Although the smallest of the Baltic countries, Estonia (Eesti) makes its presence felt in the region with its lovely seaside towns, quaint country villages and verdant forests and marshlands, all of which set the scene for discovering many cultural and natural gems. Yet Estonia is also known for magnificent castles, pristine islands and a cosmopolitan capital amid medieval splendour. It's no wonder Estonia is no longer Europe's best-kept secret.
Tallinn, Estonia's crown jewel, boasts cobbled streets and rejuvenated 14th-century dwellings. Dozens of cafés and restaurants make for an atmospheric retreat after exploring historic churches and scenic ruins, galleries and boutiques. By night, stylish lounges and youthful nightclubs offer a glimpse of the city's sexier side. Some visitors have a hard time escaping Tallinn's undeniable allure, but outside the capital, the bucolic landscape hides numerous attractions. Lahemaa National Park in Northeastern Estonia has lush forests and beautiful coastal trails. South of Estonia's cosmopolitan spiritual centre, Tartu, is the hilltop town of Otepää with its laidback atmosphere and lovely ski trails. Handsome beach towns, spa resorts and medieval ruins lie scattered about the western shores of the country. Further west lies Estonia's biggest island, Saaremaa and on it the towns of Angla, Karja, Triigi & Tuhkana, where iconic windmills, 19th-century lighthouses, unspoilt beaches and yet more medieval ruins transport visitors to another time.
Covering vast swaths of Estonia, forests, wooded meadows and under-appreciated bog form the backdrop to numerous activities. Hiking over wooded trails, horse riding along coastline and canoeing over flooded forests can link you to the ancient wilderness. There's also great bird-watching, cross-country skiing in winter and swimming in crystal-clear lakes and rivers in summer. This all makes a nice prelude to a sauna, one of the national pastimes.
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