3 Slow Weeks in Estonia and Latvia

Old Dec 30th, 2015, 04:45 AM
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3 Slow Weeks in Estonia and Latvia

Hello Fodorites,

Our 3-week trip to Estonia and Latvia this April is looking different than most Baltic itineraries I’ve seen, and I’d like your help! We’ve traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, and although everyone has their own preferred travel style, we know what works best for us and don’t enjoy visiting too many different places - 4 is the absolute maximum number of hotels for us in 3 weeks. Our favorite trips have focused on a single country for 2-3 weeks, generally selecting 3 or 4 home bases that are each a little different – perhaps a capital city, a small town, and then someplace with natural beauty. In this case, we’re going to try two countries, but are leaving out Lithuania for now as we’d prefer to balance the two capital cities with seeing someplace different.

A little about us - we don’t like to lock in too many things each day – for example I might plan for just one museum, b/c inevitably we discover some neat shops along the way, spend hours in the museum, have a leisurely lunch, wander some back streets and admire the architecture, stumble on a neat neighborhood or antique shop, find a cute café for coffee, strike up a conversation with a local, etc. We always end up doing lots of things each day, but at our own pace. That said, we want to leave with the sense that we got a feel for the country, culture, and people, and I realize that’s tough to do if we’re only visiting a few places.

Things we enjoy – all sorts of museums, particularly ethnography (me), science/technical (hubby), and quirky museums. We love handmade crafts and antiques and always seek out flea markets, antique stores and small, unique shops. We enjoy gardens and botanical gardens, though we don’t do much hiking. We also like just wandering tiny picturesque streets and looking at interesting architecture.

We’re currently overseas, and flying into Riga and out of Tallinn works best for us. Other travel will be via bus, and we don’t mind having a few days trips here and there, but we don’t want multiple day trips in a row, and we don’t enjoy packing too much into a day trip.

I’ve reviewed several guidebooks and websites and come up w/ the below itinerary. (The daily activities aren’t carved in stone; I just use them to give myself a rough idea of how many days to spend in each city). What are your thoughts? I know there are so many interesting places we decided to leave out - Tartu, Saaremaa, all of Lithuania, etc., and I realize that our style of travel isn’t for everyone. But do you think this would give us a nice introduction to the two countries in a relaxed manner? Would you switch some days around, or exchange one location for another? Thanks so much for your feedback!

02 Sat Travel to Riga (6 nights)
03 Sun Riga Explore old town, Central Market
04 Mon Riga Art Nouveau facades
05 Tue Riga Mus. Of Decorative and Applied Arts, other museums
(Photography Mus or House of Dannenstern)
06 Wed Riga Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, Motor Museum
07 Thu Riga Spa/thermal baths; or day trip to Jurmala or Rundale Palace

08 Fri Travel to Kuldiga (2.5-3.5 hrs by bus) (2 nights)
09 Sat Kuldiga

10 Sun Travel to Sigulda (3.5 hrs to Riga, then 1.25 hrs to Sigulda) (5 nights)
11 Mon Sigulda Turaida Castle, cable car
12 Tue Sigulda Day trip to Cesis (40 min); old town, castle, lake
13 Wed Sigulda Bobsled
14 Thu Sigulda TBD

15 Fri Travel to Tallinn (back to Riga then 4.5 hrs, or 12 hr tour bus?) (8 nights)
16 Sat Tallinn Explore old town
17 Sun Tallinn City Museum, Estonian Hist Mus
18 Mon Tallinn Botanical Gardens?
19 Tue Tallinn Day trip to Lahemaa N. Pk – Palmse Manor House, villages
20 Wed Tallinn Kadiorg, KUMU Art Museum
21 Thu Tallinn Day trip – Haapsaalu or Helsinki
22 Fri Tallinn TBD
23 Sat Travel home
copilot is offline  
Old Dec 30th, 2015, 05:47 AM
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I stayed only in Tallinn and Riga (as well as Vilnius and various places in Poland), so I can't comment on many of the places you visited. However, I would love to spend more time there. I found the WWII and Cold War history to be fascinating.
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Old Dec 30th, 2015, 05:55 AM
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I found the Riga open air museum boring - too many undecorated log cabins. I would also have a hard time spending that much time in Tallinn, which is pretty small. I hear you about your travel style, but instead of a day trip to Helsinki, I would finish there. Click on my name for my "B" Trip Part One TR, which included Tallinn and Riga.
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Old Dec 30th, 2015, 06:07 AM
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Tweak your Tallinn itinerary a bit, enjoy the beauty of this splendid city on weekdays, and do your day trips out of town on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On weekends hordes of Finns come over on the ferries for cheap booze and 3 days of nonstop drinking. The old town becomes unbearable then. We were hassled even inside our hotel, and staff didn't care as this seems to be normal.
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