Travel: We arrived by ferry in to Tallinn and the port is 10-15 minutes from the centre. We then picked up a hire car and drove or walked our way around the rest of Estonia. It is worth noting that the road quality is variable in Estonia: the main trunk roads have tarmac but as can become hardcore or gravel very suddenly making for a bumpy journey. That said, roads are largely empty and it is a very easy country to drive around. You’ll need to get the ferry to Saaremaa which takes 25 minutes and as we were travelling off peak then we just turned up and boarded a boat instantly. In Summer you may want to pre-book on the Tuule Laevad website.
Accommodation: The Hektor Design Hostel in Tartu (Riia 26) is on the edge of the university and 10 minutes’ walk to the centre. Bright, light doubles come with an ensuite shower room, little balcony and free enclosed parking. http://www.booking.com/hotel/ee/hektor-design-hostel.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
For a touch of class, Parnu’s Hedon Spa & Hotel (Ranna puiestee 1) is a modern hotel in a new building behind the historic mud baths. With a contemporary design & great sea views, this was the best spa we used and included in the price. The restaurant on site is a little dull but otherwise highly recommend the Hedon Spa for a night. http://www.booking.com/hotel/ee/hedon-spa-amp.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
In Kuressaare on Saaremaa, The Georg Ots Spa Hotel (Tori 2, Saaremaa) was a good option: it’s a little dated but has been refurbished since it was built in the early 80s. It was an easy few minutes’ walk to the centre. Popular with families, this made the spa a little less relaxing but the massage treatment was excellent. Worth checking out the offers on their website. http://www.booking.com/hotel/ee/georg-ots-spa.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Food & Drink: Food and drink in Estonia varies from more hearty food to modern Nordic cuisine but all generally tasty.
Tartu: Restoran Umb Roht (Uelikooili 7) is one of the best we have eaten in. The service was friendly and unrushed despite us arriving towards the end of service. There is an interesting drinks list including some good local beers. The food is modern, making the most of Estonian products. We particularly enjoyed the bake leak starter and the lamb/beetroot/goats cheese main. They sound ordinary but they both had little innovations which took them to another level. A really pleasurable couple of hours with some top food.
It was the Saaremaa Food Festival when we were in town and we ate in three restaurants: La Perla (Lossi 3 – number 1 on tripadvisor but not memorable), Mosaiik Cafe & Lounge (Tallinna 1 – good café with nice local beef dishes) and Retro Kohvik (Lossi 5) which was excellent with nice twists on traditional dishes & good craft ales in a hipster environment.
Sights: Estonia is a pretty country but we would particularly recommend hiring a car to spend a couple of days on the islands, particularly Saaremaa, follows by a couple of days in the capital, Tallinn. On Saaremaa there’s an easy drive (3-4 hours including stops) to bring in the Kaali crater (created from a meteor), Angla Windmill Mount, Karja Church in Linnaka, the cliffs at Panga, the viewing tower at Viidumäe and the Tehumardi war memorial, ending in Kuressaare.
- I travelled using Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania (Travel Guide) ; it’s a bit thin outside the capital and the tips in some places a little out of date but when supplemented with leaflets from Estonian tourist info and trip advisor makes a good starting point:
- As a map we used the Michelin Map: it’s good but the level of detail in cities is not great but the best we could find.
- I’ve always enjoyed listening to Vaiko Eplik (performed with Ruffus and Claire’s Birthday) though it may not be to everyone’s taste:
- And Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part is a good of contemporary classical composition and atmospheric in the forests of Estonia:
- BBC Journalist Fi Glover presented a programme on Digital Estonia which helps explain why Estonia is leading technologically ahead, exploring the countries history and geography: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03gscmv
- Rick Steves talks about the Baltics generally with travel writer Neil Taylor and it is worth a listen on how Estonia links to its Baltic sisters: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/rick-steves-scandinavia-baltics/id364271494?mt=2&i=110590997
- Estonian National Tourism board is one of the more helpful ones (@VisitEstonia on twitter / http://www.visitestonia.com/en/ ) with good tips on where to visit.
- Instagram: The images of TartuBlog give a taste of the city: https://www.instagram.com/tartublog/