58 Interesting Facts About Latvia

Latvia, officially the republic of Latvia, is a country in northern Europe. It is one of the three Baltic States. Let’s explore more about this beautiful country with some funny and interesting facts.

Interesting facts about Latvia

1. The indigenous people of Latvia are known as Latvians and Livs.

2. A very old oak tree dating back to the times of Pharaoh (yes, you read it right), the ruler of Egypt, was found in Latvia during an excavation project. A small plaque near the Oak tree reads: “OAK TRUNK: Found during excavation work for Riga new Town Hall. It grew on the shore of Daugava 3500 years ago, at about the time when Pharaoh Tutankhamen was the ruler of Egypt.”

3. A secret Soviet bunker built in 1982, which has an area of 213,000 square feet, could support 250 people for an estimated three months. Armed with daily supplies to last months, and state-of-the-art equipment; the bunker was built beneath layers of dirt, cement and metal. The bunker, however, is a tourist attraction as of 2003.

4. It is said that Latvians are very proud of their country. Yes, so on your first visit to the country, when you meet some Latvian, do not forget to praise them or their country. You may be surprised to learn that Latvians are humorous, too.

5. Though the majority of Latvians speak Russian, do not misunderstand them as Russians. Latvians are a separate ethnic group.

6. Latvia’s forests are often called “green gold.” This is mainly because the country’s forests contribute handsomely towards the country’s economy.

7. The country is home to a large variety of deciduous tree species including – oak, aspen, birch, black and white alder and others. The region also has a large number of coniferous tree species such as pine and fir. The country has also been actively participating in tree plantations in recent years.

8. In the beginning of the 20th century, giant hangars that were made to house German-made airships in the center of Riga, are today a place for 3,000 trade stands. The place is Europe’s largest market bazaar today.

9. It is also said that Latvia has the highest rates of fashion models; and the women from the country are considered to be tallest among women from all over the world.

10. You may be surprised to learn that there is a shortage of women in Latvia. We mean that there are fewer women in the country compared to men.

11. In Latvia, there is a museum dedicated to the world’s greatest liar – Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen. Yes, you heard it right! At the time, he was known for telling many fake stories related to his moon travel and of his exemplary services during the Russo-Turkish War. Now, the country is generating handsome revenue from a museum dedicated to their hero. Latvia also issued a commemorative coin in 2005 to celebrate this legend’s 285th birthday.

12. Germans ruled large parts of today’s Latvia during the beginning of the 13th century. FYI, the country was under foreign rule between the 13th and 20th century.

13. Gauja, Daugava, Lielupe and Venta are the four rivers that pass through Latvia and fall into the Baltic Sea. There are a total of 29 rivers that the Baltic Sea receives from eight European countries including Latvia. However, the Baltic Sea does not keep this water, as it empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean.

14. Did you know that Friedrich Wilhelm Ostwald is the only Latvian to ever win a Nobel Prize? The scientist won the prestigious prize in Chemistry in 1909 for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria and reaction velocities.

15. Latvia is also the first country to produce citric acid from molasses, a spin-off of sugar production. Earlier, the acid was produced from lemons; and the production monopoly belonged to Italy.

16. An interesting point to note here is that Latvia contains more than 12,000 rivers. However, only 17 of these rivers are longer than 100 km. Now that’s interesting!

17. In area, Latvia is larger than many European countries. Wondering which ones? Switzerland, Slovenia, Montenegro, Estonia, Cyprus, Croatia, Albania and others are smaller in area than Latvia.

18. More than one third of Latvia’s land area is covered by forests. As the majority of the country is covered by forest, timber and wood products make up the country’s most important products.

19. And 90% of Latvia was covered by forests some thousands of years ago.

20. Because of the high valuation paid by European Timber buyers, wood from Latvia is illegally sold to the other European countries.

21. A large population of Latvian Jews was killed during the Second World War when the country was occupied by Soviets and the Germans. Legend has it that Nazi forces were responsible for majority of these deaths.

22. At the beginning of the 21st century, Latvia had the lowest birth rates of the Baltic States and one of the lowest life expectancies in all of Europe. The aging population in the country was on the rise as a result of the above mentioned factors. Attempts were made to improve the situation; however, they failed.

23. Are you a waterfall enthusiast? Note that Venta Rapid (Latvian: Ventas rumba) is a waterfall on the Venta River in Kuldīga, Latvia. It is the widest waterfall in Europe – 249 metres (817 ft) and up to 270 metres (886 ft) during spring floods. The height of the waterfall changes depending on the water level in the river.

24. The country also gave the world its first spy camera – “Minox.” It was produced by the Latvian factory VEF between 1937 and 1943.

25. During World War II, Latvia saw more than 250,000 of its countrymen flee the Soviet occupation.

26. Did you know that the modern denim jean that is worn by people all over the world was first invented by a Latvian-Jewish tailor and American immigrant – Jacob. W. Davis? The inventor was born in Riga, where he trained and worked as a tailor. The jeans were invented when a customer of his asked him to make a pair of strong working pants for her husband, who was a woodcutter. Jacob made the pants with duck cloth and reinforced it with copper rivets. The pants then became so successful that he could not keep up with demand. The invention was made in 1870 while Davis was living in the U.S.

27. Latvia also experiences flights of migratory birds that pass along the Black Sea and over the country. It is an amazing experience that you can have if you happen to visit Latvia during the migration season.

28. Acid rain, which is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air, is causing the destruction of forests in the country on a large scale.

Related: Interesting facts about Belarus

Facts about Latvia’s economy

29. Latvia, on the Human Development Index, occupies the 46th spot.

30. The Euro became the currency of Latvia on January 1st, 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.

31. Latvia is a developed country. Latvia received $67 million worth of assistance by the U.S. in 2014 through various military programs.

32. There is a treaty between the U.S. and Latvia that avoids double taxation.

33. Latvians can travel to the U.S. for a period up to 90 days without requiring a visa. An individual can travel to the U.S. for tourism and business purposes.

34. As per Akamai Q4 2015 Global Average Connection Speeds Rankings, Latvia ranks seventh, followed by Switzerland and preceded by Hong Kong. As we are discussing the fastest internet in the world, note that South Korea leads the world in this context.

Interesting facts about Latvian culture

35. Latvians have a strong sense of space, and they generally like to stand a few feet away from the other person.

36. Making eye contact with Latvians can be a signal that you are interested in them. Latvians would reciprocate and make eye contact with you if they feel comfortable with you.

37. Latvians do not use gestures while communicating, or make minimal use of it. A lot of gesturing can be annoying or distracting for them. It can be considered rude to wave a pointed index finger or persistently point at someone.

38. Oak and lime trees symbolize men and women, respectively.

Facts about Latvia’s capital – Riga

39. Latvia’s capital, Riga, has more than 4,000 standing wooden buildings. Now this is interesting, as no other European city has so much wood left over from history.

40. Riga is also known for its architecture the world over. Even the United Nations has recognized that Riga has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe.

41. Latvia’s capital, Riga, was declared the European Culture capital in 2014.

Geographical location of Latvia

Latvia on Map
Interesting facts about Latvia: Latvia on Map

Interesting facts about Latvia for kids

42. Kids, did you know that the Latvian flag is one of the oldest flags in the world? The existence of this flag dates back to the 13th century.

43. In area, Latvia is slightly larger than West Virginia.

44. Latvia has a total coastline of 498 km.

45. Gaizina Kalns, at 312 m, is the highest point in the country. Wondering which is the highest peak in the Baltic? It is “Suur Munamägi,” at 318 m, from Estonia. Now there is no other competitor for the highest point in the region!

46. Latvia was ranked the world’s 32nd most peaceful country in the Global Peace Index of 2016.

47. Latvia was a territory of Poland between 1562 and 1629; and a territory of Sweden until 1721.

48. Then came the Russians, who ruled the country until 1918. The last Russian troops left Latvia in 1994.

49. Did you know that Estonia and Lithuania supply electricity to Latvia on a large scale?

50. In 2016, Latvia imposed a ban on the sale of energy drinks (containing caffeine or other stimulants) to people under the age of 18.

51. Agriculture was a dominant industry in Latvia for centuries.

52. Latvians consume 2.72 times more electricity than the Vietnamese.

53. Latvia is also known as Lettland, named after the Letts or Lettish people.

54. The Latvian capital is the largest city in the Baltic States.

55. While Latvian is the official language of the country, Russian is also widely spoken.

56. The wild boar, Eurasian beaver, and brown bear are some of the native Latvian species of animals.

57. Ice hockey, followed by basketball, is the most popular sport in Latvia.

58. The shape of Latvia resembles that of the lungs (have a look at the map above.)

Latvia facts – country at a glance

IndependenceNovember 18, 1918
Capital CityRiga
56°57′N 24°6′E
Largest CityRiga
56°57′N 24°6′E
Total area64,589 sq km
Population1,986,705 (July 2015 est.)
Official LanguageLatvian
National AnthemDievs, svētī Latviju!
God Bless Latvia!
ReligionLutheranism (34.3%)
Roman Catholicism (25.1%)
Eastern Orthodoxy and Old Believers (19.4%)
Other Christians (1.2%)
Other or none (20.0%)
BordersEstonia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia.
CurrencyEuro (€) (EUR)
Life expectancy74.23 Years (2015)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life. Source - CIA
Climatemaritime; wet, moderate winters
Terrainlow plain
Natural resourcespeat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, timber, arable land
Agricultural land29.2%
Birth rate10 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate14.31 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio0.85 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
National symbolswhite wagtail (bird); national colors: maroon, white
National anthem"Dievs, sveti Latviju!" (God Bless Latvia)
Industriesprocessed foods, processed wood products, textiles, processed metals, pharmaceuticals, railroad cars, synthetic fibers, electronics
Exports$13.33 billion (2015 est.)
foodstuffs, wood and wood products, metals, machinery and equipment, textiles
Imports$16.4 billion (2015 est.)
machinery and equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
GDP - per capita (PPP)$24,700 (2015 est.)
Time ZoneEET (UTC+2)
Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Internet country code.lv
Internet users1.573 million
percent of population: 79.2% (July 2015 est.)
Calling Code+371
Drives on theRight