10 reasons to visit Estonia

Explore a Baltic country in Northern Europe next to the Baltic Sea

|June 8, 2021
Anhelina is a true animal lover who likes to travel off-radar and won't ever miss a chance to snap an atmospheric photo.

Estonia - one of three magical Baltic countries in Northern Europe, and here's 10 reasons why you should visit it!


1. A Country of Forests

The extent of forest in Estonia is remarkable. About half of Estonia's land consists of forests which in total is 2.3 million hectares. Estonians have always had a strong connection with nature – an oak tree is still traditionally considered to be sacred. Estonian air was voted the cleanest in the world in 2011. Take a deep breath to test it and you will be overwhelmed. There are a lot of fun activities to try while visiting Estonia: hiking, nature walks, and bird and wildlife watching. 

Estonia has one of the highest densities of large wildlife in Europe. Take a walk in a forest and you may see wolves, moose, deer, and brown bears. However, you should be careful when driving in Estonia, as any of these animals can run onto the road! 

aerial view above a foggy forest road in estonia

June 24 is the most important summer day for Estonians. St. John's Day, or Midsummer Day, marks the beginning of the hay season. Bonfires are lit on the night of June 23, around which people sing, dance and gather with families and friends. Lovers go to the woods in search of the fern flower, which is believed to bloom only the night before Midsummer’s Day. A ritual originated from the story of Koit (dawn) and Haemarik (dusk), who see each other only once a year and exchange a brief kiss. Tradition symbolizes the fleeting moment when dawn meets dusk. 

group of people at a beach celebrating midsummer in estonia

2. More than 2,000 Islands!

small island areal view near Baltic Sea in Estonia

Life moves at a slower pace on the islands. Estonian islands are known for their rustic charm and islands are the place where you can explore how Estonians used to live before the modern age. The wild nature of the islands is mostly untouched, at times hiding traces of the past medieval heyday and battles.  

Most Estonian islands are small and uninhabited, where you can go birdwatching, canoeing, sailing or fishing. On some islands, you might just find a calm place to be wild enough for a real nature getaway. Estonia also has some of the largest islands with a wealth of cultural and natural history. 

steep cliffside aerial view at Saaremaa island

The Biggest Island of Estonia  Saaremaa is also the third-biggest island in the Baltic Sea. Saaremaa has a special place in every Estonian's heart, due to its uniqueness and its remote location boasting villages surrounded by stone fences and houses with thatched roofs. In addition to the many popular products produced in Saaremaa  such as spring water, beer, rye bread and cheese  Saaremaa also represents the authentic Estonian spirit that is free and perhaps even a little stubborn. Dolomite, windmills and the famous local home-brewed beer are considered the symbols of Saaremaa.

3. One of the Largest Folk Music Festivals in Europe

men and women dressed up in estonian national clothes at a festival

The Viljandi Folk Music Festival or Viljandi Pärimusmuusika festival is one of the largest folk music festivals in Europe. This festival, which takes place every year in July in castle park, in the center of Vilijandi, is for everyone including children. The festival is a celebration of culture, music, food and drink in Viljandi – a southern Estonian town. Folklore artists from all over the world perform at the event 

4. Estonian Saunas

a view inside of a sauna in estonia

It would be a sin to return home without trying an authentic Estonian sauna. The 800-year-old custom is a refreshing activity and a local everyday luxury best enjoyed in good company and surrounded by nature. 

Although the smoke sauna experience listed at UNESCO is the most popular in the country, Estonians also "heat up" a pretty decent Finnish sauna. There's nothing better after a long day of work than covering yourself in honey and experiencing "whisking," also known as "gentle beating" in the middle of the forest. 

"Whisking" is a healthy scrub using birch twigs and is an integral part of the authentic Estonian sauna tradition. You can make the whisk from any tree, but in Estonia birch and oak are the most popular. The general benefits of the sauna include stress relief, pain reduction and even weight loss. Estonians simply love the sauna, not only for its health benefits but also for its ability to bring people together. In Estonia, you can find a sauna in almost every summer house, spa and country home. 

5. Estonia's capital Tallinn

talinn old town street view in estonia at summer

Tallinn is a well-preserved medieval city and a perfect holiday destination in Northern Europe. Estonia's capital city Tallinn, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site was established in the 13th century by the King of Denmark. Since then, the city offers modern amenities, historical buildings, rich culture and luxurious nightlife. The Old Town of Tallinn is full of medieval houses and alleys and is still surrounded by the remains of the city walls. The richness of Tallinn's architecture leads to many legends and stories. Next to the medieval core of the city, newly redeveloped neighborhoods such as Noblessner, Telliskivi and Rotermann are springing up, offering even cooler architecture to discover. 

6. Estonian wildlife

beaver on a branch in a river in estonia

Beaver Safari is an interesting and unusual experience that is very popular in Estonia. Beavers are the largest rodents that burrow on the banks of rivers or lakes. The beaver that is responsible for environmental changes, was once common throughout Europe until it was almost wiped out. Thanks to conservation efforts, Estonia is one of the countries that is home to them. Beaver watching tours are offered both during the day and at night, as the animals are active around the clock. Soomaa National Park is in the southwestern part of the country and is popular for night safaris to see these nocturnal animals along the river. 

7. Estonia’s cuisine

Traditional Estonian food and drinks are inseparable from Baltic history. Many Estonian dishes can be traced back to the Middle Ages. The influence of Estonia's Nordic neighbors and the relentless rhythm of the Baltic Sea can also be felt in Estonian cuisine. For this reason, Estonian cuisine is hearty, wholesome and full of seasonal flavors. If it's your first time in Estonia, here's a comprehensive guide to the country's best must-try dishes. 

Verivorst is the national dish of Estonia, meaning "blood sausage." The dish itself consists of barley, onions, allspice, marjoram and blood.  

estonian blood sausage variety

Although blood sausage may be a specific taste, it's absolutely delicious when roasted with pork and potatoes, dolloped with a spoonful of sour cream or sauerkraut, and then topped with a compote of seasonal berries. This is Estonian comfort food at its finest. 

Sprats are an Estonian staple. Similar to sardines and sometimes compared to herring or anchovies. This small oily fish can be enjoyed smoked, pickled or fried.   

sprats herring sandwich on a table

However, a sprat sandwich – Kiluvõileib is the top dish eaten for a breakfast or with vodka. A traditional Kiluvõileib consists of buttered rye bread, topped with a marinated sprat fillet, green onions and fresh herbs, and is accompanied by a poached or hardboiled egg. Different versions of this nutritious sandwich have been around for centuries.    

Estonian bread soup is a thick, creamy and sweet bread soup called leivasupp. It is a traditional Estonian dish usually made with soaked and pureed bread, raisins, fruit juice, cinnamon and sugar. It is typically prepared with traditional dense rye bread and often complemented with milk, cream, fresh fruit and nuts. This bread soup can be served warm or chilled and is usually enjoyed as a dessert or light afternoon snack, but is also a popular school lunch around the country. 

Vana Tallinn, in Estonian – old Tallinn is a rum-based Estonian liqueur created by Ilse Maar. The recipe is a big secret, but it is known that flavorings include citrus oils, cinnamon and vanilla. The classic version is made in three varieties that differ in alcohol content, with the lightest (white label) at 40% ABV and the strongest (black label) at 50% ABV. 

The first version of Vana Tallinn (red label), created in 1962, has 45% alcohol. The brand also produces a variety of flavored cream-based liqueurs, as well as some special editions. It is recommended to accompany Vana Tallinn with coffee, but the liqueur also works well in cocktails and long drinks. 

Vana-Võromaa sõir/Setomaa sõir is a type of cheese that is listed in the EU register Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG), which means that only cheese made according to a specific recipe can be called sõir. 

8. Magical Christmas market

aerial view of christmas market in talinn estonia

The tradition of the public Christmas tree was first erected in the city center of Tallinn. This event is considered the first Christmas tree to be placed and decorated in a European city square. 

 

Meanwhile, neighboring Latvia claims that the first Christmas tree was erected there around the same time. Nevertheless, Tallinn at Christmas is a must-visit place. The Christmas Market takes place around the Town Hall from late November to early January. For locals and tourists, this means an extended opportunity to sip on steaming mulled wine and snack on delightful local Estonian Christmas fare. 

9. Lots of Museums

Have you ever heard that Estonia has the largest number of museums per person in the world? There is approximately one museum for every 5,300 Estonians. According to the statistics, Estonians visit a museum twice a year and the attendance continues to increase. 

Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum Exhibition in Estonia

Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour is a maritime museum that started its work in 2012 and is a must-visit for any fan of submarines, ships, naval artillery and seaplanes. The main attraction of this museum is the 1936 Lembit submarine. The museum is located in an old seaplane port, so you will feel like you are visiting a real military base. 

Estonian National Museum is the best place to learn about Estonian history. This museum was opened in 1909 in memory of Jakob Hurt, who is the most famous collector of Estonia. You can find everything from folk clothing to old weapons in one of the many buildings in his hometown Tartu.  

Rocca Al Mare Open Air Museum is located near the center of Tallinn. This museum is surrounded by trees and has 74 old buildings reflecting the life of Estonian villagers from the 18th to 20th centuries. There is a church, a school and many houses of people with different life stories. For this reason, you can see the whole picture of how Estonians lived a few centuries ago. 

Estonian Museum of Occupations is dedicated to the time when Estonia belonged to the Soviet Union and Nazis. There are many exhibits at the museum, which reflect the horrible times of war, exile, censorship, and repression. It is a must-visit place for history fan as every exhibit is authentic and tells an interesting story. 

10. The Oldest Resort Town in Estonia

lakeside view at Haapsalu town in Estonia

In 1825, the first Estonian water-mud bath was built in Haapsalu. Haapsalu is not only the oldest but also the most famous resort for its healing mud. The world record was reached during the summer of 2010, when 51 people simultaneously took a mud bath on the promenade. 

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