Located in northeastern Europe, Lativa is situated on the Baltic coast and shares borders with Estonia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation and Belarus. The largest of the three Baltic republics (Estonia and Lithuania are the others), Latvia has played a very important role in the history of the Baltic region, particularly with regard to trade and enterprise. It is because of its position also, however, that the country has been the scene of many battles between Poland, Russia, Sweden and the German Teutonic Knights - all of whom ruled Latvia at some point during its history.
During the thirteenth century the Teutonic Knights were the first to capture leadership of Latvia from the various native tribes which had ruled the country up to this point. Between this and the eighteenth century invasions by both the Poles and the Swedes were a common occurrence but by 1795 the whole country was under the control of Russia. When the Russian empire came to an end in 1917, however, Latvians gained control of their homeland once again for the first time in six centuries. This newfound independence was short lived, however, and by 1940 Russia was in control once again. This was to remain the case right up until 1991 when Latvia finally won its independence from Russia and the country has continued to develop and flourish in the years that have elapsed since this time.
As a holiday destination, Latvia is truly remarkable. Home to almost two and a half thousand lakes, twelve thousand rivers and hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled beaches, the opportunities for water activities are endless. Add to this the fact that over forty per cent of the country is covered by forests and the hiking fanatics among you have cause to celebrate. Finally, for those of you who prefer attractions of the man made variety, a host of museums, castles and other historic buildings should ensure that you have plenty to do during your stay too.