Latvia's Characteristics
Latvia is characterised by its charming countryside and culturally historical seaside view, the great number of wooden buildings in the cities and rural areas, its farmstead style countryside buildings, its national romanticism, the vivid examples of Jugendstil and pre-war modern city architecture, its Soviet era military and industrial objects and its manor houses, castles and castle ruins.
Latvia is rich with pristine forests (45 % of the country's territory), marshlands, white sand dunes, hillocks, lakes (over 2 000) and rivers (over 12 000).


Regions of Latvia

Kurzeme is a culturally historical region located in western Latvia. The region has always been associated with the sound of the sea, dunes and white sandy beaches, wealthy towns, thick pine forests, marshlands and picturesque scenery.
Kurzeme is characterised by scenic nature views, seaside cities with harbours and wooden buildings, picturesque medieval towns with old, romantic streets and market squares. The seaside is littered with fishing villages, whose inhabitants maintain the traditional occupation of fishing. One of Kurzeme's younger cities, Kuldīga, has earned special attention due to the Ventas Rumba, Europe's widest natural waterfall (240 m wide). / Kuldīga / Kuldīga video / Talsi / Liepāja / Ventspils 

Vidzeme is one of Latvia's four culturally historical regions and is located in the north-eastern part of the country. Vidzeme is distinguished by the beauty of its nature, as well as by its diverse historical heritage and ethnic traditions. Vidzeme offers up the beauty of its picturesque rivers (including the country's longest river, the Gauja [460 km]) and lakes, and the joys of the scenic nature created by its forests, fields, hills and valleys (the highest hill, Gaiziņš [311.6 m above sea level], Latvia's largest cave, Gūtmaņala [500 m3, 10 m high, 12 m wide and 18.8 m deep]) and the Vidzeme seaside, where one can find sandy beaches, rocky inlets and sandstone cliffs. The area also carries a feel of the past with its medieval castles and manor houses. Important cultural and architectural heritage sites can be found in the region's oldest cities; each one has its own charm, history and culture. / Alūksne / Cēsis / Gulbene / Madona / Valmiera / Valka / Limbaži 

Zemgale is Latvia's most fertile and culturally historical region. Located in central Latvia, Zemgale is characterised by its cultivated farmland, rivers (many of Latvia's rivers flow through Zemgale – the Daugava, Lielupe, Mūsa and Mēmele Rivers) and castles, classic 15 - 18 century architectural monuments (Rundāles, Bauskas, Krustpils, Kaucmindes and Mežotnes Castles). The area is also rich in castle mounds, manor houses, parks and gardens. / Bauska, Jelgava, Aizkraukle, Dobele, Jēkabpils

The south-eastern region of Latgale is the most different of Latvia's culturally historical regions. Latgale differs from the rest of Latvia's not only historically, but also differs with the mentality of its residents, the language (approximately 150 000 people speak the Latgalian dialect), traditions and scenic variety. Latgale is characterised by its diverse landscape, woods, fields, lakes and rolling hills interspersed by curving highways. Forests and fields conceal beautiful lakes it what is called the "Land of Blue Lakes"; Latgale has Latvia's largest lake, Lubāns (82.1 km2) and the deepest lake in the Baltics, Drīdzis (max. depth 63 m). Unlike the rest of Latvia where the leading denomination is Lutheranism, the leading denomination in Latgale is the Roman Catholicism. The Aglona Basilica is located in Latgale; the church is one of the largest Catholic centres in the Baltics, gathering several thousand worshipers every year. The religious influence can also be seen in Latgale's cultural scene – crucifixes at road crossroads, churches and cathedrals are typical features of the region. Latgale also has traditional old-believer villages, where the characteristic old-believer lifestyle is still adhered to. / Daugavpils / Balvi / Rēzekne / Krāslava / Ludza

The capital city of Latvia was founded in 1201. Riga is the country's main industrial, trade and cultural centre, and the financial centre of the Baltics, as well as an important port city. With 709 145 inhabitants (2010), it is the largest city in the Baltic States and the third largest city (after St. Petersburg and Stockholm) in the Baltic Sea region (based on population within the city limits). Riga's historical centre, including the oldest part of the city, Old Riga, is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The centre is also known for its Jugendstil architecture, which, according to UNESCO, is the only of its kind in the world. 
Riga will be one of the 2014 European Capitals of Culture.[4]
The city also has a touch of several periods and political eras. Old Riga is characterised by medieval, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, narrow, cobblestone streets and an active night life. The city centre's luxurious Jugendstil buildings mingle with wide avenues, beautiful gardens and parks, while high-rise concrete apartment buildings built during Soviet times spread across the outskirts. The Pārdaugava region between downtown Riga and the airport has maintained a unique wood architecture. Also noteworthy is Riga's Central Market, where Zeppelin hangars left over from the German army during World War I are now used as produce pavilions. There is also an Ethnographical Open-air Museum located on the Riga limits with historical rustic farmsteads (as old as from the 17th century).