Estonia Travel Guide
Estonia doesn't come to the mind of many people when they are planning their tour of Europe. The big countries like France and Italy get all the attention. But so should the beautiful gem and rising star called Estonia. Located between Scandinavia and Central Europe, the country offers a unique blend of the past and the present, the medieval and the contemporary.
Everywhere you go, you'll see castles pointing back to the past era in the mix of modern buildings. Put in the efficient transport system, beautiful cities, interesting wildlife, pristine forests, and offshore islands and Estonia becomes a country worth exploring.
I'll be giving a list of the most interesting places to visit in Estonia. But first, some quick information about the country.
Capital city: Tallinn
Currency: Euro (EUR) 1 USD = 0.98 EUR
Electricity: Power voltage is 230 Volts. Power sockets type C and F.
10 Handpicked Highlights of Estonia
Tallinn Old Town
As the capital city of Estonia, your travel to the country will most likely take you to Tallinn. Your exploration of Estonia should start from the Old Town in Tallinn, a historic place with formidable walls (you read that right) and impressive towers. Vehicles are only allowed close to the wall so your exploration of the city will be done on foot and I promise you it’s a lot of fun.
You’ll be delighted to know that the old town is made up of two towns – the upper town and lower town. Have fun exploring the two towns and finding out the differences and similarities between them.
Saaremaa Island is Estonia’s best kept secret. It’s astonishing that many people don’t know about the large island blessed with fantastical landscapes, natural attractions, and unique cultures.
Things to see here include the Kuressaare castle, the Kaali Meteorite Center caused by the impact of a meteor hitting the island, and the windmills of Anga.
Soomaa National Park
Soomaa National Park is home to the largest bog in Estonia. If you don’t know much about bogs and why they are special, check out my comprehensive article about my visit to Soomaa National Park.
Thanks to the nearby Parnu Basin and Raudna River, you can kayak or canoe in the park. Spring floods most of the park allowing you to explore most of the forest on your canoe or kayak. Soomaa also offers opportunities for hiking and seeing wildlife such as wolves, bears, beavers, elk, boar, and so on.
Lake Peipus is easily among Estonia’s most interesting attractions. People who haven’t visited the lake will be forgiven for just thinking Peipus is just like any regular lake. It isn’t! Lake Peipus is about 50 km wide so you can’t see the other bank. It’s that massive. The lake also offers the opportunity for spotting rare bird species and fish. Get your binoculars ready for some good ol’ birdwatching experience.
Lahemaa National Park
The largest national park in Estonia deserves to be on your itinerary. Just an hour drive from Tallinn, there is no moment of boredom at Lahemaa National Park. Sandy beaches, rivers, a bog, limestone cliffs, and wildlife like foxes, lynx, brown bears, and so on. That’s what you can expect from Laheemaa.
The beautiful village of Kasmu, which is central to the park, is also worth mentioning. The architecture in the village is interesting and there’s enough greenery to make the village a small paradise. The abandoned submarine base of Hara is also a lot of fun to discover!
Parnu has the biggest and most beautiful beach in Estonia. So if you want a nice time by a beach in the European country, Parnu is the place to go. I like that the surfing conditions at Parnu beach are great for beginners. So, you can learn how to surf here. Put in the beautiful promenade made at the beach and the several spas in town, everyone is guaranteed to have a nice time at Parnu.
Estonia has over 700 brown bears and presents a unique opportunity for travelers to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat. April to mid-July and mid-August to the end of October are usually the best times to spot Estonian brown bears and many tourists visit the country during this period just for bear watching.
Sign up for a bear-watching tour and have your camera turned on and ready. You never know when a bear will decide you grace you with its presence.
Matsalu National Park
Matsalu National Park is a stunning area rich in birds and mammals. It was established to protect the nesting and migrating birds and as such offers a unique opportunity to see migrating cranes. You also get to see endangered bird species like the white-tailed eagle. Get your binoculars ready!
Matsalu is also home to the biggest preserved open meadow in Europe (4000 hectares in size). So, you get to see beautiful flat scenery.
A melting pot of Estonian and Russian culture, Narva is a great place to visit on any visit to Estonia. The town has several spas and a beautiful sandy beach. But the main attraction here is the Hermann Fortress, which is the best-preserved castle in Estonia. The fortress overlooks a large winding river that acts as the border between Estonia and Russia.
Rummu Quarry and Underwater Prison
There’s a lot of history behind the Rummu quarry and the underwater prison. The underwater prison is actually a former Soviet Union prison that got abandoned after Estonia gained independence in 1991. With no one to look after the prison, it got filled with water and most of the machinery and the building got submerged.
The former prison is now a prime location for divers who travel there in droves to see the sunken ruins beneath the waves. You can also hike up a hill in the area or visit a summertime cafe to have your favorite drink.
Estonia's Geography & Landscapes
Estonia is a flat covering that has a long, shallow coastline along the Baltic sea. There are 1520 islands along the shore of the sea with the two largest islands being Saaremma and Hiiumaa.
The landscape of Estonia consists of pristine and untouched forests, boglands, and off shore islands. To give you an idea of how flat Estonia is, the Jägala Waterfall is the tallest in Estonia, with a height of… 8 meters / 26 feet.
Best Time To Go To Estonia
Estonia has four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter. The warmer months are the best time to visit the country if you want to explore the outdoors or see wildlife. However, the peak tourist season is in the summer between June and August. To beat the crowd, you can schedule your visit between April or May, which is usually the beginning of Autumn. The temperature at this time enough to explore the outdoors.
Temperatures plummet during winter and the country becomes covered in snow. While this period isn’t suited for exploring the outdoors, you can visit Estonia in winter to ski or experience white Christmas.
Traveling in Estonia
Crime levels are low in Estonia although petty crime can always happen, especially in the big cities. Below are safety tips to follow when in Estonia.
- Keep your valuables out of sight when in public and when heading out to enjoy the country’s nightlife.
- Don’t walk alone at night and stick to major roads.
- Don’t use unmarked taxis.
- Pedestrians are required by law to wear reflectors at night. Get one and attach it to jacket or bag when going out at night.
- Don’t leave your drinks unattended to in bars and clubs.
- If you won’t do it at home, don’t do it in Estonia
- Purchase good travel insurance
Getting to & Around Estonia
The main entry to the county by air is the Tallinn Airport in the capital city. There are several domestic airlines including Antsla, Kihnu, and Rakvere.
Public transportation is fast and efficient in Estonia. In Talinn, you can buy a plastic smartcard or QR-code tickets for buses, trams, volleybuses, and inner city trains.
Trains are fast, cheap, and many even have free wifi. They are also very reliable.
Buses are the most popular means of transportation as they are similarly priced to trains although trains are faster. But buses have more daily schedules than trains.
Domestic flights are expensive. Travelers don’t really need them as high-speed trains can be almost as fast.
Ridesharing is available in Estonia. It’s more expensive than a bus but can be faster. On the plus side, you also get to meet a local.
Car rentals are available and it’s generally cheap to rent to a car. If you feel confident driving in a foreign company, you can rent a car. You need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car in Estonia. If you intend to go for the bear watching experience, you will need to rent a car as it is in a lost countryside with no public transport.
Hostels and hotels are readily available for travelers. Airbnb is also available throughout the country and is more expensive.
Travelers that have tents can also camp on government land and is some places in National parks. Wild camping is permitted in Estonia.