Estonia, a sparsely populated Baltic state in Northern Europe, has an unusual and naturally diverse landscape. Smell the juniper and listen to the quiet of the primeval forests, 1,400 lakes, 7,000 rivers and streams, bogs and swamplands. Along winding roads through bucolic pastures you’ll pass seaside fishing communities, quaint country villages and decaying medieval castles. The best way to explore this grandeur is in the national parks, especially unspoiled Lahemaa.
Hike over deep peat bog pools on a boardwalk trail in search of flora and fauna (lynx, bears, wolves, elk and butterflies). Lahemaa also has 100 giant boulders on nearby Parispea Peninsula. The park is 44 miles from the dynamic capital, Tallinn. The cobbled, narrow streets of its medieval old town are studded with steeples and spires, city walls with defense towers, gabled roofs, castles, a 1246 monastery and 14th century dwellings. This ancient Hanseatic city brims with life in the evenings at its cozy cafés, bars and nightclubs. In fact, some taverns feature menus (game sausage and mead) and décor from the Middle Ages.
Estonia travel offers so many experiences. Tour the two largest islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa on bike or foot to see the windmills, stone churches and lighthouses. Get a sense of the academic bohemian atmosphere at the university town of Tartu, founded in 1632. Sample local wines made from apples and black currants in Poltsamaa. Visit the Kurekiiva Taxidermy Museum in Sandra Village, cement museum in Kunda or Kohtla Oil Shale Museum via mine wagon. Enjoy a horse sledge picnic with mulled wine by torchlight in Polva’s wintry woods. Explore the meteorite crater at Ilumetsa.
Neighboring Russia’s culture is felt in the Stalinist architecture of Sillamae’s open air museum of Soviet industrial heritage. Finally, enjoy a treatment or steam at a spa offering everything from barrel and inside fire truck saunas to infra red and smoke saunas.