The first thing that most people mention about the climate of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is that the winters are really quite cold. This is undeniably true, although it never gets anywhere near as chilly as much of neighbouring Russia. The temperature in many parts of the region rarely gets above freezing between December and February, and can even drop to -20 C on very rare occasions, but that still hardly compares with the icy extremes of Siberia. In fact, the weather this year has so far been uncommonly mild. For more vacation ideas try www.luxury-resort-guide.com/caribbean/top-travel-destinations-for-all-tastes. One factor regulating the climate is the Baltic Sea, which means that coastal areas are usually a few degrees warmer than further inland in the winter. The flip side is that the coast is slightly cooler in the summer.
Subzero temperatures are often accompanied by biting winds. There is also snow cover throughout the winter, sometimes starting as early as mid-November, which can make driving hard work – only the largest roads are gritted – and pavements treacherous. Last winter I spent several weeks in Latvia and had a couple of nasty slips which left various body parts aching. Perhaps more worrying was finding my hire car sliding into a ditch on more than one occasion. I have been searching for the photographic evidence but can’t locate it – if I do I’ll post it later here (and it will be the first photo I have posted except for the blog header!).
The other downside is that the days are very short in winter. Some days it hardly seems to get properly light at all, which can make sightseeing less pleasant than in summer. It also means that, as everywhere, people can be less outgoing than they are in warmer months.
It isn’t all gloomy though. Some days bring wonderfully clear skies and crisply invigorating weather. There are also winter sports to draw visitors: downhill skiing is surprisingly popular given the lack of any serious slopes, for example. A more unusual draw is the international standard bobsleigh track in Sigulda, where in winter the Latvian national team will take visitors for a hair-raising ride lasting around a minute.
Another of the joys of the Baltic winter is seeing the snow-covered landscape and frozen lakes. Check out here. Ice fishing is a common pastime throughout the region, with locals cutting holes in the ice and sitting in wait for hours at a time. It is not generally recommended that tourists join them, as every year a handful of local people die after falling through the ice, but there is something satisfying about spotting the hardy souls sitting out there.