The Getaway
Enchanting Estonia: Big Things to Do in a Small Country

Estonia may be small, but it's never dull. This entertaining destination is earning the title of being the most organic country in the world. Rich in natural forests and agricultural land, one wouldn't expect to find free Wi-fi in every corner. The geek scene is alive and well in Estonia, and many high tech companies have found their origins here. Widely ignored by tourists, this little country on the Baltic Sea has an extremely diverse cultural background.

Estonia is a country where beer is the go-to drink, wearing a reflector after dark is mandatory, saunas are a must-do, and singing is a national pastime. Travelers can enjoy windmills, spas, old streets, palaces, forests, beaches, and even sleep out with the bears or go on a bog walk with unlimited blueberries. Estonia, a place where your money will go the furthest of anywhere in Europe, is worth adding to any bucket list.


01 Lahemma National Park

Rocks on the seashore of Lahemma National Park it is a big ocean with wide shore in Estonia NordicMoonlight / Getty Images

The Lahemma National Park is perfect for the outdoorsy type. It'some to many animals; the park also is home to beautiful manors, quaint fishing villages, and the scenic Jägala Waterfall. Sagadi Manor, built over 500 years ago, and Viru Bog Trail, which provides a diverse and colorful display of typical Estonian flora, are popular points of interest. While Altja village displays restored traditional buildings and fishing sheds. A visit isn't complete without a beer and lunch in the ancient-looking Altja Tavern.


02 Kaali Meteorite Crater Field

Saarema Island, Estonia: the main meteorite crater in the village of Kaali in the summer Krivinis / Getty Images

Extraterrestrial beings? Cults? While science has answered the question of what created the nine holes visitors can find on Saaremaa Island, attributing them to a splintering meteorite, there is still some mystery about them. The craters, which measure from 12 - 110 meters across, may well have been the home of a sacrificial cult. A massive stone wall built during the Bronze Age surrounds the largest crater, and a huge quantity of animal bones have already been found around the water-filled cavity.


03 Piusa Sand Caves

A big mountain in the middle of the forest in Piusa it has a small entrance going inside to the cave with lots of tall trees surrounding the area NordicMoonlight / Getty Images

The mining of quartz to produce glass between 1922 and 1966 created these 22 kms of cathedral-like caves that are home to the largest wintering colony of bats in Europe. Almost 3500 bats from five different species can be found here between October and May. While safety prevents tourists from going beyond the main cavern, an interactive computer simulator lets you explore the depths. Guests can also take a leisurely hike along the nature trail, where they'll pass pine forests and WWII trenches.


04 Old Town - Tallinn

Cityscape aerial view on the old town with saint Nicholas church tower and Toompea hill in Tallin, Estonia RossHelen / Getty Images

Old Town Tallinn is one of the favorite tourist spots in Estonia. A mostly-intact wall dotted with guard towers surrounds the city, and it's streets are graced with cobblestone lanes and iron street lamps. The origins of Old Town date back to the 13th century when crusading knights built a castle there. Interestingly, the city also has an intriguing history of espionage. Visitors to the town can enjoy walking the city walls, dining in medieval restaurants, lingering in the Danish King's Garden, or taking in the open artist studios on Katariina Käik. The oldest working pharmacy, dating back to 1422, is also in this history-filled community.


05 Ungru Manor

Ruins of the Ungru castle, Estonia RAndrey / Getty Images

The gutted remains of a beautiful castle provide the backdrop for a sad love story. Reportedly, the son of Ugru's owner visited Germany and fell in love with a princess from Merseburg Castle. She refused to leave her beautiful surroundings, so the son returned to Estonia and began building a replica for the princess. Unfortunately, she died before the castle was completed and, the building was left unfinished. Pillaged over the years, romantics will still enjoy the remains.


06 Brown Bear Watching Hides

Real family in nordic nature. visualspace / Getty Images

Spending a night in the forest surrounded by brown bears isn't everyone's idea of fun, but for the adventurous spirit, it's a unique opportunity. Buildings called hides have been constructed near Alutaguse, where the forest is home to over half of Estonia's brown bears. Visitors camp overnight in wooden structures with windows facing the taiga forests, hoping to see these huge creatures, as well as raccoon dogs, elk, wolves, lynx, and a wide variety of birds.


07 Rummu Underwater Prison

Back view of young girl on background abandoned quarry filled with water in Rummu. Estonia. IRYNA KAZLOVA / Getty Images

Rummu Prison operated under the Soviet regime, and prisoners were forced to work mining the quarry. It was notorious for its human rights infringements, but with independence, the prison and mine were closed. The quarry filled with groundwater partially submerging both the prison and mine. The blue lagoon offers visitors a scenic place to suntan surrounded by white ash cliffs. Those who are more daring can swim out and jump off of the remaining prison walls. The truly brave can enjoy scuba diving to discover the underwater museum made up of prison cells, old mine equipment, and buried homes, although postings around the lake advise otherwise.


08 Narva-Jõesuu Village and Beach

Embedded stones and harbor ruins in Narva-Jõesuu. Rocky beach, peaceful sea and port. Harbour Ida-Viru County, Narva, Estonia. Baltic sea, Europe artenex / Getty Images

Located on the northeast coast of the Baltic Sea, near the Narva Fortress built by the Danes in the 14th century, Narva-Jõesuu is a popular resort with a vibrant nightlife during the summer months and 14 km of sandy beach. Visitors can enjoy modern amenities, relax on the hot sand or take a tour of the 3.2-hectare fortress with its long history.


09 Telliskivi Creative City

Man holding a cup of coffee in his hand visualspace / Getty Images

Inspired by creating a self-sufficient city where arts and culture prevail, Telliskivi Creative City became the alternative to razing what was a factory for locomotive repair during Soviet reign. In 2009, the first resident, the Black Night Film Festival, moved in. Today, with over 250 companies operating out of the ten buildings, visitors can enjoy a skate park, weekly flea market, street food festivals, concerts, and experimental theatre, or catch one of the dozens of bands that practice in the Band Building.


10 Pärnu Beach Seawall and Promenade

A lifeguard hut on the long and wide sandy beach of Pärnu, Estonia, in the early evening. LordRunar / Getty Images

Old meets new along Pärnu beach. Stretching out over a mile from shore into the Baltic Sea, folklore tells that if lovers hold hands while jumping from rock to rock on the stone seawall, they will remain together forever. Nearby, a modern promenade romantically winds along the beach, complete with fountains, water parks, and colorful lights.


11 Forest Camp

Making coffee on camp fire visualspace / Getty Images

  Military tents that can be heated with wood are the preferred accommodation at Forest Camp, and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy it year-round. Take a dip in an ice pond, snowshoe around Konnu Swamp or explore nearby Jarvi Lake in an old Soviet military truck; finish any day off around a cozy campfire.


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