Welcome to Latvia!
Between 55.40 and 58.05 latitude and 20.58 and 28.14 longitude, Latvia
lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea on the level northwestern
part of the rising East European platform. About 98% of the country lies
under 200m elevation. The damp climate resembles New England's. With
the exception of the coastal plains, the ice age divided Latvia into
three main regions: the morainic Western and Eastern uplands and the
Middle lowlands. Latvia holds over 12,000 rivers, only 17 of which are
longer than 100 km (60 miles), and over 3,000 small lakes, most of which
are eutrophic. Woodland, more than half of which is pine, covers 41%
of the country. Other than peat, dolomite, and limestone, natural resources
are scarce. Latvia holds 531km (329 miles) of coastline, and the ports
of Liepaja and Ventspils provide important warm-water harbors for the
Baltic littoral, although the Bay of Riga itself is rather polluted.
Today, Latvia is slightly larger than Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands,
and Switzerland. Its strategic location has instigated many wars between
rival powers on its territory. As recently as 1944, the U.S.S.R. granted
Russia the Abrene region on the Livonian frontier, which Latvia still
Geography, Population and
Full country name: Republic of Latvia,
The Eastern Baltic Sea cost in North
East Europe, bordering with Estonia in the north, Lithuania in
the south, the Russian federation in the east and Belarus in the
GMT +2 hours
Belarus 141 km, Estonia 339 km, Lithuania
453 km, Russia 217 km
total : 1,150 km
minimal; amber, peat, limestone, dolomite,
hydropower, arable land
Owing to the influence of maritime
factors, the climate is relatively temperate but changeable. Average
temperatures in January range from -2.8 degrees C in the western
coastal town of Liepaja, to -6.6 degrees C in the inland town of
Daugavpils. The average summer temperature is +20 deg. C. Summer
is warm with relatively mild weather in spring and autumn.
64.589 sq. km
63,589 sq km
1,000 sq km
2,348,784 (July 2003 est.)
Latvian (belongs to the Indo-European
language group, similar only to Lithuanian)
Riga (pop. 839.700)
Daugavpils (pop. 120.200), Liepaja
7 cities, 69 towns, 26 districts and
483 local municipalities
Cultural and historical division:
Kurzeme (western part), Zemgale (southern
part), Vidzeme (middle and northern part, including Riga), Latgale
- Understanding regions of Latvia
Latvia is divided into historical and cultural regions:
Vidzeme, meaning "Middle land", is also
known as Livonia, though it comprises only a small part of traditional
Livonia. Present Vidzeme is the Latvian part of Swedish Livonia and
Kurzeme (Courland), roughly the counties of Liepāja, Kuldīga, Talsi,
Saldus and Ventspils.
Latgale (Latgallia), the part of Livonia still in Polish hands after
the Treaty of Altmark in 1629.
Zemgale (Semigallia) comprises approximately the counties of Dobele,
Jelgava and Tukums. Traditional Semigallia also includes the northern
part of Šiauliai County in Lithuania.
Sēlija (Selonia), often considered a part of Semigallia, Selonia comprises
the eastern part of the 1939 province of Semigallia, an area completely
located south of Daugava. Traditional Selonia also includes a portion
of north east Lithuania. Named after the
There are more than 12 400 rivers in Latvia, but only 880 of them are
longer than 10 km. 17 rivers are longer than 100 km. The largest rivers
are Daugava (352 km in Latvian territory), Lielupe, Gauja and Venta.
There are about 3000 lakes in Latvia. Most of them are rather small.
Approximately 40 % are located in eastern part of Latvia. The deepest
lake is Dridzis (65,1 m), the largest - Lubans (80,7 m), while Ezezers
is rich in islands (33 islands) and is situated in Latgale. There is
also Usma lake in Kurzeme with the oldest nature reserve on the island
- Moricsala (founded in 1912).
Latvia is located in the mixed forest area. Apart from conifers - fir-trees
and pines, there are also deciduous trees - oaks, lindens and maples,
alders, birch-trees and aspen trees. There are more than 1600 species
of flowering plants and filicides in Latvia. The most typical flora of
the country is forests, meadows and bogs. The forests cover more than
40 % of the territory of Latvia, although nowadays, intensive timber
cutting takes place in Latvia. Most of the forests are coniferous forests
(pine-trees). There are very few deciduous forests in Latvia.
The fauna of Latvia has characteristics of the mixed forest area. Significant
birds' migration routes (Pape Lake) cross the territory of Latvia. We
can find 60 species of mammals in Latvia. The animals that can be haunted
live in the forests – elks, deer, does and wild boars. The number of
beavers has increased significantly. You can often observe them while
paddling. The most popular predators of Latvia are wolves, foxes and
lynxes. Due to pollution, the population of seals in the Riga Gulf is
endangered. There are also quite many small rodents – mice, rats, hedgehogs,
moles etc. Latvia is rich in 300 species of birds, 190 of which nest
in Latvia. The national bird of Latvia is a wagtail. The most widespread
water birds are ducks, swans, and different species of seagulls that
live near the sea.
There are 29 typical sea fish in the fish fauna of Latvia, 14 species
live both in the sea and in the freshwaters, while 28 species live only
in rivers and lakes. Economically, the most important sea fish are the
Baltic sprat, sprats and flounders. The salmons spawn in the rivers of
Latvia (Salaca, Venta, Gauja).
- The environment protection in Latvia
There are four territories with a status of natural reserve in Latvia,
where any economic activities are prohibited. The oldest natural reserve
(founded in 1912) is established in Moricsala in Usma Lake, Ventspils
district. There you can find the rare hornbeam, as well as yew, that
have been registered in the Red Book. There are also 222 species of butterflies.
Slitere National Park (recently – a reserve) is situated in the north
– west of Latvia, maritime lowland (founded in 1921). There you can find
38 protected species of plants and many rare birds which nest there.
Grini reserve was founded in 1936, is situated in Liepaja district,
at the sea and is famous for its unusual forest type. Krustkalni reserve
was founded in 1977 and is situated in Madona district. In this reserve,
you can observe almost all types of forests that exist in Latvia. The
relief of the reserve is uncommon - rich in springs and 13 lakes.
Teici reserve was founded in 1982 and is located in eastern Latvia's
lowland. Teici reserve is famous for its protected bog ecosystems. It
is the largest reserve according to its area. Gauja National Reserve
was founded in 1973. There are the largest sandstone detritions in the
territory of the park, which is situated on the banks of Gauja. It is
also famous for many protected architectural monuments (in Turaida, Cesis,
Straupe) and archaeological monuments (Araisi Palace) etc.
Kemeri national park is the most recent of the parks. There is the high
bog – moor and valuable sulphurous water sprigs. There are many natural
conservancy areas in Latvia, which aim at maintaining and protecting
rare or uncommon natural elements that are typical of a respective district.
Upsurges and lowering of bedrock form the relief of Latvia. Quaternary
cornice played an important role in the formation of the relief, as well
as the Baltic Sea. Although Latvia is not rich in mountains, there are
many place names with a name “kalns” or “kalnins” (mountain) in them.
The highest point in Latvia is Gaizinkalns in Vidzeme highland (311,5
m above the sea level, 61,6 m – relative height).
The Baltic Sea is one of the most recent and shallowest seas in the
world. The deepest point (470m) is to the north of Gothland. The coastline
of the territory of Latvia is 490 km long. Irbe strait links Riga Gulf
with the central part of the Baltic Sea (between Kolka horn and Saaremaa
island). The Baltic Sea is a typical inland sea with about 250 inflowing
rivers. Therefore, it has the least salty water in the world (approximately
7 – 8 per mille). The sea currents and waves shape the coast of the Baltic
Sea and Riga Gulf. There are about 40 fish species in the Baltic Sea.
After the autumn storms, it is possible to find small ambers at the seafront.
- How to get here; it's easy – like to any place in Northern Europe.
There are fligts, ferry and bus lines directly to Riga form most European
countries. You can also get here by car, motorbike or whatever.
- Political situation; Latvia has joined European Union in 2004.
- Ethnical tension between Latvians and Russians; it's mostly a political
myth produced by mass media. In everyday life you will not face any
hatred on national basis. Do try to speak English before trying out
your Russian. You'll make the most friends, if you learn a few words
- Criminal situation; it's safe to be a paddler in Latvia. Of course
there are some places and characteristic people to avoid in Riga and
other big cities.
- Communications; we recommend cellular operator LMT for paddler, because
LMT has the widest network coverage out of cities.
Currency – Lats (Ls). 1Ls = 0,7 Eur.
Approximate prices (in shops);
Bread Ls 0,14 – 0,40 = 0,20 - 0,57
Milk Ls 0,39 = 0,56 Eur
MC Hamburger (we believe
you will Eat better food than junk in Latvia) Ls 0,6 = 0,86 Eur
Snickers, Mars, etc Ls
0,28 = 0,40 Eur
Meal (dinner) Ls 1,80
– 5,00 = 2.50 – 7 Eur
Beer (in bottles) Ls 0,28
– 0,50 = 0,4 – 0,71 Eur
Mineral water (1,5 l) Ls 0,40 = 0,57
Cofee (0,5 kg) Ls 3,25
= 4.60 Eur
Cigarettes Ls 0,50 – 0,90
= 0,71 – 1,30 Eur
Vodka (local brands, 0,5
l) Ls 1,98 – 2,90 = 2,83 – 4 Eur
Photo film Ls 2-3 = 2,86 – 4,29 Eur
Chinese un hamburgers are not the cheapest
meals in Latvia
- Don't buy maps until you get to Latvia. Maps are plentiful and cheap
in Riga, and they are more reliable than anything available abroad.
At the moment we are the only service
(wide supplement of inventory, transportation, etc.) provider covering
all territory of Latvia. You can entirely rely on us.
Routes; overhelming majority of Latvia
rivers in summer fit into Class 1 or Class2. There is no need to be
an experienced paddler with an extra equipment to start.
In last years whiteriver creeking (during
spring's and winter's high water) has become popular in small rivers
Consider possibility of sea kayaking
in summer. Somewhere sandy, somewhere rocky, but always majestic beaches,
sunrises and sunsets will become your unforgettable Baltic love.
Clothing; Light- to mediumweights are
worn during summer months. Medium- to heavyweights are needed during
winter. Rainwear is advisable all year. You'll also need mosquito repellent
if you're going to the countryside (and you probably will if you plan
some paddling in Latvia) in the summer.
Campfire; commonly it is allowed to
set campfire near rivers. Exception is nature reservations. You can
freely set camp, but shall be careful with campfire at beach. Theoretically
it's prohibited (you can be fined). Avoid setting camp in populated
beaches. We advise seaside of Kurzeme district for your paddling and
Always be careful – consider wind, extremely
dry weather or other factors - bring fire under control.
Private property; river and beach belongs
to everybody and can not be private de jure.
How to find it out if bank of river belongs to somebody? You see house,
sign “Private”, dogs or angry man screaming something. You have rights
to step out and walk in rivers frontier zone, if it's private.
However, you are no allowed to make camp, are not allowed to make fireplace
and stay for long time, e.g. for night if land owner has objections.
In practice these problematic places are;
- in close of the owners house
- if owner of the land is crazy
- whenever you become rude (leave trash, behave very loudly
- if owner's business is related to tourism and he has
set commercial camp places on his land.
We have a network of free camp places
for our clients on most river routes.