Backpacking St Petersburg to Warsaw
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Sep 21, 2012 9:49 AM Last Post By: daveelmstrom
Sep 15, 2012 12:23 AM
I'm looking into traveling through the Baltic region in early summer. I have 25 nights, and the airline I'd fly with goes into St Petersburg and out of Warsaw. I've done a bit of research and have a tentative first itinerary. I'd like to know if it's realistic, if I'm missing anything, or wasting precious time going somewhere I shouldn't. It might look fairly daunting, but to give you an idea, earlier this year I had 39 nights and using only public transport, did:
Cesky Krumlov (2)
Sighetu Marmatiei (3)
Gura Humorului (2)
Cluj Napoca (1)
Veliko Tarnovo (3)
I like to be on the go all day everyday, seeing as much as I can, and felt the pace and distances traveled for the trip above was perfect. I'd rather see more places in a country than just one or two, and as much variety as possible, but for this one I'm constrained by the arrival and departure airports.
My only rules are no night trains or buses, and no arriving at a new destination after dark. So, any advice I can get on my first crack at an itinerary would be great:
St Petersburg (2)
Kuressaare / Saaremaa Island (2)
Riga (2) possible day trip to Siguilda & Cesis
Siauliai (1) for the Hill of Crosses
Klaipeda / Nida (2)
Masurian Lakes (2)
Torun / Chelmo (1)
As you can see, I start to lose the plot slightly towards the end, but really want to get to Krakow. I've read conflicting reviews about Zakapone, but as much as I enjoy getting away from the crowds, I also enjoy a good old fashioned ground-zero tourist destination every now and then.
I hate the thought of going to Finland for two days only, but it sounds easier than taking the train or bus from St Petersburg to Tallinn (I don't want to arrive at 11.30pm).
Anyway, it's a start. Am I mad?
Sep 15, 2012 1:18 AM
Sep 15, 2012 9:42 AM
2I agree with #1 that Petersburg is worth at least 3 full days (which means 4 days including arrival and departure). I would suggest skipping Helsinki, and going driectly from St. P. to Tallinn, there's a 7am SimpleExpress bus that you could take.
I haven't visited Estonia and Latvia, so can't comment on that part of your plan. As for Lithuania I am not sure skipping Vilnius is a good idea, on the other hand Klaipeda and surroundings would add more variety to your trip, and you don't have the time to visit both. Skip Kaunas, it's not that spectacular.
The Polish part of the plan doesn't stick together well. First of all you need to take into account that getting from Vilnius/Kaunas to almost anywhere interesting in Poland will take most of your day. This includes getting to the Masurian Lake District too, since travel is rather slow in the north-eastern corner of Poland (see e-podroznik.pl for travel times). The earliest connection from Kaunas to Poland departs at 1pm, you'll need to change in Suwałki and would arrive to Giżycko around 7 pm. I am actually not sure if putting the Masurian Lakes in this itinerary makes sense - there are little 'proper' attractions in the area, it is the landscape that is particulairly interesting, which is best to explore by sailing or cycling. 2 days might be too little to appreciate the area, actually you might be a bit underwhelmed after such a short visit. Also visiting both Gdańsk and Kraków, given the small amount of time you have and reluctance to use a night train, is not the best idea. I would suggest you concentrate on either northern or southern Poland. Warsaw, the only proper big city apart from Petersburg on your route, is worth at least 2 days. If you insist on visiting both Gdańsk and Kraków, consider flying between the two. Also consider flying from Vilnius to Warsaw. If you decide to visit Zakopane, stay overnight, otherwise you won't have the time to do some hiking in the Tatra Mts, which is the main reason to go to Zakopane.
Sep 15, 2012 1:28 PM
3Hi, thanks heaps for the advice. I suspected it was a long shot. I will be visiting in summer.
I agree that Poland is the problem, and leaving Vilnius out is just wrong. Given your reply ig0r, I think that Poland sounds like it requires/deserves an indepth trip, rather than a quick whip through.
So, back to the drawing board with at least one extra night in St Petersburg. Ruth, I stayed longer in Budapest to do day trips in Hungary (but then spent the whole time in the city because there was so much to do), and never really wanted to visit Istanbul but everyone told me it deserved at least a few days before I flew home. Of course, as soon as I got there, I fell in love with the place!
Sep 15, 2012 6:36 PM
4Two nights in some of those cities is just too short. Example: I think St. Petersberg to Helsinki is something like 5-6 hours. Add in travel time checking out of your room, getting to the train station, then upon arrival finding your hotel, checking in, and getting your bearings in a new city. The reality is, you will really only have about 1 day.
Sep 21, 2012 8:45 AM
5St Petersburg to Helsinki is 3,30 hours sharp with the fast train, border operations included. And Helsinki centre is not very big, you can walk from the station to most hotels in a quarter of an hour.
I have done (in reverse) the first part of the trip last August, and I suggest: more time in St Petersburg (we stayed three days and it was too short), less in Helsinki and Tallinn, skip Saaremaa and stop in Haapsalu instead, Parnu/Riga is about 2 1/2 hours (no border, they are two EU countries), Riga deserves two full days.
Helsinki/Tallinn by ferry is 2 1/2 hours with the slow one, the hovercraft takes 1 1/2 hours for the trip.
Sep 21, 2012 9:49 AM
6I stand corrected on the 5-6 hour train ride I estimated in #4, but my point is still valid. Even if you get up very early and catch the 6:40 train, arriving at 9:15, by the time you get to your hotel/hostel, check in and get your bearings, it's still probably going to be close to noon before you are able to start exploring Helsinki. So you'll really be left with 1.5 days, not to mention tired from having to get up so early to catch the train.
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