The water may be colder but with its grand bygone-era resorts, wild islands and white sand beaches, these northerly shores are a great alternative to the Med

Latvia

Beach chalets
If you like your beaches wild, western Latvia’s “steep coast”, close to the village of Jūrkalne, 200km west of Riga, should be on your list. With pale bluffs up to 20 metres high, it offers excellent photographic opportunities, walks with great views and an experience of untamed nature. There are a few wooden holidays chalets along this coast – at Ceriņi, visitors are left in blissful isolation, but firewood and drinking water are supplied.
From €35 for chalet for two, €45 for a four-berth and €60 for a seven-berth. jurkalnesstavkrasts.lv. Ryanair flies to Riga from Edinburgh, East Midlands and London; British Airways from Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester

Jūrmala
Ripples near Riga … Jūrmala beach. Photograph: Boris SV/Getty Images

Soviet-era spa

An easy 30-minute drive from Riga, the resort of Jūrmala has sandy beaches, pine tree forests and Soviet-era sanatoriums. This was the spa capital of the Baltics, where Soviet generals and officials would recharge, enjoying the salty air, mineral-rich waters and therapeutic mud. Architecturally, the sanatorium to see is Vaivari, resembling a beached ship. Jūrmala City Museum (free) showcases the leisure-scene heyday, with an impressive collection of retro swimwear. Stay at Parus, a traditional old wooden villa near the beach.
Doubles from €50 including breakfast, parus.lv. Flights as previous

Liepāja
Relaxed vibe … Liepāja beach Photograph: Alamy
Quick guide

Baltic beach holidays

Climate and sea temperature in the Baltic

Summer temperatures in much of the Baltic region are similar to those of England, with average highs of 20-23C in July and August. But winter and spring, even in the more southerly and westerly locations mentioned here, such as Germany’s Rügen Island, are often several degrees cooler than England. 

Further north and east, at say Hanko, Finland, and Pärnu, Estonia, summer temperatures are similar to those of the north of England with summer highs in the low 20s. Rainfall occurs on 10 days of the month in Pärnu on average in August and September, compared with six and seven days respectively in London. Rügen island experiences rain on nine days each month between July and December on average. 

Sea temperatures
Baltic water temperatures are surprising high considering in some areas there is melting ice in spring. Sea temperatures off Rügen this month are around 24C compared with 18-19C in Newquay, Cornwall. Those taking to the beaches further east at Klaipėda in Lithuania this week can expect sea temperatures of 22C. Even at Hanko the water is normally between 17 and 22C in most summers.

Photograph: www.alamy.com
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Sand and sounds

Once an important Soviet naval base, the city of Liepāja is now Latvia’s capital of music. There’s Kultūrvieta Kursas Putni, an arts hub that hosts regular live music nights, while the architecturally stunning Great Amber Concert Hall is the city’s new cultural star. The downtown Fontaine Hotel is an ideal place for music fans to stay, with Elvis and Louis Fontaine-themed bedrooms, as well as apartments and a mansion sleeping 10. The 8km-long sandy beach is backed by pines and has been a popular resort since the 1860s.
Budget double from €30, doubles from €55 room-only, fontaine.lv.Flights as previous

Lithuania

Riverside retreat

Vienkiemis
Rustic retreat … Vienkiemis homestead

Palanga, hugging the Baltic Sea, morphed from glamorous 19th-century retreat to model Soviet resort to what it is today: a busy seaside town crammed with holidaymakers and open-air cafes. The crowds can be escaped by heading inland for 20 minutes to the rustic Vienkiemis homestead. This is a bucolic riverside spot, where visitors sleep in a 165-year-old wooden granary barn, and can relax in the riverbank log cabin sauna before tucking into traditional Lithuanian cuisine in the tavern.
Available from 1 June to 15 September, doubles from €35, excluding breakfast (€5),
vienkiemis.lt/en/barn. WizzAir flies from Luton to Palanga

Coastal cycling

Lithuania
Pining for a cycle … coastal landscapes on UTracks routes.

What Lithuania lacks in dedicated bicycle lanes it makes up for with quiet backcountry roads, swathes of flat land and scenic coastal landscapes – making it perfect for cyclists. UTracks has a new, self-guided eight-day cycle tour, riding between 33 and 60km a day, setting off from (and finishing in) the seaside town of Klaipėda and using the country’s first signposted trail, the Seaside Cycle Route, towards Nida on the Curonian Spit. The itinerary allows for time to swim in the sea, or to walk, cycle or canoe the coast.
From £650pp for departures until early September with B&B accommodation, excluding flights,
utracks.com. Flights as previous

Magic Mann

Curonian
Stormy weather … a dramatic cloudscape out to sea at Nida. Photograph: Alamy

The old fishing settlement of Nida, on the Curonian Spit, is the westernmost point of Lithuania, close to the border of Russian exclave Kaliningrad. The scenery is one of steep sand dunes, gingerbread houses and sea views, both inspirational and dramatic. Famously, Thomas Mann, the Nobel prize-winning German author of The Magic Mountain, had a summerhouse here where he’d holiday with his family in the early 1930s. It is now a museum in his honour (£2.20 entry). Nida Campsite, next to the stone-age settlement of Five Hills and near the 52-metre-high Parnidis sand dune, has an indoor swimming pool, sauna and bicycles to rent (£10 a day).
Pitch from €5, plus from €3.50 adult, €2 child, kempingas.lt. Flights as previous

Germany

Sleep on the beach

A
Blow me down … A strandkorb – a windproof hooded wicker basket beach chair – at Eckernförde

Unlike a windbreaker or a towel, a German strandkorb (a wicker basket beach chair with a hood) won’t blow away. You can even sleep in a modern-style roomy version on the Baltic beach at Eckernförde (there are toilets at the nearby harbour). It might be a bit unnerving at first but in the morning you can roll from bed to sand within seconds.
Strandkorbs from around €50 for two,
ostseebad-eckernfoerde.de (seasonal, April to September). Ryanair flies to Hamburg from Edinburgh, Manchester and Stansted; easyJet from Edinburgh, Manchester and Gatwick; BA flies from Heathrow

Island hopping

Chalk
Chill on the chalk … cliffs in Jasmund national park, Rügen island. Photograph: Jochen Schlenker/Robert Harding/Getty Images

On Rügen, Germany’s largest island, is the country’s smallest national park, Jasmund which has chalky white cliffs, ancient beech forests and walking and cycling trails. Visitors can sleep in a thatched cottage at family-run Hotel Baumhaus Hagen, close to the park, and dine in its traditional German restaurant. A spotlight has shone on Rügen recently as the huge Prora beach hotel (built by Hitler but never completed – it is almost three miles long and was intended to host 20,000) is controversially set to open as a holiday resort. Trains from Berlin and Hamburg connect Binz, the largest seaside resort on Rügen, both taking around four hours.
Doubles from €89 B&B in summer,
baumhaus-hagen.de. Flights as previous

Prized peninsula

Priwall
Sumptuous shoreline … Priwall is a great place for walks and spotting wildlife. Photograph: Holger Leue/Getty Images

On the coast of northern Germany, Lübeck – a Unesco world heritage site – is famous for its Hanseatic merchant houses, river views and, most of all, its marzipan. But nature lovers will not want to miss the Priwall peninsula, a 40-minute drive north-east. Wedged between the Baltic Sea and the Trave river, sand dunes are flanked by woodland, lyme grass and sea buckthorn, and there are wetlands dotted with small ponds that are home to frogs, grass snakes and dragonflies. Stay at Arnimsruh Hotel Garni in Lübeck, a family-run hotel that sits on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by linden trees.
Doubles from €77 B&B,
hotel-luebeck.de. Lübeck is a 40-minute train ride from Hamburg. Flights as previous

Russia

Exclave excursion

Promenade
Exclave resort … Svetlogorsk. Photograph: danilovi/Getty Images

Immanuel Kant’s hometown, a Prussian then German fortress city built by the Teutonic knights (and known for nearly 700 years as Königsberg), the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad offers unorthodox sightseeing. Sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, it has attractions including the Svetlogorsk resort with pine forests and villas, Königsberg Cathedral and plenty of brutalist Soviet architecture. Baltic Holidays has a four-day guided break including a full-day sightseeing and a day trip to either Baltiysk military city, home to the Russian Navy’s Baltic fleet, or Svetlogorsk.
From €479 excluding flights,
balticholidays.com. There are no direct flights to Kaliningrad from the UK; Air Baltic, LOT and Aeroflot fly via other cities

Beach gem