Combine Estonia's tranquil nature and small villages with the bustle of Russia's "Northern Capital" in this 10-day tour, starting with hikes in the bogs of Lahemaa and Soomaa National Parks. Visit castle ruins in Haapsalu and bike around the windmills of Saaremaa Island before heading east to the traditional villages of Lake Peipsi on the Russian border. End in St Petersburg, exploring the UNESCO site of Peterhof, viewing the world's largest painting collection at the State Hermitage Museum, and crafting your own souvenir at a Matryoshka making class.

Highlights

  • Cycle by beaches, windmills, and lighthouses on Saaremaa Island
  • Hike through the bogs of Laahemaa and Soomaa National Parks
  • Drive the Onion Route through traditional villages on Lake Peipsi
  • Discover the grand fountains and gardens of the UNESCO site Peterhof
  • View the world's largest collection of paintings at the State Hermitage Museum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Estonia -Transfer to Vihula Manor in Lahemaa National Park Vihula
Day 2 Drive to Haapsalu - Hike in Kakerdaja Bog Haapsalu
Day 3 Take the ferry to Saaremaa Island - Explore the Windmill Park Kuressaare
Day 4 Hike through the famous bogs of Soomaa National Park Soomaa
Day 5 Visit Peipsi Lake and Alatskivi Castle Nina
Day 6 Discover the villages along Lake Peipsi Narva
Day 7 Drive to St Petersburg, Russia - Explore the UNESCO site Peterhof Saint Petersburg
Day 8 Enjoy a tour of St Petersburg and the Peter and Paul Fortress Saint Petersburg
Day 9 Explore the Hermitage Museum - Paint your own Matryoshka doll Saint Petersburg
Day 10 Depart St Petersburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Estonia -Transfer to Vihula Manor in Lahemaa National Park

Bog Landscape of Lahemaa National Park
Bog Landscape of Lahemaa National Park

Welcome to Estonia! Upon arriving at the airport, you'll meet your driver and start your trip to one of the country's most scenic areas, Lahemaa National Park. The park features picturesque coastline, dense forests, hidden waterfalls, and even abandoned Soviet-era military remains.

Within Lahemaa National Park, you'll visit the captains' village of Käsmu, which features a unique bog landscape with many lakes and streams. You'll stop by an abandoned Soviet military submarine base, plus the historic manor houses of Sagadi and Vihula, where you'll stay the night.

Your local guide will show you unique places within the region, divulging historical facts and stories to help you better understand the culture of northern Estonia. In the afternoon, you'll settle into your accommodation at Vihula Manor Country Club, where you'll enjoy a leisurely evening and dinner.

Day 2: Drive to Haapsalu - Hike in Kakerdaja Bog

Ruins of Haapsalu Castle
Ruins of Haapsalu Castle

In the morning, you'll start today's journey with a visit to Kakerdaja Bog, a hiking area set in a green space in Northern Estonia. 

The bog's name in Estonian means 'tatterer', which comes from the bird species, the black-throated loon. These birds are known to be artful divers but aren't skilled at walking. You'll most likely find them swimming around the bog as you walk. You'll hike along a popular route, making your way to both the large and small areas of wetlands, ending at the Nokko bonfire site for a hot meal. 

You'll end your road trip in the small countryside town of Haapsalu on Estonia's western coastline. The town is known for its narrow streets, wooden houses, and seaside promenade. After settling into your accommodation, visit Haapsalu Castle, which was founded in the middle of the 13th century and used up until the end of the 17th century. 

In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of the town's many pubs and restaurants.

Day 3: Take the ferry to Saaremaa Island - Explore the Windmill Park

Lighthouse on the Sõrve Peninsula
Lighthouse on the Sõrve Peninsula

Just off the coast of Haapsalu is Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa Island. In the morning, you'll take the ferry and explore the island by bike. You'll first take a tour of Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, which is the only surviving medieval fortress in the Baltic countries that has maintained its original state. Enjoy the panoramic views from the castle's towers.

Then you'll continue to the Sõrve Peninsula to climb the 170-foot (52-m) tall lighthouse and visit the trestle windmills in Angla Windmill Park. For lunch, enjoy a leisurely afternoon at Panga Cliffs, which is an outcrop of bedrock that connects under the Baltic Sea. It starts on the island of Gotland in Sweden and rises to the surface on Estonia's western coast.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Kuressaare where you'll settle into your accommodation and enjoy dinner.

Day 4: Walk through the famous bogs of Soomaa National Park

Swamplands of Soomaa National Park
Swamplands of Soomaa National Park

After breakfast, you'll return to Estonia's mainland by ferry and make your way through the country's forests towards the swamplands in Soomaa National Park. If you're traveling in the summer months, you'll use wooden paths to traverse the swamp, passing through pristine bogs, wooded meadows, and a variety of forests. During periods of high water, you'll receive bog shoes to help you navigate the swamp.

There are several routes within the park, the most popular being the nature trails to Riisa and Kuuraniidu. Many opt to enjoy the Ingatsi boardwalk, which leads to the highest bog in Europe. You can also trek to watchtowers and suspension bridges, both great for observing the different bird species that live in the park. In every direction, you’ll spot rare plants, mosses, and bog pools. If you're interested in swimming in one of the bog pools, it could make you seven years younger according to an old Estonian legend.

As you make your way through the park, you'll learn about the geological history of the region. “Soomaa” means “land of bogs” in Estonian, and is home to swamplands that started to develop after the last ice age nearly 12,000 years ago. The largest bog covers over 24,000 acres (10,000 hectares) with a 24-foot (8-m) thick peat layer. If you're lucky, you may get glimpses of rare species in the park, such as eagles or wolves.

Enjoy the tranquility of nature with a night in the park.

Day 5: Visit Peipsi Lake and Alatskivi Castle

Alatskivi Castle, Estonia
Alatskivi Castle, Estonia

Today's drive takes you through some of Estonia's most beautiful countryside and along the fifth-largest lake in Europe, Peipsi Lake. It's also the largest trans-boundary lake on the continent, as it shares its borders with Russia. The Estonian side is home to religious refugees who opposed the official teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church, creating one of the largest populations of traditional Russian Orthodox "Old Believers" in Europe. They settled in Estonia in the 17th century.

To understand this community more, you'll visit the Kolkja Museum of Old Believers to see the traditional clothes, everyday items, handicrafts, tools, photos, and more. The Russian Old Believers have been following their religious traditions rigorously for more than 1,000 years and are still quite traditional in their everyday life.

In the late afternoon, you'll settle into your accommodation in the small, lakeside village of Nina. You can visit the neo-Gothic Alatskivi Castle, which is set just outside of Nina. Although it was first constructed in the 17th century, the estate was rebuilt in the late 19th century, modeled after the Balmoral Castle in Scotland. After exploring its grounds, you can enjoy a traditional dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Day 6: Discover the villages along Lake Peipsi

The Riverfront Promenade of Narva, Estonia
The Riverfront Promenade of Narva, Estonia

Today's drive will take you along the shore of Lake Peipsi through a series of small villages inhabited both by Russians and Estonians. Known as the "Onion Route",  these villages are famous for their rich cultural diversity and include populations of Russian Old Believers, Baltic Germans, and Estonian peasants.

You'll pass through the towns of Varnja, Kasepää, and Kolkja, exploring museums, prayer houses, and cemeteries, as well as markets and craft workshops. Other stops include the Juhan Liiv Museum and several places related to the legends of Kalevipoeg, an Estonian hero. You can also visit the Kodavere parish and listen to its unique dialect.

In the late afternoon, you'll arrive in the city of Narva, which sits on the Russian border. After settling into your accommodation, walk the promenade along the Narva River and visit the Lenin Statue. You can also peruse the museum inside the Narva Castle if you wish to learn more about the city.

Day 7: Drive to St Petersburg, Russia - Explore the UNESCO site Peterhof

The Gardens of Peterhof
The Gardens of Peterhof

Rise early for your journey to St Petersburg, the "Northern Capital" of Russia. 

Before reaching the city center, you'll stop at one of St Petersburg's most popular attractions, the palace park of Peterhof, also known as Petrodvorets. Some refer to the park as the "Russian Versailles", although many visitors conclude that the comparison does a disservice to Peterhof's grandeur. Versailles was, however, the inspiration for Peter the Great when he first imagined building an imperial palace in the suburbs. Peter's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, encouraged the idea and expanded it to include the Monplaisir Palace and the Grand Palace. Enjoy walking around the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and admiring the famous system of fountains.

Eventually, you'll arrive in St Petersburg. After settling into your hotel, you can meander down the main throughway of the city, Nevsky Prospect, in search of dinner and a nightcap.

Day 8: Enjoy a tour of St Petersburg and the Peter and Paul Fortress

Aerial View of Peter and Paul Fortress
Aerial View of Peter and Paul Fortress

Today you'll enjoy discovering the imperial city of St Petersburg, which represents Russia’s European side, with art and architecture inspired by classical motifs rather than traditional Russian ones. Yet, at the same time, its history includes a wide range of stories.

St Petersburg was the home of the Emperors, the cradle of the 1917 Revolution, the City of the Siege, and the hometown of Putin. As your guide leads you through the main squares and sites, you'll hear stories and slowly start to understand the city's complex character.

You'll start in Mikhailovsky Garden, where you'll find the city's iconic landmark, the colorfully domed, 19th-century church, Savior on the Spilled Blood. From here, cross the canals and make your way toward Palace Square which is home to grand baroque architecture housing museums and palaces, including the popular Winter Palace. From across the river, you can view Peter and Paul Fortress, which is set on a small islet and founded by Peter the Great in the early 1700s. 

Wander toward Senate Square and St. Issac's Cathedral, a 19th-century Russian Orthodox church, and take the metro to the Vasilievsky Island neighborhood. Here you'll find plenty of options for lunch, with trendy pubs, cafes, and wine bars popular with the university crowd.

After lunch, you'll tour St Petersburg's original citadel, Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress. According to historians, the city was essentially born here and the cathedral represents its highs and lows, still standing guard over the St Petersburg just as it has done since 1706. From its beautiful architecture and burial vaults of the Emperors to a feared prison and a bastion of revolution, the fortress has seen it all. You'll discover these highlights and others as you explore the monument with your guide.

In the evening, you'll return to your hotel for a break before heading back into the city for dinner. Stroll down Nevsky Prospect for numerous choices in restaurants, bistros, and bars, or venture to the up-and-coming neighborhood of New Holland for trendy eateries.

Day 9: Explore the Hermitage Museum - Make your own Matryoshka doll

The State Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage Museum

 In the morning, you'll make your way to Palace Square, which is home to grand baroque architecture housing museums and palaces, including the popular Winter Palace and the State Hermitage Museum

Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, you'll enjoy viewing vast collections of art and relics from the city's past, with over three million items to be seen. This includes the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum spans five different buildings and includes art from all over the world, including antiquities, jewelry, home furnishings, architecture, and modern art, to name a few.

The afternoon is reserved for a unique class with a Matryoshka craftsman. Matryoshka is a traditional wooden nesting doll that is the most famous Russian souvenir. The master class is a fun opportunity to make your own souvenir and learn about traditional methods and techniques that are still in use, creating the iconic doll for generations. 

You will have the evening free to enjoy your final night in St Petersburg.

Day 10: Depart St Petersburg

St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral

Enjoy your final breakfast of the trip. When you're ready, you'll transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight.