Don’t forget, there’s a lot to see outside of Tallinn too!
Take a look at some of the unique destinations outside of Estonia’s capital.
The main attraction of Saaremaa’s capital Kuressaare (218km South- west of Tallinn) is the Episcopal Castle. This medieval castle with a moat houses the stage of the summer opera festival and many more events throughout the warmer months. The castle is in excellent condition, and the inside houses a museum that is well worth a visit. The city of Kuressaare celebrates its 450th anniversary this year.
Haapsalu (100km southwest of Tallinn) is like something straight out of a fairytale: old wooden houses built on narrow streets, overlooking a sparkling sea. Be sure to visit the majestic Haapsalu Episcopal Castle in the centre of town. The White Lady Days are held in honour of Estonia’s most famous legend. Under the full moon in August in Haapsalu, through the window of the Episcopal Chapel the white lady makes her appearance. According to legend, the maiden appears to show the immortality of love.
Rakvere Castle is one of Rakvere’s (100km east of Tallinn) main attractions. Located on the hill just outside of the city centre,the ruins of this medieval castle will entertain both adults and children. There are informative displays on the castle’s history, as well as an exhibit on the history of weapons. Try your hand at shoot- ing a bow and arrow, or take a tour of the torture chamber.
Narva (211km east of Tallinn) is the easternmost point of Estonia and EU. The Narva River divides Russia and Estonia, and from the Hermann Fortress you can look across the river to Russia and the castle on the other side. Narva was once the “Baroque Pearl of the Baltic Sea,” but during World War II, the city was almost completely destroyed. Visit Narva for an interesting glimpse at Russian Tallinn Estonia, Soviet architecture, and one of the best preserved castles in Estonia.
South-eastern Estonia is home to the Seto people. Their land today is split between the borders of the neighbouring countries. The Seto people have an Orthodox Christian tradition. Their customs and beliefs are different from the mainstream and one of their recognisable landmarks are the multiple small prayer houses or tsässonad.
Värska (270km southeast of Tallinn) is the centre of Seto culture. Here you can find a museum and the Tsäimaja offering traditional food. Seto Kingdom Day takes place on the first Saturday of August in Värska. On that day a king is chosen, as well as best musicians and best food and beverage purveyors.
Old Believers & Peipsi Lake
In the 17th century, the Old Believers came to Estonia to avoid Russian persecution. Their religion is an old form of Russian Orthodoxy and today there about 15,000 Old Believers living in towns around Lake Peipsi. Visit the Old Believer’s museum in Kolkja Village (213km south- east of Tallinn) to learn more of their fascinating history and traditions, and be sure to have a meal at the fish and onion restaurant to have a taste of the onions that this area is known for.
The fast-paced modern world has yet to reach the islands of Estonia. On the smaller islands, including Hiiumaa (155km west of Tallinn), there is the feeling of having gone back 100 years in time. Estonia’s Photo:Toomas tuul largest island, Saaremaa, is quiet and peaceful compared to Tallinn. Unique nature and preserved folk culture is the specialty of the islands, but don’t worry, modern amenities can be found as well.
Kihnu Island’s culture is a UNESCO world heritage site. Elderly ladies driving motorcycles with sidecars, while wearing traditional folk clothing is a regular sight on Kihnu (180km southwest of Tallinn).
Hiiumaa’s main attraction is the Kõpu lighthouse, built at the beginning of the 16th century. This is one of the world’s oldest working lighthouses. Kihnu, as well as some of the other islands have lighthouses that can be visited by tourists.
Koguva, on the island of Muhu is the best place to see these traditional farmhouses. This village has many thatched roof buildings, including a museum. The many windmills in Angla village on Saaremaa, is the best place to see these traditional structures, as there are not many left in other places.
TEXT: KRISTINA LUPP, PHOTOS: ANDREI CHERTKOV, EAS