Welcome to Northern Estonia
The park lies about one third of the way between Tallinn and the Russian border. Travelling east of the park, the bucolic landscape transforms into an area of ragged, industrial blight. The scars left by Soviet industry are still visible in towns such as Kunda, home to a mammoth cement plant; Kohtla-Järve, the region’s centre for ecologically destructive oil-shale extraction; and Sillamäe, once home to Estonia’s very own uranium processing plant.
Those willing to take the time will find some rewarding sites here, including the youthful city of Rakvere, the picturesque limestone cliffs around Ontika and the curious spectacle of the seaside city of Sillamäe, a living monument to Stalinist-era architecture. The most striking city of this region is Narva, with its majestic castle dating back to the 13th century.
For those seeking a taste of Russia without the hassle of visas and border crossings, northeastern Estonia makes a pocket-sized alternative. The vast majority of residents here are ethnic Russians, and you’ll hear Russian spoken on the streets, in shops and in restaurants. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap photos of lovely Orthodox churches, communist-bloc high-rises and other legacies left behind by Estonia’s eastern neighbour.