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LATVIA

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Growing urbanization has led to a busy indoor lifestyle with information overload, deadlines and all day long screen viewing which all give us overactive minds that can never be really calm. Many of us feel stressed, we feel anxious and we are looking for relief – yoga, calming apps or life coaches. But there is one stress reliever that is a low-cost solution or even free of charge. It’s nature. Lately, people seem to have started to understand that being in contact with nature actually helps. It is a natural stress reliever that reduces anxiety and helps us feel better emotionally. There are dozens of scientific studies that prove that nature nurtures – it reduces stress, blood pressure, heart rate and makes us feel happy and energized. 

Nature in Latvia could – your stress reliever?

Being one of the greenest countries in the world, Latvia makes an ideal place to enjoy the presence of nature. Half of Latvia is covered in forests in which Latvians are still picking berries, mushrooms and nuts, there is a never-ending beach that stretches over 500 km and offers mostly white sand coast. Over two thousand lakes and 12 thousand rivers to try your kayak in or go fishing. If you are taking an early commute by car from one town to another, it is not rare to see foxes, roe deer and even elk looking for food in fields and meadows not far from highways. In the evenings, you can hear a frog choir, crickets and even owls closer to a forest in the countryside. These are just a few things to name that I love about nature in Latvia. If you would ask me which are my favourite nature trails in Latvia, where I would take my friends to for a stress-free weekend, I’d say these below. Let’s explore together? 

Dark tourism – tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death and suffering. Although dark tourism sounds like a new kind of travelling (especially after the recent Netflix documentary series of the same name – ”Dark Tourism”), it is in fact nothing new. Every time one visits the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, the 9/11 memorial, Chernobyl’s fallout zone or the sites of massacres, one is actually engaging dark tourism. And surprisingly there are lots of people who seek the thrill of visiting scary, spine-chilling places rather than spending their vacation on the beach or beautiful surroundings. If you are one of them, keep reading. You can find dark tourism in Latvia, too and it can get scary.

I often hear surprising stories and interesting anecdotes from travellers who have visited Riga. Many people are surprised to find a city that is completely different from the one they had imagined. Many visitors expect Riga to consist of a lot of massive grey buildings, but instead they find a bustling European city rich in pastel colours, historic statues and beautiful buildings. Riga is quite simply a wonderful weekend destination that is becoming more and more popular each year. Quite a few people I know have said they have experienced amazing weekends in Riga, enjoying its great restaurants (many of which are inexpensive for the quality of cuisine on offer), sightseeing and shopping. In 2017 Business Insider named Riga the best value destination in Europe for Christmas shopping, and every shopaholic will be happy about wonderful goods – and wonderful prices – to be found in the shops of Riga. And with its vivid nightlife, many bars and inexpensive prices, Riga remains a popular party destination.

Visitors to Latvia often think of Riga as the number one place to visit, but this fascinating country offers a wide range of charming towns, exciting attractions and spectacular sights that are well worth checking out – and, luckily, some of them are only a short drive from the capital. October is the perfect time to see Vidzeme in all its autumn glory. Every year my Facebook newsfeed fills up with amazing pictures of the beautiful natural landscapes around Vidzeme: Sigulda, Cēsis, and Valmiera. Vidzeme is the most beautiful place to enjoy a sunny autumn weekend. If you haven’t visited the region before, you might be surprised how many beautiful, easily accessible places Vidzeme has to offer.

#1 Sigulda

Just an hour’s drive from the capital Riga you will find Sigulda, with its breathtaking views of the River Gauja valley. Sigulda is the perfect destination for hiking, romantic walks or bike rides. There are also plenty of modern attractions designed to appeal to more adventurous travellers. You can test your strength and courage at the Mežakaķis and Tarzāns sky playgrounds, slide down a real bobsleigh run or even fly in a wind tunnel at the Aerodium.

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Gūtmaņala Cave. The biggest cave in the Baltic States features ancient inscriptions dating back to the 17th century. And legend has it that the spring that flows out of the cave has healing powers.

There are four regions in Latvia – Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme and Latgale. And Kurzeme has always been my favourite. Perhaps it’s because my parents and grandparents come from the area. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always been drawn to the waves, and Kurzeme is washed by the Baltic Sea. Latvia has a 500 kilometers long coast line of white sand beach along the Baltic Sea. One can find especially nice beaches – as well as adventure and history – in Liepaja and Ventspils. Then there’s Jurkalne, with its pretty seashore bluffs and quiet white sand beach. In between, you’ll find numerous old fishing villages selling fish smoked according to age-old traditions. And in the middle of Kurzeme you’ll find Kuldīga and its charming narrow streets and red tile roofs – surely the most romantic city in Latvia. Keep reading to find out the highlights of Kurzeme.

I have always believed that traveling is the essence of life. It doesn’t matter if the destination is an exotic country, a romantic getaway spot or going just 50 miles away from home. It is about craving adventures, tasting amazing food and broadening the horizon of one’s knowledge. And have you noticed how nice it is to return home after a trip? Life just seems better!

Discover a new destination – Latvia

But how to choose the travel destination? It is never an easy decision. Many of us have chosen to travel to France, Italy, Greece or Spain and there is a reason why – all these places have a truly amazing cultural heritage. A La Dolce Vita vibe! A fiesta feeling! But how about being one of the first one of your friends finding a hidden gem and discover something you haven’t seen before? Something so familiar, but yet still so unknown – Latvia. Many of us have heard its name, but it is rare to meet anyone who actually knows something about Latvia and you probably wonder – what to see in Latvia?

Latvia is a secret gem

Over the last decade, more and more tourists have chosen Latvia as their destination and I can tell you why… Because they have found the secret gem. It is a small, charming country that has too long kept itself secret. Latvia has it all – beautiful sandy beaches, great weather, charming small towns, beautiful castles, manors and an attractive capital that is sometimes called the ‘Paris of the North’. All that and it is so compact that you can see almost all of it within a few days! You can find refreshing spa offers and rustic-chic restaurants that will make you feel special and not break the bank. Enjoy hiking and nature? Great! Latvia is the perfect spot for you, over 50% of the country consists of forests and it boasts 494 km of coastline. And that’s not all – this small country can amaze you with more than 2250 lakes and five times more rivers. Perfect for sailing away from the routine. Did I mention that during July temperature can go up to +36 degrees and there are only 2 days a year on average when the sun is not shining?

Come and enjoy. And keep in mind what they say about Latvia– it is best enjoyed slowly.

I hope you will like my blog about what to see in Latvia. Bon voyage!