Off the Beaten Path: 5 Day Road Trip in the South and the North of Estonia

What to see in Estonia, where to enjoy its stunning nature and what are the places and cities not to miss? Bright green forests, calm lakes and unusual museums are just some of the reasons why you must visit South and North of Estonia! Listen to the silence of the bog, walk at the seaside, surrounded by the dandelion seed heads and see museums which will be fun even for those who say “I am not a museum kind of person”.

I had never thought Estonia would be the country where after spending five days and driving nearly 1500km, I will feel like the trip was too short and I didn’t have nearly enough time! Estonia definitely deserves a longer vacation, and there will be something for everyone, if you travel solo, as a couple, family or with grandparents.

Usually, first places people visit in Estonia are Tallinn, Saaremaa or Tartu AHHAA center. This time our goal was to explore the lesser known side of Estonia, seeing nature reserves and unusual places that Altas Obscura writes about. We drove through the South and North of Estonia, from Tartu, near the Lake Peipsi, to the cliffs at the sea in the North and the border of Russia in Narva.

The North of Estonia really is in the north, and mid-June lilacs are just starting to bloom, and you might see not only tulips, but even blooming apple trees! Spring is your favorite time of the year? Come and see it again in Estonia! Near Lake Peipsi spring comes even later than everywhere else, but it is warmer here in the autumn, so September isn’t a bad time either.

Folk traditions of the Midsummer are also celebrated here, and the Old Believers celebrate them two weeks later, so you have the chance to enjoy the celebration twice in one year!

Planning Your Trip

It is very easy to plan your trip to Estonia, as Estonians have a very good national tourism promotion website Visit Estonia. It has all the necessary information about the sights, hotels, restaurants, opening hours, entrance fees and contacts!

I needed just an hour and a half to plan my five day visit to Estonia! I also used the hiking trail website and several local tourism center websites, check all of those at the end of this article.

Day 1 – 350 km – Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve

We leave Riga on a Wednesday evening, slightly later than we would have wanted to. To further delay us, we have to stop and wait in a few places due to road repairs. Still, the time passes by quickly and we even meet a moose on the Latvian side, luckily, he is in the bushes. Two hours before sunset we are at the first stop, Alam-Pedja nature reserve, Selli-Sillaotsa study trail, which is 4.7 km long. This reserve is over 34 hectares large and is the biggest in Estonia. There are several parking spots at the entrance and a poster with information, and more detailed instructions on how to find the pathway can be found here.

The pathway is just two planks wide and in some places they are broken, so you have to be careful and look where you step. After a brisk walk through the forest we reach the bog with the little pine trees and the observation tower, which is very unusual-looking, as it resembles a house! This place feels completely remote, far away from the civilization.

You only hear birds, especially loud are cuckoos. We continue walking and pass through a forest again, thousands of blackberry bushes are here (you are allowed to pick berries in season). There is also a segment of the pathway where you can meet snakes, so be careful when it’s warm! And, be sure to pack a bug spray, as you will need it!

 

The weather is relatively warm, but the evening is quite gray, so we stay for a bit at the reserve, listening to the frogs in the little pond and head to the hotel, hoping the next day offers better brighter weather. When we have nearly reached the hotel, suddenly the sky turns orange and red, but we are so starving at that point that we just go to buy something in the gas station on the way. The small gas stations in the area are open until 10 and 11pm, the large Circle K works 24/7.

Once we reach the hotel, we see a stand with materials about this region of Estonia. We learn it has been described in the national epic about Kalevipoeg or the son of Kalev. Many local businesses offer themed tours because of that. Flipping through the materials we can only compliment the quality of those! These surely make you want to visit more place, and we end up adjusting our itinerary to include a few more stops!

Hotel: Aksi Puhkemaja 35 euros for two, with breakfast

Costs: hotel, snacks in the gas station and lunch for two in Ristmiku bistro (20 eur for both). You can also eat dinner in Umb Roht in Tartu. Tartu is not far, so you can stay in the hotel there too.

Day 2 – 250 km – AHHAA Science Centre, Endla Nature Reserve

AHHAA Center

When waking up, we see that we will need to adjust our plans for the day, as it is raining cats and dogs. If the weather had been better, we would have visited Eesti Roos rose garden, which is the largest in the Baltic states and among the 10 largest in Europe (entrance is only 2 euros per person). You can also buy rose bushes here for your own garden as there are over 1000 varieties to choose from, or have a guided walk to see the roses. Due to the weather conditions we also end up postponing Elistvere animal park for the way back, but this is the beauty of the road trips, you can plan and rearrange some part of itinerary.

We decide to head to Tartu and visit the AHHAA center, which initially was not in our plans. Here we spent three hours seeing the various science exhibits and get some lunch (which costs the same as the previous day in the bistro, setting a trend for eating out – 10 euros per person).

At four o’clock a Latvian girl Ilva does presentation about water, in English and Latvian, and manages to handle well the tricky questions a little American boy keeps asking about blowing something up. The lecture has a lot of fun and practical and information and definitely is not just for the kids!

Every hour we keep checking the weather forecast and it shows sun in the nearest hour, yet it keeps changing one hour forward every time we check. At last we decide to head to Endla Nature Reserve anyway, hoping it gets better once we are there, but it is raining so badly we don’t even leave the car. So we decide to head to Jogeva, to the Selver store for some dinner and breakfast. Once we have finished shopping and are ready to head out to the hotel, suddenly there is sunshine in the distance. Should we go again to Endla? Let’s do that!

Endla Nature Reserve

After thirty minutes we are back at the Endla Reserve entrance, park the car (the parking lot is in Tooma village) and head out to look for the trail.  After a few meters we see the sign directing us to the Männikjärve pathway, but we see there is a private farm in the front.  Although the sign clearly shows we have to go through, there are a few gates ahead of us, and we are concerned about trespassing and, possibly, dogs. So we walk through the area quickly. In the meantime the weather has improved significantly, rays of sun shining through the trees and everything seems unbelievable green all around us.

This trail is longer, 7.3 km, and is in a place where first bog studies were begun in Estonia in 1910. Since 1950 water level measurements are done here as well, and you can see the equipment soon after you step on the pathway.

There are new segments added to the pathway at the moment, so soon it should be even longer! Unfortunately, all of the information is only in Estonian, so we can only guess what the information signs depicting flowers say.

At the middle of the long, straight pathway there is the observation tower, and at last we see the little bog lakes! There are dark clouds behind us, rainbow shining in the middle and every drop of rain glimmers in the pine trees. We are the only people here, just cranes and cuckoos heard in the distance. After the sun sets, mist starts to roll up, and we head back to the car, not completing the full circle of the trail.

The full Moon has risen, horses are in the meadows and the air after rain is just unbelievably fresh, corn crakes filling it with melodic crex-crex in the fields. Now we have to start driving to Mustvee, near Lake Peipsi.

We pass a few places on the road where the repairs are done, so again it takes slightly longer. At least we get a chance to see some bunnies! When we reach the hotel, turns out the reception closed thirty minutes ago. After a quick call to the indicated phone number, the owner comes by and opens a room for us.

Hotel: Kalameeste maja, 40 euros for two, without breakfast

Costs: hotel, AHHAA Center entrance 13 euros per adult, lunch 10 euros per person, nature reserve is free, snacks in Selver for dinner and breakfast. If you have time for proper meal, there are a few dinner places in Jogeva – Saksa Pubi and Kurista Soogitare.

Day 3 – 180 km – morning at the Lake Peipsi, Aidu Quarry, the Mining Museum, Valaste Waterfall, Ontika Cliffs, Toila and Oru Park

Lake Peipsi

We wake up in the morning as there is some noise from the nearby room. At night we though we are the only visitors of the hotel, but it is nearly full!

Most of the conversations around are in Russian, as the descendants of the Old Believers who run away from Russia centuries ago live near Lake Peipsi. Nowadays the little towns charm you with little houses, onions for sale (August is the best time to buy those here!) and some tasty fish. Despite the water in the lake still being quite cold, a few people swim. This seems like the perfect place to rent a house for a month and really take your time off the civilization! But we must go further, seeing yellow and green fields, forests and empty roads on our way, leading to Aidu Quarry.

Aidu Quarry

Passing by a few more roadworks and seeing just a few cars during this hour, we have reached Aidu Quarry. It used to be oil shale mining site, but few years ago the production stopped. You can still see mountains of white limestone and bright blue water, which is unusual for Baltic countries.

We don’t see any abandoned buildings nearby as in Rummu, but also no other people here, it is very silent! We first arrive at the quarry from one side, worrying we might get stuck in the muddy road after the rain, and then come from the city side, to the largest pool area. The white mountains are starting to get covered with small trees but there is no grass just yet. To explore the quarry more, you can either take a guided hike with Alatakuse Matkaklubi, get a 4×4 excursion with Adrenaator or kayak.

The Mining Museum

At three o’clock we have a reservation at the Eesti Kaevandusmuuseum or the Estonian Mining Museum that used to be the mine of oil shale. Our guide has been slightly delayed with the previous group, so we are invited to see the exhibitions outside and inside, in the three floors above. Apart from our car, there are few school buses near the museum and some private cars.

At the very beginning the mine use to belong to the British, who only paid per kilogram of the shale, even the tools people had to bring their own. During the war, this was the place where oil shale for German airplanes fuel was mined. Work at the mine took priority and miners did not have to go to war. Interestingly, there were a lot of women employed in this mine in various jobs.

The mine has not been operational since 2001, and the tours started the same year it closed. With the EU funds the place has been renovated and the museum is truly impressive! Some of the most interesting exhibits outside are the large truck and mining bowl. You can see old trains with samples of the minerals and a lot of other equipment. Indoors, the museum has integrated the old and the new, and you can learn a lot about how oil shale formed, how it is used and what was needed to get it out of the ground.

But the most interesting is yet to come! We meet our guide Otto, who worked in this mine for over 42 years. It takes a little to get accustomed to his Russian, and for those not speaking Estonian or Russian, there are audio guides available.

He shows us a short movie about the mine, directs us to the wardrobe where we pick out coats to keep us warm, as it is only 7-9C in the mines (and you can leave your own coat in the car, so it does not get dirty), and gives us helmets. He shows us equipment that was used by miners, tells stories of safety precautions and also mentions that because of the risks, the pay was very good – in Soviet times a miner used to make fives times more than the mayor of the city. Now the mines are closed, as getting the minerals is no longer profitable.

Crunching quite a lot we enter the little train car and Otto says not to lean out. The train moves very fast and I even feel a bit frightened from it’s sudden movements. When we exit, we are deep in the mine, there is water leaking from the ceiling and we walk on a wooden pathway.

We see primitive drills used for drilling holes for explosives, Otto even turns on a few machines and shows us how they work, and the sound they make is just deafening! We are surprised the equipment still works, but Otto says many things have broken down with time and there isn’t anyone who can fix them.

There is a lot of noise when the machines are on, in the otherwise very quiet underground tunnels. Some of the areas have movement sensors to play the sound associated with the mine. Under the ground there are underwater rivers (as the water seeping from the ceiling has to go somewhere), and we even see a little frog here! Otto tells us more about the about calcium carbide Ilva told us about in the AHHAA center. Here it was burnt for light and to see if there is enough oxygen.

Otto says that these days there are various “fashionable” events taking place in the mine, such as art light shows. But you can see he would much rather have the mine operating again.

We spend more than an hour underground, walking back to the entrance. Although the mine is just 8 m deep, it feels like we are much deeper underground. The visit leaves a lasting impression, it seems unbelievable that such kind of high quality museum can be visited in the Baltics! Unusual, education and especially interesting for people who enjoy technical things. There are not that many museums in real mines worldwide, and especially, so well preserved as this one. But the best bit was meeting a real miner, as who can tell you better what it was like than him?

Valaste Waterfall and Ontika Cliffs

After visiting the museum, we head straight to the cliffs at the sea, where the highest waterfall in Estonia is located. Valaste waterfall is 30 m tall, but unfortunately, you can’t access it freely, as the observation deck is not safe for visitors and thus is closed. You can get a peek from the side of the stairs or at the end of the pathway on the other side (it’s steep and slippery, so be careful!).

This place is especially famous in the winter, when it freezes over. This is as close as we get to the cliffs, as we drive from Aa til Toila, there is no other place to go down and see them, except for a little parking spot near the road, but even there there are no stairs to the sea.

Toila

The evening is nearing and we must head to our next hotel. We are staying in a real spa hotel in Toila, full of people, as we can see from the parking lot. As in a true resort hotel, you get to meet people in bathrobes when you enter the elevator and kids excitedly running to the aquapark.

We don’t have time for pools this time, but this does look like a very peaceful place to enjoy northern spa. We walk to the stairs to the sea, see the stony beach and then get to the port. A lovely cafe with wonderful souvenirs is there, but we head to the lighthouse.

Swallows chirp near the yachts, we sit on the bench around white dandelion puffs and enjoy the wonderful, sunny evening. Oru park is located next to the port, so if you have time, be sure to stop there and see the collection of the plants, as this place hosts largest variety of plans in Estonia.

Again, we were starving after the long day, and since the hotel restaurant is fully booked for the evening, we get lucky and learned about Fregata Pubi not far from the hotel. Here we enjoy the tastiest meal during our stay!

Hotel: Toila Spa, 88 euros for two, with hotel and access to the pool

Costs: 17 euros per person mining museum, please book the guide ahead. Dinner at Fregata Pubi, 10 euros per person. Snacks in the mining museum.

Day 4 – 280km – Puhtitsa Convent (and Vasknarva by accident), Sillamae, Langevoje Waterfall, Sinimae Observation Tower, Narva-Joesuu, Narva Castle

Looking for the Puhtitsa Convent

Because we made some adjustments for our itinerary, we decided to see Puhtitsa convent not on the way home, but on Day 4. There must have been divine intervention, as this time Waze takes us to a completely different place instead. At one point Jekabs notices a really nice church at the top of the hill and we discuss how we should visit this place on the way back. When we finally reach the destination, turns out, it is not the one we were supposed to see, as we are nearly at Lake Peipsi and this is a different convent, which is unfortunately closed today.

The rain is approaching, so we just manage to run around the convent fence quickly, and head back. To the same beautiful church we saw on the way.

Puhtitsa convent is located in a holy place, where a a shepherd witnessed divine revelation near a spring, the spring here is considered holy since then. The spring is still here and the translation of the convents name means “holy”. Do pack a scarf to visit the church of the monastery. They will let you in anyway, but it is customary for women to cover their hair here.

I really enjoyed the garden of the monastery, walking further to the orchard and the houses of the nuns. It is very peaceful here.

Outside of the convent there is a small store and cafe, where we decide to have some lunch. While we wait for the food to be prepared, there is a very weird Russian soap opera about Jesus.

In conclusion, although beautiful and calm, this was probably the most touristy place we visited during the five days, as there are numerous excursion buses, vendors selling things and even the restroom is not free.

Narva Castle

As it is much later than we had planned for, we head to Narva, as we are limited by the opening hours of the Narva castle (Hermanni linnus in the signs in the city).

You can park your car going down the hill at the river. Turns out, there was a marathon during the day, so good thing we did not come sooner! We walk briskly and in few meters discover that the border of Russia is here, just across the river. Ivangorod is there and it’s traditional castle is just opposite typical western Narva castle (built in 1256 by Danes). There is a legend that both castles are connected with a tunnel under the river.

The river can be crossed by bridge, and we see a line of cars waiting to be allowed entrance to Russia. Just to be sure, we switch off mobile data not to get unexpected charges, and soon one of our three phones beeps and a message is there  – roaming tariffs with Russia explained, as the phone has connected to a Russian cell tower.

Next to the castle is the lovely Narva promenade, where we walk around looking for the entrance to the castle just to discover it is at the top of the hill. Soon we are inside the castle grounds and can see the river, power plant and the border just nearby. The first exhibit of the museum is about the turbulent times in Narva once Soviet Union fell apart. As people here are mostly Russian speaking, they did not feel their rights were represented enough in the Estonian parliament. The main message of the exhibit is that despite the fake news and propaganda, which threatens the stability in such places as Narva, the worst is actually behind.

The other exhibits are dedicated to more ancient history. The city of Narva was first mentioned in 1172 and during the years was closely linked to Livonian order.

You can try on traditional clothing from this time, see archaeological finds and learn what the city went through. Information is mostly in Estonian and Russian.

There is also a tower, which we really want to climb! Turns out, there is a wooden gallery on the 8th floor (it even has a sign at the entrance – continue walking, it is safe!). The windows have glass, but you still get very good visibility of both countries border.

Then we head to the Northern Yard, where you can get some souvenirs, drink tea and meet craftsmen. After visiting the castle, be sure to see the bastions that were instrumental in protecting the castle from intruders!

Sillamae, Langevoje Waterfall and Sinimae Observation Tower

As we had to skip Sillamae during the day, worrying we might not see the castle before it closes for the night, once we are done with it, we head back to the west. It might not look like a place worth considering, but this town is very special, as it was a secret town during Soviet times. It  did not have an address other than “Mailbox Nr 22” and was not depicted in any maps. Why so?

It started as a resort town in the 16th century, and many famous people from Russia visited it, such as Tchaikovsky and Pavlov. But after WWII, the life of this town changed forever, as uranium enrichment plant “Nr 7” was built here, nicknamed “Colouring plant”.

More than 18000 people built the factory, mostly soldiers and prisoners, although before the war there were only 3 000 inhabitants. Due to the secrecy of the town, it was especially prepared to make the living conditions of the intelligent engineers to be working there better. Even the architecture of Sillamae is different than typical Soviet style, buildings are in Stalinist neoclassicism. Strongest example of that being the town hall building that looks just like a church, although it was never such.

The other main sight of the city, Mere street stairs is being renovated when we visit, so we just walk around, see the streets and wonder if we can enter the port area or the factory buildings. Since the port is the fifth largest port in the Baltics, once cannot enter freely. So we decide to go to Langevoje waterfalls close by. Only here the smell of oil disappears from the air, and probably this town will not be regaining resort reputation any time soon.

When driving back to Narva, we notice an observation tower in Sinimae (Sinimae vatetorn), be sure to take the asphalt road and not the dirt one, as you might get stuck there! We drive around looking for the main road to the tower, in the end parking where others have left their cars and climbing steep up the hill (turns out – there is a pathway on the other side). We also meet a local guy who says he used to work in Riga and he gets very excited when he sees our Latvian licence plates. Once we are at the top of the tower, two teenagers climb up as well, turns out, they are Latvians too! They are very surprised to see us and say we are first Latvians they have met in the one month they live there.

The view from the tower is impressive – port in the distance, the green trees in the golden light of the evening sun and meadow with cows and a stork sitting in it’s nest. The perfect place for a sunset! But we have other plans, so we continue driving on.

Narva and Narva-Joesuu

Next stop is Narva-Joesuu, the resort town next to Narva. We see a few hitchhikers on the way and a baby moose and a mama moose, who want to cross the road, luckily, all ends well.

There are many spa hotels in Narva-Joesuu (and all seem to be booked on the day of our visit), there is a beach and a pier at the river where people fish. Don’t expect many restaurants and lively shopping streets! Life seems to be going on inside the hotels, and we see only a Georgian restaurant and French cafe. Know that parking is not free here, and you can only pay with sms, and I am yet to figure out how foreigners can do it. After 8pm parking is free, so we did not have to pay when we visited.

The beach is quiet and calm, not many people here. There is also a lighthouse in the distance and a pier, and people are fishing from the Russian side. Some of the houses in the area are from the Soviet times, others are brand new and have large round windows, keeping the marine theme.

Walking through the tiny streets leading to the beach I can’t shake the feeling that it feels like in the USA. A lot in this road trip reminds me of the wonderful time we had in the States, and especially, the excitement I feel exploring new places!

We then head back to Narva, for the “blue hour” to take some pictures. Since there is some time left, we grab McDonalds to go (much cheaper than proper meal, just 7 euros for both) and go back to the parking lot at the castle. We eat in the car and notice how terns are catching mosquitoes. So they eat something else apart from fish?!

It is nearly midnight and it does not get dark at all. No tourists around, just locals enjoying themselves, talking, having some wine or even swimming in the cold water of the city beach.

The border becomes quiet too, just few people walking and truck passing through. Narva castle is brightly lit, on the other side just the flagpole with Russian flag is illuminated, and the Moon rises there.

After finishing with the pictures we go to Alexander church with the red lights at the top, try to find university and town hall buildings in the dark. Architecture has a special place in Narva, as it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities of the Northern Europe. After the fire of 1659 the city was rebuilt in stone and wooden buildings were no longer allowed, and that’s how baroque architecture came to be.

Hotel: Narva Hotell, 48 euros for two, with breakfast

Costs: lunch in cafe “Nadezda” at the convent, 10 euros per person, dinner in McDonalds in Narva, 7 euros for both. Narva castle 7 euros per person (entrance to museum, yard and gallery). If you have time to enjoy more places to eat, Muna Cafe and restaurant Rondeel are other options.

Day 5 – 430 km – Kreenholm Manufacturing Company, Return to Lake Peipsi and Elistvere Animal Park

Kreenholm Manufacturing Company

We eat breakfast and soon are on our way to a place that was famous across Europe – Kreenholm Manufacturing Company. I must admit that before the trip I was slightly skeptical, as run down buildings is not my favorite item on agenda, but how wrong I was about this one! The tour becomes one of the highlights in Narva and I would recommend it for everyone!

In 1856 Ludwig Knoop purchases Kreenholm island (in translation from Swedish – the island of crows) and starts building a textile factory. It later became the most modern one in Russian Empire and the biggest in Europe. At its peak, 11 000 people used to work here! In 2010 the factory went bankrupt, and now just some of the buildings are used by private companies.

The territory is closed for the general public, so you must enter with a guide. On Sundays at 12:00, at the old gate (opposite Joala street 30/32) guides wait for tourists to come. Tickets are sold on the spot and cost 13 euros per person, cash only. There are guides that do tours in Russian and Estonian (sometimes a dual-language tour, if not many people show up) and English tours can be organized on demand. I would recommend checking with Narva Castle Museum in any case before coming for a tour, as they are the ones organizing these.

Our guide Dmitry takes us inside and shows the older buildings, explaining that annexes built during the Soviet times have been torn down, and only the historical buildings, to be protected, remain. We head to the new gate and he tells us about employee strikes that took place here, as the working conditions were unbearable. Work started at 5 am, finished at 9 pm and even children had to work here and do all of the same tasks as adults (and after work they still had to go to school!). Workers had very little rights and life was not easy for those employees.

We proceed to walk to the bridge and see the waterfalls, a bit dry this time of the year. The guide tells us that once the power plant opens the floodgate in spring, there is a lot of water and tours are very popular then.

The size of the territory is impressive, and you cannot forget that just across the river there is Russia. You see windows, cars, people walking. There is another border crossing for those travelling without luggage.

There is a senior lady from Ivangorod in our tour group who used to work in the factory as a teenager in the summers, and she keeps reminding her grandson: “Look, look what capitalists did, they destroyed everything and they will try to do the same for us!”. You can feel how perception is different across the border. Our guide does a very good job explaining the more difficult questions and sticking to the facts.

The buildings are grand, those are not just large spaces for equipment, but there are beautiful details and you can see the architect took his time. It makes me very happy the territory is closed and protected, and cannot be visited on your own. There are talks of renovating this complex, one of the larger yards becoming a concert hall, other buildings holding offices and shopping malls. I hope it works out!

In the end tour takes a little over an hour and a half, and leaves some of the strongest impressions from the whole road trip.

At Lake Peipsi and Elistvere Animal Park

We buy some cherries in the local Maxima store and head back in the direction to Latvia. We stop once more in Mustvee, to see the churches during the day and enjoy ourselves in the port.

We notice a large yellow shape, just like on the cover of National Geographic. Turns out, it part of a special project funded by the EU to make the local sights known more and it is called “Living on the Edge“, to promote the untouched nature of the border area between Russian and Latvia, in the six counties of South Estonia. And it is indeed a very necessary project, as these places remain quite unknown to visitors, yet have so much to offer!

We also drive the 7 km road Raja-Kukita-Tiheda-Kasepaa, mostly known for it’s onions. Of course, no onions are sold this time of the year, but you can see the green ones growing in the garden. If you have more time at the lake, be sure to stop in the Old Believers restaurant Kolkja Sibula. We notice the dark clouds in the distance and decide to hurry up instead.

We reach Elistvere animal park with the first drops of rain. We pay 3.20 euros per person to enter and hope that rain passes. It does not, but the cashier gives us an umbrella and we go to see the animals living in the forests of the Baltics, here in the park.

Squirrels, reindeers, moose and many other animals that live in similar conditions as in the forest. Most visitors are actually couples and we see just a few families, one of those Latvian. They seem to attract all the animals (are there some apples in pockets involved?).

Once they leave, we come to the fence of the territory where moose lives, and we can see her really up close. You can hear her breath, see her dark eyes and brown-grey fur. As close as you would see a horse in the farm! You can look in the eye of the fox (and guess what does it say), and try to spot the lynx. At times it seems that the area is a bit small for the animals, especially the rodents. As all the information in the park is in Estonian, we don’t learn what is the story of the animals.

Costs: 3.20 euros per person animal park, If you visit this park with children, you might want to visit Vudila aquapark next door too. 13 euros per person Kreenholm factory.

In Conclusion

The five days passed very quickly. So many things yet to be seen! It seems castles alone would require at least another day, those in Alatskivi, Poltsamaa, Rakvere, the manors of Puurmani and Kuremaa, the castle ruins of Laiuse and many more! And there is so much more to explore around Tartu – Emajoe Suurso nature reserve, Setos villages, Piusa bat caves and even the Rosma forest with the carved crosses. How many more hidden places like these are in Estonia? We will definitely return to see more, the beauty of the nature reserves and museums, and to replenish the stocks of the nicest souvenirs – cloudberry jam and beautiful cotton socks printed with flowers.

Total Costs for Two

Hotels: 210 euros (you can use AirBnB, use this link to get $25 of your first booking)

Entrance fees: 106.40 euros

Eating out: 87 euros

Snacks: around 50 euros

Gas: 75 euros

Total for two: roughly 530 euros

Useful links when planning your trip

There are a lot of valuable resources in Estonia for planning your trip:

We were guests of Visit Estonia during this trip, but all opinions are our own.

If you enjoyed our road trip through Estonia, read about other road trips we have been to:

Driving to Northern Ireland

West Coast of the USA

What to see in Florida

Rummu underwater prison in Estonia

Road trip in Latgale, Latvia

All pictures by Jekabs Andrusaitis. Be sure to check the gallery at the top of the page, there are over 100 pictures there!


44 comments

  1. Your photos of Estonia are simply stunning! And thanks for all the planning and itinerary tips–I may put them to good use someday!

    1. Thank you! I am so blessed to have a husband like Jekabs, who also knows how to take a good picture! 🙂

  2. Thank you! I loved Tallinn and this road trip seems like a perfect second visit to Estonia. I loved it in January besides the cold and now seeing your gorgeous photos I feel like I need to jump on a plane right now!

    1. January can get sooo cold in Estonia! I first visited Narva in February, and it was freezing as well.

  3. I love how you included the kilometres that it takes to get to each place. Your post was super informative with tons of awesome photos!

    1. Thanks, Sara! I though it would be useful for those thinking how to plan their trip and if there isn’t too much driving 🙂

  4. Looks like you had an amazing trip, your photos are so beautiful! I’ve never considered visiting Estonia until I saw a few people visit Tallinn – Seems like there is so much that this country has to offer! xo

    1. Thank you! Tallinn is a wonderful place to start your visit in Estonia, it is very tourist friendly! I visit it almost every other month 🙂

  5. I have heard great things about Estonia. I have not visited before, but with the support of location independent people, I have added this country to my travel list. Thanks for the amazing pictures.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Juanita! Estonia is so easy to get to these days and driving there is just pleasure, all the roads are so well maintained!

  6. Stunning photos…. I never thought about going to Estonia but after seeing these photos I want to pack my bags.. What a thorough blog post!

  7. Estonia does look like the place to be. What wonderful pictures and so much to see. I especially found the AHAA center quite interesting. Seems like you had a wonderful time in Estoniia.

    1. AHHAA center indeed is a cool place to go! I was under the impression it is mostly for children, but I was so wrong! Most fun I had playing with my husband a musical instrument where you need to hit a tube with a special pad to make noise!

  8. What an extensive list! Thank you so much for sharing! Estonia looks amazing, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to visit but this just looks perfect! Those misty lakes are soo cool!

    1. It is a special kind of beauty, right? People sometimes don’t quite get it when I tell them that bogs are some of the most beautiful places in the Baltics! 🙂

  9. Pinned this! Your photos are some of the best travel ones I’ve ever seen! What camera do you use? You’re very talented, and I want to go to Estonia now!!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Jekabs uses Sony A7RII, and I tell him every day the same thing – talented! I am glad you think the same 🙂

  10. I spent 10 days in Estonia visiting friends a number of years ago, and I still missed several of these spots! I think the summer city was my favorite stop of all—we went to an all-night party then camped in this tall silo-like stone building. It was SO fun!

    1. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed your stay in Estonia, Kristin! It may be a small country, but I definitely relate to not being able to visit all the places in 10 days!

  11. Incredible and detailed post about Estonia! Usually, when I think about travelling to Estonia, I think of Tallinn, so thank you for showing me what else Estonia has to offer! Your photos are phenomenal too!

    1. Thank you, Ania! Tallinn deserves a visit of it’s own, but there definitely is more to Estonia than just the capital!

  12. OMG Those pictures! You’re an amazing photographer! We had Estonia on our list, but I’m putting it on top now. Estonia looks like a perfect destination for us! Bookmarked this page. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you! My husband Jekabs is behind all the lovely pictures, I don’t know what I would do without him!

  13. I stopped and read this post, just because my first reaction was ‘Estonia? Huh. Wouldn’t have thought of that.’ But it looks wonderfully tranquil and beautiful. I love all of the nature shots, wild-life… that you can pick blackberries in season! Opened my eyes to a location I had never considered!

    1. Megan, believe me, the huh? reaction is what most people think 🙂 A lot of people I spoke to in my own country were surprised we planned a 5 day roadtrip, especially since we have been to nearly 50 countries! I can definitely assure you there is plenty to see and Estonia MUST be visited! You will not regret it!

  14. Hi to you and thankyou for all that useful informations.
    Was writing a lot where I will search later in the internet. Some years ago I was in Estonia for another trip partly with a friend starting from Tartu. Did also more day trips from Rakvere to Lahemaa National Park and also a lot of other places. If you are interested I can give you more informations.
    After Christmas and New Year I took a trip with the car from Germany to Tallinn. You see all is possible haha. All the best to you Oli

    1. Thank you for taking time to comment! I am yet to visit Rakvere (did not have time for it this time around, but heard there is a nice castle) and Lahemaa, I am definitely coming back to Estonia for longer trips again, as I visit Tallinn nearly every month or every other month and there is plenty to do there! As well as Saaremaa is beautiful, such unspoiled nature!

  15. I greatly enjoyed the travelogue and pictures. I grew up in Toronto and took part in Estonian cubs and scouts and Esto summer camp. My “lippkond” was named Viru after the eastern province so I particularly liked seeing pictures of that region. There should be a followup article by Estonians of a similar venture in Latvia so we have some additional destinations to look up there outside of Riga.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed our article, thank you!
      For the ideas on Latvia, you can check our own posts, last year around this time we went on a roadtrip in Latgale: http://reveriechaser.com/the-little-road-trip-in-latgale/ Spring is nice for going to Kuldiga for the widest waterfall in Europe: http://reveriechaser.com/jumping-fish-a-weekend-in-kuldiga/
      Near Riga is also Lacupite arobertum (June is the best time for visiting: http://reveriechaser.com/day-trip-from-riga-lacupite-arboretum/), and in Riga is a nice watchtower: http://reveriechaser.com/bumbu-hill-watchtower-in-riga/
      Of course, the most famous place lately is Kemeri bog path, the views at sunrise are just incredible! http://reveriechaser.com/magical-kemeri-bog-footbridge/ This place became world famous after our article a while back and I definitely recommend this for a summer morning, when in Latvia!

  16. Great post.I have been researching a trip to Estonia and this has given me some ideas. Ideally, I am looking to visit in winter so I can drive the ice road. Wonderful to see all the colors.Perhaps I need to experience two seasons in Estonia.

    1. You mean the ice road to the islands? I have never done that myself! I am not even sure you can do that every year?

  17. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Estonia but it’s been very lovely to reminisce reading this blog. Very well written .. thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you, Karen! I am glad you enjoyed my post! It’s the best kind of reading, to remember the places and memories you have from your trips!

  18. What an informational post! Feel like I could go to Estonia and wouldn’t have to plan a thing, just follow this guide!! Hopefully one day that will be a reality, your pictures have enticed me to visit!!

  19. I really enjoyed reading your descriptions, and your husband’s photographs are lovely! My grandparents came to the US from Estonia in the 1920s. I have always wanted to see this beautiful country!

  20. Wow I had no idea that there was so much to do & see in Estonia. It’s honestly not somewhere that was on my radar before but these sites seem so interesting and it looks like it’s pretty budget friendly. These are such beautiful photos too. Makes me want to book a ticket there asap!

  21. I was born in Estonia and it’s super interesting to read about it from a foreigner’s point of view. You’ve managed to tick off some of the things I didn’t have a chance to do and some I’ve never even heard of! Great post! 🙂

  22. This seems like an amazing road trip adventure and your photos are just stunning! I’ve honestly never considered taking a trip here but I’ve definitely changed my mind now. The prices for two also don’t seem too too bad. Now I just need to find a travel buddy to help share those costs and the driving with me haha!

  23. I actually didn’t even know of anywhere in Estonia outside of Tallinn, but all of these places look incredible! Your photos are so amazing! I would love to visit Estonia and will definitely have to make sure I spend time exploring the lesser-known areas of the country as well 🙂

  24. Amazing photos and such a lovely, detailed account of your trip! My sister is heading to Tartu soon so going to share this with her 🙂

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