Unexpected Estonia

Source: Kaupo Kalda, Visit Estonia

Unexpected Estonia

Can’t choose between a city break, nature holiday, foodie tour, and an active adventure for your next holiday? Well in Estonia, you can do it all (and even within an afternoon)! This compact country is easy to get around and is full of delightful surprises. Whether you have weeks or a weekend to spend, time in Estonia is time well spent.

Metropolitan chic meets small-town cosiness

In the capital, Tallinn, climb the Old Town’s medieval towers and time travel down cobblestone streets. In bohemian university city Tartu, awaken your inner student at AHHAA Science Centre. Pärnu, the summer capital of Estonia, draws people to its four-kilometre-long white sand beach and warm waters each year. On the northwestern coast, you’ll find quaint Haapsalu with its seaside villas adorned with wooden lace. No matter where you travel in Estonia, the pace of life is relaxed. 

Photo by: Kaspar Orasmäe, Visit Estonia

Find yourself in nature

Even from the centre of Tallinn, the forests that cover half of Estonia are just 20 minutes away. Nearly one-fifth of Estonia’s area is protected, which includes Lahemaa National Park. Its ancient bogs and limestone cliffs are home to lynx, moose and bears. In Soomaa National Park, yearly flooding causes a ‘fifth season’ between winter and spring, creating watery landscapes navigatable by canoe.

Männikjärve bog

Photo by: Sven Zacek, Visit Estonia

 

Over two-thousand islands dot Estonia’s Baltic coastline. Saaremaa, the largest, is about the size of Luxembourg and can be easily accessed by driving your car onto a small ferry. Saaremaa’s largest town, Kuressaare, is known for its high number of luxurious and family-friendly spas, which has earned Saaremaa the nickname ‘Spaaremaa’.

Bucket list worthy attractions

Estonia has several UNESCO World Heritage traditions that you should experience at least once in your life. One is the rustic smoke sauna, typical of South Estonia, and another is the 150-year-old Song and Dance Celebration. This musical event attracts over 30,000 performers, and the next editions will be held in July 2022 and 2024.

Song and dance festival

Photo by: Aivar Pihelgas, Visit Estonia

 

Northern Europe only has one A-category film festival, in the leagues of those in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Warsaw, and it is the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Screening over 250 feature films and 250 shorts in late November each year, this event should be on any film lover’s list.

Age-old ingredients, totally new flavours

Estonian food, though it shares some common elements with Russian, German and Eastern European cuisine, combines traditional ingredients and imaginative cooking techniques to create a distinct style.

Estonians’ love affair with black rye bread goes back at least 7,000 years, but just like their mysterious language, they are happy to teach anyone about it who is interested. Grab some friends and learn how to bake black bread in one of the many workshops offered across the country! Or if you prefer something more 21st century, visit a new-age drink producer like Nudist winery, which uses quirky ingredients like rhubarb and white currants to make their bubbly. 

The tastiest time of year to go hiking in Estonia is the late summer or early autumn when you can forage wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cloudberry, and golden chantarelles mushrooms. Dishes in restaurants during this time also revolve around these star seasonal ingredients, and menus generally change throughout the year based on what is fresh.

A taste of adventure

With some of the cleanest air in the world according to a 2018 WHO report, it’s no wonder that Estonians have found countless different ways to spend time outside. Starting close to Tallinn, you can sail to the nearby islands of Naissaar or Aegna for a picnic. The coast is also a great place for birdwatching; 380 bird species can be spotted throughout the year, making Estonia one of the top three birdwatching destinations in Europe.

Former industrial landscapes make for some of Estonia’s most popular sports attractions, like the manmade hill at Kiviõli Adventure Park, which has been transformed into a downhill ski park in winter and a 700-metre-long zip line in summer. Nearby, you can also explore a kilometre’s worth of tunnels at the Estonian Mining Museum in Kohtla-Nõmme. Rummu Quarry, another former mine and prison, is now submerged in crystal-clear water and a magnet for scuba divers.

Rummu quarry

Photo by: Aire Eder, Visit Estonia

If zip lines and underwater prisons aren’t thrilling enough, mark your calendar for the next European Sauna Marathon. It takes place in February each year in Otepää, Estonia’s snowy ‘winter capital’. There are dozens of saunas spread around the area, and the challenge is to visit as many of them as you can with your team in six hours! 

Start planning your holiday

The hardest part of planning your holiday will be narrowing down the list of things you’d like to do. Getting here is easy. Fly direct from Warsaw to Tallinn in under two hours, or take a leisurely road trip by car through the Baltics. Check out visitestonia.com to get inspiration for your trip and to find the latest travel guidelines.

Last updated : 09.04.2021
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