Four Reasons Why Latvia Should Be On Your Travel Radar

Deserted beaches, Riga’s thriving art scene, a boggy landscape (better than it sounds, promise) and architectural feats that paint a fascinating picture of the country’s Soviet past make Latvia a must-visit in our books. Here’s a handful of reasons why this Eastern European country should be on your travel radar.

While other Eastern European destinations such as the Czech Republic and Hungary have gained traction in recent decades, Latvia has remained a blindspot for travellers. Why? Honestly, we're clueless. Deserted, sandy beaches crossed by free-roaming horses, the art city of tomorrow, a boggy landscape (more mesmeric than it sounds) and lofty architectural feats that paint a fascinating picture of the country's tremulous past make it a must-visit in our books. Here's a handful of reasons why Latvia should be on your travel radar.

A few great reasons why you should be planning a trip to Latvia

Riga’s biennial is a big deal

If you want any proof that Riga is one of Europe's most up-and-coming art cities, look no further than its annual biennial of contemporary art, RIBOCA. When it first ran in 2018, it was received with great acclaim, notably for the way in which it sophisticatedly navigated Latvia's Soviet past. 2020's biennial was supposed to emanate from a new gallery space in Andrejsala, an old industrial port turned vibrant arts hub, but its opening has been delayed for reasons we need not explain. In the meantime, the culturally curious should pop into Riga Art Space, Putti (a modern jewellers-cum-gallery) and Kim?, a contemporary art centre. RIBOCA has also transformed this year's programme into a series of online talks and virtual exhibitions; check it out here.

Beautiful bogs (seriously, hear us out)

As hiking trips have become increasingly popular, so too has amateur mountain landscape photography. Dare we say it: panoramic shots taken at the zenith of some European crag are starting to feel a little passé. Just us? For a hike like no other, make tracks for Latvia's mist-strewn bogs. Don't be put off by the name, these are luscious, low-lying eco-systems - ambient reserves of swaying long grass, fragmented by mirror-like pools. Dependent on where you choose to hike, there'll either be a purpose-built walkway suspended over the bog or you'll need to grab a pair of snowshoes to prevent you from sinking in. We recommend the 8,000-year-old Great Kemeri Bog or following the Cena Moorland footpath.

Beaches we’d rather keep a secret

It might be just across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm's much-loved archipelago, but Latvia's beaches don't get the attention they deserve. Let's keep it that way. The Jurkalne Bluffs - tree-topped cliffs set over restless sandy shores - skirt Latvia's west coast and are known for being remarkably untainted by human intervention. Approach via the Pape Nature Reserve to catch sight of the park's wild horses and auroxen (a type of cattle). If you're a surfer looking to catch some waves, visit the small coastal town of Pāvilosta, where kites swarm overhead like birds of paradise and fish dinners are served steaming fresh from sandy-bottomed shacks.

For dystopian Soviet ruins

Some people see architecture in purely aesthetic terms, as something to be observed and photographed (perhaps as a nice background for one's Instagram feed). Sounds familiar? Maybe Latvia's ugly architectural history isn't for you. If, however, you're someone who's interested in architecture's lived experience - how it can be used to enforce ideology and structure society - then you'll love scouting out the relics of Latvia's turbulent past. For long-abandoned military bases, visit the Skrunda radar station or the Zeltini nuclear missile base. The Dubulti Railway Station in Jūrmala, now a gallery space, is a striking example of 70s modernism, while the 80s-style TV Tower, Vanšu Suspension Bridge and Riga Congress Centre are impressive testaments to Soviet industrialisation.

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