Thrilling outdoor winter activities in Estonia

Source: Meelika Lehola

Thrilling outdoor winter activities in Estonia

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

The cold might tempt you to curl up indoors, but locals know the best way to spend winter in Estonia is by getting outside. Snowshoes, skates, skis—strap them on and explore an authentic winter wonderland.

 Winter sports in Estonia are not just for pros; there are outdoor activities for amateurs of all ages. Luckily for travelers, you don't have to pack gear as most places offer rentals. You don't have to leave the comfort of the city, either. Most cities have outdoor skating rinks and hiking trails easily reached by public transportation.

However, the best winter activities are found in Estonia's wild nature. Frozen bogs, snow-covered pine trees, and icy beaches will make you feel like you've stepped onto another planet and are all yours to explore.

A winter hike in Viru Bog

Photo by: Mariann Liimal

A wintertime hike is the easiest way to immerse yourself in nature. No special gear is needed, just boots, a backpack with a thermos, and some snacks. Follow wooden boardwalks as they wind their way through the bogs or follow clearly marked trails through the forest. Many trails have special places to light a campfire. Bring marshmallows to roast for a real winter treat!

Do you like to seek new and unique experiences? Snowshoes are another great way to explore bogs during winter. Arrange a guided hike, and they'll provide you with snowshoes and usually a warm drink and snack to enjoy afterwards. Try out a kick sledge for a different way of traveling winter landscapes. With a push, you can cover more distance than you might by walking. You can glide along, immersed in the peace and quiet of the surrounding landscape. Sometimes, kids can even ride on a seat in front of the sledge, making it a good option for families with kids too young for snowshoes. Guided tours with snowshoes or kick sledges let you get off the beaten path without worrying about getting lost.  

Find a guided snowshoe or kicksledge hike

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Adventure, adrenaline, and exciting winter sports

Estonia doesn't have mountains. You won't get huge downhill runs like you do in the Alps. But you know what else Estonia doesn't have? Crowds. Here, you can race with the wind rather than hundreds of downhill skiers.

However, if you fancy a ski race, Estonia has that, too — join thousands of competitors at the world-famous Tartu Maraton. This 63km cross-country skiing competition attracts athletes from all over the world. The race starts in Otepää, the winter capital of Estonia, and ends in Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city. Of course, you don't have to be a professional skier to enjoy the country's most popular sport. You'll be spoiled for choice when deciding where to go cross-country skiing in Estonia. There are many sports centers where you can rent cross-country skis, head out on groomed tracks, or bring your own and ski on any path covered with enough snow. 

Even without towering mountains, you can still find hills big enough to get the hang of downhill skiing or snowboarding. You can find snow parks where you can practice your tricks or take lessons with an experienced teacher on a learner's hill. Thanks to Estonia's compact size, you can spend the morning on the hill and the afternoon just about anywhere! Downhill ski on the slopes of Estonia's most famous mountain ski center, Kuutsemäe, or at Kiviõli Adventure Centre in East Estonia. You won't spend hours driving to a ski resort, so you'll have more time to check things off your must-do list.

Skiing isn't the only winter sport that will get your blood pumping. More adventurous travelers can try ice sailing or winter kiteboarding. Both these sports take advantage of two things Estonia has a lot of in the winter — wind and ice. Sailing and kiteboarding are popular summer activities in Estonia because of the country's extensive coastline, over 1,200 km on the mainland alone. This doesn't even include the inland lakes. Much of this water freezes when the winter is cold enough, and summer sailors and kiteboarders adapt their gear to the icy conditions. 

Let the wind take you away.

Photo by: Pärnu Surf Center

If you love a bit of speed, explore the Kõrvemaa nature reserve in Northern Estonia by snowmobile or take a karakat safari over frozen Lake Peipsi. Karakats are custom vehicles built by local fishermen, designed to travel over the ice in the winter. You can also try your offroad winter driving skills with an ATV or motorcycle rental. Or, if you're an animal lover, swap the snowmobile for a husky and feel the wind in your face as they pull you over the snow. 

The beauty of nature can also be enough to get your heart racing. There's no better way to experience winter in Estonia than by ice skating in nature. The ice seems endless as you glide over a frozen bog, lake, or river, exploring areas of the wetlands that would be hard to reach during the summer.

Pick your own winter adventure

Skating on sea ice

Pärnu Surf Centre winter kiteboarding

Enduro motorcycle rental and tours

Kiviõli Adventure Centre Snow Park

Ice skating in Soomaa National Park

Karakat safari on Lake Peipsi

Snowboarding and alpine skiing at Valgehobusemägi

Electric fatbike rental and tours

Snowmobile tours at Toosikannu Holiday Center