This multi-country itinerary is aimed at travelers who want to connect with their Jewish heritage and ancestry in Eastern Europe. You'll begin your trip in Vilnius, where you will learn about the Vilna Gaon, continue on to Kaunas to see a gilded synagogue and the medieval old town, and make your way to the powerful Ninth Fort Museum and Monument. On the latter half of your trip, you'll explore Lithuania's historical sites and famous beach town before spending a final day in Tallinn, Estonia.

Highlights

  • Tour museums dedicated to Jewish culture and history
  • See some of the most important synagogues in Eastern Europe
  • Visit the powerful Ninth Fort Museum and Monument
  • Take a walking tour of Riga's Art Nouveau architecture
  • Relax in the coastal resort town of Jūrmala

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vilnius Vilnius
Day 2 Day-Trip to Trakai Vilnius
Day 3 Walking Tour of Kaunas Kaunas
Day 4 Ninth Fort Museum - Rundale Palace - Riga Riga
Day 5 Walking Tour of Riga Riga
Day 6 Day-Trip to Jūrmala Riga
Day 7 Hike in Gauja National Park - Paernu Paernu
Day 8 Walking Tour of Tallinn Tallinn
Day 9 Depart Tallinn  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vilnius

Aerial view of Vilnius
Aerial view of Vilnius

Welcome to Lithuania! A driver will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your hotel in Vilnius.

Vilnius is known for its more than 1,200 medieval buildings, so consider spending your free time walking around and enjoying the architecture. If you'd like, you can join a sightseeing tour that includes a panoramic tour of the city and a walking tour of the Old Town where you can see Vilnius CathedralGediminas Tower, the Old University and the Gates of Dawn.  

In the afternoon, you can tour the well-preserved Trakai Peninsula Castle, which is located on an island in Lake Galve. After that, you can explore the Trakai Historical National Park.

Day 2: Day-Trip to Trakai

Medieval Castle in Trakai
Medieval Castle in Trakai

After breakfast this morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to Trakai, the ancient capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

On the way, you'll be able to make a stop at Paneriai Memorial Museum. When you arrive in Trakai, which is most famous for the medieval castle, you will be able to learn about the history of the city's Karaites Jewish population. After a tour of the town, your driver will return you to Vilnius.

Back in Vilnius, you'll be able to use the afternoon to visit the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum and the Samuel Bak Museum. During these museum tours, you will learn about Jewish life, art, and the impacts of the Shoah. After your tours, you can visit Vilna Gaon’s grave in the Vilna Cemetery.

Day 3: Walking Tour of Kaunas

A quiet street in Kaunas
A quiet street in Kaunas

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel after breakfast and take you to Kaunas. En route, you can make a brief stop at the unique wooden Žiežmariai Synagogue.

Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania, and it was the capital between the two world wars. When you arrive, you will take a sightseeing tour of Old Town Kaunas where you will see castle ruins, Town Hall Square, and the House of Perkūnas.

You can then see the memorial at the former Kaunas Jewish ghetto, or the striking black and gold Kaunas Choral Synagogue and its children's memorial.  

After you finish exploring, you'll have the rest of the evening free.

Day 4: Ninth Fort Museum - Rundale Palace - Riga

The Ninth Fort Monument
The Ninth Fort Monument

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel in Kaunas and take you to your first stop of the day, the Ninth Fort Museum and Monument. This museum documents the tragedies of the Holocaust that took place in Lithuania, and the monument honors the 50,000 Jewish people who were murdered by Nazis at this site.

After seeing the museum and monument, you will begin your drive to Riga, Latvia, and you can make a stop in Vilna Gaon's birthplace of  Kédainia.

Further along your route, you'll be able to stop in Pakruojis to see the impressive Manor House Hotel and the oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania, which dates back to 1801.

Near the Lithuanian border, you will be able to take one last stop to tour the legendary Baroque Rundale Palace and walk through its elaborate gardens.

Late in the afternoon, you will be dropped off at your hotel in Riga, and you'll have the rest of the evening free .

Day 5: Walking Tour of Riga

Historic buildings in Riga
Historic buildings in Riga

Today, you'll be able to get acquainted with Riga's charming old town on a guided tour through the cobblestone streets.

You'll be able to visit the Art Nouveau District, where many prominent Jewish Latvians, including philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, once lived. Riga has one of the world's most impressive collections of authentic Art Nouveau architecture, which your guide will walk you through.

After your walking tour, you can visit the Jews in Latvia Museum where you will learn more about the lives of Jews in this part of the world. Later, you can visit the only remaining synagogue in the city which serves as the central meeting place for the Jewish community in Latvia today.

For even more history, you can visit the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum. When you're finished, a driver will return you to your hotel for the evening.

Day 6: Day-Trip to Jūrmala

A Beach Resort in Jurmala
A Beach Resort in Jurmala

After breakfast, your driver will transfer you to the coastal resort town of Jūrmala, which is famous for its wooden architecture and sandy beaches.

Originally a cluster of small fishing villages, Jūrmala is famous for its white-sand beaches, ornate timber cottages, and contemporary architecture.

When you arrive, you can walk explore the town on your own, relax on the shore, or grab a bite to eat.

In the early evening, you'll get back in your private car and return to Riga in time to have dinner.

Day 7: Hike in Gauja National Park - Paernu

View of the Gauja River
View of the Gauja River

After breakfast in your hotel, you'll head to Riga Central Station and take a one-hour train ride to Gauja National Park.

Once you arrive at the park, you can take a six-mile (10 km) hike to see the stunning scenery and the biggest cave in the Baltic States. The towns of Sigulda and Turaida border the park, and you can see the ruins of Turaida Castle and the Castle of the Knights of the Sword.

If you'd like to take another short excursion, you can also take a cable car across the Gauja River to see the picturesque scenery of the ancient river valley. 

After your day of outdoor adventure, your driver will take you to your hotel in Paernu where you can check in and relax for the rest of the evening.

Day 8: Walking Tour of Tallinn

Tallinn Town Hall Square
Tallinn Town Hall Square

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel in Paernu and take you to Estonia's beautiful capital, Tallinn.

Once you arrive, you'll be able to enjoy a walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage city. After meeting your guide, you will begin in the Old Town, stroll the beautifully preserved medieval streets, and see the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Town Hall Square.

After the tour, you can visit the Tallinn Synagogue and learn about the Estonian Jewish community. You'll have the afternoon and evening free to continue exploring the city on your own.

Day 9: Depart Tallinn

View of historic rooftops in Tallinn
View of historic rooftops in Tallinn

It's time to say goodbye to Estonia! After your final morning in Tallinn, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the Tallinn Airport (TLL) for your flight home.

Map

Map of Exploring Jewish Heritage in Eastern Europe - 9 Days
Map of Exploring Jewish Heritage in Eastern Europe - 9 Days