Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Baltics & Helsinki. Itinerary.

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

It's taken a few iterations but we've finally got the tour route fixed. The next thing to do will be to focus on side activities - you can only sightsee so much! All three countries are very rural so a lot of the activities center around country life. A couple of interesting things that I'm looking into are mushroom picking in Latvia. We'll be right in the middle of the season so that will be perfect. Two other activities in Latvia could be crayfish fishing and visiting a lamprey eel farm. In Estonia, I'm looking at bogshoeing and there should be plenty of opportunities for fishing and horseback riding as well. All three countries have very strong music and dance heritages so I'm trying to see if we can attend an event or two. Still lots to research but getting the base route out of the way is a big worry out of the way!


Base Route: Riga – Valmiera - Saaremaa – Tallinn – Helsinki – Tallinn - Tartu – Daugavpils – Vilnius – Kaunas – Klaipeda – Riga
Distance: ~2600 km excluding Helsinki.

Days 1- 4:  Rīga

Day 5: Rīga – Cēsis – Valmiera (170 km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Sigulda - Latvia’s most beautiful landscapes in the Gauja National park and the Turaida Castle Museum reserve with an observation tower and sculpture park. Numerous hiking trails along the Gauja River valley
• Nature trails at Līgatne - watching wild animals in open air enclosures
• Āraiši - an authentic reconstruction of log buildings of a 9th century settlement on a lake. An old wind mill
• Cēsis - a medieval town with castle ruins.
Overnight in Valmiera.
Saaremaa Windmills

Day 6:  Valmiera – Pärnu - Saaremaa (330 km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Pärnu – the most popular Estonian seaside resort town
• The ethnographic Koguva village in on Muhu island- an authentic coastal fishing village with old wooden houses
• Valjala – the Valjala church and hill fort
• Kaali Meteorit kraters – the most prominent meteorite craters in Europe (the main crater is 110 metres in diameter and 22metres in depth)
Overnight in Kuressaare.

Day 7:  Saaremaa – Haapsalu – Tallinn (280 km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Panga rocks- the highest and most impressive rock in Estonia islands
• Haapsalu – a nice seaside town; a castle with a phantom *White Lady* in residence. 

Overnight in apartment in Tallinn.

Days 8 and 9: Tallinn
Overnight in Tallinn.

Helsinki (Image from Condé Nast Traveler)
Day 10: Ferry Tallinn – Helsinki (2 hours)

Overnight in Helsinki.

Day 11: Helsinki or Nuuksio National Park
Overnight in Helsinki.

Day 12: Ferry Helsinki – Tallinn
Overnight in Tallinn.

Day 13: Tallinn – Lahemaa – Tartu (280 km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Jagala Juga – one of most impressive waterfalls in the Baltics.
• Kolga Landgut – among the most prominent examples of estate architecture in the North Europe.
• Jaani-Tooma kivi – one of the largest single-standing boulders along Baltic sea shores; typical for Lahemaa National Park
• Käsmu fishing village - a walk in the *Land of Bays*, the former Estonian naval center
• Palmse estate - a beautiful 18th century estate with a park.
• Rakvere castle ruins - the castle was built by Danish crusaders

Overnight in Tartu.

Interior of the Aglona Basilica
Day 15: Tartu – Alūksne – Rēzekne – Preiļi – Aglona (330km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Alūksne town - the Bible museum and the castle ruins on the island in the lake Alūksnes.
• Rēzekne - the *capital* of Latgale region, the Eastern part of the country. Lots of churches and a famous sculpture "Latgale’s Māra", the symbol of the region.
• Aglona - Aglona’s basilica is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in this region of Europe.
Overnight in Aglona.

Day 16:  Aglona - Daugavpils – Vilnius (270km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Daugavpils - the second largest city in Latvia.
• Visaginas - the youngest town of Lithuania, built in the Soviet times for the workers of the Ignalina nuclear power station.
• Aukštaitija National Park - the Palūše church and ethnographical villages.
Overnight in Vilnius.

Day 17: Vilnius

Overnight in Vilnius.

Day 18: Drive: Vilnius – Kaunas (120km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• Trakai - a castle built on an island in a lake (14th - 15th century).
• Rumšiške - open-air museum.
Overnight in Kaunas.

Klaipeda (Image by Wojsyl)
Day 19:  Kaunas – Jurbarka – Silute – Rusne – Vente - Klaipeda (~350km)
Sites and attractions en route:
• The valley of the river Nemunas with very beautiful landscape views from various castle mounts.
• The horn of Vente - a popular bird observation place.
• The delta of the river Nemunas and the island Rusne, where one can visit a small ethnographic open-air museum.
Overnight in Klaipeda.

Day 20:  Klaipeda - Nida - Klaipeda (110 km)
Ferry to the Couronian spit. Drive trough the national park of the Couronian spit with unique dunes up to 60 meters.
Sites and attractions en route:
• Walking in Juodkrante and visit to the Hill of Witches.
• Visit to the see museum and the dolphinarium which is located in an old Prussian fortress.

Overnight in Klaipeda.

Day 21:  Klaipeda - Palanga – Liepāja - Saldus - Rīga (330 km)
Drive along the Baltic sea coast through the Pajurio Regional park to Palanga. Cross the Lithuanian - Latvian border.
Sites and attractions en route:
•  Lake Pape.
•  Liepāj.
Overnight in Riga.

Day 22: Rīga

Day 23: Home