While many people think that the ground would be covered with snow during the holidays in the Baltic states, that isn’t always the case. In fact, along the Baltic Sea coast there is rarely snow at this time of year, so you would have to lodge inland a bit if you wanted to find outdoor winter activities on a Christmas holiday in the Baltics. Even so, there is much to do, and yes, there are areas with plentiful snow, so let’s look at some exciting things to do when visiting the Baltics for the holidays.
A Quick Overview of the Baltic States
According to the latest census, there are approximately 6 million people in the three countries/states of the Baltic region. These are Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Although similar in many ways, each has its own culture and quite a unique set of languages. These are known as Indo-European languages, and they include:
- Modern Lithuanian and Latvian (spoken on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea)
- Old Prussian (now extinct)
While these are ‘native’ tongues to the area, English is spoken throughout much of the region, especially in the major cities. The interesting aspect of visiting the Baltic states is that there is a true melding of authentic traditions with a modernised culture.
When the Days Are Too Cold to Be Out and About
One of the things you may find is that although there may be little snow along the Baltic Sea coast, it can be bitterly cold with the temperatures dropping below zero. However, even on bitter cold days there are numerous hostels and hotels along the coastal area where you can sit in warmth and enjoy the amazingly beautiful view. Some tourists have the foresight to bring along their laptops to get online to enjoy a bit of gaming on days like this. You may not know that, at one time, gambling was illegal in the Baltics, either online or in land-based clubs, but it is now legal in select locations. If you want to enjoy a hot beverage and a quick game of poker or roulette, for example, check out a list of safe sites at OnlineCasinos. This is a UK based site that compares various choices online where you will find brief reviews telling you what is available in terms of various pots and bonuses. Unless you already have favourite spot that you visit regularly, it is better to choose from a list of verified safe sites so that you know you will not be swindled or hacked.
For the Outdoors Enthusiast
Some first-time visitors think that there must be mountains for snow skiing, but this isn’t really the case in the Baltics. There are numerous large hills with lifts and ski rentals but for the most part, skiing enthusiasts enjoy cross country skiing, which is plenteous, especially in Estonia. You will find daytime skiing quite popular but there are also tracks that are well-lit at night so this is an outdoor sport that can be enjoyed at almost any time of day. Then there is sledding which is quite popular and you can also rent sleds at many of the same places that have skis for hire. Would you like to build a huge snowman or have snowball wars? Remember, stay inland where there is skiing and sledding, and you will find plenty of snow!
Winter in the Baltics for Foodies
Then there are foodies who travel just for the sheer pleasure of trying new ethnic dishes to add to their culinary favourites! What better place is there than the Baltics where you will find delectable local dishes like:
- Grey peas with blood sausage and bacon – Latvia
- Potato mash with barley (mulgipuder) – Estonia
- Potato coated mincemeat (cepelinai) – Lithuania
Don’t forget that there are a number of full-service 4-star restaurants throughout the Baltic states, so it is important to do a bit of research first. Of particular mention are the restaurants in Latvia’s Riga district on the Gulf of Riga at the mouth of Daugava River. These restaurants have earned international acclaim and there are several ethnic offerings from Italian to German to Baltic cuisines.
Three Popular Tourist Locations
If you are looking for popular tourist sites to visit, check out Liepaja or Riga in Latvia, Tartu or Tallinn in Estonia and Kaunas or Vilnius in Lithuania. These are all major cities with plenty to do and see. Then there are places of interest like Gauja National Park and the Cesis castle in Latvia. In Estonia there is the Hermann Castle. In Lithuania you will definitely want to tour and photograph the Kaunas Castle and the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica. Not only are these historic places of note, but the architecture is simply amazing.
An Old-World Time to Remember
One thing you will almost certainly want to do is plan for an extended stay in the Baltics during the holiday season. Yes, it is a small region and although there are only 6 million people throughout, there are several cultures you will want to absorb. Don’t forget that as an Old-World region of the globe, you will find many little holiday fairs and several concerts to enjoy. Many areas are still steeped in religion so you will find Nativity plays and choral shows at almost every major cathedral or basilica.
Remember, when the days are too cold to get out and about, you may want to enjoy the fireside at lodges while accessing the internet via Wi-Fi offered at most major hostels and resorts. Play a few games of chance, make a bit of extra money, and then go out and enjoy the sights and sounds you will only find in the Baltics. From an amazingly beautiful seashore to villages dotting the horizon, it is one of the true picturesque regions of the world you will surely want to photograph. You may even find that two weeks isn’t sufficient to drink it all in, so take that extra bit of time for a once in a lifetime experience you will never forget.