When you think of a holiday destination, Estonia might not be the first country to spring to mind. But, with its enchanting medieval cities, ancient forests, quirky traditions, and stunning Baltic coastline, the hidden gem of Estonia should definitely be on your travel bucket list. So, pack your bags, brush up on your very limited Estonian, and join us as we explore this extraordinary little country.
Peculiar Traditions and Must-Do Activities
Estonians are a fun-loving bunch, and their customs and traditions reflect that. Here are just a few of the many unique experiences you can partake in while in Estonia:
- Swing Dancing: No, not the 1940s American dance craze - in Estonia, swing dancing involves giant wooden swings called kiiking. Strap yourself in and see how high you can go - just don't eat anything too heavy beforehand.
- Smoke Saunas: Unwind in a traditional Estonian smoke sauna - a small wooden hut filled with steam, smoke, and a distinct lack of clothing. And when you're done sweating out the toxins, cool off with a dip in a nearby lake or roll around in the snow (depending on the season).
- Wife Carrying: Why walk side by side when you can carry your better half? Participate in the annual Wife Carrying World Championships, a sport that originated in Finland but has become popular in Estonia. The objective? Carry your partner through an obstacle course in the fastest time possible. It's the perfect way to test your relationship.
- Herb Foraging: Learn about Estonia's rich tradition of herbal medicine and forage for wild herbs with a local guide. While you're at it, you can also collect some wild berries and mushrooms for your dinner - but leave the weird-looking ones alone. Just in case.
Must-See Sights and Hidden Gems
Estonia's small size means you can see a lot in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top spots to visit:
- Tallinn: Estonia's capital city is a medieval masterpiece, complete with winding cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and a 13th-century city wall. Be sure to check out the Gothic Town Hall, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and the Kiek in de Kok (a medieval tower with a name that never gets old).
- Tartu: Known as Estonia's "city of good thoughts," Tartu is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. Wander the picturesque streets, visit the historic observatory, and check out the street art that has sprung up around the creative city.
- Saaremaa: Estonia's largest island is a haven of ancient forests, windmills, and traditional villages. Visit the well-preserved Bishop's Castle in Kuressaare, indulge in an Estonian spa experience, and keep an eye out for the endangered European mink.
- Hiiumaa: Another Estonian island worth visiting is Hiiumaa, known for its lighthouses, unspoiled nature, and quirky local charm. Don't miss the chance to explore the abandoned Soviet military base - just be sure to bring a flashlight and a sense of adventure.
Estonian Cuisine - A Feast for the Brave
Estonian food is hearty, filling, and perfect for those with adventurous taste buds. Here are some local delicacies to try:
- Verivorst: This black pudding is not for the faint of heart - made with pig's blood, barley, and spices, it's a true Estonian winter staple. Try it with lingonberry jam for a sweet contrast.
- Kiluvoleib: Estonians love their fish! This open-faced sandwich features marinated Baltic herring, boiled eggs, and plenty of onions. It's the perfect seaside snack.
- Kama: A mixture of roasted barley, rye, oat, and pea flour, kama is a popular ingredient in Estonian desserts. Try it mixed with yogurt and fresh berries for a tangy treat.
- Vana Tallinn: No trip to Estonia is complete without a taste of this sweet, spiced liqueur. Drink it straight, mix it into your coffee, or pour it over ice cream - there's no wrong way to enjoy Vana Tallinn.
Practical Tips for Visiting Estonia
Before you embark on your Estonian adventure, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:
- Language: While Estonian is the official language, many people speak English, especially in the larger cities. That said, learning a few basic Estonian phrases can go a long way - locals will appreciate your effort!
- Currency: Estonia uses the Euro, and while card payments are widely accepted, it's always a good idea to carry some cash, especially when visiting rural areas or smaller establishments.
- Weather: Estonian weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers and prepare for anything from sunshine to snow (sometimes in the same day).
- Public Transport: Estonia's public transport system is efficient and affordable. Make the most of it by exploring the country by bus, train, or ferry.
So there you have it - a taste of the enchanting, quirky, and utterly unique country of Estonia. With its blend of medieval charm, natural beauty, and offbeat attractions, there's truly something for everyone in this Baltic wonderland. Happy travels! Article kindly provided by myfavouritehols.com
We've solicited a number of user anecdotes on this topic, and have hand picked some of the more interesting ones below. We feel that anecdotes can give a practical, human perspective on a topic.
"I visited Estonia last summer with my family and I must say, it was one of the most enchanting places we've ever been to. The Tallinn Old Town completely blew our minds with its stunning medieval architecture and cobblestone streets. We even managed to see a few of the city's hidden gems, like St. Catherine's Passage and the Danish King's Garden, which were just breathtaking. The people were incredibly welcoming and kind, too. We made friends with a local family who invited us to their home for a traditional Estonian meal and shared fascinating stories about their history and culture. Another highlight of our trip was exploring the Lahemaa National Park. We hiked through dense forests, marveled at the beautiful coastline, and even spotted some unique wildlife, like the elusive flying squirrel. It was a truly unforgettable experience, and I can't wait to go back someday and explore more of Estonia's enchanting sides. Anna K.My partner and I spent our honeymoon in Estonia, and it was the most romantic and magical experience of our lives. We began our journey in the enchanting city of Tallinn, where we were captivated by the charming cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. We visited the magnificent Toompea Castle and enjoyed a spectacular view of the city from its towers. We then ventured to the picturesque town of Haapsalu, where we strolled along the serene promenade and admired the beautiful wooden houses. The highlight of our trip, however, was our stay in the peaceful island of Saaremaa. We spent our days exploring the island's lush forests and stunning coastline, and our nights cuddling by a warm fire in our cozy cabin. The enchanting beauty of Estonia has left a lasting impression on our hearts, and we can't wait to return one day to relive this magical experience.Michael T.I fell in love with Estonia during my solo backpacking trip across Europe. It's such an underrated destination with so much to offer. The Old Town in Tallinn is like stepping back in time to the medieval era, and I spent hours wandering its narrow streets, exploring hidden courtyards and admiring the beautifully preserved architecture. I also had the opportunity to visit the stunning island of Hiiumaa, where I rented a bike and cycled through the picturesque countryside, stopping at quaint villages and historic lighthouses along the way. One of my favourite memories of Estonia was attending a traditional song and dance festival in Tartu, where I had the chance to immerse myself in Estonian culture and learn about their unique traditions. The warmth and friendliness of the Estonian people also made my trip an incredibly enriching experience. I can't recommend this enchanting country enough!Katrina J.Estonia is a hidden gem that I had the pleasure of discovering during a recent work trip. I was based in Tallinn and was immediately impressed with the contrast between the modern city and the beautifully preserved medieval Old Town. During my time off, I wandered through the cobbled streets, visiting the Gothic Town Hall and the imposing St. Olaf's Church. Outside of Tallinn, I had the opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes of the country, from the pristine beaches of Pärnu to the lush forests and wetlands of Soomaa National Park. I was particularly fascinated by the unique culture and traditions of the Seto people, who inhabit the southeastern region of the country. Attending a traditional seto leelo (singing) performance was a truly unforgettable experience. Estonia is a captivating and enchanting country and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique travel experience.Olivier L.
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