Top 10 Yet-To-Be-Discovered Historical Towns and Villages You Must See When in Latvia

6 min

Located in the remote northeast corner of Europe, Latvia, a small Baltic republic that was once a constituent nation of the Soviet Union, is hardly mentioned in tourist circles. Latvia today is a remarkable mosaic of east and west, elegance and grit, sufferings and hope, after centuries of Swedish, German, and Russian control.

Though Riga, the capital of Latvia, is one of the most beautiful and sophisticated capitals in Eastern Europe, its countryside is a treasure trove of undiscovered jewels that are begging to be discovered. Once you leave Riga behind, you’ll quickly see that Latvia is a pristine country full of shimmering lakes, enormous forests, and sandy beaches, interspersed with tiny, barely inhabited medieval villages. So, it’s more than just Riga.

We listed 10 such settlements in Latvia you must visit if you embark on a journey to the Baltic.

# 1 Talsi

Talsi, dubbed the “Green Pearl of Courland” by the locals, is a location in western Latvia where the beauty of nature and man-made elements collide; Courland is one of the Historical Latvian Lands in western Latvia. In addition, it has a long history, having played a crucial strategic role in the Latvian War of Independence as well as both World Wars.

The town is a fascinating spot to stroll around at your leisure because it’s situated on nine hills and has two lakes. Fruit trees may be found in many well-maintained parks, making them perfect for hot summer afternoons or fall leaf-watching.

The Talsi Folklore Group often gives performances, and the residents of Talsi take great pride in their cultural history. Additionally, there’s an annual midsummer celebration called “Talsi Celebration” where the town’s proud residents gather to celebrate all that makes their town special. The festival’s open market, which features a wide variety of regional specialties, artwork, and ceramics, is undoubtedly its biggest draw.

# 2 Alūksne

Alūksne is a small, green village in northeastern Latvia that’s encircled by lush hills and picturesque gardens. As soon as you get to the town, you should start by exploring Alūksnes Jaunā pils, or the castle, and the immaculately maintained park that surrounds it.

On a bright day, it’s the ideal spot for a picnic or just to unwind in the serene grounds. Consider taking a cool stroll up Temple Hill, a little mound with a Roman-style pavilion atop it, after you’ve seen the castle. From there, you can get some great views of the surrounding landscape.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the town center is noteworthy by all measures, even if you’re not big on religious places. This is especially true given that its impressive clock tower can be ascended by an antiquated wooden staircase. If, when visiting Alūksne, you’re looking for further inspiration, the church is conveniently positioned close to the tourist office.

# 3 Valka

The town of Valka in northern Latvia is particularly noteworthy because half of it isn’t even in Latvia. In actuality, it’s just next to the border, with the Estonian town of Valga. The residents of the town identify as one people even though they are divided by an international border and go by the motto “One Town, Two Countries”.

It’s feasible to stroll between Latvia and Estonia due to the Schengen agreement. Even though the border crossing locations were formally eliminated in 2007, the border demarcation line and several of the shacks used by border control are still visible.

# 4 Kolka

The unspoiled wilderness of Latvia can be accessed through the little settlement of Kolka. The Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga collide at Cape Kolka, which is close by. This is an interesting natural phenomenon.

Large expanses of migratory birds can be spotted if you come in the spring, and sunset treks to the Kolka lighthouse can make for the ideal romantic getaway for wooing couples.

This is also one of the finest locations in Latvia to eat freshly caught smoked fish that is cooked into a delicious stew using a variety of regional recipes by the friendly local fisherman. Make sure you enjoy it with a refreshing glass of Aldaris beer, which is the drink of choice for most residents.

# 5 Tērvete

The settlement of Tērvete, which is surrounded by a dense forest, is most famous in Latvia for its hillfort, which was constructed during the Middle Ages as a defensive mechanism against the German invaders. Though the hillfort appears to be nothing more than a meadow and trees, its historical significance is overshadowed by the peaceful, pastoral surroundings that surround it, making this mound a genuinely rewarding destination.

Tērvete Nature Park, an outdoor park that features quirky timber buildings amid some of the most traditional architecture in the area, is only a few minutes away. The famed Latvian novelist Anna Brigadere’s books are brought to life in a fairytale realm at the Tērvete Nature Park, where visitors can experience herd mentality through its wooden sculptures, winding walkways, bridges, and plankways that cross the Tērvete River valley.

Though the park is geared more toward youngsters and is where Latvian families spend a few hours, its flamboyant and uncontrolled architecture is a fascinating sight to witness for people of all ages and all classes. This location will appeal to many admirers of the once-mighty ancient Semigallians. Through their recollections, they wave to the coming generations from the top of three old castle mounds.

# 6 Burtnieki

With less than 500 residents, the little Latvian settlement of Burtnieki holds historical significance. A Livonian Order castle formerly stood in the settlement; however, it was destroyed by fire during the Livonian War in the 16th century. Only a tiny portion of the wall remains, and it is possible to examine its remnants.

It’s interesting to note that the manor estate from the 14th century that stood in front of the abandoned castle still stands today. Even though the structure fell into decay, in the winter months its eerily crumbling facade blends in wonderfully with the snowy landscape and bare trees.

A popular activity for guests visiting this little village in the Latvian farmland is taking a stroll along the adjacent Vīsrags nature trail, which eventually leads to a wooden observation tower with views over the surrounding countryside.

Take a boat ride on the “Made Marija” on the neighboring Lake Burtnieks for something a little different. The pontoon boat, which can accommodate up to fifteen people, allows you to see the tranquil Latvian countryside from an unusual vantage point as you go across the lake.

# 7 Gulbene

Gulbene, a sizable town in northeastern Latvia compared to others around, might not seem noteworthy when you first come by car or train. Nonetheless, a trip here is well worthwhile effort due to the numerous neighboring areas of interest.

Take a leisurely stroll around Spārītes and Emze parks to acquaint yourself with the surroundings. These parks include paths surrounding shallow ponds that are teeming with cute ducks and other aquatic species.

The Vecgulbene estate complex, which was initially constructed in the latter part of the 19th century, is an intriguing collection of opulent structures that are out of place in this little Latvian town. One intriguing location for Urbex fans to investigate is the White Palace, which is located within the estate but has fallen into disrepair. The crumbling structure is adorned with partially fractured statues and decorations, creating a post-apocalyptic scene that may be seen in a horror film.

# 8 Pape

The little town of Pape, which is perched overlooking the Baltic Sea, is best known as the entrance to the nearby Nature Park of the same name. One of the most notable features of Pape Nature Park is its colony of wild horses and goats, which feed peacefully in the floodplain meadows. Pape Lake, which is in the very middle of the reserve, is the focus of many of the routes that wind through the nature park.

Over 200 different types of migratory birds can be seen in the park, so long as they can soar above the Pape beach. Sunset strolls along the beaches along with traversing the dunes that have grown on the shoreline are among the village’s most well-liked activities.

Pape village is a bustling fishing hamlet with an extensive cultural heritage, where tradition and a leisurely pace of life have taken the place of frenetic modernity. Savoring some of the delicious fish dishes made with fresh catch from the surrounding waterways is possibly one of the greatest ways to get a sense of the true nature of the location.

# 9 Tūja

Approximately 75 kilometers from the capital of Latvia, Tūja is a remote coastal community that peacefully coexists with its abundant natural surroundings, tucked in the Gulf of Riga. The region was once home to Livonian tribes, who were expelled in the sixteenth century by German crusaders.

The present settlement was founded by the Soviets in 1945, nine years following a nearby brickyard, and subsequently, a workshop was built on the property. These businesses produced drainage pipes and bricks from the naturally available clay in the area.

The Soviet factory has long since closed, but Tūja has reinvented itself as a nature lover’s retreat. Visitors are awestruck by the village’s coniferous forest, which delicately meets the Baltic Sea. Hiking, motorcycling, and sunbathing in the forest are just a few of the many recreational opportunities this place offers. While there are a few guesthouses in Tūja, the majority of visitors opt to camp at one of the newer locations.

# 10 Zlēkas

The picturesque manor house ruins in Zlēkas, a tiny settlement in western Latvia, were once owned by the affluent Von Behr family. The opulent structures are now empty shells, with only the deteriorating facades remaining.

The neighboring park, where one can enjoy a leisurely stroll or an afternoon picnic while seeing how nature gradually but surely consumes those man-made structures, contrasts with the dilapidated mansion.

Karātavu hill, to the east of Zlēkas mansion, is a site for thoughtful contemplation. 160 people who were viciously murdered by German SS troopers during World War II for allegedly defending those under Nazi persecution are buried close to the hill in the Zlēkas tragedy.

Another landmark in the vicinity is the 16th-century Zlēkas Watermill, which rose to local notoriety as the setting for the hit Latvian film “Devil’s Servants in Devil’s Mill”, which recounts the tale of three valiant men who saved Riga from the overwhelming Swedish army during the Polish-Swedish War in the 17th century.

What Attracts Fame to Latvia?

Latvia is well-known for its beer, lakes, waterfalls, and Riga’s art nouveau architecture. It’s also well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include the historic city center of Riga, distinctive dishes like Rupjmaize, medieval towns, and one of the fastest WiFi connections in the world – the latter is of high importance in today’s fast-paced world, as it allows users, both local and tourists, to easily stream videos, download and access apps, play video games, and gamble on betting sites in Latvia (and beyond), and more without experiencing buffering or connection drops; it’s a digital world we live in, right?

Whether you’re a digital nomad, a gastronomic enthusiast, or a culture vulture, there are plenty of things in Latvia to see and do that will suit your interests.

Visiting Latvia’s medieval towns and villages was our recommendation! We hope you’ll visit them, and if you have already, please leave a comment below with your impressions.

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