Latvia might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of where to go for your next trip to Europe, but this beautiful and underrated country really should be on your radar.

I just returned from a hosted trip to Latvia, and I was blown away by all that this destination offered!

If you’re looking for an underrated hidden gem for your next European escape, here’s why you should start planning a trip to Latvia.

Off The Beaten Path

First things first, where exactly is Latvia? It’s one of the three Baltic states in Northern Europe, located between Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south.

Roughly the size of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, Latvia is sparsely populated with fewer than 1.9 million people.

One of the best things about Latvia is that it’s still off the beaten path, especially for American travelers.

You won’t find any crowds or negative effects of overtourism here.

It’s the perfect place to go if you want to discover an authentic hidden gem in Europe.

Turaida Castle Latvia

A Charming Capital City

Riga is the logical place to start your trip to Latvia. This capital city boasts a lovely Old Town filled with colorful historic buildings and cobblestoned streets, while the surrounding neighborhoods are filled with examples of 20th-century Art Nouveau architecture.

Nicknamed the Paris of the Baltics, Riga is a great city to explore for a day or two.

There are several cool museums worth a visit in Riga — the Riga Art Nouveau Center, the Latvian National Museum of Art, and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia are the ones you should check out.

One of my favorite things about Riga? The parks!

Between the Old Town and the city center, there are quite a few gorgeous parks and green spaces that are lovely to stroll through.

Riga Latvia

Where should you eat in Riga? These were some of my favorite restaurants:

  • Lidojošā Varde: This cafe, whose name translates to The Flying Frog, is a great spot to grab lunch. I loved sitting outdoors on their covered terrace!
  • Restaurant Neiburgs: A delicious and healthy restaurant that’s perfect for dinner.
  • Gutenbergs Terase: The best rooftop restaurant in Riga with views over the Old Town.

You also shouldn’t miss Black Magic, a cocktail bar with speakeasy vibes that also has a delicious array of Latvian chocolate and confections!

As for where to stay in Riga, I was hosted by Grand Poet by Semarah and found this to be the perfect location, just a five-minute walk from the Old Town and across the street from a park and the river.

Old Town Riga

Stunning Natural Beauty

Latvia is a surprisingly beautiful country. After you spend a couple of days in the capital, you need to get out of the city and see more of the countryside!

No, it doesn’t have the impressive mountains of Switzerland or the dramatic islands of Greece… Latvia’s nature offers more of a quiet beauty instead.

I loved the tranquil beauty of Gauja National Park, which encompasses the two popular tourist destinations of Sigulda and Cesis.

Kemeri National Park, which is close to the seaside resort town of Jurmala, is another unique natural area to visit. It’s all bogs and wetlands, and there are wooden boardwalks leading all throughout the park so you can explore this unique ecosystem.

Kemeri National Park

Escape The Heat

I visited Latvia in late June and the weather was amazing. Every day it was in the high sixties or low seventies, and it was sunny most of the time, but never too hot.

Summer in Latvia is perfect because you can escape the heat of Southern Europe and enjoy a mild, fresh climate instead. I loved being able to stroll around for hours outside without breaking a sweat or worrying about getting sunburnt all the time.

With an increase in scorching summertime temperatures and deadly heat waves, many travelers are avoiding traditionally popular destinations like Italy, Greece, and Spain during the summer months and looking for a cooler alternative instead.

This is where Latvia is perfect. You can actually be outside and enjoy nature during the summer, rather than counting down the minutes until you can be back inside an air-conditioned room.

Jurmala Beach

Lots Of History

If you’re a history buff, or you’re just like me and enjoy exploring fairytale-like castles throughout Europe, Latvia won’t disappoint.

One of my favorite historic sites was Cesis Castle. This medieval castle has not been reconstructed like many other castles have, so it preserves the true history of the place very well. It dates back to the 12th century when Latvia was part of Livonia.

I also loved visiting Rundale Palace. This 18th-century palace was constructed for the Duke of Courland (who ruled Latvia at the time) and has gorgeous Rococo architecture and beautiful gardens.

For more recent history, I recommend visiting the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. This museum delves into the occupation of Latvia by the Nazis during World War II and the Soviets for 45 years after, culminating in Latvia’s independence in 1991.

Cesis Castle

Very Safe

Is Latvia safe? Yes, very! As a solo female traveler, I felt incredibly safe the whole time I was in Latvia.

Latvia, along with the rest of the Baltic countries, is extremely safe, which is one of the reasons that all three countries are popular with solo travelers.

In addition to a very low crime rate, Latvia is also easy to navigate. You should have no issues getting around, whether you rent a car and drive yourself, or take trains and buses.

The level of English spoken in Latvia is quite high, especially in areas popular with tourists. You also shouldn’t have any trouble communicating while in Latvia.

A Young Female Photographer Wearing A Red Blouse As She Smiles Admiring The Historical Houses Of Old Town Riga, Latvia, On The Baltic Coast Of Eastern Europe

Unique Culture And Traditions

Finally, one of the best reasons to visit Latvia is to experience the country’s unique culture and traditions.

For such a small country that was occupied for so long during the 20th century before gaining independence, I was amazed at how unique and well-preserved Latvia’s culture and traditions are. For example, there are tens of thousands of recorded Latvian folk songs, many of which date to the pagan pre-Christian era of Latvia.

It’s not uncommon to see Latvians wearing traditional dress for special occasions, and folk song and dance are a point of pride.

I was in Latvia for the summer solstice, known as līgo in Latvia. This holiday is celebrated with folk songs, bonfires, flower crowns, traditional costumes, and other traditions. Taking part in a summer solstic celebration in the small town of Ligatne was an experience I’ll never forget!

Summer Solstice in Latvia

What To Do In Latvia

So now we’ve covered the why of visiting Latvia, but let’s talk about what you should actually do!

If you’re short on time, I recommend basing yourself in Riga. You can easily spend a full day exploring the capital. From Riga, you can easily take day trips to the seaside resort town of Jurmala (30 minutes by train) and the charming town of Sigulda (1 hour and 10 minutes by train.)

However, if you have more time, I recommend renting a car so you can explore more of the country. With a couple of extra days, you should also visit Cesis (home to beautiful old castles and a gorgeous Gauja National Park) and Bauska (more historic castles and palaces — Rundale Palace is a must!)

Rundale Palace in Latvia

How Much Time Do You Need?

I spent four full days in Latvia and this was just enough time to see many of the places I wanted to — but I easily felt as if I could spend a few extra days seeing and doing more!

At a minimum, I’d say four days is a good amount of time for Latvia.

Especially if you are combining a visit to Latvia with the neighboring Baltic countries of Estonia and Lithuania, you can spend around four days in each country without rushing too much, and you’ll be able to see more than just the capital cities.

Speaking of which, I think combining a visit to Latvia with the other Baltic countries is a great idea. It’s super easy to travel between all three countries and they combine well for a two-week trip.

That being said, Latvia stands alone as a destination in its own right, and if you have the time, you can easily spend a week or more just in Latvia!

Medieval street in Riga

Getting To Latvia

There are no nonstop flights to Latvia from the United States, but you can easily fly to Riga from just about any major city in Europe.

If you’re combining a trip to Latvia with visits to the other Baltic states, you can easily take a bus from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga in less than 4.5 hours, and onward to Vilnius, Lithuania in just over 4 hours.

When it comes to getting around within the country, there are trains you can take from Riga to some destinations, but I think it’s best to have a car. This will give you maximum flexibility in your travels, and driving and finding free parking are very easy to do in Latvia.

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