Estonia is a tiny country in the Northern Europe, located just 80 km South of Finland. You may guess that the climate here is quite rough in winter months, making it a perfect place to stay indoors in a cosy environment. Most visitors end up seeing just an old town during their Baltics cruise. However, there is just so much more to do and see while visiting Estonia!
Tag: Estonia travel
Birds fly South and so should you!
Late Autumn tends to be quite miserable in Norther Europe and it’s the thoughts of inevitable X-mas festivities that barely brighten the mood. Either those or a prospect of taking a sunny holiday in December.
Planning for a quick last-minute get-away can be tough, even if you have a budget. You need to go through hotel websites, figure out logistics, decide on what the hell you are going to do, once you get to your destination and so on. You can get so stressed by the whole planning aspect that you end up just giving up and staying home on your sofa.
Summer in Estonia is not complete without a proper road trip to one of it’s many islands! As much as I love Saaremaa – the largest island – Hiiumaa has always been my favorite. It has a special atmosphere and unique culture. Once you get off the ferry and let all the fast drivers pass by, you almost have the road to yourself. Everything is so near, you can make a round in just one day while enjoying it’s best spots. I have gathered my favorite Hiiumaa points of interest.
Summer time is just so great for short road trips. When it comes to picking our next spot, we always look for good variety of sightseeing’s. Eastern Estonia is great because it’s still very near to the capital, but has a lot to offer. On our last trip to Eastern Estonia we explored some of it’s gems, so this time we decided to pick some more places.
Winter in Estonia is a usually dark and cold time. Sun is rarely out and people tend to stay indoors. But not everyone! Getting out of town in winter can be a wonderful experience. Getting to know your neighborhood is important in any time of the year. Luckily, there are few national parks to explore. The biggest one of them – Lahemaa National Park, is just about 40 minutes drive from Tallinn and is easily done as a half day trip.
Summer is a great time to go out of town. Estonia is no different – except that our towns are small and green anyway. But there is still so much to explore! On a hot July Saturday morning we packed our bags and headed off to the East – with no big plans. Our route was going to look like this: Tuhamagi (famous adventure center in Kiviõli), Narva fortress, lake Peipus (Peipsi). Here is how it looked on the map:
Now this place is fantastic at any time of the year! First snow usually attracts skiers and snowboarders – that’s why the park was constructed in the first place. Sadly, Estonia has no mountains – the highest peak is just above 300m. So for those who enjoy the slopes there isn’t much choice where to go. Kiviõli winter park is a nice and modern park with lifts, restaurant, ski/snowboard rent etc. There is even a small hostel! Great place for winter fun! This is me skiing in February 2016:
Summer in Tuhamägi
Winter is short and the slopes would otherwise just stay useless, unless there is a fun way to have them running. And there is one – they are called mountain cars. These cool little machines don’t have any engines, just breaks. The lift pulls you up to the top just like in winter – then you start your way down on a curvy road, just by using the breaks! It’s super fun, you get to drift, control the car and feel like the champion! First round is always careful, but then you realize you have to let go of the break and enjoy the rush!
Town of Narva is famous mostly due to it’s location – the Estonian-Russian border. Not many people really go there. But every time we cross the border, it’s hard not to notice a huge fortress – two of them actually, on the both sides of the river. One is on the Russian side, another one on the Estonian side. The fortress is over 700 years old and has been renovated lately. There is a museum dedicated to the history of Narva and the border patrol. In the yard of the fortress you may find handicraft for sale.
Right outside the fortress and near the border point you can enjoy a tasty meal at the Old Trafford Restaurant. Loved their salad! For hot summer months they offer outside service at the open terrace. The prices are OK, just like in Tallinn, but you may have difficult time finding anything better in Narva.
It was time to move on and head south. We made a quick stop at Fama shopping center to buy some food for the road and the evening and started our way towards the lake. The heat was unbearable, thank God for the AC! On our way there was a chance to visit Narva-Jõesuu – famous seaside resort, but we decided to skip it to save time. The distance to the lake was around 1,5 hours, but we made numerous stops on the way. One of the stops was at Pühtitsa Convert -famous women’s monastery
For overnight we picked Vaino Turismitalu – cozy little hostel-like accommodation right on the Peipus lake shore. The price was only 30 EUR and we booked it on Booking.com. The hosts are amazing and welcoming. They offered us a grill and organized table and chairs on the lake side. The evening was lovely – very warm and the view was stunning! On our way we bought some smoked fish. There are tons of stalls along the road selling smoked fish near Peipsi lake, and I definately recommend buying it! We tried bream (estonian – “latikas”) and whitefish (“rääbis”) and loved both.
View from our room:
Eating smoked fish by the lake
On the next morning we headed West to our final point of interest – Alatskivi castle. Painted in white, it looks much like a castle from a fairy tale! Newly renovated, it’s a museum dedicated to one of the most famous it’s owners – Estonian composer Eduard Tubin. Although it’s rather small, it’s still worth a visit. The castle and the park are well looked after.
After visiting the castle it started to rain and we decided to call it a day, grabbed some coffee for the road and headed back to Tallinn. It was a short, yet very satisfying little trip that showed us how little we actually know about our own country! We are certainly coming back again!
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It was a rainy morning, when we finally reached Virtsu harbour on our way to Saaremaa island. There was an hour and half until our ferry, so we got ourselves hot coffee at a local cafe. It’s going to be an awesome weekend, I thought. Already it was starting out pretty well – almost no traffic, beautiful landscapes, nice smooth roads. Ferry ride to Muhu island was going to take about 30 minutes, price: 8,40€ for the car and 3€/person. In fact it was really quick ride, just enough to have a quick walk through the small vessel. They do offer some snacks, in case somebody is hungry.
Driving to Kuressaare Saaremaa
The road from Kuivastu (Muhu island) to the dam and then through Saaremaa was surprisingly smooth and many locals exceeded speed (to our surprise). Saaremaa is quite a windy island, so you won’t find many high trees growing there. It is actually famous for it’s junipers – they even make souvenirs from them. We did see some on the way. It’s warmer too – when the rest of Estonia is covered with snow, islanders enjoy sunny moments. Also, on Muhu island there is mustard manufacturing farm called Pädaste. They are quite famous and their mustard has many different flavors – delicious!
Kuressaare aka Arensburg
We finally made it to Kuressaare – the capital and biggest town in Saaremaa. It’s very pretty, our visit was just before Christmas and the streets were nicely decorated. Even though there was no snow, it was like a fairy tale. The town itself is pretty old – first time appeared on the maps in 1154. Originally it was called Arensburg. It was built around the castle, which has been restorated and today houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum.
Walking in Kuressaare
The best way to spend time in Kuressaare is to take a walk in the old town and in the park around castle. Situated right on the Baltic Sea coast, this amazing and impressive fortress is a powerful symbol of how strong the Church once was. Today, visitors and locals have a chance to enjoy this wonderful town. SPA holidays have become popular over the last decade, most of SPA hotels can be found along the beach line.
Where to stay?
The choice of hotels is not too bad – around hundred accommodation options from budget home-stays to luxury boutique hotels. It can get a bit crowded in summer months due to high number of visitors from neighboring countries. We went in December and got a great deal at Arensburg Boutique Hotel&Spa – 60€ per night. Mentioned hotel has received some great ratings and is highly recommended by travelers (8.7/10). If visiting off-season, SPA is probably the best option, as apart from visiting the castle there isn’t much to do and the weather is unstable in winter months. Most SPA hotels have nice indoor pools, saunas and gyms. Most bigger one’s have massage possibility too and other body treatments.
Kuressaare castle has been renovated and today is a well preserved, easy to walk around and offers some really interesting exhibitions to it’s visitors. Their current exhibition displays the history of the island throughout centuries. Interesting fact – during Soviet times only locals and border patrol could visit the island. Simple folk had to acquire an invitation to visit. The island was a border zone and was therefore patrolled and protected.
Our trip was rather short this time and we only had a chance to enjoy the hotel and visit the castle. Surely, there are more attractions to visit, especially in summer. Saaremaa has some great spots for hiking. The beaches are long and sandy – and empty! We left with an impression of having been to another country – that’s how it feels to spend a day and night in this incredible place. The time just doesn’t exist here – no rush, no cars, just quiet and fresh sea breeze.
Here is a video from our trip with a famous Saaremaa valss playing in the background. Notice the dam crossing from 00:40 – this is the 3km long dam connecting Muhu and Saaremaa islands. The ferry for mainland leaves from Muhu island. There is also a bit of Kuresaare town center from 03:15
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Many people visit this town by cruise ship. This means around 6 hours of free time. Surely, this is not enough. But even in this short time many things can be seen. Probably the best way to explore Tallinn Estonia is to join a guided tour. The guide will show you old town and all the souvenir shops. If that’s what you are looking for – go for it. Personally, I wouldn’t go on a guided tour because they are boring. They only show you what you pay them for, but there is so much more. However, if it’s your first visit and you only have these 6 hours it’s probably the best thing to do.
Here is a small list of nice hidden treasures – things to do in Tallinn Estonia in one day – in case you are here for a little longer.
Tallinn Estonia TV Tower
This great new museum (yes, it is a museum) offers a nice view over town. Moreover, interactive exhibition and movies can be enjoyed by the guests. For those interested in action there is a chance to walk on the edge – wearing full safety equipment of course. Guided tours are also available. Kids will find plenty of interactive games and activities. Visiting the tower can easily take a whole day. Make sure to check out their great tasty cafe upstairs.
Opening hours: every day 10-19
Ticket info: Adult 13€, Child under 15y/student 6€
Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn Estonia
This great new museum consists of different exhibitions related to marine vessels and sea planes. Rebuilt from seaplane hangars, it features cool design and modern media to give visitors best experience. There is even a real seaplane replica. Outside the hangars there is retired steamship open for visitors all year round. Take your time to explore as it is really exciting and authentic. Kids will be entertained by diverse games and simulators. Start you tour by checking out the history of boat making, traveling through the time and getting to know the people who were involved in it. Museum offers a wide selection of marine weapons. If you get hungry, make sure to try some marine-themed meals at the cafe on the second floor.
October–April: Tue–Sun, 10.00–18.00; May–September: Mon–Sun, 10.00–19.00
Ticket info: Adult 14€, Child under 18/student 7€
Energy discovery centre in Tallinn Estonia
Another great place to visit – a unique, family friendly and entertaining centre where you can discover, play and learn! Among other activities, you will explore 101-year-old power plant, learn about distant planets and discoveries in space, study the old diesel engine and witness a unique lightning demonstration! This museum, unlike others, can be found relatively easily and is within walking distance from old town.
Opening hours: working days 10-19, weekends 11-19
Ticket info: Adult 9€, Child under 15y/student 7€
Viru Hotel KGB Museum in Tallinn Estonia
Located on 23-rd floor of Viru (Sokos) Hotel, this exciting museum tell the story of once so highly feared Soviet secret service KGB. Viru hotel has a long history and during Soviet Era was accommodating foreign travelers. so of course KGB had interest in being present there as well. The visit is guided and you will learn about the history of KGB activity in Estonia, the way they had spied on visitors and other exciting intelligence stories.
Opening hours: working days 10-17:30
Ticket info: Adult 10€
Kajsamoor cruise trips
Visiting in summer? Here is a tip – try one of the Kajsamoor cruises. This trip is about 3 hours long, tasty food is offered and you can enjoy the sun and fantastic view of the Tallinn Bay. Ship is sailing from Sea Plane Harbour. You can book your trip at Kajsamoor’s official website. In summer there are often campaigns with cheaper tickets, so stay alarmed for potential discounts.
This article is also available on GPSmyCITY – Cool things to do in Tallinn Estonia
So, how do YOU like to spend time in Tallinn? Share your thoughts! 🙂
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Estonia is located in the North of Europe, to the South of Finland. The climate here is relatively cold and chilly in winter and nice and warm in summer. For locals it is all about waiting for a seasons to change – when it is cold, we are waiting for summer and the same happens in summer. Surprisingly though locals have found many fun ways to cope with cold and have fun winter activities.
Winter is a magical time and it is certainly worth a visit during this time. This article will give an insight into how Estonians have fun and enjoy winter activities.
Racing in winter in Estonia
Looking for adventurous weekend – pay a visit to Laitse Rallypark. This great place about 50 km outside of Tallinn offers racing tracks, one of them as long as 2300m and shorter ones are for go-karts. The best thing about this centre is that it is open all year round and makes it possible for drivers to race in ice road conditions to train their skills. Real race car can be rented at the centre as well. In summer months wider choice of different tracks and vehicles are available. However, for locals this is a perfect opportunity to familiarize themselves with dangerous road conditions without the risk of getting their car wrecked.
Snow can be fun
Estonians have made themselves comfortable with snow. There are several different options how to spend a day in the winter months. One of the coolest things to do is to visit one of the winter parks – lately one has been open in Kiviõli – about 200 km east of Tallinn, capital of the country. This newly built winter park offers all kind of services related to winter sports – snowboarding/mountain ski rental, elevators to the top and artificial snow machines. This centre also has a hostel and café. It is a great place to spend a day and enjoy riding considering that Estonia does not have any mountains.
Snowmobile and dog sledge safaris
Joining a group on snowmobile safari could be an unforgettable experience for all nature lovers. Such safaris are held in rural areas, for example in South Estonia and can be booked in advance. Snowmobiles and all equipment can be rented from organizers as well as a hot sauna afterwards. This service is especially popular with companies organizing events for their employees.
Same applies for dog sledge safaris – need to be booked in advance, but usually are not held regularly. All the details can be agreed with dog owners in advance.
Estonia has a long tradition of fishing. Yearly competitions are held near Viljandi Lake for the best fishermen – in year 2015 grand prize is a SUV Renault Captur. However, fishermen can be spotted during whole winter, some of them are extremely passionate and start out as early as 5 AM. Traditionally, it is not about catching a fish, but more about socializing with other fishermen (friends), becoming closer to nature and learning about yourself.
This is not a complete list – people do all kind of things in winter – play snowballs, build snowmen, spend a day skiing in the forest or just take a walk in the woods. The nature in winter is very different – the air is clear and transparent, you can virtually see for miles. Sadly, it is not always sunshine. But when the Sun does come out, it is somehow like a little piece of happiness in the heart of everyone.