We're constantly looking for the next great destination... something underrated and under-the-radar, a place that will satisfy nature lovers, culture buffs and urban explorers, and, of course, a place that is breathtakingly beautiful.
Not long ago, we fell in love with Norway. Now, we draw your attention to a country that's a quick flight from good old Norway... Welcome to Latvia.
Once upon a time, Latvia's image was mostly colored by its complex history during its Soviet Union days. Latvia regained its independence when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Since then, the country has worked to recreate its image... and it's definitely worked.
You've probably never considered Latvia a destination. And that's totally fine. But after hearing these 18 reasons, we think you'll be convinced.
1. Riga is totally awesome. It's so awesome that it was named the European Capital of Culture for 2014.
Riga is known for its architecture, multicultural heritage, and many museums. Riga's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Half of Latvia is made up of natural ecosystems that have gone largely untouched. HALF.
Much of Latvia's wilderness is reminiscent of nearby Scandinavian countries. There are beaches, parks and forests, all of which are rife with wildlife and are perfect for exploring. Latvia's low population density has helped retain the natural environment and make it the perfect spot for ecotourism and ethical travel.
3. Latvia's four national parks are really beautiful.
Gauja National Park draws the most visitors. It's located in the Gauja River Valley and features more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.
5. Jūrmala's ice blue Baltic waters are some of the most beautiful you will ever see.
The resort town is made up of a series of beaches stretched along a peninsula. The town offers thermal waters, pine forests, white quartz sand beaches and a quaint little village.
6. Latvia is home to Ventas Rumba, Europe's widest waterfall. It looks magical.
Though it's not very tall, the waterfall is 816 feet wide.
7. The Aglona Basilica is absolutely stunning.
The basilica has stood since 1780, houses paintings and sculptures, and is a unique work of art itself.
8. Cape Kolka is the "meeting place of two seas."
It's desolate, dramatic and super pretty. The most northernly part of the Cape sits at the divide of the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. The cape is a summer hotspot for swimmers and surfers, and is known as a viewing spot of migratory birds in spring.
9. Turaida Museum Reserve boasts over 100 acres of grounds, archeological sites, architectural gems and historical monuments.
Turaida translates to "God's garden." You can see why.
10. Rundāle Palace looks like it's straight out of a fairytale.
The palace was once the summer residence for Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland. Today, the baroque palace welcomes guests to tour its rooms, check out exhibitions at its museum and explore its lush gardens.
11. Gutmans Cave is the highest cave in Latvia, the largest grotto in the Baltics and features inscriptions that date to the 17th century.
Everyone loves a cave, right?
12. The layout of Cēsis Old Town has been preserved since the Middle Ages.
The romantic town features medieval ruins and cobbled streets. The Cēsis Museum of History and Art is one of the oldest museums in Latvia.
13. With a beautiful "Blue Flag" beach and a quaint village, Liepāja is the ideal retreat.
When you tire of the beach, explore the Northern Fort labyrinths by torchlight, hang out at one of the city's music clubs or go on a creepy tour of the Karosta Prison.
14. An entire national park was established just because this gorgeous lake exists.
Rāzna National Park was created to protect Lake Rāzna and its surrounding region. The park offers breathtaking landscapes and a look at the Latgale Region of Latvia.
15. Jūrkalne seashore bluffs are the perfect spot to reconnect with nature.
The beaches have gone largely untouched by humans, making them totally authentic and beautiful. See if you can spot blue cows from nearby farms, go paragliding or just take in the scenery.
16. You can visit a Cold War-era radio telescope. It's called Irbene and it's really cool.
Irbene Radio Astronomy Center is the world's eighth largest radio telescope. During the Soviet Era it was called "The Starlet" and was used to spy on Western adversaries. Now it's used by astronomers for scientific purposes.
17. Latvia's Song and Dance Festival is epic.
The weeklong festival began in 1873 and is held every five years. It features thousands of singers and dancers from all over Latvia. It's a major celebration of Latvian culture and spirit. The last one was held in 2013, so if you wanna catch the next one you'll have to wait a few years.
18. Latvia has it all.
With it's unparalleled untouched natural landscape, lively cities and rich culture, Latvia has something for everyone. From Riga's restaurants to the many seaside towns calling you to explore, you'll want to head to Latvia as soon as possible.