of Tartu, the town famous with 17th century University. On the way back, again in Lithuania, we will meet the country's capital, Vilnius (UNESCO site) and walk the paths of Trakai castle, located on small peninsula in lake. As we return back to Poland, we will visit small village Swieta Lipka, famous church there have unique still active working organ. We will see medieval castles in Reszel, Olsztyn, Ostroda, and finally walk the streets of Malbork castle, the UNESCO site founded in the 13th century by the Knights of the Teutonic Order. Before we return to Warsaw, we will visit also coastal towns Gdansk and Sopot, and take a look on smaller castles in towns Sztum and Kwidzyn.

all seasons tour

21 days

Price from € 3,251

 




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