Estonia is the most northerly of the three Baltic States. Although largely flat, Estoniais a country of scenic beauty with many forests, more than 1,400 lakes and 1,500 islands to explore. The capital Tallinn is an important port and one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Outside the capital other notable towns include Tartu, an ancient university town in the south-east and Pärnu with its attractive beach in the south-west.
Estonia regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last of the Russian troops leaving in 1994. The country joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
Population: 1.4 million
People: Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Finn
Religion: Evangelical Lutheran 13.6%, Orthodox 12.8%, other Christian (including Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal) 1.4%, unaffiliated 34.1%, other and unspecified 32%, none 6.1%.
Languages: Estonian 67.3%, Russian 29.7%, other 2.3%, unknown 0.7%
Government: parliamentary republic
Saunas in Estonia are a national institution. The typical session lasts about ten minutes after which you will be ready for a cool off with a nice cold beer, which is what most of the Estonians recommend. One of the more unusual experiences is the floating sauna in the Soomaa National Park which floats down the river past the park’s beautiful landscape.
The capital city has much surviving from the 14th and 15th centuries; the old town complete with medieval wall, turrets, spires and cobbled streets. The city is full of museums, covering a range of fields, from history and nature to art and architecture. Nevertheless, the city has a modern edge and this is reflected in the city’s art scene with constantly changing exhibits in galleries and halls showing the work of artists from both Estonia and abroad.
A quiet seaside town steeped in history. The 13th Century built Episcopal Castle is one of the town’s main attractions. It is well established as a spa resort, curative mud therapies and aromatic massage are high on many visitors’ agendas.
In addition to its magic healing powers as a health resort, Parnu is considered Estonia’s playground. Sandy beaches and raucous nightlife attract the young, while gorgeous leafy parks, fresh air, mud baths, peace and quiet can be found for the young at heart!
One of the oldest university towns in Europe, Tartu is a city of festivals and museums benefiting from being opened up to the outside world since independence. Other sights include the Vyshgorod Cathedral, the Town Hall and the university’s Botanical Garden .
Lahemaa National Park
Lahemaa literally translates as ‘ Land of Bays’, and is the country’s largest national park. It is a mix of coast, forests, lakes, rivers, bogs, and waterfalls. The two main areas open to visitors are the Koljaku-Oandu Reserve, an area of wet sea forest in the northeastern part of the park and the Laukasoo Reserve, home to a seven thousand year-old bog.
A small commune in Estonia, situated on an island in the Gulf of Riga. It is a perfect site for hiking. Ruhnu Museum introduces the history of the tiny island, which features a 17 th century wooden church and a lighthouse.
Best time to go
Estonia has a climate of icy, snowy winters and long light summers. Summer is warm with relatively mild weather in spring and autumn, but winter can be bitterly cold. April to September is the best time to go, with July and August the warmest months. Winter lasts from November to mid-March, can bring heavy snowfalls and limited daylight hours, but manages to attract skiers to the country. Rainfall is common throughout the year, including showers the summer months.