1,000 kilometres of vacation

Source: Jane Jakobson

1,000 kilometres of vacation


Jane Jakobson

I have taken my family on a 1,000 km car trip before, but not in Estonia. It's not the first option that you think of as Estonia is rather small. I thought of previous family trips in Estonia, searched for more exciting places to visit, some old favourites and some new gems waiting to be discovered – it did not take long before we had plans for 1,000 kilometres worth of travels. Down below, I have written about all the places we visited with kids and that we wholeheartedly recommend to others as well.

Where to go?

We started our trip from Tartu, so that is how the route has been written down here: from Tartu to Eastern Estonia, then to Nõva in Western Estonia, towards Latvia through Pärnu, and then heading back to Southern Estonia and Tartu with some detours.

  • Eastern Estonia

For starters, we bask in the lovely fresh air at the nature conservation area of the Äntu lakes and circle around the blue, green and white lake. Generally, the all three lakes tend to have green water, but on really bright days with lots of sunshine, you really can tell that the colours of the lakes are somewhat different. The water is clean and clear, completely see-through, but also chilly. However, this does not deter snorkelers who can explore the waters in the comfort of their warm calypsos.

The length of the sandy beachline at Kauksi is said to be 400 metres; but it seems to go on for far longer and attracts around 1,000 visitors on really beautiful sunny days. This place is definitely a favourite for many, so if you want to get a spot at the Kauksi RMK campsite during a weekend, it is wise to arrive by lunchtime on Friday, at the latest. Nevertheless, the campsite is organised well, ensuring that you get to rest in private even if the lot is a bit overcrowded. The campsite has grilling spots, toilets, wells with fresh water, trash cans and service personnel for the campsite. I am happy to pay a few euros in exchange for a stay at a well-kept campsite. The place is clean and we feel great spending time there. You can get warm pastries and a hot lunch from the Kauksi beach café and even settle for the night at the camping site.

Packing all our stuff took a while and we were properly famished by the time we finally got to eating the dried fish bought from a stand at the side of the road. Cleaning the fish is a ritual in itself – the smell is mouthwatering, everyone gets their share of tasty fish and the family meal is a real success.

After dinner, I find myself sitting on a tree stump, listening to the sound of waves and trees in the wind. I grab a poetry book from my bag and that's when it happens – time slows down and all my worries recede to the background. All the puzzle pieces fall into piece, everything important stands out and I see my life as it would be if all my dreams came true. I get a lot of great ideas.

Our itinerary is packed and we have a lot of options. Viru County and Ida-Viru County have offer two options to travellers, you could choose the green or red route depending on how adventurous and brave your family members feel. The green route takes you to Ida-Viru's attractions (Kiviõli Adventure Park, the Estonian Mining Museum in Kohtla-Nõmme, Rakvere Castle), the red route is for those who want to seek thrills on the industrial landscape and see: the Aidu quarry, Viivikonna ghost town, architecture and the promenade at Sillamäe. Depending on the weather, you might also get a chance to see the wonderful underwater forests in the blue lagoon of Aidu (unfortunately, we forgot to bring our waterproof camera, but that just gives us more reason to visit the lagoon again).

You can spend the night at the Toila campsite; there are also several dining places in Toila. For a fun-filled day, head to the Oru Park and romantic seaside the next morning.

  • Lahemaa region

Our first stop is at the Valaste Waterfall, we then drive along the Ontika limestone cliff, passing the Purtse Castle and the new Tulivee restaurant in Purtse. There are a lot of exciting places at Lahemaa, waiting to be discovered. For example, you could drive through all the peninsulas, take your kids to the Käsmu Maritime Museum and the Viinistu Art Museum, which offers tasty dishes as well. Visit the hiking trail of the Nõmmeveski canyon and take a look at the remnants of the extensive Valgejõe hydroelectric power station. Viru bog is a place you definitively do not want to miss. You can spend the night at the lovely Leesikalda Holiday Home.

Before leaving the region, our itinerary includes the Majakivi-Pikanõmme hiking trail and the Jägala waterfall. The peninsulas at Lahemaa are ideal for bike trips – the distances are just right and the area is interesting enough for a longer stay. We will certainly return one day on bikes. There is plenty of reason to stop and rest for a few days in every region during the round trip.

  • Northwestern Estonia

Those who seek military experiences and dare to enter dark tunnels should go see the Astangu catacombs. Afterwards, head to the Hüüru Mill for a nice meal. You could then drive to Keila-Joa and stop for a swim at the RMK Meremõisa beach.

If you would like to take in some more history, be sure to stop at the Rummu quarry. The Rummu quarry is extremely popular among Estonians and foreigners alike; however, pay attention to information on what is allowed and what is not at the quarry. If you are not too keen on Rummu, the Padise Abby is not far away and is perfect for an lovely exploratory walk.

If you would like to know about Estonia's best kept secret spots, head to the Nõva region. You will get to see the burnt forests and bogs of Vihterpalu, pretty little lakes hidden in the forest, several study trails; information about local attractions can be obtained from the RMK Nõva Visitor Centre. A surprising treat is the cobble stone road in the middle of forests in Peraküla. It was built in 1914–15, during the times of the Russian Empire, for easier access to the secret radio station on the Allikajärve peninsula, the station was used for catching morse codes of war ships on the sea. The radio station is located a little bit further from the Nõva RMK centre, from Allikajärve towards the sandy beach.

You can spend the night between the sand dunes at the RMK Peraküla camping site. The Samblamaa Guesthouse is not too far either. Head to the Laimi Söögituba for a nice meal.

  • Southwestern Estonia

Our destinations for the day are the Romantic Coastline and the Lemme beach. Before that though, you might want to stop at Haapsalu, eat at the reasonable priced Talumehe tavern and enjoy a walk on the local beach promenade. We arrived at Haapsalu just in time for the music festival. It was beyond lovely to spend a culture-filled hour with other adults while our kids where having a ball at the Ilon's Wonderland theme centre.

When driving towards Pärnu, your children might be interested in visiting the Valgeranna Adventure Park.

Take your time to enjoy romantic coastline, buy some smoked fish from the roadside and get ready for a comfy evening on the sand dunes of Lemme. All night on this route are spent by the seaside, so you can enjoy marvellous sunsets or refreshing rains. When was the last time you stood in the rain and let it pour through your hair, or really enjoyed a warm breeze? When was the last time you went stargazing or saw the full moon in all its glory?

  • Southeastern Estonia

This is the last stretch of our trip, a long drive through small, but fascinating Southern Estonian villages. Your kids would be delighted to see the Piusa caves and the Meenikunno bog. Meenikunno bog has a 6-kilometre hiking trail, half of which is in the bog and half in a forest. About a kilometre into the trail, you will come across huge wild ant nests, which are quite a sight, but it's best to take a quick look, lest the ants start climbing up your legs. There is no time to take photos :)

On our way back to Tartu, we stop at the Estonian Road Museum and head back to the main highway via their Postal road, which is abundant in curves and hills.

Meenikunno bog

Photo: personal collection

Who should I take along?

Take along your entire family, children, pets and as many friends as you can fit in the car. Once you already have two kids, any additional youngsters won't make much of a difference! The nature of the mess will not change, only the extent of it.

What dangers might one come across during the trip?

No trip is smooth sailing all the way, little arguments and disagreements are bound to happen and one should just take them in stride. Minor mistakes and a few disputes are perfectly normal. It might get too boring, cold or stormy. Or you might run into a spider web and let out an embarrassing squeal. You might even find a tick on you. Or be forced to escape from a wasp. Once, one of our travellers ran from a wasp, only to hit their little toe. When we took a look at the poor toe, we also found the wasp, lying dead on the ground. Apparently, you can kill wasps with your toes.

Our trip took us through small settlements, which are especially fun to witness at 10 in the morning. That's when men from the village gather at the store, waiting to buy their first drink. Full of energy and hope, they chat about the previous day and their plans for the day to come. It's little quaint things like this that you remember after the trip.

What should I take along?

A tent, camping stove, dishes, bug repellent, sunscreen, swimming equipment, a photo camera and a video camera, and some warm clothes. Summers in Estonia can be rainy and cloudy, with temperatures ranging between 7 and 27 degrees. It is what it is! Should you still have a sled in the car from the winter, you can use it to give your kids a fun ride on the sand at the Piusa beach.

It's best not to bring along disposable plates (if you must do so, choose the biodegradable option). I would recommend that you take along regular dishes, a bowl, cup and spoon for each person, who will then wash their own dishes. A pot for the camping stove, so you could boil water. At first, I made porridge and coffee in the pot, but it makes more sense for everyone to make porridge, noodles, coffee or tea in their own bowl with water boiled in the pot. It is best to buy enough food and snacks to last a couple of meals and there might not be stores at the road side when you need them. The same applies to gas, it does not hurt to have a little extra.

I would also recommend that you take along some measuring advice, as there comes a moment during each trip when the kids will demand that ice cream be measured out absolutely equally.

Make sure that you do not forget games and sports equipment: badminton, volleyball, petanque, electronic party games and card games, for example the Travel game (from the AHHAA science shop in Tartu).

The happiest mother is the mother of tired children.

Photographs: personal collection. The photo album and video were compiled by Freddy Jakobson

Last updated : 22.02.2022

In category: South Estonia, West Estonia, Islands, North Estonia, Nature & Wildlife