Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Head of state:
President Valdis Zatlers since 2007.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis since 2009.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are in use.
A small country located on the Baltic Sea, Latvia boasts diverse and beautiful scenery that belies its size. The obvious highlights are the serene Gulf of Riga and the wild Baltic Sea, which both have seemingly infinite, sandy and often secluded beaches. Meanwhile, the equally dramatic hinterland - much of which is protected in nature parks - comes replete with vast swathes of forest, tranquil lakes and gushing rivers.
The biggest of the Baltic capitals, Riga is at the top of the region's tourism chain. This varied city offers a UNESCO World Heritage-listed old core and the most impressive collection of Jungendstil (Germanic Art Nouveau) buildings in Europe. In stark contrast to this ancient history and fabulous architecture is one of the liveliest nightlife scenes on the continent.
Long a favourite destination for holidaymakers from the Baltic region, Latvia's charms are increasingly being discovered by visitors from further afield. Those who venture beyond Riga discover picturesque medieval towns, country castles, museums and folk parks, ruined fortresses and grand palaces. It seems certain that this incredible country, championed as one of Europe's hidden treasures, won't remain hidden for much longer.