The smallest, northern-most, and most Scandinavian of the Baltic States, Estonia has plenty to offer visitors.
Historic Tallinn could rest on its fairy-tale Old Town of castles, domes and spires, but has instead embraced the modern world as a tech (Skype was invented here) and foodie hotspot. Outside of Tallinn, visit the atmospheric Rakvere Castle, which plays host to historic reconstructions of 16th century life, and the beautiful Lahemaa National Park or ‘land of bays’, a stretch of coastline lined with forest trails for walkers and bikers. Rivalling Tallinn for charm is the university town Tartu, with its elegant 18th century centre.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Bus services extensively cover Estonia, and bus tickets can be bought from either the bus ticket office or directly from the driver. While not as comprehensive in coverage as the bus network, the rail network links Tallinn with several major towns around Estonia, including Tapa, Rakvere, and Narva.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment and weather
Situated alongside the Baltic Sea, Estonia covers an area of 45,339 square kilometres. The terrain in Estonia is largely flat, with much of the country covered by forest. Estonia has 3,794 kilometres of coastline, indented by numerous bays, straits, and inlets. Estonia has over 1,400 lakes, with the largest, Lake Peipus, covering an area of 3,555 square kilometres.
The climate in Estonia is temperate, with mild summers, and cold winters. Depending on when you intend to travel, check the weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Estonia has 2 properties listed on the World Heritage List, with a further 3 listed on the Tentative List. You can view the listed properties here: (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ee). The listed properties include:
Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn, which dates back to the 13th century and features many historic medieval and early modern buildings, including monasteries, churches, and Tallinn Town Hall
Struve Geodetic Arc, a remarkable multinational project involving Estonia and several other nations involving a chain of survey triangulations to measure a portion of the world’s surface
Festivals and events
Estonia’s history and heritage are celebrated through several events and festivals held throughout the year. Old Town Days commemorates the cultural heritage of Tallinn’s Old Town district, with medieval themed celebrations, markets, street entertainment and folk music staged in celebration. St Martin’s Day Fair is an important event on Estonia’s calendar, traditionally marking the end of the harvest season, but these days being better known as the day of Estonia’s largest handicraft and and folk lifestyle event. Alongside crafts and handicraft exhibits, folk music and costumed dancing are also staged. Many events dedicated to music and the performing arts are held throughout the year, including the Baroque Music Festival and the Parnu Opera Days event.
Estonia: A Modern History, by Neil Taylor
Truth and Justice, by Anton Hansen Tammsaare
A History of the Baltic States, by Andres Kasekamp
My Estonia: Passport Forgery, Meat Jelly Eaters, and Other Stories, by Justin Perone
Eating and Drinking
The cuisine of Estonia is based around seafood, meat, bread and potatoes. Given the many lakes and long coastline of Estonia, fish are plentiful in Estonian waters, with fish used in dishes such as Kiluvõileib (a sandwich made with sprat fish and boiled eggs). As with other Baltic nations, rye bread is of central importance to Estonian cuisine, with black rye bread accompanying almost every meal. Other notable savoury dishes include mulgipuder (a porridge made from mashed potatos, groat, butter, and covered with bacon sauce) and hakkliha kotlet (fried meatballs made from veal, beef and pork, eggs, and spices). Sweeter offerings include sweet cheese curds and baked sweets such as vastlakukkel (wheat buns filled with cream).
Beer is widely consumed in Estonia, though vodka and other spirits are also popular. Traditional Estonian beverages include kali (sweet, unfermented beer) and vana tallinn (a dark rum-based liqueur).
Health and Safety
Generally speaking, Estonia is safe to travel in, though always exercise common sense while travelling.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Estonia’s electricity supply runs at 230V and 50Hz. Estonia uses Type C and Type E electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Lahemaa National Park
Estonia has a single time zone, Eastern European Standard Time (UTC+2). Daylight savings in Estonia commence on the last Sunday of March, and conclude on the last Sunday of October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is not mandatory in Estonia, though tips are appreciated. As a general rule, a tip of about 5-10% of the bill is warranted for exceptional service.
Wifi is widely available in Estonia, and should be freely accessible in most hotels, cafes and restaurants.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Estonia. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Estonia
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.