- See the sights around Tallinn's historic Old Town
- Visit Lahemaa National Park and its opulent manor estates
- Travel to Saaremaa Island, one of the most popular vacation spots in Estonia
- Tour Helsinki's Suomenlinna fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Walk around Finland's well-preserved medieval cities, like Porvoo and Turku
|Day 1||Arrival in Tallinn||Tallinn|
|Day 2||Walking Tour of Tallinn||Tallinn|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Lahemaa National Park||Tallinn|
|Day 4||Tallinn to Saaremaa - Open Air Museum & Haapsalu||Saaremaa|
|Day 5||Saaremaa Island Tour||Kuressaare|
|Day 6||Saaremaa to Viljandi, Stop in Pärnu||Viljandi|
|Day 7||Viljandi to Tartu & Estonian National Museum||Tartu|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Lake Peipus||Tallinn|
|Day 9||Tartu to Tallinn - Museum Tour||Tallinn|
|Day 10||Ferry to Helsinki - Tour Suomenlinna Fortress||Helsinki|
|Day 11||Porvoo City Tour||Porvoo|
|Day 12||Travel to Turku||Helsinki|
|Day 13||Free Day in Helsinki||Helsinki|
|Day 14||Departure from Helsinki||Helsinki|
Day 1: Arrival in Tallinn
Welcome to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia!
Located on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is the country's most populous city. Besides being one of the Baltic region's most well-preserved medieval cities, there's a modern edge that you can discover in Tallinn's dining and nightlife scene. It's also a popular destination in summer due to the waterfront promenades and nearby beaches. Offering great views of the city and coast, they're the perfect spots for a romantic stroll.
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 is a charming blend of medieval history and modern urban life. You'll see these contrasts up close when in the morning 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 walls 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 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. One that you can visit is KUMU, the award-winning Estonian Art Museum, which houses collections of classic and contemporary fine art. In the evening you can 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 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 enjoy the nature plus visit 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: Tallinn to Saaremaa - Open Air Museum & Haapsalu
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.
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, you'll 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.
You'll arrive in Kuressaare, the main town in Saaremaa. You'll then transfer to your hotel for check-in and will 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.
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. There's a famous lighthouse here that stands an impressive 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 6: Saaremaa to Viljandi - Stop in Pärnu
In the morning you'll take a ferry from Saaremaa to mainland Estonia. From there it's another couple 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. You'll 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. You'll then transfer to your hotel for check-in.
Day 7: Viljandi to Tartu - Estonian National Museum
Take the morning to enjoy Viljandi and the pleasant views out 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. Next, continue 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 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.
Day 8: Day Trip to Lake Peipus
In the morning you'll take a 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 Old Believers. These exhibits cover a long period of history, as the Old Believers have been practicing these religious 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. You'll then have the remainder of the afternoon and evening free.
Day 9: Tartu to Tallinn - Museum Tour
In the morning, you'll leave Tartu for the two-hour drive north to the coast and the city of Tallinn. Upon arrival, you'll 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) hanger that once housed seaplanes. Highlights include a replica of a WWI-era seaplane as well as a restored 1936 mine-laying submarine.
Day 10: Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki - Tour Suomenlinna Fortress
After breakfast, you'll embark on a ferry ride to Finland's capital, Helsinki. The trip is a brisk 1.5 hours across the Gulf of Finland, at the end of which you'll arrive at the crossroads of Western and Eastern culture. This lively port city has an architectural innovation unrivaled anywhere in the region. Here you'll find buildings that cover a wide array of styles, from art nouveau and 1920s classicism to neo-renaissance and Byzantine-Russian.
Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in. A little while later, you'll take an excursion off the coast to Suomenlinna Fortress. Construction on this UNESCO World Heritage Site began in 1748 when Helsinki was under Swedish rule. Even today it remains one of the world's largest sea fortresses as it covers a landmass of six small, interconnected islands. There are walking trails that lead around the defensive walls and artillery to famous landmarks like the King’s Gate, the drawbridge entrance to the fortress.
After touring the fortress you'll return to the city and will have the evening free.
Day 11: From Helsinki to Porvoo - City Tour
Just an hour drive east from Helsinki is Porvoo, a small riverfront city so homey that Norman Rockwell would feel right at home here. Dating back over 800 years, the city is known for its red-ochre shore houses and the cobbled streets of Old Porvoo. The latter is the historic center, and it's filled with charming cafés, boutiques, and the Porvoo Cathedral, the iconic church that dates back to the turn of the 14th century.
Not surprisingly, over the years members of Finland's arts and literature community have flocked to Porvoo for its obvious charms. Case in point: here you'll find the former home (now a museum) of J.L. Runeberg (1804-1877), the national poet of Finland. You'll see this and other landmarks on a stroll around the city. Porvoo is also blessed with an abundance of parks, both within the town and surrounding it. Also, should you decide to stretch your legs, there are numerous nature trails to follow.
After spending a leisurely day seeing the sights, you'll retire to your hotel in Porvoo.
Day 12: Travel to Turku - City Tour
Today you'll drive to southwest Finland and visit Turku, a city on the Aura River. Once the capital of Finland, Turku dates to 1229 and thus is the oldest city in the country. It has a well-preserved medieval city center, particularly around Old Great Square. In and around the square are historic buildings like the Old Town Hall, the 16th-century Brinkkala Mansion, and the Turku Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1300 as the main Catholic church in Finland. You'll see these landmarks on a tour around Old Great Square.
You can take a stroll along the riverfront and see more historic buildings plus admire local street art, which abounds in Turku. And of course, no trip to this city is complete without visiting its most famous landmark, Turku Castle. Built at the end of the 13th century on the banks of the river, this is the oldest medieval building in Finland and today functions as a museum.
After the tour you'll hop in the car for the two-hour drive east to Helsinki, passing some stunning countryside scenery.
Day 13: Free Day in Helsinki
You'll have today free to spend however you wish. One option is to embark on a self-guided walking tour of Helsinki's highlights and architectural gems.
You could start at the waterfront and head to Senate Square, which is home to the Government Palace and the University of Helsinki. Also here is the 19th-century Lutheran Cathedral, the Engel-designed, green-domed church that dominates the square. From there head up Mannerheimintie, Helsinki's main street, to the Parliament House. Built in 1931, it's an impressive mix of neoclassical and 20th-century modernist architectural styles.
Other notable buildings and landmarks you should visit include the Finlandia Hall event venue, the Sibelius Monument (dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius) and the famous Temppeliaukio Church, a Lutheran church built into solid rock.
Day 14: Departure from Helsinki
Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Helsinki. At the appropriate time, you´ll transfer to the airport where you´ll catch your flight home. See you soon!