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Latvia is the middle of the three Baltic States. It has linguistic links with Lithuania to the south, and historical and religious ties with Estonia to the north. The capital is Riga, a cosmopolitan city with a beautiful old town and Art Nouveau district.

After centuries of German, Swedish, Polish-Lithuanian and Russian rule, the Republic of Latvia was established in 1918 when it broke away from the German Empire and declared independence in the aftermath of the First World War. Independence was interrupted at the start of the Second World War, when Latvia was occupied and incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1941 it was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, then reconquered by the Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991, Latvia again declared independence.

Around 54% of Latvia is forest, making it one of Europe’s greenest countries with 12,000 rivers and 3,000 small lakes. Gauja National Park is the largest national park in Latvia and is characterised by great biological diversity, picturesque views and cultural and historical sights.

With 500km of coastline, Latvia offers an array of sandy beaches, offering locals and tourists alike an escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Just west of Riga lies Jūrmala, a holiday-resort town with a 25km stretch of white-sand beach, Prussian-style villas and historical wooden architecture.