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You Should Visit Estonia: Seriously!

That small country sandwiched between Latvia and Russia, seriously worthy of a visit.

By: Women Who Explore + Save to a List

Traversing the entire country of Estonia over one week is entirely possible, if not absolutely exhausting, but still possible. Trust me, I did it. When I got the call to travel to Estonia, I won’t lie, I had no idea where this small country was. If I am being truthful I didn’t even know it was a small country, I just assumed it was based on the fact that I didn’t know where it was. After pulling up my google maps and quickly typing in Estonia while stalling on my phone call with the Estonia representative, I managed to locate it, right next to Russia. “Sure I’d love to come, I’ve always wanted to see Russia, and I am sure this is just like it”. Silence ensued on the other end of the phone, I am talking a long silence. “We are not Russia” she finally managed to spit out, with a snap in her tone that made me feel as though I was back in the principles office in grade school. Trying to recovery, I sputtered out some incomprehensible mumble jumble about how of course they weren’t like Russia and I couldn’t wait to explore the small country of, wait, what was the name of the country again. Quickly wrapping up the conversation, I hung up, pumped my fist up and turned to my partner and proclaimed, “I’m going to Russia, er I mean Estonia”!

To be honest, when I landed at the airport, I wasn’t sure they would let me in after that phone call mishap but I sailed through customs, collected another stamp in my passport and immediately did up my jacket because brrr it was cold. Landing in the capital city of Tallin, after three long flights, the plan was to spend a couple days in Tallin, a day in Parnu, a day on the island of Kihnu and a couple days in Tartu, effectively covering most of the country. Having done a little research, as to not embarrass myself, I was excited to understand more about this country, why I had never heard of it and what it had to offer tourists.

Tallin is the capital city of Estonia, full of cobbled streets, a mix of architecture, a mix of people and FREE public transportation. It boats great views of the bright red and orange roofs, changing seasons including a beautiful fall and cold winter, and a wealth of English speaking locals. The city centre boasts large squares, surrounded by restaurants and shops with a wealth of boutique hotels including the Three Sisters Hotel, one of the favorites in the city. Fine dining restaurants combine fresh seasfood with unique cooking techniques, making this city a culinary hot spot. Tourists who visit here will have no problem finding things to do with an array of attractions including city and food guided tours, an edgewalk experience at the TV tower, the highest point in Estonia and hidden speakeasy bars located throughout the city. Locals are friendly, inviting you in for a drink or happily pointing out directions. Perhaps the best part about this city though is the lack of tourists, alas you will find some hokey souvenir shops, complete with Russian nesting dolls that aren’t made in Estonia, but other than that, you may just find yourself to be the lone tourist in the restaurant.

Parnu on the other hand feels more like a tourist city, this beach town that teeams with visitors in the summertime, boasting corwds of 20,000 each year. This spa resort town, as its often called offers locals and visitors from outside the country a chance to relax and soak up the sunshine. A total of nine spa hotels adorn the beach and each offer everything from massage treatments to silent spas to outdoor saunas and whirlpools. Although the wind is whipping through my hair and my guide is yelling to be heard on the almost deserted beach, as it is the fall, I can close my eyes and imagine what summertime must bring. Along with a beach, Parnu offers a quaint city centre that boasts tales of ghosts and memories of invasions. Once divided as an old and new town, visitors can still see the line down the town where it was once divided. Small intimate restaurants that only seat 20-30 guests are the norm here, serving up fresh ingredients with a focus on flavour and small plates. That’s not to say you can’t find a good old Karaoke bar here though. As I lay inside the Hedon Spa Hotel, getting a traditional Estonian massage, after just emerging from the sauna, I couldn’t think of a better spa getaway then this city right here.

Tartu, on the other hand is a bustling city, one that the locals boast is the best city in the country and without it there would be no country. The intellect capital of Estonia, Tartu boasts the largest university in Estonia and certainly the most beautiful. Galleries, museums, pop up boutiques and innovative cafes dote the streets around this town, making it highly desireable for tourists. They are innovative here, pushing the boundaries of what a regular university town looks like. Old warehouses are being turned into offices, where everything from a traditional printing house to a photography studio operate. Innovative hostels are being built, offering tourists another way to stay other than in a hotel. In particular HOSTEL offers not only single rooms at afforadable prices but they offer a gym to workout in, a yoga room to use and a café right on site. There is a sense of liveliness in this city, much in part due to the number of students throughout and bars and nightclubs are open all hours of the night.

If all of that doesn’t convince you the country is worthy of a visit, how about this. They have been conquered seven different times throughout history, that’s right I said seven. They finally gained their independence in 1997 and currently this is the longest they have ever had independence. They are very proud of this. What can you expect? A slew of mish mash buildings, some from the soviet period, some Swedish and some older than we can comprehend. The people, they are lively and intelligent as well as passionate about their history and determined to keep their independence. They invented Skype, they rebuilt entire cities and they refuse to be kept down. What other country is so fiercely proud of who they are? None that I can think of. And if that’s not a good enough reason to visit, then perhaps you weren’t meant to travel. 

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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