Roughly halfway between Tallinn and Narva, Rakvere is a thoroughly pleasant place for a pit stop or an overnight stay. The vibe here is upbeat, youthful and modern – quite unlike Narva. The city loudly celebrates its connection to Estonia's most famous son, composer Arvo Pärt, who moved here as a child.
Estonia’s easternmost city is separated from Ivangorod in Russia by the Narva River and is almost entirely populated by Russians. It’s quite literally a border town: the bridge at the end of the main street is the country’s principal link with Russia and no-man’s-land protrudes right up to the edge of the town square.
Ontika & Oru Park Landscape Reserves
Squeezed between a narrow coastal road and the sea, roughly halfway between Rakvere and Narva, these slim reserves protect a section of the limestone escarpment known as the Baltic Klint, where the land falls suddenly into the sea, forming cliffs up to 54m high. The klint extends 1200km, from Sweden to Lake Ladoga in Russia, although 500km of this lies underwater.
Perhaps destined to be caught perpetually between the USSR (on a good day) and modern Estonia, the coastal town of Sillamäe is an intriguing place and a must for fans of Stalinist neoclassical architecture. Planned by Leningrad architects, its grand buildings include a town hall designed to resemble a Lutheran church.
About 13km north of Narva, the holiday resort of Narva-Jõesuu (literally 'Narva River mouth') is a pretty but ramshackle town, popular since the 19th century for its long, golden-sand beach backed by pine forests. Impressive early-20th-century wooden houses and villas are scattered around, along with half a dozen hotels and spas – making this a good base for exploring Narva.