All three Baltic States lie in the caress of white sand beaches, perfect for long strolls, refreshing dips and amber hunts. The most precious gem of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is their wild nature – almost half of the territory is covered in forest, and a new nature trail or observation tower is opened every month, with locals making a run for it immediately. This holiday is going to have it all – history and architecture, nature and fantastic cuisine, and, of course, kind-hearted people.
The cobbled streets of Old Riga, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, charming 17th-century wooden dwellings, a venerated collection of Art Nouveau gems, plus a funky Brutalist heritage from the Soviet period and striking modern structures – the architecture of Riga, the capital of Latvia, tells the story of the city’s tumultuous past stretching back more than 800 years.
Experienced travellers know that one of the most breathtaking ways to get to know a city is seeing it from a bird’s-eye view. To that end, Riga’s rooftop bars and restaurants have become popular places for people to enjoy the city’s atmosphere, while the city’s many parks and the banks of the Daugava River are a perfect match for warm summer evenings.
If you want to take a break from the great outdoors, dive into the Riga Motor Museum, which recently underwent an extensive renovation. It hosts the largest collection of antique motor vehicles in the Baltics.
Liepāja and the Kurzeme Coast
Liepāja’s second name is the city of wind, and finding out the reason for this title is quite easy – a 30-minute flight from Riga will deliver you straight to the mighty coast. You must see Karosta – the military port of Liepāja, which was a closed area during the soviet times. Nowadays, you can explore the underground labyrinths with a torch in hand and spend the night in a real prison. An hour and a half’s drive away you’ll find the village Jūrkalne – a unique location to stop by to watch two sunsets in a single night. See the first sunset on the shore and then climb the 20 m high seashore bluff to catch the other one. Besides, it is one of the few places where the blue cows graze, also known as the Sea or Moon cows. Jūrkalne is perfect for paraplane flying too. Those into recreational activities must head to Pāvilosta, a hotspot for surfers and kite surfers; SUP boards and kayaks are available for rent on which explore the nearby rivers. Joining the local fishermen on a fishing trip will be an unforgettable experience, but that also means getting up at dawn. Wherever you might choose to stop at, the shore will be beautiful, calm and just a little bit wild.
Tērvete Nature Park
Those who still believe in fairy tales must visit the Fairy-tale Forest in Tērvete. A dwarf village is hidden among the trees, a miniature train winds through the forest, and a wooden observation tower rises in the sky like a huge beanstalk. Kids can have fun on the air trails made of ropes and study the world of insects in the tropical butterfly house where summer reigns eternally. And among the bright flowers, an iguana feasting on fruit and berries can be spotted.
The city that is also known as Venice of the North plays the sound of a gurgling river against a backdrop of historical buildings. You will see no plastic windows and doors here, so it will seem as though time travel has become reality. The narrow cobbled streets lead to the widest waterfall in Europe – the Venta Rapid. Roll up the legs of your trousers and don’t be afraid to wade to the other side. For a deep shoulder massage, stand beneath the wall of water and allow its force to do its job.
Fans of history and architecture will appreciate the Rundāle Palace, which is surrounded by a French garden with a fantastic collection of roses in it. Francesco Rastrelli, the architect of the palace, is also known for the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and the rebuilding of the Hermitage. Part of the interior of the palace was designed by the German sculptor Johann Michael Graff – his artistic touch is present in the marble panel of the Gold Hall and the Duchess’ Boudoir.
From the charming atmosphere of the medieval Old Town to contemporary vegan restaurants – discover the different faces of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia! You will find restaurants, theatres, churches and shops on every corner, not to mention the city’s enthralling nightlife.
By the way, Tallinn, which is the best-preserved medieval city in Northern Europe, is called a hipsters’ paradise at the same time, and for good reason! It’s full of artistic expression, design shops and creative culture.
Are you looking for something to do while on holiday? How about golf? Although Estonia is not yet a popular European golfing destination, it does have several high-quality courses, for example, the Estonian Golf and Country Club, located just 25 minutes from Tallinn’s downtown.
Palmse Manor and Open-Air Museum
The exquisite rococo style building sits by the Gulf of Finland, and all historical buildings and gardens have been carefully restored to their former glory. The manor used to belong to the Balto-Germanic Pāleni family, but now its atmosphere is reminiscent of a museum’s repository, with splendid cockle stoves, and antique furniture and household items everywhere. After a wine tasting session take a walk through the orangery, go horseback riding or hop on a boat. Plus, you can forge your own coin of fortune in the smithy!
The seventh largest island of Estonia is full of treasures – its traditional dress, language and music are all part of the UNESCO cultural heritage. About 700 people inhibit the island, and you’ll see local ladies riding motorbikes clad in folk costumes. Enjoy the sunset by the white lighthouse that was brought here in 1864 from Great Britain and still serves as a guide-post for fishermen.
In the spring and autumn the bog comes alive with thousands of voices of water birds, thanks to the dark lake in the heart of it. With a convenient access and tiny islands, an unforgettable stroll is guaranteed – when have you ever picked lingonberries along a nature trail and eaten them by the mouthful? In the summer, go for a swim in the milky water of the tiny lakes. The bog is completely untouched by humans, giving you a wonderful chance to see the true essence of nature.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a very compact city that’s filled to the brim with history. Once a monarchy, it has served as the backdrop for renowned films and TV series like Catherine the Great, War and Peace, The Last Czars and many more.
Boasting an amazing Baroque Old Town, Vilnius is one of the best secret destinations for something unexpected and charming. New discoveries, tasty food, and unique experiences – it’s all there. If there’s one thing to splurge on, you won’t regret choosing the relatively rare opportunity to fly over a European capital.
Once you’re back on the ground, you’ll take part in a special induction ceremony at which you’ll receive a certificate and forever be a part of the local hot air ballooning crew.
The narrow stretch of land that reaches into the Baltic Sea is a wonder created by the sea, the wind and the sand, and is known by the name of the Baltic Sahara. Nida used to be a fishermen’s village, but nowadays it charms visitors in a heartbeat; the writer Thomas Mann spent several summers in Nida and wrote his novel Joseph and His Brothers there. His residence is now a museum, and you can try to channel your inner Thomas Mann while you’re there.
For the ultimate relaxing experience, come to Birštonas. The mineral water that flows from the depths of the earth is available for drinking free of charge. To improve your health, visit the mineral water pavilion or one of the sanatoriums for some restorative procedures. Make sure to climb the highest observation tower in Lithuania – the view from the 45-metre high platform to the arching river and the nearby villages is stunning.
In the region that prides itself on its beer brewing traditions, the classical-style Pakruojis Manor is a must-see. There is a unique water mill and a restored dolomite arch bridge – Europe only has two of those in total. Guests can learn to fleece sheep and make clay pots, and marvel at flower sculptures, some of which are up to 6 metres tall, until the end of September.