The Baltic state of Estonia is lent a magical, fairy-tale atmosphere by its great swathes of unspoilt forest (which covers almost half of the country) and its gorgeous, well-preserved medieval architecture. Tallinn, the capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty of history and culture to discover. On the other hand, the country’s varied and exciting wildlife can be explored through hiking tours and national parks.
What to Do
Nature trails are found throughout the country. They can be hiked, mountain biked, and cycled, and there is something available for all levels of ability. Visit the Piusa River trail to explore its 12 Devonian sandstone outcrops or the Otepää Nature Park for the trail encircling Lake Pühajärv. There are plenty of national parks too, where you can explore the country’s flora and fauna.
Estonia also boasts beautiful architecture, including over 1,000 castles and manors, some of which date back to the 13th century. Karksi Manor, located in the village of Karksi, has its own wine and beer brewery. Alatskivi Castle, on the eastern border, has well-informed, fascinating guided tours explaining the life and history of the aristocratic family who once lived there.
Traditionally, Estonian cuisine was based on meat and potatoes, as well as freshly caught fish in lakeside and coastal areas. Pastries are usually savoury, such as pirukad, which is filled with meat, cabbage, carrots, and rice. Smoked and marinated eel, as well as crayfish, are considered delicacies. Black rye bread is served with almost all savoury meals.
Typical desserts are kissell, a thick fruit dish that sometimes contains red wine, and kringel, a sweet yeast bread that is usually flavoured with cardamom.
The Estonian climate is mild and temperate, with warm summers and fairly cold winters. Average temperatures in the warmest summer month, July, vary between 16C and 18C; the coldest month, February, ranges between -3.5C and -7.6C. The summer months tend to be rainier, and there are between 102 and 127 rainy days a year.
Most tour operators recommend visiting Estonia between April and September to get the best of warmth. However, be aware that July and August are traditionally the wettest months.
How to Get There
You’re most likely to land at Tallinn Airport, in the northwest of Estonia, and from there it’s only a short tram ride (or under an hour’s walk) to reach the city of Tallinn.
If you prefer to take other forms of transport, you could take a train to Copenhagen and then catch a ferry via Stockholm. Alternatively, you could reach Rostock, Germany by train and then take a ferry to Tallinn via Helsinki. Tallinn is also a popular destination for youngsters travelling with an Interrail pass.
Should you wish to drive, it’s entirely doable, although it takes more than a full day and night of solid travel, so it’s best attempted as part of a long sightseeing journey or with multiple drivers in the car to take shifts.
Travelling to Estonia? Don’t Miss…
- Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn was built for Catherine I of Russia in the beautiful Petrine Baroque style. It houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, which displays international art from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
- Lahemaa National Park in northern Estonia is the perfect day trip from the capital. Stony and sandy seashores are right next to lush pine forests, and the park is home to brown bears and other wild animals.
- Radisson Blu Sky rooftop lounge, a rooftop open terrace bar on 24th floor with amazing views over the city.