- Visit castles and pilgrimage sites in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania
- Take a coastal drive down the Curonian Spit, a long sand-dune peninsula
- See the historic castles in Riga, Latvia's capital
- Travel to national parks for hikes amid lakes and pine forests
- Tour the medieval center of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia
|Day 1||Arrival Vilnius - Walking Tour||Vilnius|
|Day 2||Vilnius City Tour||Vilnius|
|Day 3||From Vilnius to Klaipėda||Klaipeda|
|Day 4||Day Trip along the Curonian Spit||Klaipeda|
|Day 5||Klaipėda to Riga - Lake Plateliai & Hill of Crosses||Riga|
|Day 6||Walking Tour of Riga||Riga|
|Day 7||Day Trip to Gauja National Park||Riga|
|Day 8||From Riga to Tallinn - Stop in Pärnu||Tallinn|
|Day 9||Walking Tour of Tallinn||Tallinn|
|Day 10||Departure from Tallinn||Tallinn|
Day 1: Arrival Vilnius - Walking Tour
Welcome to the capital of Lithuania!
This city on the Neris River dates to the 14th century and in its heyday was a melting pot of cultures. People flocked here from as near as Poland and as far as Eurasia, many coming to attend Vilnius University. Founded in the 16th century, this was one of the premier learning institutions in Europe at the time. Over the next few centuries, Lithuania was conquered by everyone from Napolean to Hitler, and it fell under Russian rule after WWII until it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1990.
After checking in to your hotel, you'll head out and stretch your legs on a walking tour of the city. It's an easy and active introduction to this unique European capital. You'll take a stroll down the historic streets of Vilnius' Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the medieval buildings here date back to the early history of the city, which was founded in 1323 ACE.
On this excursion, you'll walk to Gediminas Avenue, where most of Lithuania's governmental institutions are located. This street is also a popular shopping district and is home to many great restaurants. Stop for a coffee break in Lukiškių Square before discovering Vilnius' quirky soul in the form of the monument to Frank Zappa located on Kalinausko Street. Despite having no official relationship with Lithuania, the iconoclastic rocker is beloved by people in this country.
Finish the day with a visit to Užupis, one of Vilnius's oldest neighborhoods. Today it operates as a semi-autonomous artists' republic with its own constitution and national anthem. It's a fun bohemian district in which to spend an evening, as there's no shortage of great dining and drinking options here.
Afterward, you'll return to your hotel and rest up for the day ahead.
Day 2: Vilnius City Tour
Today you´ll get to discover Lithuania´s capital. The walking tour begins right in Old Town, one of the most well-preserved medieval city centers in Europe. Throughout the morning you'll visit historic landmarks of varying architectural styles.
One highlight is Vilnius Cathedral. Consecrated in 1783 and sitting on the expansive Cathedral Square, this is Lithuania's most famous Roman-Catholic church. Moreover, its mausoleum is the final resting place of some notable figures throughout history, including grand dukes of Lithuania and even King Alexander of Poland.
Other stops on the tour include Gediminas Tower, a 15th-century defensive castle on the banks of the Neris River; the Church of St. Peter and Paul, a 17th-century Lithuanian Baroque cathedral; the 15th-century St. Anne's Church, another Baroque gem; and the Gate of Dawn, the city's medieval gate and defensive fortification. It was built around a chapel and even today remains a major catholic pilgrimage site in Lithuania.
Day 3: From Vilnius to Klaipėda
In the morning you'll embark on a three-hour road trip northwest from Vilnius to the port city of Klaipėda. It's a pleasant journey in which you'll pass splendid countryside scenery until you arrive at the coast. Along the way, you'll stop at Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, for a brief tour of its famous 14th-century Gothic castle as well as its historic center.
Afterward, you'll continue to Klaipėda. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and then embark on a sightseeing tour of this city. It begins in Klaipėda's Old Town, known for its old cobblestone streets lined with medieval guild houses. You'll then visit landmarks like Theatre Square and the Ann from Tharau Fountain, which is dedicated to Simon Dach, a famous German poet born in Klaipėda and which features a sculpture of his muse, Ann.
Day 4: Day Trip along the Curonian Spit
You'll have the option to spend the day on a tour of the Baltic coast. In the morning you'll leave from Klaipėda and head south along the Curonian Spit, a long, thin sandspit that runs 62 miles (100 km) between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. Dotting this narrow strip of land are sleepy fishing villages, isolated pine forests, and endless sand dunes.
The first stop on this route will be at the Hill of Witches, located at the lagoonside resort village of Juodkrantė. Despite the spooky name, this landmark is actually a collection of wooden sculptures atop a forested sand dune. There are over 80 sculptures here done by local artists that depict themes of paganism and Lithuanian folklore.
After that, you'll continue south towards the border with the Russian province of Kaliningrad. Here you'll stop at another resort town, Nida. It's a popular summer vacation spot home to high coastal sand dunes and Thomas Mann’s summer house. You'll take a stroll around town and enjoy dinner at a traditional Lithuanian restaurant before driving back to Klaipėda.
Day 5: Klaipėda to Riga - Lake Plateliai & Hill of Crosses
After breakfast, you'll leave Klaipėda and head north to Samogitia National Park. This 83-square-mile (283-square-km) protected area is situated in the Samogitia highlands and is home to traditional villages and beautiful lakes. You'll take a walking tour around the largest of these, Lake Plateliai.
After that, you'll continue 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 at least 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 boasts over 100,000 crosses, crucifixes, and statues of the Virgin Mary.
Then you'll head north and cross into Latvia, reaching the capital of Riga in the late afternoon. 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 boasts an eclectic array of architectural styles, with the most historic examples concentrated in its Old Town neighborhood.
Day 6: Walking Tour of Riga
After breakfast, you'll head straight to Old Town for a walking tour of Riga. Medieval landmarks you'll visit include 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 fortification built in 1698 as part of defensive city walls.
Other historic buildings you'll see include Three Brothers, a trio of homes dating to the 15th/16th/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, a unique architectural masterpiece that dates to 1863.
After the opera house, take a tram ride to the 1930s 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 airship hangars and browse for smoked meats, pickled vegetables, sweets, and trinkets. End your tour at one of the market's many sit-down eateries for a relaxed lunch, then spend the afternoon exploring on your own.
Day 7: Day Trip to Gauja National Park
After breakfast, you'll journey about 33 miles (53 km) northeast of Riga to Sigulda. This small rural town is situated in Latvia's largest protected protected area of Gauja National Park, which takes up 354 square miles (917 square km), most of which is forest.
Upon arrival, you'll embark on a 10k hike amid this stunning scenery, which will also take you to the biggest cave in the Baltics. You'll also visit local towns to see the ruins of Sigulda Castle, which was built by crusaders in the year 1207 ACE, and Turaida Castle, which was commissioned by the Archbishop of Riga in 1214 ACE.
To cap the experience, you'll hop in a cable car for a fun and scenic ride above the unspoiled Gauja Valley, a trip that affords views of the woods, countryside castles, and even a bobsled track. Afterward, you'll return to Riga, where you'll overnight.
Day 8: From Riga to Tallinn - Stop in Pärnu
Today, you'll say goodbye to Latvia and embark on a scenic trip up the coastal highway into Estonia. Like Latvia, this northern European country is home to breathtaking natural scenery that includes rocky beaches, remote islands, protected wetlands, and forests abounding 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.
After a while driving up the coastal highway you'll stop at the Estonian summer resort 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 tour of Pärnu before continuing the drive north to Tallinn, at which point you'll check into your hotel.
Located on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is the country's capital and most populous city. It's a well-preserved medieval city with a modern edge that you can discover in its dining and nightlife scene. Tallinn is 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.
Day 9: 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 tour will take you to the Walls of Tallinn (defensive walls dating to 1265) and into the heart of Old Town. You'll visit Toompea Castle, a Baroque castle now home to Estonia's parliament; the 13th century Dome Church (St. Mary's Cathedral), which is the city's oldest church; 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 give your legs a rest with a visit to Café Maiasmokk, which, having opened in 1864, is the oldest operating café in Tallinn. Stop in for a coffee and perhaps sample their pies, cakes or handmade candies. There's even a marzipan museum featuring a resident artist who makes and decorates marzipan figures.
Time permitting, later you can take an 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 complimented by a folkloric dance/singing performance.
Day 10: Departure from Tallinn
Enjoy your last day in the Baltics with a visit to Tallinn's port and Seaplane Harbour. Part of the Estonian Maritime Museum, it's 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.
From there, continue to Telliskivi Creative City for a relaxed morning walk. The bohemian hub is popular with locals and tourists and is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and do some last-minute souvenir shopping.
In the afternoon you'll transfer to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!