Your Comprehensive Guide to Exploring Estonia

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Estonia

QUICK DETAILS

  • Capital: Tallinn

  • Time Zone: Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2), with Daylight Savings at GMT+1

  • Main Airports: Major European destinations are served by Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, while Pärnu Airport provides international flights to Helsinki and Stockholm during summer. Tartu Airport primarily focuses on domestic flights.

  • Ferry Connections: Estonia’s largest port, the Port of Tallinn, offers up to 15 daily links to Finland, Sweden, and the Åland Islands.

  • Currency: Euro

  • Intriguing Fact: Estonia leads the world as the first country to recognize internet access as a fundamental human right.

  • Reasons to Explore Estonia:

    From Tallinn’s medieval wonders to Tartu’s vibrant street art, Pärnu’s golden beaches, and Vilsandi National Park’s 160 islands, Estonia’s attractions are rich and varied.

Best Times to Experience Estonia

  • Spring: Explore Soomaa National Park’s “fifth season” when flooding occurs, or birdwatch in Matsalu National Park and Nõva Nature Reserve from March to mid-May.
  • Summer: Celebrate Midsummer in Tallinn, indulge in Estonian cuisine, or unwind on Saaremaa island. Brown bear tours are available from late April to mid-July and mid-August to late October.
  • Autumn: Experience bear spotting in Alutaguse National Park or explore the Tallinn Design Festival in September.
  • Winter: Enjoy Christmas markets, gingerbread cookies, and winter kiteboarding on Pärnu’s coast.

Explore Estonia’s Regions

  • Cities: Discover Tallinn’s medieval heart, Tartu’s art scene, and spa towns like Narva-Jõesuu and Pärnu.
  • East: Explore Lake Peipus area, Russian Old Believers’ traditions, and Alatskivi Castle.
  • South: Enjoy Viljandi’s musical heritage and medieval festivals.
  • West: Visit Pärnu, Haapsalu, and the West Estonian Archipelago’s historic lighthouses.
  • North: Explore Tallinn’s modern galleries and medieval architecture, and Lahemaa National Park.

Transportation in Estonia

  • By Plane: Domestic connections include Tallinn to Kuressaare.
  • By Bus: LuxExpress is a primary provider; tickets available via the app or Tpilet website.
  • By Train: State railway Eesti Raudtee (EVR) connects main cities; tickets via Elron.ee.
  • By Car: Main roads like T1 connect key cities; drive on the right side.
  • By Ferry: Connections include Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, and Kihnu; Tallink Megastar is a popular Tallinn to Helsinki ferry.

Preparation Before Your Trip

  • Languages: Estonian is official; Russian is widely spoken.
  • LGBTQ+: Estonia becomes the first ex-Soviet state to legalize same-sex marriage from 2024.

Sustainable Travel in Estonia

  • Outdoors: Use the RMK app for camping and hiking, and discover mushroom and berry picking spots.
  • Shopping: Look for Certified Estonian Artisanal Craft label.
  • Dining: Seek “EHE” eco-label for sustainable dining.

Recommended Reads

  • The Ropewalker by Jaan Kross
  • Estonian Folk Tales, edited by Piret Päär and Anne Türnpu
  • Estonia: A Modern History by Neil Taylor

(Additional insights can be found in our Explorer’s Guide.)

Join National Geographic Expeditions for an Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia journey through enchanted forests and medieval castles. Contributed by Finland-based travel journalist Paula Hotti. Follow her on Instagram.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Estonia

What is the capital of Estonia and its currency?

The capital of Estonia is Tallinn, and the official currency is the Euro.

When is the best time to visit Estonia for bird watching?

The best time for bird watching in Estonia is during the spring, particularly between March and mid-May, when you can spot six species of eagle and eight of the nine European woodpecker species.

What transportation options are available within Estonia?

In Estonia, transportation options include domestic flights between regional hubs, buses operated mainly by LuxExpress, state-owned railway services by Eesti Raudtee (EVR), highways connecting main cities, and regular ferries connecting the larger islands.

How can visitors explore Estonia sustainably?

Visitors can explore Estonia sustainably by utilizing the State Forest Management Centre’s app for camping and hiking sites, favoring locally made products marked with the Certified Estonian Artisanal Craft label, and dining in restaurants with the “EHE” eco-label.

Are same-sex couples allowed to marry in Estonia?

Yes, same-sex couples can legally marry and jointly adopt in Estonia starting January 1, 2024, making Estonia the first ex-Soviet state to legalize same-sex marriage.

What are some recommended readings to understand Estonian culture and history?

Some recommended readings include “The Ropewalker” by Jaan Kross, “Estonian Folk Tales” edited by Piret Päär and Anne Türnpu, and “Estonia: A Modern History” by Neil Taylor.

What are some key attractions in the different regions of Estonia?

Key attractions include Tallinn’s medieval Old Town, Tartu’s art scene, Viljandi’s musical heritage, the historic spa towns of Pärnu and Haapsalu, Lahemaa National Park in the North, and Lake Peipus in the East.

More about Estonia

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6 comments

Kathy S August 19, 2023 - 9:40 am

The sustainability part is interesting, we need to be more responsible when we travel. Estonias on my list now!

Reply
Laura M. August 19, 2023 - 9:41 am

Medieval marvels, street art, golden-sand beaches… Estonia has it all! Can’t wait to explore this beautiful country! what are the best vintage shops in Tallin though?

Reply
James T. August 19, 2023 - 12:58 pm

Wow this is a lot to take in. Really want to visit Estonia now. Do they really have so many bears??

Reply
Mike_J August 19, 2023 - 1:55 pm

What’s a bog shoe walk. sounds intriguing. Estonias got a lot going on, should plan a trip.

Reply
Tom_R August 20, 2023 - 4:34 am

i didnt know same-sex couples can marry in Estonia! thats awsome news. Also the foraging part caught my eye, i want to try that.

Reply
Sarah91 August 20, 2023 - 4:40 am

this guide is gr8. thinking of goin in spring, love birds and nature. thanks for sharing it!

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