- Shop, eat, and drink at festive Christmas markets in four cities—and four countries!
- Walk across a river from Vilnius to the quirky Republic of Užupis and sip local beer
- Explore Tallinn's UNESCO-listed Old Town and an area with modern design shops
- Spend quality time with huskies and reindeer (and Santa) in Northern Finland
|Day 1||Arrive in Vilnius (Lithuania), Explore||Vilnius|
|Day 2||Vilnius Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Vilnius||Vilnius|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Trakai||Vilnius|
|Day 4||Bus to Riga (Latvia), Explore||Riga|
|Day 5||Riga Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Riga||Riga|
|Day 6||Transfer to Tallinn (Estonia), Explore||Tallinn|
|Day 7||Tallinn Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Tallinn||Tallinn|
|Day 8||Bog Hiking Tour||Tallinn|
|Day 9||Transfer to Helsinki, Walking Tour||Helsinki|
|Day 10||Porvoo Private Day Tour, Transfer to Rovaniemi||Rovaniemi|
|Day 11||Visit Santa's Village, Northern Lights Tour||Rovaniemi|
|Day 12||Arctic SnowHotel Visit, Visit SantaPark on Your Own||Rovaniemi|
|Day 13||Husky & Reindeer Safari||Rovaniemi|
|Day 14||Depart Rovaniemi|
Day 1: Arrive in Vilnius (Lithuania), Explore
Welcome to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania! Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and take you to your accommodation. Once settled, you'll have the rest of the day to explore at your own pace.
Vilnius is a vibrant city with a centenary history and a modern soul. The UNESCO-listed Old Town is one of the world's largest surviving medieval centers, boasting a mix of Baroque, Gothic, neoclassical, and Renaissance architecture. Take some time to walk the city's cobbled streets, appreciating the combination of Lithuanian, Jewish, Polish, and Russian influences. As the day comes to a close, consider making your way to either the Bell Tower of St. John's Church or the Gediminas Castle Tower to admire panoramic views.
Day 2: Vilnius Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Vilnius
Today, get in the Lithuanian holiday spirit with visits to two vibrant Christmas markets, plus a traditional craft shop and a beloved family-owned restaurant.First, meet your local guide, who will show you where and how to shop for authentic gifts and souvenirs such as bees bread, knitted gloves, linen bags, incense, herbal tea, and more. Learn about old Soviet-era Christmas traditions and how they stack up to today's modern approach to the festive season. You'll also admire one of Europe's most beautiful Christmas trees before heading to a restaurant where you'll learn how to make—and taste—the most ancient and traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dish: poppy seed milk with yeasted cookies.
From here, you'll have free time to explore Vilnius in more depth. Perhaps you want to spend a few hours exploring the quirky Republic of Užupis—one of the smallest republics in the world—which has its own constitution, president, and even currency. You can use this currency to purchase a beer that flows from the spout in the main square. The republic is separated from the rest of the city by the Vilnele River—and there is no official border crossing—so you can come and go as you please.
You can also visit the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, originally the KGB headquarters and prison, where countless crimes were planned and executed. Another option is to walk up to the Hill of Three Crosses or the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul for epic views.
Day 3: Day Trip to Trakai
Today is your chance to get out of the capital and explore the Lithuanian countryside on a full-day guided tour. The adventure begins with a hands-on workshop outside Vilnius, where you'll learn to make traditional Lithuanian crafts. Continue your cultural immersion with lunch at a local restaurant before heading a bit farther west to the historic town of Trakai.Part of Trakai Historical National Park, the Trakai Castle is a small island and 14th-century fortress in the center of Lake Galvė. With this private tour, your local guide will entertain you with stories about the Grand Dukes of Lithuania who once resided here. You'll also have free time to wander around the grounds and snap photos before returning to Vilnius in the late afternoon.
Day 4: Bus to Riga (Latvia), Explore
It's time to say goodbye to Lithuania and travel to the neighboring country of Latvia, and its capital Riga, on a modern, luxury bus. The sustainable mode of transportation will take approximately four hours. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up and transport you to your hotel in the city center.
Once settled, take the rest of the day to enjoy yet another architecturally-rich city with preserved medieval buildings and a considerable amount of Art Nouveau structures. An excellent place to start is by walking through the traditional wooden architecture of the Kalnciema Quarter, followed by the pedestrian-only Dome Square in the middle of Riga's medieval Old Town—a surefire way to get in the holiday spirit.
Day 5: Riga Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Riga
Today begins with a two-hour walking tour of Riga with a local guide, where you'll get a fun introduction to Latvia's holiday traditions and people. The most famous Christmas market in Riga is located in Dome Square, and like most Christmas markets, you can expect to buy handmade clothing, scarves, and beautiful ornaments from the area's craftsmen and women. Of course, there will also be delicious food and drink in the form of sausages, sauerkraut, gingerbread, candy, hot chocolate, and karstvīns (mulled wine).
Now that you have had an introduction to the city from a local expert, take the reigns and begin your self-guided tour. Consider spending time in Riga Central Market, Europe's largest bazaar, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, visit the Art Nouveau district, where you'll find the Art Nouveau Museum—the only museum in the Baltics dedicated to Art Nouveau architecture, art, and furnishings.
There's also the Latvian National Museum of Art, with the most significant collection in the nation with 52,000 works of art. You can also catch a show at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet, listen to an organ concert at Dome Cathedral, or visit the Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in the Baltics.
Day 6: Bus to Tallinn (Estonia), Explore
This morning you'll leave Riga behind and travel to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Like your previous trip, you'll enjoy a four to five-hour sustainable journey on a comfortable modern bus. Once you arrive, a driver will be waiting to pick you up and take you to your hotel in the center of Tallinn.
From here, roam around the city at your own pace. Estonia's capital combines the modern world with ancient churches, medieval streetscapes, and noble merchant houses. A good place to start is the UNESCO-listed Old Town, one of the world's best-preserved Hanseatic town centers. Wander around the cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, and charming courtyards.
If you have more energy, a stone's throw away is the city's business center with modern towers, trendy bohemian neighborhoods, manicured 18th-century parks, and even a few sandy beaches. As day turns to dusk, climb up St. Olaf's Church, Europe's tallest building for 76 years during the 16th and 17th centuries, and watch the twinkling lights come into view.
Day 7: Tallinn Christmas Tour, Free Afternoon in Tallinn
Tallinn knows how to celebrate Christmas, and this morning you'll meet a local guide for a tour of the city's most festive sites. Walk around the Old Town and find where the Hanseatic merchants got spices for making gingerbread. There will be ample time to peruse the stalls at the Tallinn Christmas Market—named the best in Europe in 2019—while hearing more historical tidbits. Shop for souvenirs and sample the food and drink while your guide answers any questions you may have.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Now that you've spent quality time in Tallinn's Old Town, you can spend the afternoon exploring the city outside its frequented center. Consider a visit to the tranquil Kadriorg Palace, which was built more than 300 years ago on the orders of Russian Tsar Peter the Great. Then, head to Telliskivi Creative City, where you'll find numerous design shops, restaurants, and cultural institutions.
Another area worth considering is Rotermann Quarter, a former industrial center turned into one of the city's most prominent oases of modern architecture. Then if you are interested in a more modern side of Tallinn, head to the Noblessner seafront quarter—a former submarine factory that is now an urban space with galleries, boutiques, and a marina.
Day 8: Bog Hiking Tour
Get ready for one of the trip's unique and exciting experiences as you leave Tallinn behind and head out into the countryside for a bog hike. These peat-filled wetlands have existed in Estonia for over 10 thousand years and are an essential part of the country's legends, myths, and history.Put on a pair of bog shoes (which can also work as snowshoes, if needed) to explore the bog properly, accessing otherwise off-limits places. Have fun hiking around the bog pools, admiring the landscape and its wildlife. Then, climb a watch tower and listen to your guide share mysterious lore about the bogs.
Day 9: Transfer to Helsinki (Finland), Walking Tour
At the appointed time, a driver will pick you up from your accommodation and take you directly to the port for your comfortable crossing to Helsinki on the other side of the Baltic Sea. The route takes two hours on the Tallink Silja ferry—another sustainable mode of transportation. Upon arrival, another driver will wait for you in the arrivals hall and take you to your accommodation.Then it's time to discover Helsinki on a walking tour with a local guide through the city center. This is your chance to learn about Finnish culture, history, and lifestyle while you visit top attractions starting with the Helsinki Cathedral, with its iconic white exterior topped with emerald-green domes. Other stops on the two-hour tour include Old Market Square, where you can pick up souvenirs; the Parliament House, where the seat of Parliament for Finland is located; and Temppeliaukion Church, a unique underground structure carved into the rocky landscape.
Day 10: Porvoo Private Day Tour, Overnight Train to Rovaniemi
The Christmas season is a fantastic time to visit Porvoo located 31 miles (50 km) outside of Helsinki, with regular bus service. Dating to the 14th century, Finland's second-oldest city is a historical treasure, reflected in its medieval streets and colorful wooden houses. Explore the charming shops and chocolatiers, have lunch, and wander up a cobbled hill to view the beautiful river scene below. You can also head to the Porvoo History Museum, which includes an entrance to Holmes House, a recreation of a wealthy Finnish merchant's home from the 18th century.
Later in the evening, a driver will pick you up in Helsinki and take you to the train station for an overnight sleeper train to Lapland, the northernmost region in Finland.
Day 11: Visit Santa's Village, Northern Lights Tour
Upon your train arrival the following day in the city of Rovaniemi, a driver will meet you at the train station and take you to your accommodation. Since you'll arrive early in the morning, check-in at the hotel won't be possible, but you can leave your bags at the hotel and start exploring the Lapland region.
One of the highlights of visiting Rovaniemi is being close to the official Santa Claus Village, a few miles outside the city. After meeting Santa, visit the official Santa Claus Main Post Office, where you can write and send letters to friends and family. Then receive a certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle on foot, followed by shopping and dining if you choose.
After dark, a professional guide will pick you up at your hotel for a four-and-a-half-hour excursion into the wilderness outside Rovaniemi. It's in these dark outskirts, free of light pollution, where you'll have a good chance of seeing the northern lights. Your friendly guide will know how to observe the weather and will seek out the best spots to stop and watch the dancing green illuminations, should they appear in the sky. The guide will share snacks and hot drinks, as well as stories and local knowledge. For an additional fee, you can upgrade to a tour that includes a professional photographer to help you with those camera settings.
Day 12: Arctic SnowHotel Visit, Visit SantaPark on Your Own
For a memorable experience during your trip to Rovaniemi, you can head to the Arctic SnowHotel for a tour! This unique property is located about 40 minutes outside of Rovaniemi, and each room has its own theme and is decorated with ice art and illuminated artwork. For an additional fee, it's also possible to stay overnight in an igloo with a glass roof while you look for the northern lights or dine in their ice restaurant. At the very least, have a drink at the ice bar!Later in the day, you can visit an indoor Christmas theme park in Rovaniemi, SantaPark, located deep beneath the ground. You'll find visitors of all ages traveling through enchanting worlds with a ride on the Magic Train. You can also obtain a diploma at the Elf School, feel the crispy winter in the Ice Gallery, watch the jolly Elf Show on the main stage, and send home your Christmas greetings at the park's own Post Office.
Day 13: Husky & Reindeer Safari
Animal lovers are sure to appreciate today's exciting excursion that includes interacting with huskies and reindeer. The adventure starts with a visit to a traditional reindeer farm where you'll meet the herder family, who will include you in everyday life on the farm. Learn how to feed the reindeer while hearing stories and facts about reindeer herding and how it is an integral part of nature and culture in Northern Finland. Then, take a short reindeer sleigh safari followed by a delicious homemade lunch cooked over an open fire.From here, continue driving to a family-run husky park, where photogenic huskies are happy to take you on a little safari. During the winter months, glide through the snowfields of Lapland on a husky-pulled sleigh while you sit back and snap some excellent photos. After the safari, spend quality time with the dogs, who love cuddles and pictures.
Day 14: Depart Rovaniemi
It's time to say goodbye to Rovaniemi! As the adventure comes to an end, your driver will pick you up from the hotel and take you to the airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!