Lake Balaton Marina photo credit: iStockphoto/Petr Sedivec
Bran Castle photo credit: iStockphoto/AurelianGogonea
Venstpils Castle photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Estonia's festivals bring history and culture to life throughout the country and around the year. Find what's on during your planned trip or schedule your travels around particular annual festivals, including music festivals, film festivals, outdoor festivals, and food festivals.
Summer in the Baltics is mild, short, and marvelous. Whether you stick to capital cities, explore the countryside, or visit the coast to enjoy the beach, this season shines for travel to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Visit the Curonian Spit, Estonia's islands, or the Latvian resort town of Jurmala to make the most of summer in the region.
Jurmala, Latvia photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
The Baltic Song and Dance Festivals, held every few years in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, are important enough to have been inscribed by UNESCO as a part of intangible world heritage. These festivals, established in the 19th century, have long been a means of expressing cultural identity. During the Singing Revolution, traditional songs were also used to express national pride and to peacefully rebel against the Soviet regime. The Estonian Song and Dance Festival, which takes place every five years, will be held this year from July 4-6. The Lithuanian Song Festival is held every four years and will take place this summer from June 28 to July 6. Latvia's festival, occurring every five years, most recently took place in 2013.
Lithuanian Folk Singers photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Livonian Order Castles in Latvia, including those in Sigulda, Cesis, and Ventspils, tell the story of this medieval order of knights and their rule over the region. Some of these castles are well-preserved and have been turned into museums. Others have served later masters in renovated form. Still others are beautiful ruins to be explored. Tour Latvia, and it's likely you'll encounter one or more of these monuments to the past.
Sigulda Castle Ruins photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Cesis is one of Latvia's recommended destinations mostly because its impressive Livonian Order castle, with surrounding park and museum, is one of the country's top sights. The castle continues to be a main feature of the town, which developed around it in the 13th century, and which capitalizes today on the castle's notoriety--today, you can rent a medieval costume to experience Cesis in regalia of the time or drink beer made in the tradition of the Livonian Knights.
Cesis Castle photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Walking Stick Park in Sigulda photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Kuldiga is one of those sweet little destinations you wander into without having a firm idea about, then wander out glad that you saw it. The river that runs through Kuldiga has earned it the nickname of "Latvia's Venice," and water is, indeed important to the town. The widest waterfall (and longest bridge of its kind) are both found in Kuldiga. A mill, still standing, once used water for power. And taxes were issued for goods carried over the bridge into Kuldiga from Riga. The Livonian Knights who built their castle here in the 13th century knew how to choose a picturesque setting for a future town, which sprouted up around the market square.
Kuldiga photo credit: Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com