Are you most at home amid nature in the great outdoors or are you a culture vulture who thrives on the buzz of the city? Whichever you prefer, Estonia will be a great fit. This tiny European nation sits on the shore of the Baltic Sea. More than 50% of the country is forested, yet the capital proves that built up can be equally successful. Tallinn is lovely, one of the best preserved mediaeval cities on the continent. Find out more with our brief guide and escape to enchanting Estonia.
Immerse yourself in Tallinn’s captivating history
Most international visitors arrive in Tallinn, Estonia’s charming capital city. The cobbled streets of its walled old town are a delight to explore on foot, with plenty of historic merchants’ houses and warehouses to admire. Learn about the city’s Hanseatic past as you tour the Great Guild Hall or the Maritime Museum housed in Fat Margaret’s Tower. Meanwhile a more recent chapter in the country’s history is brought to life inside the Hotel Viru, as the KGB Museum explores one aspect of Soviet rule. Branch out a little: hipster-friendly Kalamaja district, traditionally the city’s fishing port, is well known for its colourful wooden houses. Meanwhile, repurposed industrial buildings form the main focus of Telliskivi Creative City.
Get your culture fix in Tartu
Tartu has been chosen as a European Capital of Culture for 2024, so expect plenty of events and festivals to mark its new status. This university city stages plenty of plays, concerts and festivals. Numerous museums celebrate all aspects of the arts and there’s a thriving cafe culture that underpins everyday life. The city’s green spaces are perfect for a casual stroll, particularly those lining the banks of the River Emajõgi which bisects the city. Estonia’s second largest city is a delight, and makes the ideal companion to Tallinn if you’re thinking about a twin-centre break.
Catch a ferry to the islands
There are more than 2000 islands in Estonia and they are the perfect base for a retreat. The pick of the bunch are Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Kihnu, Ruhnu and Vormsi. Hop on the ferry and enjoy a relaxing break. Hike along trails that meander through pine and juniper woodland. Stumble upon the landmarks of the past, such as windmills and lighthouses. Hire a bicycle and pedal down to a secluded beach or remote countryside punctuated by the occasional church. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, but also a chance to unwind and escape the stress and pressures of modern day life.
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Take a hike through Soomaa National Park
For a wilderness experience it’s hard to beat Soomaa National Park. Located in the south of the country, it’s characterised by bog, forest and flooded meadows strewn with flowers. When the water level is at its highest as the seasonal snow melt takes hold, the only viable means of transport is by boat. Tap into this seasonal phenomenon as you rent a canoe and paddle gently through the park’s waterways. As the water recedes, boardwalks become hiking trails that enable visitors to access primeval forest and tranquil open countryside.
Experience beach life in Pärnu
Pärnu is Estonia’s premier beach destination and the country’s largest resort. There’s a long-established spa tradition which manifests itself in old-fashioned bath houses and lively modern water parks. During summer, the sunshine and gorgeous beaches still cater largely for Estonians but increasingly in-the-know foreigners. Water skiing, yachting, kayaking, cycling and rollerskating are among the myriad pastimes offered if you feel you ought to do more than relax on a towel spread out on the sand. You’ll also see a pioneering project aimed at creating more sustainable tourism. A protected coastal meadow is maintained by the city’s cows.
Bear watching in Estonia’s forests
Bear watching is a real treat and one of the best places to indulge in some wildlife-spotting while you’re in Estonia is in Alataguse. A number of tour operators run bear watching trips into this taiga forest in north eastern Estonia. After these Estonian brown bears emerge from hibernation, there’s a good chance of seeing a mother with cubs. Some mums have four, which is quite unusual. Ensconced in a hide, you’ll wait quietly for the bears to approach as they forage for food. The long nights of summer are the ideal time to come, as you’ll have plenty of daylight making sightings easier.
Let Mundana help plan your Estonia vacation
Estonia’s diversity makes it a good choice for a vacation no matter what the season. This small country’s proximity to Latvia and Lithania, as well as Finland across the water, makes it ideal for combining with other Baltic nations. At Mundana, we can help you tailormake an itinerary to suit your needs, whether that’s a city break to Tallinn to coincide with the Christmas markets or a multi-centre summer holiday. Why not consider an escape to enchanting Estonia next time you’re in Europe?