This adventure into the Baltic states takes you through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where you'll explore medieval cities and take nature excursions to national parks. You'll also visit Lake Peipus, one of Europe’s largest lakes, and tour coastal villages plus take a road trip down the long and narrow Curonian Spit. Other highlights include Trakai Castle, the Hill of Crosses, and even a craft beer tasting.

Highlights

  • Tour the medieval centers of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius
  • Hike near beautiful lakes and through national parks
  • Relax in coastal resort towns like Nida and Liepāja
  • Travel down the Curonian Spit, a long sandspit on the Baltic coast
  • Visit Trakai Castle, at Lake Galvė

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tallinn - Walking Tour of Old Town Tallinn
Day 2 Transfer to Tartu - Stop at Lake Peipus Tallinn
Day 3 Walking Tour of Tartu Tartu
Day 4 Visit Daugavpils - Stop in Aglona Daugavpils
Day 5 Transfer to Riga - Explore the City Riga
Day 6 Bobsled Adventure in Gauja National Park Riga
Day 7 Transfer to Liepāja - City & Beaches Tour Liepāja
Day 8 Transfer to Nida - Stop in Palanga Neringa
Day 9 Transfer to Klaipėda - Explore the Curonian Spit Klaipėda
Day 10 Transfer to Šiauliai - Visit the Hill of Crosses & Naisiai Šiauliai
Day 11 Explore Molėtai - Transfer to Vilnius Vilnius
Day 12 Walking Tour of Vilnius Vilnius
Day 13 Visit Trakai Castle - Craft Beer Tasting Vilnius
Day 14 Departure from Vilnius Vilnius

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tallinn - Walking Tour of Old Town

Visit Tallinn's Old Town
Visit Tallinn's Old Town

Welcome to the Baltics and the Estonian capital of Tallinn!

Estonia 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.

You'll kick things off with a walking tour of Tallinn's well-preserved medieval center, known as Old Town. After checking into your hotel, you'll visit many historic sites, including Toompea Castle, a stately Baroque castle now home to Estonia's parliament. You'll also visit the 13th century Dome Church (St. Mary's Cathedral), the Russian Revival Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and the Great Guild Hall, which was a guild for merchants and artisans in the 14th century and is now the Estonian History Museum.

After the tour, you can rest your legs with a visit to 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. 

Later, you can enjoy an excursion to Kadriorg Park, a 172-acre (70-hectare) green space home to gardens, ponds, promenades, and museums, including KUMU, the award-winning Estonian Art Museum, which houses collections of classic and contemporary fine art. In the evening, make your way to Town Hall Square to enjoy a traditional Estonian meal featuring folkloric dancing and singing.

Day 2: Transfer to Tartu - Stop at Lake Peipus

The shores of Lake Peipus
The Shores of Lake Peipus

Straddling the border between Estonia and Russia is Lake Peipus, the fifth-largest lake in Europe. In the morning, you'll take a drive to the lakeside village of Kolkja. Beyond its natural beauty, this area has its own cultural and religious legacy. The Estonian side of the lake is home to one of the biggest Russian Orthodox Old Believers communities in Europe. These are religious refugees and strict adherents to Eastern Christian Orthodoxy as it was practiced before the Russian reforms of the 17th century. 

You'll learn more about this culture with a visit to the Kolkja Museum of Old Believers. Exhibits feature traditional clothes, household items, handicrafts, tools, photos, and other items associated with the Old Believers. These displays cover a long period of history, as the Old Believers have been practicing their religious traditions for more than 1,000 years.

After visiting the museum and taking a stroll along the lakeshore, you'll hop back in the car and continue inland a short way to Tartu, a small city in southeastern Estonia. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and enjoy a free evening in the city.

Day 3: Walking Tour of Tartu

Town Hall Square, Tartu
Town Hall Square, Tartu

Tartu may be a small city, but it has a rich historical legacy. It was a site of great importance right after the Estonian War of Independence, which ended in 1920 and resulted in a peace treaty signed in Tartu granting Estonia its statehood. This morning, you'll learn more about the city's cultural and religious legacy when you embark on a walking tour of Old Town.

You'll start with a visit to the Supreme Court of Estonia and the Town Hall, which dates to 1782 and is located in the main square. The city's most famous building, however, is the neoclassical University of Tartu, which dates to 1632 and is the national university of Estonia. You'll also visit the remnants of the Tartu Dome Church and enjoy a walk along the riverfront.

Day 4: Visit Daugavpils - Stop in Aglona

The Entrance to Daugavpils Fortress
The Entrance to Daugavpils Fortress

After breakfast, you'll hop in a car and head south through Estonia into Latvia. On the way, you'll stop in the village of Aglona to visit its stately Aglona Basilica. This whitewashed Roman Catholic church is done in the Baroque style and features 196-foot-high (60-m) twin belltowers. It was built in 1768 and today remains an important pilgrimage site, particularly on the 15th of August during the celebration of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

From here, the drive continues to Daugavpils. This city on the Daugava River was granted town rights in 1582, but due to its strategic location, it was occupied by other countries over the centuries. Historically, it has been part of Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Empire, and was even occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944. Thus it has a diverse population whose residents hail from Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Russia.

Upon arrival, you'll tour the city's historic center and visit the 19th century Daugavpils Fortress. This large military fortification was built in the early 19th century by the decree of Russian Tsar Alexander Ist. Today it remains the only unaltered tsarist base in Europe in its original state. 

Afterward, you'll head to the surrounding countryside and check into your 4-star hotel in a historic manor estate. After settling into your room, you'll have the remainder of the evening free to relax.

Day 5: Transfer to Riga - Explore the City

Riga's skyline
Riga's Skyline

Today's adventure takes you north to Riga, the capital of Latvia. The city was founded in 1201 by the German bishop Albert of Riga, who later went on to found the city's cathedral in 1221. Riga is the largest of the three Baltic capitals and features an array of architectural styles in its Old Town neighborhood.

Upon arrival, you'll head straight to Old Town for a morning walking tour. You'll visit medieval landmarks such as the 14th century Riga Castle, the Lutheran Dome Cathedral (which was built in 1211), the 15th-century St. Peter’s Church, and the Swedish Gate, a defensive fortification built in 1698.

Other historic buildings you'll see include Three Brothers, a trio of homes dating from the 15th-17th centuries, and the Large and Small Guild House, a merchant organization built in the 14th century and later redone in the English Gothic style. You'll also visit the Freedom Monument, which is located on the waterfront and memorializes soldiers killed in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920). There's also the Latvian National Opera, an architectural masterpiece that dates to 1863.

After the opera house, take a tram ride to the Central Market. This UNESCO World Heritage Site opened in 1930 and takes up 778,000 square feet (72,300 meters), which makes it the largest municipal market in Europe. Here you can wander through the former Zeppelin hangars and browse for smoked meats, pickled vegetables, sweets, and trinkets. End your tour at one of the market's many eateries for a relaxed meal, then spend the rest of the day exploring on your own.

Day 6: Bobsled Adventure in Gauja National Park

The Gauja Valley on a winter morning
The Gauja Valley on a Winter Morning

Just about 33 miles (53 km) northeast of Riga is the village of Sigulda. This small town is situated in Latvia's largest protected area of Gauja National Park, which covers 354 square miles (917 square km) of mostly forested land.

Upon arrival, you'll ride a cable car for a fun and scenic journey above the unspoiled Gauja Valley. Enjoy the views of the forest, countryside castles, and the area's famous bobsled track, which is the only one left in the former USSR. It was built by soviet Russia decades ago and is still used as a training base by bobsled teams and skeleton racers from all over Europe.

On your way down, you'll hop in a bobsled and zip downhill on the track on a thrilling, adrenaline-filled ride. This is a unique experience as Sigulda is one of only a few places in the world where you can enjoy such an activity.

After lunch, you'll return to Riga and spend the rest of the day in the city at your leisure.

Day 7: Transfer to Liepāja - City & Beaches Tour

The Karosta ruins

After breakfast, you'll embark on a three-hour road trip from Riga to Liepāja, a port city known for its white-sand beaches. Thanks to its location on Latvia´s west coast, Liepāja is home to excellent seafood, particularly its fresh cod.

Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and then head out on a walking tour of the city center. Among other places, you'll visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a Lutheran church that was founded in 1742. Inside, the church is painted white with elegant Rococo designs. It's also home to one of the largest organs in Europe, which features over 7,000 pipes. You'll then visit Karosta, the ruins of seaside defensive fortifications built by Tsar Alexander III in 1890.

Next up is a visit to the only military prison in Europe open to tourists. You'll tour its cells and torture chambers plus visit the prison museum for an exhibit on WWII and the soviet era. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the evening on your own. You can explore Liepāja's thriving music scene, which is famous for its many rock bars and discos.

Day 8: Transfer to Nida - Stop in Palanga

The Amber Museum in Palanga
The Amber Museum in Palanga

From Liepāja, you'll continue south into Lithuania and stop in Samogitia National Park. This 83-sq-mile (283-sq-km) protected area is situated in the Samogitia highlands and is home to traditional villages and beautiful lakes. You'll enjoy a walking tour around the largest of these, Lake Plateliai, and then hike up to a viewpoint for incredible vistas of the park.

Afterward, you'll drive to Lithuania's most popular seaside resort town, Palanga. Aside from its wide beaches, Palanga is known for its Amber Museum. Located in a 19th-century palace, it features a collection of about 28,000 amber pieces, many of which contain fossilized insects, spiders, and plants.

Next, you'll transfer south to the coastal city of Klaipėda and take the ferry down the Curonian Spit. This long, thin sandspit runs along the Baltic Sea and features some incredible dune landscapes. At the end of the Curonian Spit is the resort town of Nida. Popular with summer vacationers, it's filled with attractive beaches and historic landmarks like Thomas Mann’s summer house. After checking into your hotel in Nida, you´ll have the evening free to relax.

Day 9: Transfer to Klaipėda - Explore the Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit

You'll have a full day to explore the coastal landscapes along the Curonian Spit. This long stretch of sand, which runs 62 miles (100 km) between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, is dotted with small fishing villages, pine forests, and endless sand dunes.

A highlight of the area is the Hill of Witches, located in the waterfront village of Juodkrantė. Despite the spooky name, this landmark is actually a collection of over 80 wooden sculptures atop a forested sand dune, all done by local artists depicting themes of paganism and Lithuanian folklore. 

After a leisurely day spent traveling north along the Curonian Spit, you'll arrive in Klaipėda where you'll settle into your hotel.

Day 10: Transfer to Šiauliai - Visit the Hill of Crosses & Naisiai

The Beach of Klaipeda
The Beach of Klaipėda

From Klaipėda, you'll head east to Šiauliai. Just north of this city lies the Hill of Crosses, one of the holiest Catholic sites in Lithuania. Pilgrims have been leaving crosses on this small rural hill since 1830 when the site was a pivotal landmark in Lithuania's resistance against Russian aggressors. In the intervening years, the arrival of pilgrims has been so regular that today the hill has over 100,000 crosses, crucifixes, and statues of the Virgin Mary.

After touring the Hill of Crosses, you'll continue to nearby Naisiai. This village is notable for its public park featuring wooden sculptures of Lithuanian pagan gods. Later in the afternoon, you'll return to Šiauliai, and after checking into your hotel you'll have the rest of the day free.

Day 11: Explore Molėtai - Transfer to Vilnius

The Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology
The Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology

Today's road trip will first take you to the lakeside town of Molėtai. On top of being one of the oldest settlements in the country, it´s also home to the Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology. This museum is the first of its kind and is dedicated to showcasing the relationship between humans and the cosmos.

The museum features a wide array of exhibits, from ancient astrological calendars to meteorological instruments and cosmology-related works of fine art and music. On a tour, you'll view these exhibits as well as an outdoor stone monument that uses the sun's rays to indicate equinoxes and solstices. Installed nearby is a large wrought- iron sundial and models of the solar system.

You can also climb the observation tower which offers panoramic views of the region´s forests and lakes. Throughout the tour, you´ll be accompanied by an expert guide who will offer insight into the area and its attractions.

After the museum tour, you'll continue south to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and enjoy dinner in the city's historic center.

Day 12: Walking Tour of Vilnius

Aerial View of Vilnius
Aerial View of Vilnius

Today you'll discover Lithuania's capital, which sits on the Neris River and dates back to the 14th century. It's famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Old Town, which features landmarks like Vilnius University. Founded in 1579, this was one of the premier educational institutions in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Another highlight is the Vilnius Cathedral. Consecrated in 1783 and located in the expansive Cathedral Square, this is Lithuania's most famous Roman-Catholic church. Moreover, its mausoleum is the final resting place of several notable figures throughout history, including grand dukes of Lithuania and King Alexander of Poland. 

Other stops on the tour include Gediminas Tower, a 15th-century defensive castle, the Church of St. Peter and Paul, a 17th-century Lithuanian Baroque cathedral, and the 15th-century St. Anne's Church. You'll also visit the Gate of Dawn, the city's medieval entrance and defensive fortification, which was built around a chapel and remains a major pilgrimage site.

Day 13: Visit Trakai Castle - Craft Beer Tasting

Trakai Castle and the surrounding national park
Trakai Castle and the Surrounding National Park

After breakfast, you'll transfer west from Vilnius to the town of Trakai. This medieval town sits on a peninsula on Lake Galvė and is home to about 5,000 people. It's surrounded by scenic countryside and Trakai Historical National Park, a protected area of 32 square miles (82 square km).

Amid the woodlands and islands on the lake is the main landmark of the area, the Gothic-style Trakai Castle. This impressive fortification was built in the 14th century out of red brick and stone. After exploring the castle, you'll stretch your legs with a stroll around the park.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Vilnius for a craft beer tasting at a local pub. Here you'll enjoy a sampling of local and regional craft beers accompanied by a traditional Lithuanian meal.

Day 14: Departure from Vilnius

Goodbye, Lithuania
Goodbye, Lithuania

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight home. This concludes your grand Baltic adventure. Until next time!

Map

Map of Explore the Baltic States - 14 Days
Map of Explore the Baltic States - 14 Days