The most northerly of the chilly Baltics, Estonians are making great strides with rediscovering their culture and revelling in their newly acquired relative wealth. As in all Baltic countries there is a sizeable minority of Russians which causes tensions at times. Unlike their Baltic cousins the Estonians share their language with Finland and not with Latvia or Lithuania.
Being sparsely populated, Estonia has wide expanses of forest and lakes, a long coastline and host of islands to explore. And then there is obviously Tallinn. Europe’s hottest destination… For the Finns at least. The rest of us like it too. Very much so.
Visit Estonia and stay warm in one of medieval Tallinn’s candlelit cellars with the delicious Estonian speciality hot chocolate and truffles or take an Estonian style weekend get-away to the Islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa (try to pronounce that one if you can) on any day of the week. Party with the students in Tartu, and for a bit of Soviet nostalgia Narva will do. Catch a festival in hip Haapsalu or walk the promenade in Pärnu.
While Tallinn might be the city to lure you over, the rest of the country will be the one to win you over.
Highlights from Estonia
- Tallinn’s walled old town is a charming medieval fairy tale and understandably popular with it cafés, narrow streets, churches, cellared eating halls, and much more
- For a bit of tranquillity and peace make your way to Lahemaa National Park, Estonia’s biggest, with rivers, lakes, bogs, old manor houses, and the sea
- Take a ferry to Saaremaa Island with its windmills, unique customs, untouched forests and beautiful sea-scapes. It’s also known for its vodka and strong beers
- Loiter over the promenade, or take a dip in the Baltic at Pärnu
- Look into Russia at Narva, and contemplate Soviet architecture as you walk down the bleak streets
- Visit pretty Viljandi, with its ruined Teutonic Castle
- Look at the women wearing traditional frock on interesting Kihnu Island, where women rule the roost, not men
- Catch the Blues Festival in elegant Haapsalu, or just the sea-breeze
- Get funky with the students in Tartu, a smaller version of Tallinn with Estonia’s oldest university
- Go cross-country skiing in the ‘Estonian Alps’ around Otepää
Hints and Tips for Estonia
- Most countries won’t need a visa to visit, if you do a Schengen visa will do.
- Estonian is like Finnish, hard to learn! Luckily, in the cities loads of people speak English. On the country side less so, Russian and German could help, a phrasebook certainly will.
- Public transport is cheap and good.
- Cycling around is a good way to save money and see the countryside.
- Estonia is cheap…ish, so you should be able to get more bang for your bucks.