When studying in Estonia, you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to see what this small but beautiful country has to offer besides the town you are studying in. For an international student, the size of Estonia is definitely a benefit. You can travel around the whole country in just a couple of days. There are many many places to find and explore but in this post, you’ll find some tips and routes that can help you on your road discovering this beautiful Nordic country. So pack your bags, find some wheels, get your friends and off you go! Have fun and safe travels!
Day 1 Route - Tallinn-Tartu
Viru bog, one of the most accessible bogs in Estonia, passes through the forest and bog landscapes characteristic of Lahemaa National Park. The trail is 3.5 km and the lap is 6 km long. The study trail introduces the bog's flora, former sand dunes, eskers, and heath forest. There is a boardwalk with an observation tower in the middle of it.
Hara Submarine Base
Hara Submarine base was built by the Russian military between 1956 and 1958 and was used while they occupied Estonia until they fled in 1991 around the time of Estonian independence. The site has since fallen into disrepair and while the concrete foundations remain, the buildings have been gutted. The pier-like ruins are now a favorite location for anyone on an urban safari.
The northernmost campsite in Estonia at the northern end of the Pärispea peninsula.
Toolse Order Castle
The Order castle of Toolse is one of the more recent medieval castles on the northern coast of Estonia, it is also the castle located closest to the sea. The initial fortified manor house was probably erected by the order in the 14th century with the purpose of protecting the port, trade location and routes. During the Livonian war, the castle passed on through many hands and finally ended up in the possession of Swedish troops. It was entirely destroyed in the Northern war at the beginning of the 18th century.
Valaste Waterfall, located on the Ontika limestone cliff, is more than 30 m high, making it the highest waterfall in Estonia.
The waterfall can be admired from the side as well, which offers a lovely view of the layers formed in 400,000 million years. The waterfall is most exciting in spring and during floods. Valaste is most spectacular in winter, when northern winds blow from the sea, creating ice sculptures on the trees on the limestone cliffs with water splashes.
Rannapungerja lighthouse was constructed in 1937. The viewing platform at the base of the lighthouse, covered with timber planking, affords a wonderful view of Lake Peipsi and the landscape on the shore. Next, to the lighthouse, traditional Tuletorni concerts take place every summer; Tuletorni concert is a two-day summer music event outdoors in great company and with lovely music. https://www.visitestonia.com/en/rannapungerja-lighthouse
A magical castle on the eastern border of Estonia is waiting for you!
Here, you can get acquainted with the life and history of an aristocratic family and meet the various servants who worked in the manor a century ago. The tour guides of the castle know countless stories; you can also make your own souvenirs. In order to see the entire exposition spanning three floors, you should set aside at least one and a half hours. Alatskivi Castle and the Onion Road represent one of the areas of Southern Estonia worth discovering in the 21st century that you should try viewing through the bright yellow National Geographic windows erected under the Living on the Edge project.
Day 2 Route – Tartu-Pärnu
This leafy town of students, intellectuals and creatives brings back sweet, youthful memories to many who have once toured the city on a bicycle during their student days. Home to one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities, Tartu has a wealth of museums (such as Estonian National Museum) and an upbeat nightlife. Upon your arrival in Tartu, you are soon welcomed by a statue of kissing students standing in a large Classicist town square nearby museums, cafes and a large park formed around a hill. Tartu is very compact, with most sights, restaurants, and nightlife nestled across a couple of parallel streets. Being the second largest town in Estonia and a hotbed for creative and scientific culture, there is always something on from theatre performances to concerts and festivals.
A small town nestled in southern Estonian hills and valleys, Otepää is a well-known winter holiday destination for all those who love the snow. Skiing, skating, snowboarding in all its forms can be enjoyed at this relaxed winter resort boasting luxurious spa hotels and restaurants. During the summer you can hike along the paths of Otepää nature park, admire rolling hills and lakes, winding village roads and small rivers. The nearby Pühajärve is one of the largest lakes in Estonia and is perfectly suited for a quiet weekend camping trip in the wild.
Tamula Lake, located right next to the city of Võru, is a favorite place of tourists. The beach has attractions for children, training machines for sports enthusiasts, and a beach bungalow for enjoying the summertime buzz.
Observation tower on Suur Munamägi
Suur Munamägi, 318 meters from the sea level, is the highest point of the Baltics. The observation tower on Suur Munamägi provides its visitors with a splendid 50 km range view of the Estonian nature.
Rõuge watchtower “Pesapuu”
The Pesapuu watchtower is 30 meters high (the top observation platform is 27 meters from the ground) and it resembles a tree with two bird nests. Karmo Tõra, an architect, is the author of the idea. The watchtower is eye-catching during both the day and the night. At night, lights of different colors are turned on to shed light on the so-called bird nests or observation platforms and the so-called golden egg on the top of the tower. Tourists that reach the top are offered picturesque views of the Nightingale Valley and the rest of Võru County. Pesapuu is opened around-the-clock.
Sangaste Castle is one of the 21 Southern Estonian places worth discovering that are marked with a yellow National Geographic window; if you are interested in culture and history, it is definitely worth a visit. Sangaste castle and park were fashioned after the famous Windsor castle in England. The magnificent halls, architecture, and history of the castle make this a good place for a big wedding, get-togethers or spending the night in a genuine castle. The castle restaurant serves local food and real rye vodka made from Sangaste rye.
Karksi primeval valley and order fortress ruins
Karksi valley is one of the most beautiful and famous places in Viljandimaa. Driving down along the serpentine road over impounded lake Karksi appears Karksi fortress hill or bastion hill. It is believed that on the well protected by nature abrupt-sloped hill before knights conquests situated the fortress of Estonians.
This adorable little town hidden deep within southern Estonian forests boasts impressive castle ruins, former home of the ruling Livonian Order. The scenic views of the nearby lake and wooden architecture make Viljandi a place of interest to both nature and culture lovers. Popular among the locals as one of the most visited summer festival destinations in Estonia, Viljandi hosts a number of themed festivals from world-renowned folk music to medieval fairs. The cherry on top of the cake has to be the large nearby lake beach, offering boat rentals and regular trips. The heart of Estonian folk music and vocal heritage is kept alive and well in Viljandi by the large student population from Viljandi Culture Academy and the many musicians who stroll the local streets year round. Reaching its melodic peak every July at Viljandi Folk music festival, here you can enjoy a warm summer weekend packed with contemporary renditions of traditional music.
Once you’ve discovered Viljandi in its full charm and beauty, head out of town and soon you will come across even more natural beauty in Soomaa national park and at the 16th century Olustvere manor.
The building, which was built in the first half of the 19th century and resembles the Tower of London, is interesting primarily for its exterior appearance. Chimneys are located in the round corner towers. The building’s stone walls are very decorative. The structure was actually the Heimtali Manor’s cheese factory but is popularly known as the distillery.
The building is in private hands and can only be seen from the outside.
Day 3 Route – Pärnu-Tallinn
The ultimate summer holiday destination in Estonia, Pärnu attracts holidaymakers with its large sandy beach, numerous restaurants, cocktail bars, spas, and a relaxed, laid back vibe. This medieval city has an easygoing and romantic flair to it. Being the largest resort in Estonia, Pärnu is also home to a variety of spas from large water parks to more intimate and historical bathhouses. Long, white sandy beaches, shallow waters and “the best Sun in Estonia” attract Estonians and visiting guests alike. The beautiful beach promenade is ideal for walking, cycling and roller skating with playgrounds, water fountains and play areas offering days full of fun and joy for children. If you are feeling adventurous, try water skiing, yachting or paddle a canoe or a kayak down the Pärnu river to the open sea and nearby islets.
Valgeranna observation tower
Valgeranna is historically known for its beautiful white sandy beaches. The local virgin nature and many possibilities for having an active vacation attract many holidaymakers and athletes. A beautiful promenade takes you from the car park straight to the sea, where you will find a 9 m observation tower with three platforms; the top platform is a great place to observe swimmers and adventure park visitors as well as the surrounding nature.
The beautifully renovated Tõstamaa Manor has a colorful history and it is one of the best-known sights in the area. Even though it has a late classicist appearance, the manor was established in the Middle Ages. It has been used as a school since 1921. You can go on a tour of the manor where you will learn about its history and see its rooms. The wall and ceiling murals, the beautiful main staircase and the room under the mantle chimney are particularly impressive.
This calm and friendly small town located less than 2-hour’s drive from the capital enjoys a long-standing history as a spa resort. Once a popular summer holiday destination for the Russian aristocracy, modern Haapsalu hosts a number of international festivals and is home to charming restaurants. Haapsalu is a wonderful little town with narrow streets, a miniature town hall and romantic wooden dwelling houses. On the romantic seaside promenade stands Kuursaal, one of the finest wooden buildings in Estonia. Here you will also find a deep-rooted spa culture.
Rummu quarry was used as a mining site for Vasalemma marble (a kind of limestone) for a very long time.
Most of the workforce came from among the detainees of Murru prison. When the prison was closed, pumps that kept the quarry and the prison dry were shut down. The water rose so quickly that it flooded a large mining excavator, buildings, and other equipment. Now, these make up for a unique underwater museum which can be seen thanks to the extremely transparent water, making it a perfect destination for divers.
Keila waterfall is located on Keila River in Harju County, Keila rural municipality, Keila-Joa small town. A full 6 meters high, and tens of meters wide, Keila waterfall is the third largest waterfall in Estonia; after the Narva and Jägala waterfalls. There is a road from the park along the riverbed, crossing two suspension bridges, to the waterfall.
Türisalu klint and platform
Türisalu klint is one of the most impressive nature objects on the Northern Estonian limestone coast, towering up to 31 meters. The platform of the Türisalu klint with its romantic sea view and easy access is a popular destination among the citizens of Tallinn; the high vantage point affords a breathtaking view of the sea and Vääna-Jõesuu beach.
Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia and a perfect holiday destination if you want to combine the comforts of the modern world, versatile nightlife and luxurious adventures with a rich cultural scene in the local historical setting. First established in the early medieval era, today’s Tallinn is an exciting mix of old and new. Here’s the good news: with Tallinn being such a compact, green capital, you can cover a lot in just a weekend and enjoy short scenic strolls while at it. Tallinn Old Town is one of the best preserved Hanseatic town centers in the world. A stone’s throw away you’ll find the city’s business center with modern towers and luxurious hotels, trendy neighborhoods, and large shopping centers.
Written by Morten Merila
Photos: Visit Estonia https://www.visitestonia.com/en