Estonia

Considered exotic, slightly mysterious and a very cold country, Estonia is, in fact, much more European than one may expect. Although it is blatantly European, its countryside and towns are quite unique. It is situated in north-eastern Europe, sharing borders with Latvia and Russia. The narrow Gulf of Finland separates it from Finland, and the Baltic Sea separates it from Sweden. Bordering the Slavic and Nordic areas of Europe, Estonia offers interesting culture that is unparalleled with any other in Europe.

Estonians truly love nature, which is not surprising given the beauty of Estonian landscape. Its rather cool maritime climate, the gloomy Baltic Sea, its abundance of national parks and approximate 1,500 islands (of which Hiiumaa and Saaremaa are the largest) makes the nature of Estonia really special. Lahemaa National Park, located close to Tallinn, Vilsandi National Park, boggy Soomaa National Park and Karula National Park belong to the most scenic regions of Estonia. Astonishingly, there are beaches in Estonia where you can swim and sunbath, although the summer season is rather short.

The Baltic islands are also worth a visit. They are quite secluded and wild, and the largest of them, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, contain fascinating historical sights. Saaremaa is known for its imposing Medieval castle in the town of Kuressaare. Ontika, situated at the coast of continental Estonia, is a beautiful place with a high limestone cliff and nearby, in Valaste, there is the tallest waterfall of the country. Lake Peipsi, the fourth largest in Europe, has picturesque banks which are inhabited by the Old Believers, a Russian religious group.

Tallinn is not only the Estonian capital and one of the most interesting towns of the country, but it is also a true gem of European architecture. The Medieval Old Town, with its historic houses, cobbled streets and city walls, is unbelievably well-preserved. No wonder the whole complex was added to UNESCO World Heritage list. Although the Town Hall (the Raekoda), Old Town Square (the Raekoja plats), Toompea Hill, Kiek in de kok, a watch tower and the Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevski are the best known landmarks in the area, there are also numerous other sights and monuments. Shopping streets and a number of cafes add to the attractiveness of the city.

Tartu, the second largest town in the country and presumably the oldest one, is set at the Baltic coastline. This town attracts visitors with its nice Old Town and abundance of attractions. Formerly apart of the Hanseatic League, Tartu has currently been taken over by students attending its famous university. Narva and Valga are other attractive towns with remarkable architectural sights.

Estonia is known for its colourful folklore, with animistic beliefs being the basis of national myths. According to mythology, everything in the world is alive or has a soul. Interestingly, Estonian mythology is closely connected to that of Finland, and contains many Scandinavian elements, while the Finnish national epic, 'Kalevala', is partly based on Estonian myths. The musical traditions of Estonia are also notable. A number of annual music festivals take place in Estonia.

An amazing combination of remnants from Estonia’s Soviet past, plus a modern European character, liberal democracy and a flourishing economy has contributed to Estonia’s nickname: the Baltic Tiger. The abundance of unspoilt nature and historical highlights makes this country a fascinating destination. Thanks to the up-to-date airport in Tallinn and plenty of flights connecting the country with other European capitals, including low-cost carriers, Estonia is easy to reach. Another great advantage of Estonia is its size, which allows for easy travel from one side to the other within five hours. Its citizens are extremely proud of their country and they do have a number of reasons to feel this way – find out for yourself.