- Wander through Tallinn's UNESCO-listed medieval Old Town
- Visit Lahemaa National Park & its opulent manor estates
- Explore the beaches & villages of Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island
- Stroll the bohemian streets of historic Tartu
|Day 1||Welcome to Tallinn!||Tallinn|
|Day 2||Walking Tour of Tallinn||Tallinn|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Lahemaa National Park||Tallinn|
|Day 4||Transfer to Saaremaa Island, Visit the Open Air Museum & Haapsalu||Saaremaa|
|Day 5||Saaremaa Island Tour||Kuressaare|
|Day 6||Transfer to Viljandi, via Pärnu||Viljandi|
|Day 7||Transfer to Tartu, Visit the Estonian National Museum||Tartu|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Lake Peipus||Tallinn|
|Day 9||Transfer to Tallinn, Museums Tour||Tallinn|
|Day 10||Depart Tallinn|
Day 1: Welcome to Tallinn!
Welcome to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia!
Located on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is home to one of the region's best-preserved medieval centers, but there's also a modern edge that you can discover in its lively dining and nightlife scenes. Its waterfront promenades and nearby beaches offer great views of the city and coast and are perfect spots for a romantic stroll at any time of year.
Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. After check-in, you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing or head out and explore the city on your own.
Day 2: Walking Tour of Tallinn
Tallinn showcases a charming blend of medieval history and modern urban life. You'll see these contrasts up close this morning as you embark on a walking tour of the city's Old Town. In the warmer months, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is abuzz with visitors and locals hitting the streets and taking advantage of the many shops, galleries, souvenir markets, outdoor cafés, and restaurants.
Today's sightseeing tour will take you within the Walls of Tallinn (defensive fortifications dating to 1265) and into the heart of Old Town. You'll visit many historic gems, including Toompea Castle, a stately Baroque castle now home to Estonia's parliament; the 13th century Dome Church (St. Mary's Cathedral); the Russian Revival-style 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.
Later in the afternoon, you can take an optional excursion to Kadriorg Park, a 172-acre (70-hectare) green space home to gardens, ponds, promenades, and museums. Nearby you'll find KUMU, the award-winning Estonian Art Museum, which houses collections of classic and contemporary fine art. In the evening, get into the historic spirit of things by heading to Town Hall Square, in Old Town, to enjoy a traditional Estonian meal at a restaurant in a medieval setting.
Day 3: Day Trip to Lahemaa National Park
In the morning you´ll take a short drive out of Tallinn, heading east to Lahemma 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.
On a walking tour of the park, you'll also make a stop at Palmse Manor. This opulent manor estate dates to the early 16th century and is considered one of the country's most impressive examples of Baroque architecture. Besides the main house, the expansive grounds feature a greenhouse, hedgerows, gardens, and a park with gazebos and a bathhouse overlooking a pond.
After touring the grounds, you can choose to indulge in a wine tasting. The impressive wine cellar at Palmse Manor boasts more than 130 varietals, including local sweet-berry wines. Then you´ll return to Tallinn and will have the evening free.
Day 4: Transfer to Saaremaa Island, Visit the Open Air Museum & Haapsalu
Get ready to step back in time with a visit to the Estonian Open Air Museum, located just outside Tallinn. The development of this unique exhibition began in the early 20th century 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.
Afterward, you´ll leave Tallinn and drive about 1.5 hours southwest to the 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. You'll get to visit the castle and tour its battlements and watchtowers.
Later in the afternoon, head to the port in Haapsalu and hop aboard a ferry for the ride to Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island. People flock to this retreat in summer for the weather and gorgeous coastal scenery, while in winter there's no shortage of sumptuous spas in which to pamper yourself.
Upon arrival in the island's main town of Kuressaare, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in and have the rest of the day free.
Day 5: Saaremaa Island Tour
The island of Saaremaa is the perfect vacation destination regardless of what time of year you're visiting the Baltics. Just in the town of Kuressaare, there's supposedly one spa for every 10 residents. Other highlights include Saaremaa's medieval towns and villages, castles, and stone cathedrals. Nature lovers will be pleased that the island is not only home to a national park but a nature reserve as well.
Head out in the morning for a full-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 convert 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. There's a famous lighthouse here that stands an impressive 170 feet (52 m). Head up the stairs to the top and you can look out over Irbe Strait all the way to mainland Lativa. At lunchtime, make your way 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.
Day 6: Transfer to Viljandi, via Pärnu
This morning you'll catch a ferry from Saaremaa back to the mainland. From there it's another couple of hours to the charming little town of Viljandi, which is nestled amid the forests and lakes of southern Estonia.
Along the way, you'll stop in the resort town of Pärnu. This popular bayside holiday town is known for its long sandy beach, 19th-century villas, and the architectural heritage buildings in the historic center, some of which date to the 17th century. Stretch your legs on a short tour of Pärnu before continuing the drive amid the forests of northern Estonia until you arrive at Viljandi in the early afternoon and transfer to your hotel for check-in.
Day 7: Transfer to Tartu, Visit the Estonian National Museum
Take the morning to enjoy Viljandi and its pleasant views across to the lake. Perhaps stroll the town streets and admire St. John's Church, the 17th-century Baptist church with its tall steeple and long spire. At the appropriate time, you'll leave Viljandi and continue a short way east to 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 and more on an afternoon 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 and is home to an impressive collection of folk art.
Day 8: Day Trip to Lake Peipus
After breakfast, you'll take a day trip just east of Tartu to the village of Kolkja, at Lake Peipus. Straddling the border between Estonia and Russia, Peipus is the fifth-largest lake in Europe. Beyond its natural beauty, this area has its own cultural and religious legacy. The Estonian side 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 get a sense of this culture with a visit to the Kolkja Museum of Old Believers. On display here are the traditional clothes, household items, handicrafts, tools, photos, and other items associated with the religious group. These exhibits cover a long period of history, as the Old Believers have been practicing these traditions for more than 1000 years.
After visiting the museum and taking a stroll along the lakeshore, you'll hop back in the car and return to Tartu, where the remainder of the afternoon and evening are free.
Day 9: Transfer to Tallinn, Museums Tour
Today you'll leave Tartu for the two-hour drive back to the coast and the city of Tallinn. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and then head out into the city to visit some unique museums.
The first stop on this culture and history tour is the Museum of Applied Art and Design. It showcases the history of decoration and design in Estonia and features an impressive collection of 15,000 pieces. These include everything from furniture prototypes and ceramics to metalware, fabric design, and textile art. Interestingly, despite this museum being relatively new (it opened in 1980), it's housed in a historic granary that dates back to the 16th century.
Afterward, you'll head to the port and Seaplane Harbor, which is part of the Estonian Maritime Museum. This particular section of the museum is located in an 86,000-square-foot (8000-square-meter) hangar that once housed seaplanes. Highlights include a replica of a WWI-era seaplane as well as a restored 1936 mine-laying submarine.
Day 10: Depart 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. Safe travels!
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