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  Latvia
  Territory: 64 589 km
  Population: 2.32 million
  Capital: Riga 736 000
  Ethnic Composition:
  58.8% Latvians
  28.7% Russians
  3.8% Belarusians
  2.6% Ukrainians
  2.5% Poles
  1.4% Lithuanians
  2.2% Others
  Official language:
  Latvian
  Highest point:
  Gaizinkalns 311.6m

  Biggest lake: Lubans
  80.7km
  Longest river: Gauja
  460km

Latvia is one of Northern Europe's most exciting places to visit, after being hidden away from the world's view for over half a century by the Soviet occupation. Prior to the occupation, Latvia was one of the most dynamic parts of Europe, with extremely high living standards. After the collapse of the Soviet system, Latvia has struggled to regain its recognised place in Europe and the world but has recently been accepted as a full member of the EU. There is a lot for the tourist to do and see in Latvia ranging from visiting unspoiled countryside scenery to viewing historic buildings, some dating back to the great trading days of the Hanseatic League. The country, by European standards, is sparsely populated and Latvia has many quiet and beautiful beaches on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The landscape away from the sea is also extremely varied - sandstone cliffs on the banks of the river Gauja, endless forests, medieval castles, churches and manor houses.

Latvia consists of four historical regions:
KURZEME – “God's Land” – is famous because of its outstanding scenery and its historically affluent lifestyle. Kurzeme was once a mighty duchy, with its overseas territories including the Isle of Tobago and Gambia.

ZEMGALE was for centuries included administratively in Kurzeme. It is commonly recognised as the granary of Latvia. In the main town of Zemgale and in Rundale one can see the masterpieces of the famous Baroque master Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

LATGALE is said to be “a child of sorrow” in Latvia. However, the Catholic part of Latvia always has been (and still is) a pearl that brightly adorns the whole of Latvia, as befits a region with exceptionally picturesque scenery. Its numerous lakes have given it the name of “the Land of Blue Lakes”.

VIDZEME – the central part of Latvia is historically better known as South Livland . The capital of Latvia, Riga, the Gauja National Park - the cradle of the Latvian flag, and the town of Cesis - once the main centre of the Livonian Order; all serve to make this part of Latvia very attractive for tourists from all over the world.

HansaTravel arranges tours to the following places in Latvia. Just tell us how many days you have and what would you like to see!


Riga


The capital of Latvia is the largest city in the Baltic countries. Riga, established more than 800 years ago, has had a colourful history. In the 13th Century Riga was a member of the Hanseatic League and it still displays numerous medieval monuments: the Dome Cathedral, St Peter Church, Three Brothers (dwelling-houses), the Sand Tower and the Castle of the Livonian Order.
Riga is a green city and contains much Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture – about 800 buildings in this style still can be seen. The most beautiful examples can be found in Alberta, Vilande and Elisabeth Streets.

The undiscovered jewel of Eastern Europe is a unique, exciting destination full of surprises. Riga comes to life at night and offers a huge variety of restaurants, cafes and trendy bars. Renowned as a party town, Latvia s capital is continually buzzing with life, music and laughter.


Sigulda


About 50 km eastwards from Riga one reaches the Gauja National Park and its centre-Sigulda. This area is often called the Latvian Switzerland. Sigulda is a resort town with many interesting and fascinating places nearby: the ruins of the Bishop, the Teutonic Order and the Turaida Castles, the grave of the Turaida Rose, the Daina Hill (Daina is a Latvian folk-song), the miraculous Gutman's spring – all these are waiting for your discovery.
There is always something for the tourist to do and see and Sigulda welcomes you in all seasons.


Cesis


The town lies in the very heart of the Gauja National Park. It first became a member of the Hanseatic League in 1383. Cesis is also the cradle of the Latvian flag (first mentioned in the 13th century). Once the town was the main centre of the Master of the Livonian Order, remains of the former castle still stands there.
The town has much else of historical interest and in the outskirts there are several beautiful renovated estates with classic caves in the red sandstone along the bank of the picturesque Gauja River.


Jurmala


This town’s name originally means “a seashore”, running for a distance of 32 km along the coast and consisting of 14 former small fishing villages. Jurmala is situated on a narrow strip of land between the Riga Bay and the river Lielupe. Since the 19th century, Jurmala has been well known in the Baltics as a Spa resort.
The town itself is especially interesting because of its architecture and tranquil setting – (mostly) wooden houses in various interesting styles, quiet green streets, age-old trees, endless sand dunes, mineral springs – all of which serve to welcome visitors from near and far.


Ventspils

During the ruling period of the Courland's Duke Jacob (17th century), Ventspils was the largest harbour in the country. The town has always flourished together with its harbour and the modern port. Ventspils offers a lot of interesting sights: the castle of the Livonian Order (13-14th century) being the only entirely complete convent castle still surviving in Latvia.
Ventspils is also proud of its reputation in claiming to be the brightest city in Latvia, with not a single unlit street or square after dark. During the summer months, attractive water fountains and flower arrangements abound in the city to please the eye and uplift the soul of the many visitors. The recently unveiled Children’s City is the largest park of its kind in the Baltic countries, and a vast, new aquatic amusement centre is now open near a beautiful sandy beach.


Rundale


In South Latvia, close to the town of Bauska (the former residence place of the Master of the Livonian Order), is situated the Rundale Palace, a masterpiece of the famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (the creator of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg). The most beautiful Baroque palace in Latvia was also the summer residence of the Grand Duke of Courland, E.J. Biron. The Palace guides are available to conduct you through the state halls and Duke’s private apartments and provide interesting stories from the court’s life during the Rococo age. Nowadays there is also a museum and the palace itself is used for state receptions after a long period of restoration.