A secret realm of greens and blues, Latvia’s land of enchanting lakes has stolen the hearts of many. Hidden runes suggest that the region was first settled at the end of the Stone Age when wandering hunters, captivated by the area’s serene beauty, paused along Lake Lubāns, Latvia’s largest, covering 82 sq km.
Believe it or not, teeny Aglona (a-glwo-nuh) is one of the most visited towns in all of Latvia, primarily due to the Aglona Basilica, founded over 300 years ago when a group of wandering Dominican monks discovered a healing source hidden among a thicket of spruce trees (‘Aglona’ means ‘spruce tree’ in an old dialect).
Sleepy Krāslava sits 6km north of Belarus at the southern tip of the triangular Latgale lakelands region. Founded by a Polish nobleman in the 18th century, Krāslava was established as a trade centre along the Daugava River. Many craftsmen moved to the town from Poland to trade with wealthy Jewish and Russian merchants from down the river.
There isn’t a lot to do in provincial Preiļi (pray- lee), but a stop at the tourist office is helpful if you are just arriving in the Latgale lakelands region. The English-speaking staff can offer activities suggestions and help arrange accommodation at a countryside guesthouse. The attached library has free internet and wi-fi access.
Little Ludza, just a hop from the Russian border, was founded in 1177, making it the oldest town in all of Latvia. Located at the junction of two lakes (known as Big Ludza Lake and Little Ludza Lake), the small village and trading post grew around Ludza Castle, built by German crusaders in 1399 to protect the eastern front of the Livonian Order.