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Estonia - side trip recommendations

Hello fellow travelers!

I'll be in Tallinn, Estonia for two weeks in July (staying with a friend who will be attending a conference there)`. She will join me to travel together later that month for trips to Helsinki, Stockholm and then off to Paris.

I'm seeking side trip ideas for where to go while in Estonia. Here's my travel schedule below, thus far. All suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance to all who share their insights and recommendations!

July 8-23 - Tallinn, Estonia
July 23 ferry to Helsinki, 2 nights
July 25 - Helsinki to Stockholm, 2 nights
July 27-29 - Stockholm to Paris, 3 nights
July 30 - Leave Paris, fly back to U.S.

Posted by
6526 posts

Thanks! When you say side trips, are you looking for day trips or longer? The obvious answer would be Tartu, a charming old university town a bit southeast of Tallinn. I would also like to suggest Narva, while Narva once had a lovely charming old town centre it was destroyed by the soviets in the 2nd world war. Basically only the town hall survived. The fortress also survived and today hosts a museum, and offers views of Russia and the fortress on the other side of the border. Apart from that, much of Narva still has a bit of a Soviet feeling. Both Narva and Tartu are easy to reach by train.

For more Soviet feeling, Sillamäe can also be an option. And closer to Tallinn there is Hapsal that doesn't offer Soviet feeling, but small town charm, and the remains of a castle. Or maybe Pärnu, which is a popular destination in the summer.

Posted by
38 posts

This is very helpful. Side trips can be day and or multiple days with overnights at new destinations. Thanks!

Posted by
6526 posts

For a multiple day side trip, Riga should be very high on your list! Lovely city. And if you had asked me a bit over a year ago I would have said St Petersburg as well, but at the moment I would not recommend that as a destination.

Posted by
38 posts

I will do some research on Riga as well. Definitely agree with you regarding St. Petersburg. It's too bad but way too iffy for this year's travel plans.

Posted by
846 posts

I’m so glad that you will have time for side trips in Estonia. It is a lovely country. I second everything Badger said.

I loved Narva. It is such a cool site with fortresses on both sides of the river/border. The museum in the fortress is very nice. The Estonian side has a nice Riverwalk. We stayed in Narva Joesuu, which has a beautiful beach. This part of Estonia is struggling economically. It depended upon trade with Russia and Narva Joesuu depended on Russian tourists. It’s a super interesting place to visit.

We stopped briefly in Sillamae. I wish we had had more time. It’s pure Soviet architecture. It was a closed Soviet city. There is uranium in the surrounding area. They now process rare earths there.

I also highly recommend Lahemaa National Park. We loved the bog walk, seeing the coastal villages and the Palmse Manor.

Tartu is a really nice university town with an awesome museum, the Estonian National museum. Don’t miss this.

On the west side, you could visit Haapsalu and Parnu. I liked Haapsalu better. We were there in September which was off season. I’m sure both will be busier in summer.

We also spent 2 nights on Saaremaa island. We stayed in Kuressaare which has another nice fortress.

If you go to Riga, you will probably want to go by bus. I think they have revived the train, I’m thinking it went once a week (!) when we were there. The bus is nice. It’s express. There are several companies. Don’t stress about which one. They all seem about the same.

Posted by
6526 posts

Thanks for confirming my suggestions. And yes, the islands are also worth visiting, forgot about them.

Regarding Narva, the river has a long history as a border. While the current border only has been there for a few decades, the river has served as a border for centuries. In the 14th century is was the border between the Teutonic order and Novgorod, and in the 17th century it was the border between Sweden and Russia, to name a few examples. And yes, that part is struggling, especially with border traffic down to a minimum. So make sure you spend a bit of money in Narva if you go there. A large part of the population in Narva speak Russian as their first language which also adds to the soviet feel.

You can take the train from Tallinn to Riga with a change at the border, https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/riga-to-tallinn-by-train.htm but the bus is a bit faster. Regarding bus companies I'd recommend Lux Express, www.luxexpress.eu

Posted by
38 posts

Many thanks Eef and Badger for the great information and suggestions! I will look into these recommended places to visit!

Posted by
15520 posts

For those who have taken the bus, I have a, well, unique question. How big are the toilets? I'm a fairly big guy and worry about not fitting in them. Some of the tour bus toilets are miniscule which is why I ask.

Posted by
846 posts

Frank, I am afraid I can’t answer your question. I have not used an on-board restroom. Some routes make pit stops but I don’t remember if these routes also had toilets on the bus. I do remember a pit stop from Vilnius to Nida (in Lithuania) because that was my first ride in the Baltics. We did mostly bus but a few trains in Latvia and Lithuania. We did a private tour in Estonia so didn’t use the bus system. I imagine it works about the same. I bought all of our tickets in Latvia and Lithuania online before I got there. Most buses did not fill up, but some did, like the bus to Nida.

Posted by
2616 posts

Frank--I took Ecolines from Tallinn to Riga and then Riga to Vilnius--excellent experience, not at all like riding a long distance bus in the US-- and the bathroom is very small, like airplane cramped but more so. I managed to use it, but honestly I only saw 1 other person besides me try. The bus from Tallinn stops briefly but not long enough for people to get off and go inside the terminal.

Posted by
1 posts

I am so excited to have found this information ... We are traveling with grandson, 18, to Estonia in May. We will rent a car and drive from Tallinn, stop at the park, visit Sillamae and then stay in Narva-Joesuu for one night and take bus into Narva to visit the castle and "look" at Russia. Then we will slowly, with stops, drive to Tartu for two nights, visit the museum (hope it is open on Sunday), and the upside down house and then back to Tallinn and then on to Helsinki via Viking Ferry.

Do you have any other ideas of what we should not miss along the way. (we will be spending 4 days in Tallinn). I hope we are in a safe area in Narva-Joesuu - I rented through booking.com... We aren't staying in Narva as I had read it isn't as safe there. I am glad we can spend some money in Narva area - sad that they are loosing their income because the people of Russia can't come there as easily if at all. I tried to get a guided tour at the museum in Sillamae but they said they are completely booked! Thanks to all of you who offer suggestions! We are from CO and grandson from NY

Posted by
6526 posts

@lauralewismail, it's better if you start your own thread instead of hijacking an existing one.

Posted by
25 posts

FYI
There is an overnight ferry between Helsinki and Stockholm. We left Stockholm in the evening arrived in Helsinki in the morning then that evening we returned to Stockholm and you just leave all your belongings in your room. I realize that you would be doing this in the reverse but that ferry was a highlight of that part of the trip. We purchased the dining package. We've lived in Las Vegas so we know buffet. Their buffet had everything including unlimited wine and huge bowls of caviar. There was huge areas for shopping because folks in Finland and Sweden shop on board as there are no taxes. There was entertainment in a theatre but also many bars with live music. We met local folks who were happy to share their stories. I didn't see one tourist!

Posted by
27336 posts

There have recently been a bunch of sold-out overnight ferries between Stockholm and Turku. I wouldn't be surprised if the same pattern holds for the Stockholm-Helsinki ships. Needless to say, booking late can result in a very expensive ticket.