10 Undiscovered Villages and Towns in Latvia

The coastal village of Tūja

photography by: Elina Lieltīruma

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Formerly a part of the Soviet Union, Latvia rarely comes under the spotlight as this small Baltic nation is tucked away in the faraway northeast corner of Europe. After centuries of Swedish, German and Russian rule, modern-day Latvia is a fascinating mosaic of east and west, elegancy and grittiness, as well as hardships and hope. Despite being eclipsed by its capital city, Riga, one of Eastern Europe's most picturesque and architecturally sophisticated towns, the countryside of Latvia is blessed with myriads of hidden gems that are just waiting to be explored. When you head out of Riga by road, you will quickly discover that Latvia is an unspoiled land of glistening lakes, vast forests and sandy beaches, with sparsely populated medieval towns dotted about the countryside.


A quaint green town surrounded by verdant hills and charming gardens, Aluksne is situated right in the northeast of Latvia. When you arrive in the town, you can begin your visit by exploring Aluksne Jauna Pils (the castle) and the beautifully kept park surrounding the manor.


It’s the perfect location for a picnic on a sunny day or just to sit and relax in the peaceful gardens. After visiting the castle, consider a refreshing walk-up to Temple Hill, a small mound topped by a Roman-style gazebo, from where you can enjoy memorable views across the surrounding countryside.


Even if you aren’t enthusiastic about religious sites, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the center of town is worthy by any standards, particularly since its formidable clock-tower is climbable by an old wooden staircase. Additionally, the church is conveniently located next to the tourist information office, should you be looking for further inspiration when visiting Aluksne.

The temple hill in Alūksne

photography by: Exxu


Known locally as the “Green Pearl of Courland”, Talsi is positioned in the west of Latvia and is a place where natural and man-made beauty meet. It’s also a place with a rich history, serving as an important strategic location in both World Wars and the Latvian War of Independence.


The town is built on nine hills and boasts two lakes, which makes it an interesting place to explore on foot at your leisure. There are many well-kept parks with fruit trees that are ideal for spending hot summer afternoons or watching the leaves change color in the autumn.


The people of Talsi are very proud of their cultural heritage, and the Talsi Folklore Group performs frequently. Every year, there is also a mid-summer festival known as “Talsi Celebration”, where proud locals come together to celebrate everything that is unique about their town. The festival’s main attraction is unsurprisingly the open market, offering a plethora of local delicacies, art pieces and pottery.

Talsi's townscape beautifully reflected on its lake

photography by: Chmee2


The small village of Kolka is a gateway to Latvia’s unrestrained wilderness. At nearby Cape Kolka, the waves of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga clash, which makes for an intriguing natural phenomenon.


If you visit in the springtime, you can spot the vast swathes of migratory birds that visit the region, and sunset walks out to Kolka lighthouse can provide the perfect romantic experience for courting couples.


This is also one of the best places in Latvia to enjoy smoked fish that is freshly caught by local fishermen and prepared in a scrumptious stew according to various local recipes. Be sure to wash it down with an ice-cold glass of Aldaris, the beer preferred by most locals.

One of Cape Kolka's tide pools

photography by: Mar10os


The most interesting thing about the northern Latvian town of Valka is the fact that half of it isn’t in Latvia at all. It’s actually adjoined to the Estonian town of Valga, which is directly across the border. The townspeople use the slogan “One Town, Two Countries” and although they’re separated by an international border, they consider themselves to be one people.


Because of the Schengen agreement that’s in place between Latvia and Estonia, it’s possible to walk between the two countries. The border crossing points were officially removed in 2007, but you can still see some of the shacks that were used by the border control, and the line that demarcates the place where the border should be.

The former border control shack between Estonia and Latvia

photography by: Aldis Dzenovskis


The tiny village of Burtnieki has a population of less than 500, yet is a place of historical significance in Latvia. A Livonian Order castle stood in the village until it was burnt down in the sixteenth century during the Livonian War, but a small part of the wall still exists, and its ruins can be explored.


Interestingly, a 14th century manor estate, that was built in front of the ruined castle, has survived to these days. While the building fell into a state of disrepair, its eerily dilapidated façade merges perfectly with the snowy terrain and naked trees during the winter months.


Visitors to this humble village in the Latvian countryside often enjoy a walk down the nearby Visrags nature trail that ultimately leads up to a wooden observation tower, from which you can gaze on the surrounding natural landscape.


For something a little different, you can have a boat cruise on the nearby Lake Burtnieks on the “Made Marija”. Seating up to fifteen people, the pontoon boat takes you across the surface of the lake and gives you the chance to explore the peaceful Latvian countryside from unconventional perspective.

Horses grazing in Burtnieki during winter-time

photography by: Janis Eicens


Surrounded by a thick forest, the village of Tervete is best-known in Latvia for its hillfort, built in the Middle Ages as a military measure to defend the area from the invading German forces. With nothing in sight but trees and a meadow, the hillfort might have a historic merit, yet its surrounding graceful nature accompanied by a rural tranquility is what makes this mound truly a worthy place to visit.


Just a couple of minutes away is Tervete Nature Park, an outdoor park that showcases some of the region’s most traditional architecture alongside kitschy timber houses.

With its wooden sculptures, winding paths, bridges and plankways spanning the Tervete River valley, the Tervete Nature Park transports tourists to a fairytale world inhabited by characters from the works of the renowned Latvian author Anna Brigadere.


Despite the park being somewhat children-oriented and where Latvian families often spend few hours, the flamboyant and unrestrained architecture is an intriguing sight to behold regardless of your age and status. Many who admire the once-mighty ancient Semigallians will be interested in this place. From atop three ancient castle mounds, they wave to the new generations through their memories.

Tērvete's hillfort

photography by: Dāvis Kļaviņš


Perching along the Baltic Sea, the small community of Pape is mostly known as a gateway to the adjacent Nature Park with which it shares the name. Pape Nature Park is notably home to a colony of wild horses and goats that graze freely in the floodplain meadows. Many of the trails that cut through the nature park weave around Pape Lake, located at the very center of the reserve.


Within the park, you can spot upwards of more than 200 species of migratory birds that fly high above the Pape shore. One of the village’s most popular attractions is a sunset stroll down the beaches and across the sand dunes that have formed on the coastline.


Pape village is an active fishing community with a rich cultural heritage, where the hectic modernity is replaced by a slow pace of life and tradition. Perhaps one of the best ways to experience the place’s true character is to sample some of the delectable local fish dishes, prepared with fresh catch taken from the nearby waters.

Fishermen wading in Pape Lake

photography by: Dāvis Kļaviņš


Located in northeast Latvia, Gulbene is a fairly sizeable town that may seem unremarkable when you first arrive by train or road. However, there are several nearby points of interest that make a journey here well worth the effort.


Familiarize yourself with the area by taking a casual stroll around both Spārītes and Emze parks, which have walkways all-around shallow ponds, brimming with adorable ducks and other aquatic birds.


Originally built in the second half of the nineteenth century, Vecgulbene estate complex is a fascinating hodgepodge of lavish buildings that you wouldn’t expect to find in this small Latvian town. Within the estate is the White Palace that has fallen into disrepair, definitely the kind of places that Urbex enthusiasts would find interesting to explore. The decayed edifice is embellished with half-broken statues and ornaments, a post-apocalyptic sight that might be reminiscent of a horror movie.

Gulbene's White Palace, temporarily wrapped with a protective sheet

photography by: Ainars Brūvelis


Zlēkas is a small village in western Latvia, home for impressive manor house ruins, originally the property of the wealthy von Behrs family. The once extravagant buildings are lying hollow, as the crumbling façades are their only remnant.

The decrepit estate is contrasted by its surrounding park, where one can have a pleasant walk or an afternoon picnic, while witnessing how nature slowly but steadily consumes those man-made structures.


To the east of Zlekas manor is Karatavu hill, which is a place for poignant reflection. Buried near the hill are 160 victims of the Zlekas tragedy – locals who were brutally murdered by German SS soldiers during the Second World War after they were found to be protecting those being hunted by the Nazis.


Also in the area is Zlekas watermill, a building dating back to the sixteenth century that gained local fame for being the filming site of a popular Latvian Movie called Devil’s Servants in Devil’s Mill, telling the story of three brave men who defended Riga from the formidable Swedish army during the 17th century Polish–Swedish War.

The ruins of Zlēkas Manor

photography by: Laima Gūtmane


Nestled along the Gulf of Riga, roughly 75 kilometers from Latvia’s capital, Tūja is a secluded coastal community that coexists harmoniously with its ample nature. Originally, the area was inhabited by Livonian tribes who were then driven out by German crusaders in the 16th century.

The current village was established by the Soviets in 1945, nine years after a local brickyard and later a workshop were constructed at the premises, manufacturing bricks and drainage pipes from clay that is naturally abundant at the area.


While the Soviet factory has closed its doors a long time ago, Tūja has rebranded itself as a hideaway for nature lovers, who marvel at its coniferous forest that gracefully meet the Baltic sea at the village. Sunbathing, hiking and biking in the forest are only few of the outdoor activities that are widely available here. Tūja has a couple of guesthouses, yet most travelers who visit the village prefer to stay in one of its modern camping sites.

Tūja's tranquil beach during sunset

photography by: Helmuts Rudzītis