For many years, the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia seemed hidden from the rest of the world. Sandwiched between Poland and Russia, they are geographically distant from most of Europe, and over the centuries they have suffered invasions, annexations and intrusions by Germany, Sweden and Russia. Since 2004 part of the European Union, tourism has landed full force in the Baltic States.
Latvia has a long and extensive history, often focusing on its struggles with major powers. Independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the spectres of its former oppression can be glimpsed around the country, but there is far more to it than this. A country of incredible natural beauty and featuring a fast-rising capital city in Riga, there are plenty of things to do, catering to a variety of interests.
When you travel through these countries, you’ll soon see that they have their own distinct cultures, traditions, landscapes and languages. Like the precious amber which is washed up on the Baltic coastline, the beauty of each is hidden until you choose to search for it. In addition to history and landscapes, some of the most ancient regional traditions are still kept alive at special events, such as Estonia’s song festivals. Each country bountifully celebrates Saint’s Days and solstices with dances, singing, processions and feasts.
The capital cities of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn each have an individual character, boasting beautifully-preserved medieval buildings and fascinating museums reminiscent of their chequered histories. Lithuania is famous for its sweeping national parks and thriving plants and wildlife. Latvia boasts Riga as the largest and most vibrant city in the Baltic region, and Jurmala is a beautiful seaside town where you can explore the shores of the Baltic. Estonia’s medieval heritage is amazingly well preserved, especially in Tallinn’s Old Town, which is listed as a protected UNESCO site. Trying the varied regional cuisine of each country is also a good way to learn about local customs and delicacies. Wherever you travel within the Baltic States, you’ll find them rich in handicrafts, history, culture and natural beauty, as well as people eager to share them with you.