Estonians have been living in this tiny part of the Baltic’s since approximately 2,500 B.C. Estonia's strategic location between east and west has been highly coveted throughout the ages. Teutonic knights, Danes, Swedes, Germans, Poles, and Russians all swept across Estonia, setting up successive regimes, fortifying their towns and castles, and shipping their goods through Estonian ports. It was only in 1918, that Estonia managed to form an independent state. In 1940 it was annexed by the Soviet Union and did not achieve full independence until 1991.
With its four Hanseatic League cities, Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Viljandi, Estonia was one of Europe’s liveliest trading centres in the Middle Ages, connecting the east and the west and became a melting pot of peoples from all over the continent.
It's not hard to see why Estonia is known as the pearl of the Baltic’s' when castles, enchanting legends and ancient towns abound. Estonia's capital, Tallinn, has a fascinating past filled with German traders, Danish rule and the struggle between Swedish and Russian control. Explore the Old Town with its narrow cobblestone streets and ancient city walls, and soak up the surroundings, from a church spire perched high above the red-tiled roofs. This is a place where no photograph will go to waste! The locals will enchant you as much as the city with their sense of humor. Be sure to learn just a few words of Estonian to break the ice and watch the smiles and friendship develop. With so much to offer Estonia is sure to surprise.
The highlight of any trip to Estonia is the capital city, Tallinn, which boasts what some call the best preserved medieval old town in Northern Europe. On the narrow cobblestone streets, it is easy to imagine yourself as a merchant, burgher, lady or citizen of the era. Tallinn offers even more, excellent restaurants, including those with a medieval theme like Olde Hansa and Peppersack, as well as economy accommodation and outstanding Estonian souvenirs, made locally. Tallinn is an excellent base for exploring Northern Estonia with its exotic Russian influences and Lahemaa National Park.
The two oldest cities, Tallinn and Tartu, have tried to preserve the romance of the middle Ages in its original form. Hanseatic Days are held in Tartu every year, while Tallinn celebrates its Old Town Days, where the city centre revels in its medieval appearance for a whole week.
In summertime, tourists are attracted to Parnu on the west coast. But don’t miss the wild and unspoiled nature of the western islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. One can still find operating wooden windmills and stone cottages with thatched roofs there. Along with modern services, you can enjoy excellent spas with relaxing therapeutic procedures that are available in Kuuresaare, the capital of Saaremaa Island.
This is a perfect trip for those who are combining a visit to Russia and Estonia; you get to visit the two gems of the Baltic’s, Tallinn, with its cobblestone streets and Medieval Cathedrals, and St. Petersburg with its ornate palaces housing countless treasures of Imperial Russia.