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Baltic States Travel Guide

Baltic States Travel Guide

baltiThe Baltic States consist of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, being the three countries situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea. All States have a long history of occupation, however regained their independence from Russia after the Second World War.  Each country speaks their own language (Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian), however roughly one third of each country still speaks Russian, and in some small regions German and English are spoken as well.

These countries are not generally thought of as tourist destinations, however each is completely enchanting, and those who travel here are always pleasantly surprised by each country’s individual charm.

The main attractions in this area are Riga and Tallin; the capital cities of Latvia and Estonia. Tourism to the Baltic States has been steadily on the rise ever since they became members of the European Union.

Estonia is an absolutely amazing country, and it’s natural beauty is one of the many reasons why tourists are drawn here.  From deserted beaches, forests, over 1,000 lakes, manor houses and castles to the medieval capital city of Tallin, Estonia positively surprises each and every traveler who makes the trip.

Most travelers enter Estonia through Tallin.  A city of contrasts, the Medieval Old Town (one of the most well-preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world) with it’s fortresses and baroque cathedrals, is only a stones throw away from the city business district with it’s modern skyscrapers, luxurious restaurants, high tech hotels and western shopping malls.

On the outskirts of Tallin to the east lies Kadriorg Palace, which was constructed by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine, and to the northwest lies the beach resort of Pirita, most famous as the venue for the Tallin Sound Stage, a prestigious music festival held annually.  West Estonia is in fact well known for it’s many beach resorts, and other popular destinations include Haapsalu and Parnu, which is known as the “summer capital” of Estonia.

The Estonian Islands off the west coast are cultural treasures, having managed to maintain their traditional culture as well as their lush and pristine landscape due to their isolated location.  Saaremaa Island is the largest, and villages remain made of stone fences and thatched roofs.  A meteorite crater is also accessible from Kaali.

Bordering the Baltic Sea, Lahemaa National Park is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, providing a natural habitat for bears, elk, lynx and wolves as well as a variety of other rare and unique wildlife.  Former barons lived in this area, and their manor homes are still standing today, however for impressive medieval castles you should head to Narva (Hermann Castle) and Kuressaare (episocopal castle).

Getting to Estonia has never been easier – the country is easy to reach by car, bus, plane and boat, however train travel is only useful if you are coming from Russia or Latvia.

Tallin during winter. Photo Source: Go Overseas

Tallin during winter. Photo Source: Go Overseas

While small and flat, Latvia is a country whose picturesque towns and ancient cities are set within a landscape of three thousand lakes and evergreen forests which cover half the country.  Gauja National Park is a particularly stunning area – where cliffs, caves, medieval castles, palaces and ruins are dotted across the landscape – however the city which draws tourists to Latvia is Riga.

A beautiful and historic city situated on the Daugava River, Riga boasts the best concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe.  Building facades are decorated with flowers, plants, escucheons and masks making them distinctly Latvian (head to Alberta Street), and it is due to the diversity of architectural styles that Riga has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Buildings such as the Town Hall and the Blackheads Guild Hall which were devastated during World War II have been completely reconstructed, however luckily the majority of other landmarks around Riga, such as the Great Guild Hall, Cat’s House, St Mary Magdalene’s and St Peter’s Churches, were not damaged.

It seems like the population of Riga migrates to nearby Jurmala during the summer months to take advantage of 6 miles of white sandy beaches, healing waters and mud baths.

Tourists rarely venture out from Riga, however impressive sights await those  who do. To the south, Rundale Palace in Zemgale is an impressive palace which was designed by the same architect of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia.  To the east tourists will find themselves in the Land of Blue Lakes which is the Latgale regionand to the west is Kurzeme, where the medieval coastal towns of Liepaja and Ventspils remain well preserved, and where deserted beaches stretch for miles.

Rundale Palace, Latvia. Photo Source Lonely Planet

Rundale Palace, Latvia. Photo Source Lonely Planet

Lithuania is the largest of the Blatic States, however with the shortest coastline.  Regardless of size, the Baltic coastline along Lithuania is still spectacular; beauty which is enhanced by large dunes which have given the Neringa Peninsular the name “Lithuanian Sahara”.  Quite like the other two of the Baltic States, Lithuania too is as flat as a pancake, however is the most picturesque of the three countries thanks to it’s 4,000 odd lakes, rivers and forests which span across 5 national parks as well as the Neman River Basin.

Vilnius, with it’s medieval castles, traditional wooden houses, baroque churches, cathedrals and a number of museums, is the tourist hot spot in Lithuania.  The oldest buildings throughout the city are well preserved, and due to the diversity of architecture, a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicismthe old town has been listed as a World Heritage site.

Day trips out of Vilnius could include a controversial visit to Grutas Park and Museum – a collection of monuments from the 1917 Revolution as well as the Soviet Era, which includes dismantled statues of Lenin; as well as Europas Parkas – a sculpture park representing the geographical center of the European Continent.

Kaunas is nearby, and is the second major city in Lithuania, worth visiting for it’s cultural traditions and 13th century buildings and monuments.  A 14th century castle as well as several museums sits in the town of Trakai.

The Old Town: Vilnius. Photo Source: Crown Cup

The Old Town: Vilnius. Photo Source: Crown Cup


 Have you been to any of the Baltic States?  Do you have anything to add?

A great resource I used for information on Latvia included Rudy Maxa’s ‘100 countries, 5000 ideas
Featured Photo Source: Andrew Harper


  1. Great tips! I have never been, but would love to travel to this area! I will have to bookmark this for when I can get there!

    • Glad we could help! You’ll love the area – safe travels!

  2. my summer destination, already made my notes! I’m sure it will be super great!

    • Can’t wait to see your photos!

  3. Ah I’m dying to get to Tallin. I think interest in these places is definitely on the rise, but not as high as the rest of Scandinavia (which is a shame as they look amazing!). Cheers for sharing! I love your blog!

    • I hope you have the opportunity to travel to Tallin soon – really is one of the most underrated places in Europe. So glad you’ve been enjoying the blog – happy & safe travels!

  4. Oh, i heard so many nice things about Vilnius (Lithuania)! I have tickets booked already. Summer time is the best to travel – lots of amazing festivals, open air events, great cafes and lots of nature!

    Great post!

    • Woohoo you’ll love Vilnius – the whole Baltic States region is super underrated. Travel safe and enjoy those festivals and open air events – summer really is the best time to visit so you’ll have a blast! Keep us updated on your trip!

  5. I’m from Vilnius, Lithuania so if you need additional info or tips feel free to contact me. Or you can also visit my blog. I recently wrote a post about 25 things to do in Vilnius.

    • Fantastic home country you have there! And thankyou … will jump on over to your blog now :)

  6. I really like all three of the Baltic countries. There is so much to see exec though the countries are quite small :)

    • Totally agree! They may not be the largest countries out there though they definitely have a lot to offer despite this :) Happy travels Jesper!

  7. Brilliantly historical cities with a touch of cool. Tallinn might be super touristy now but it is beautiful none the less. Travelling by coach to the three capital cities proved ultra cheap, fast and comfy for us, about €20 each

    • Great tip on traveling via coach Steve – easy, convenient and cheap way to make your way between all three! So glad to hear you enjoyed your time there :)

  8. Riga in Latvia really suprised us. Although tiny, it is a great little city

    • So glad you had a wonderful time Patrick! I hear a lot of the same feedback from people who travel there. I think Latvia is one of those places where people travel without expectations, so it’s always a really lovely surprise :)

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