Discover the highlights of Estonia, from unspoiled national parks to seaside towns and medieval cities. The adventure begins in the capital of Tallinn, where guided tours take you to hilltop castles and ancient churches. Between cities, you'll visit the countryside and explore coastal Lahemaa National Park and the wetlands of Soomaa National Park. The trip wraps up on Saaremaa Island, where you'll cycle to trestle windmills and coastal cliffs plus visit the town of Haapsalu, home to an impressive medieval castle.

Highlights

  • Explore the medieval castles and cathedrals of Tallinn's Old Town
  • Overnight at a historic manor estate in Lahemaa National Park
  • Stroll the Bohemian streets of Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city
  • Hike through the wetlands of Soomaa National Park
  • Cycle to the Panga Cliffs and trestle windmills of Saaremaa Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Tallinn - Walking Tour Tallinn
Day 2 Tallinn to Lahemaa National Park & Vihula Manor Vihula
Day 3 Transfer to Tallinn - Open Air Museum & Kadriorg Park Tallinn
Day 4 Transfer to Viljandi - City Tour of Tartu Viljandi
Day 5 Transfer to Saaremaa Island - Stop at Soomaa National Park Kuressaare
Day 6 Saaremaa Island Bicycle Tour Kuressaare
Day 7 Transfer to Tallinn - Explore Haapsalu - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Tallinn - Walking Tour

Tallinn's Old Town

Welcome to the Baltics and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia!

This country is known for its incredible natural scenery that includes rocky beaches, remote islands, protected wetlands, and forests with beech, spruce, and pine trees. In total, about 50% of Estonia is covered in forest and about 18% of the land is protected in the form of national parks.

Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and take a walking tour of Tallinn. Despite being the country's most populous city, it has a well-preserved medieval center known as Old Town. You'll visit many historic sites including Toompea Castle, a stately Baroque castle now home to Estonia's parliament; the 13th century Dome Church; the Russian Revival Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; and the Great Guild Hall, which was a guild for merchants in the 14th century and is now the Estonian History Museum.

After the tour, you can visit Café Maiasmokk, which, having opened in 1864, is the oldest operating café in Tallinn. Stop for a coffee and sample their pies, cakes or handmade candies. There's even a marzipan museum featuring a resident artist who makes and decorates marzipan figures. In the evening, head out to one of the city's trendy wine bars or pubs.

Day 2: Tallinn to Lahemaa National Park & Vihula Manor

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia
Lahemaa National Park

After breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the 45-minute trip east to Lahemaa National Park. Located on the north coast of the country, Lahemaa sits on 1,877 square miles (725 square km) and has many hiking trails that will take you through bogs, forests, and up to the largest natural waterfall in Estonia. There's also incredible biodiversity here, and it's home to many species of birds and animals like wolves, red deer, wild boars, and even lynxes.

Within Lahemaa National Park, you'll visit the village of Käsmu, which is situated on a bog with many lakes and streams. Here you'll visit an abandoned Soviet military submarine base plus the historic Hotel Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa, a charming 16th-century estate that has been converted into a four-star hotel. In the afternoon, you'll settle into your room at the manor, and later you'll enjoy a leisurely dinner.

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Day 3: Transfer to Tallinn - Open Air Museum & Kadriorg Park

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn
Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn

Get ready to step back in time, because in the morning you'll visit the Estonian Open Air Museum, located just outside Tallinn. Development of this unique exhibition began in the early 20th century with the goal to preserve rural culture and architecture. The government set aside about 177 acres (72 hectares) to protect traditional buildings dating back to the 18th century.

Such buildings that exist here include farms, mills, a church, inn, fire station, and more. All told, there are almost 80 buildings that are preserved in their original state, untouched by time. On a walking tour of this historic village museum, you´ll get a vivid sense of the world before modernization and urbanization encroached on society.

In the afternoon, you'll visit Kadriorg Park, a 172-acre (70-hectare) green space home to Kadriorg Palace, an impressive baroque palace built for Catherine I of Russia. Peruse the art museum on site, which features exhibits from the 16th-20th centuries, then head out for a walk around the manicured lawns, Dutch-style canals, and Russian formal gardens. Nearby is the Presidential Palace and KUMU, an excellent art museum featuring works by both Estonians and international artists.

In the evening, you'll settle into your hotel and then can head back into Tallinn's city center for dinner.

Day 4: Transfer to Viljandi - City Tour of Tartu

Tartu

Say goodbye to Tallinn and head to southern Estonia and the nation's second-largest city, Tartu.

This city in southeastern Estonia may be small, but it enjoys quite the historical legacy. The War of Independence ended in 1920, and that year a peace treaty was signed in Tartu that granted Estonia its statehood. Like in Tallinn, there's a medieval Old Town here, home to the Supreme Court of Estonia and the Town Hall, which was built in 1782. Tartu's most famous building, however, is the neoclassical University of Tartu, which dates to 1632 and is the national university of Estonia.

You'll get to see these buildings on a walking tour of Tartu. Beforehand, however, you'll take a guided tour of the Estonian National Museum. Founded in 1909, this ethnographic museum preserves Estonian national heritage. It traces the cultural history of the region's inhabitants dating as far back as the Ice Age. There's also an impressive collection of folk art here as well.

In the afternoon, you'll continue an hour west from Tartu to the town of Viljandi, which sits on the lake of the same name. Viljandi has a unique history, as it became part of the German Hanseatic League in the early14th century. Today it's a charming town nestled in the woods and featuring well-preserved medieval buildings. These include the iconic St. John's Church, a 17th-century Baptist church with a tall steeple and long spire.

After settling into your hotel, you'll visit Viljandi Castle Hill to tour the ruins of a 13th-century castle. In the evening, take a stroll down Tartu Street to find many different eateries, bars, and pubs.

Day 5: Transfer to Saaremaa Island - Stop at Soomaa National Park

Swamplands of Soomaa National Park
Soomaa National Park

After breakfast, you'll make the 45-minute drive west to Soomaa National Park, a 150-square-mile (390-square-km) section of protected wetlands in southwestern Estonia. If you visit during the summer months, you'll use wooden paths to traverse the park as you pass through bogs, wooded meadows, and forests.

Throughout the visit, you'll learn a bit about the geological history of the region. “Soomaa” literally means “land of bogs” in Estonian. The Estonian swamplands started to develop after the last ice age about 12,000 years ago, with the largest covering over 24,000 acres (10, 000 hectares).

There are many hiking routes in Soomaa, the most popular being the nature trails to the Riisa and Kuuraniidu areas. Many opt to travel along the Ingatsi boardwalk, which leads to the highest bog in Europe. Birders take note: you can also trek to watchtowers and suspension bridges, which offer great vantage points to observe the avian varieties in the park. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a rare species like the golden eagle.

Throughout the excursion, you'll also pass various bog pools that are great for swimming. According to Estonian legend, doing so will make you seven years younger.

After the park, you'll continue to the coast and then take a ferry to Saaremaa Island, the biggest island in Estonia. Your first stop will be Kaali Meteorite Crater, a group of nine craters estimated to be between 7,500-7,600 years ago. You'll then head to the island's capital city, Kuressaare, where you'll check into your hotel and then visit the impressive 14th-century Kuressaare Castle.

Later, you can relax at the city's public beach and stroll through the historic center, perhaps stopping to enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants lining the main street.

Day 6: Saaremaa Island Bicycle Tour

Sunset on Sõrve Peninsula
Sunset on Sõrve Peninsula

One of the best ways to explore Saaremaa Island is to see it by bike. You'll first take a tour of Kuressaare's castle, which is

One of the best ways to explore Saaremaa Island is by bike. You'll head out in the morning for a day tour that begins in Kuressaare. The first stop is the Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, a 14th-century medieval fortification. It was built by crusaders looking to Christianize the island, and it remained a strategic stronghold until the early 19th century. You'll learn more about this history with a visit to the castle's museum followed by a hike up the towers for unforgettable views.

Later, you'll continue south to Sõrve Peninsula, home to a lighthouse here that stands 170 feet (52 meters). Head up the stairs to the top and you can look out over Irbe Strait all the way out to mainland Lativa. At lunchtime, you'll head to the north end of the island and the village of Angla, where you'll tour Angla Windmill Park. The park complex exists to preserve the area's wooden trestle windmills, which were built in the early 20th century and are now part of the Angla Heritage Culture Center.

In the late afternoon, you'll continue to the north coast and Panga Cliffs. This unique geologic formation consists of bedrock outcroppings that start on the island of Gotland, in Sweden, then pass through the Baltic Sea and surface on Estonia's west coast. Along the way, they form part of Saaremaa Island's north coast. Here you can enjoy some leisure time, sitting at the cliffs' edge as you watch the sun dip below the horizon.

Afterward, you'll return to Kuressaare and will have the evening free.

Day 7: Transfer to Tallinn - Explore Haapsalu - Departure

Ruins of Haapsalu Castle
Haapsalu Castle

An early-morning ferry will take you back to Estonia's mainland. On your way back to Tallinn, you'll stop in the small coastal resort town of Haapsalu. Beyond the romantic wooden houses and a seaside promenade, the town is most famous for its iconic Haapsalu Castle. This fortress dates to the 13th century and was used as a defensive stronghold until the end of the 17th century.  

After a walking tour of Haapsalu, you'll continue on to Tallinn and transfer to the airport for your flight home. Bon voyage! 

Map

Map of Explore Estonia - 7 Days
Map of Explore Estonia - 7 Days