Inhabited for at least 8,500 years, lushly forested Estonia is a gem of natural beauty that also boasts a turbulent history. So desirable was the Baltic state that it was occupied in turn by Germans, Danes, Swedes, and Russians. During World War II, it changed hands from Soviet to Nazi and back to Soviet within several years. For more than four decades, Estonia remained within the grip of the USSR, but it made history—and won independence—with the peaceful “Singing Revolution,” a years-long campaign in which Estonians protested by singing national songs once banned by the Soviets. Sovereignty was declared in 1988 but the revolution wasn’t truly over until unarmed citizens stopped the last Soviet tanks trying to take over media buildings in 1991.
Since then, the splendors of Estonia have been on full display once again. Like something from a fairytale, Estonia is a wooded idyll (with forest covering 50% of the land) studded with castles, fortresses, and churches whose steeples peek above the tree line. A nature-lover’s paradise, it is home to more than 1,500 islands, myriad lakes, and rocky beaches, and air which has been rated by the World Health Organization as among the purest in the world. It’s become a magnet for European travelers, which has been made easier by the fact that it was the first Baltic nation to earn the right to adopt the euro as currency. Now, the rest of the world is getting wise to the abundant charms of Estonia.
Most Popular Films
Films featuring Estonia from international, independent filmmakers
Experience the magic of Tallin, Estonia as you glide over red-roofed neighborhoods and sprawling parks.Produced by www.skycam.ee
Estonia Interactive Map
Click on map markers below to view information about top Estonia experiences
Click here to zoom in and out of this map
*Destinations shown on this map are approximations of exact locations
Immerse yourself in Estonia with this selection of articles, recipes, and more
Learn how Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania came together to achieve independence from each other.
Compare Our Adventures
Click 'Select to Compare' to see a side-by-side comparison of up to adventures below—including
activity level, pricing, traveler excellence rating, trip highlights, and more
Small Group Adventure
Small Ship Adventure
Find the Adventure That’s Right for You
Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.
Activity Level 1:
Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 2:
Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 3:
Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.
Activity Level 4:
Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
Activity Level 5:
Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.
including international airfare
*This information is not available for our trip extensions. You must reserve the main trip to participate on this extension.
**This information is not currently available for this trip. Please check back soon.
You may compare up to Adventures at a time.
Would you like to compare your current selected trips?Yes, View Adventure Comparison
Traveler Photos & Videos
View photos and videos submitted by fellow travelers from our Estonia adventures. Share your own travel photos »
Three Nations, One Spirit
The seeds of protest and the Baltic Capitals’ resurgence
An estimated two million Baltic people all joined hands to physically and symbolically link their three capital cities of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn.
Eastern Europe may still seem closed off to many—after all, most of what Americans know about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was associated with the Eastern Bloc. But while the Soviet shadow still lingers in the architecture and monuments, the flags raised in their capitals have changed to reflect national and ethnic identities. Regardless of the political affiliation of the countries, one fact remains steadfast: The Baltic people love their homeland, and they aren’t afraid to fight—or, in some cases sing—to protect their unique cultural and ethnic identities.
The “Singing Revolution:” Tallin’s peaceful protest
Between the years of 1987 and 1991, yearning to shake off the yoke of Soviet rule, the Baltic people began to engage in a series of public singing demonstrations—often chanting national anthems and cherished folk songs. Soviet officials discouraged these patriotic sing-alongs, wanting to unify disparate populations under the USSR umbrella. As these once-localized musical outbursts became larger and more fervent, the voices of the Baltic people echoed all the way to the highest offices of the Soviets.
On September 11, 1988, approximately 300,000 people gathered at the Tallin Song Festival Arena to sing national songs and hymns, while rock musicians supported and encouraged them onstage. More than a quarter of the entire Estonian population was in attendance—how’s that for unity? Song festivals continue to be popular across all three Baltic countries, beloved as a way to champion national identity and help preserve the past.
Chain of Freedom: peaceful protest or “nationalist hysteria”?
As it turned out, the Singing Revolution was only the beginning of a march towards democracy. On August 23, 1989, an estimated two million Baltic people all joined hands to physically and symbolically link their three capital cities of Vilnius, Lithuania; Riga, Latvia; and Tallinn, Estonia. This human chain—referred to as the “Baltic Way” or, more locally, “Chain of Freedom”—extended over a length that exceeded 400 miles. While this may sound like a feat straight out of the Guinness Book of World Records, the message was serious: It was an expression of joint solidarity against decades of Soviet rule. The year of the chain marked the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that annexed the Baltic States to the USSR. A growing number of activists, eager to bring the issue of illegal Soviet occupation to the world stage, organized the human chain.
Each state had its own pro-independence movement to help coordinate the effort: the Popular Front of Estonia (Rahvarinne), the Popular Front of Latvia (Latvijas Tautas Fronte), and the Reform Movement in Lithuania (Sajudis). Local support was encouraging; thousands of signatures had been gathered in multiple petitions, and organizers provided free bus transportation to ensure an unbroken chain in rural areas. Estonia declared the day to be a public holiday, and many businesses closed to allow employee participation. Aided by radio broadcasts to help organize the massive demonstration, the participants joined hands for 15 minutes.
Although it would take an additional two years of diplomatic and political victories, the Chain of Freedom was ultimately successful: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were recognized as independent states by the end of 1991. Though freedom from Soviet control took over 50 years to attain, the citizens of these three nations adapted quickly to their hard-won liberties. The transformation of the neighborhood of Užupis in Vilnius demonstrates how the creativity and revolutionary spirit of the pro-national movements lives on in their current democratic states.
Užupis: The bohemian utopia
Located just one mile east of Vilnius University (the oldest in Lithuania), Užupis is an eccentric neighborhood that makes for a perfect detour during a free afternoon in Vilnius. In the native Lithuanian tongue, Užupis literally means “on the other side of the river.” In this case, the river in question is the Vilnia River. But a more familiar moniker could just as easily be “on the wrong side of the tracks.” Užupis was nearly deserted during World War II, when Nazi forces drove out the mostly Jewish population. For years, the empty buildings and abandoned storefronts became a haven for criminals, prostitutes, the homeless, and others that lived—some intentionally and others by circumstance—on the fringes of society.
Over the past several centuries, the population has shifted from medieval craftsmen to Jewish communities, but the bohemian spirit of the neighborhood is forever sealed in the DNA of the colorful, dilapidated buildings. Nowadays, Užupis is populated by a new mix of lifestyles: students living cheaply, artists seeking inspiration, and the free spirits who balk at the idea of living in the more “respectable” capital city of Vilnius. The muses of art, craftsmanship, and self-reliance still seem to haunt these streets.
In the place where a former statue of Lenin once stood watch over the town, a new icon has emerged, one that is far more fitting for the artistic and eclectic population: Frank Zappa, the American musician, composer, and kindred free spirit.