When attempting to conjure up images of this small corner of Northern Europe, many people might be at a loss. Comparatively speaking, the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania aren’t regularly on the lips of travel agencies (save for the occasional stag night in Riga). However, this region really does deserve to be firmly on the travelling map.
Three countries all sharing a historically close bond but with vastly different cultures sets up an enticing, whirlwind of a getaway. So, whether it be during a relaxing Baltic cruise or while budget backpacking, a 10-day itinerary in these fairy tale lands will give you the perfect taste of the bite-sized Baltics. We can guarantee you’ll be back for more, anyway.
The northern most Baltic State is arguably its most charming, having more in common with Scandinavian Europe now than it did while under a Soviet boot. Boasting abundant and diverse natural features, it’s also a medieval aficionados dream; no more so than in its stunning capital – Tallinn.
Whether you’re cruising into the country from the Gulf of Finland or flying direct, you’ll most likely down wheels or drop anchor in Tallinn. Known for its outstandingly well persevered UNESCO old town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to a time of monks, knights, jousts and flagons of ale.
Walk the city walls, visit Toompea Hill for some uninterrupted views of the old town and see as many medieval churches, towers and buildings as you can cram in. On day two, visit the Kadriorg Palace and don’t miss the quite brilliant Seaplane Harbour – one of the finest maritime museums in the world.
Tartu or Parnu
Tartu – Estonia’s second city – is also its academic fulcrum. This is where you’ll find the brains of the country in a famous university town that’s popular with a younger crowd. It can get lively on a night out, while still offering delightful, medieval appeal.
Parnu, on the other hand, has a Mediterranean-worthy beach front on the Gulf of Riga that’s popular with holidaymakers. It also has the wetlands of the Soomaa National Park close by. Getting into nature is essential in Estonia, but we’ll leave this choice up to you.
Sandwiched as the middle Baltic State is Latvia, which you should be reaching sometime on day four. A magical land known for its coast of beaches, fishing villages and lush, green countryside. It’s an unspoiled, sleepy wilderness with a juxtaposed, full-of-beans capital city.
Gauja National Park
Anything Estonia can do, Latvia can do…just as well. In recent years the country has been making a name for itself with the great outdoors and it’s hard to pick a favourite location. Gauja National Park will take some beating, though.
It’s a rich expanse of green space punctuated by more amazing castles than you could swing a sword at. Add rivers, caves, and adventure sports, and you’ll need more than a day in these parts.
The Baltic’s most bustling and cosmopolitan city has something of a reputation for being a party starter – and there’s no smoke without fire. If you’re looking to let your hair down on your trip – search no further than here.
But don’t let that fool you – Riga is beautiful in its own right. Famous for its wooden and art-nouveau buildings, it’s an intriguing mix of the old and the new that makes it an incredibly popular travel destination. You should manage two days here – at least one to nurse your hangover.
The first country to leave the USSR rightly wanted to stand on its own two feet – and indeed it does. It’s a land that’s long been squabbled over – which is palpable in its art and architecture, and eclectic sights and attractions. No surprise really, being slap bang in the centre of Europe. Like – the actual centre.
The Hill of Crosses
If you’re looking for something alternative on your trip, there’s no doubting that this unique sight is well worth a visit. Thousands upon thousands of crosses and crucifixes dominate a hill just outside the town of Šiauliai.
Whether you’re a person of faith or not – it’s something you won’t forget in a hurry. And now thanks to the internet – it’s gained a reputation as one of the world’s more bizarre tourist attractions. Don’t forget your camera.
The Lithuanian capital isn’t quite like its northern neighbours. It’s more a hotch-potch of styles, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of architecture and design where it seems nobody could quite make up their mind what to build. But that doesn’t make it any less appealing. In fact, quite the contrary.
Points of interest include the romantic St. Anne’s Church, the gorgeous Vilnius Cathedral and the imposing Gediminas Tower complex – from which there are some lovely views of the city. But there’s so much more besides, including the fascinating and funky Užupis – a bohemian quarter that is apparently an independent republic.
A short journey from the capital is this dramatic fortress on Lake Galvė, one of the country’s most recognisable landmarks. Its proximity to the city makes it the perfect day trip as your Baltic experience is drawing to a close.
This 14th-Century fortress is breathtaking to behold, not least because of its commanding position in a picture-postcard seat. The landscape is simply stunning and there’s always something going on to keep locals and tourists entertained. This really is not to be missed and is highly recommended whatever the season.
The Beautiful Baltics
That’s ten days packed with some incredible sights and attractions, the likes of which you’ll be hard pressed to find the equal anywhere else. The Baltics are rightly taking their place as one serious tourist hot-spot, each country offering something different, while complimenting the experience as a whole. There’s no doubt that one trip here is ever going to be enough.
Have you been to the Baltics? What would you have seen if you had a 10-day itinerary?