Where East Meets West
Like with any road trip, the more time you have, the more you’ll get to see. The good thing is is that distances are short and a few days should get from Tallinn to Narva and back with some stops along the way.
Probably the most beautiful of the stops you will make on this trip will be your visit to Lahemaa National Park. Occupying an enormous amount of land (over 700 km2), Lahemaa offers visitors a stunning coastline, lush forests rich in wildlife, and little villages to explore like Käsmu and Viinistu, as well as Vihula, Palmse, and Sagadi manors.
As you head east of the park, the lush landscape transforms to something industrial. Leftovers of Soviet industry can still be seen in some of the towns like Kunda, Kohtla-Järve, and Sillamäe, offering an excellent look at Stalinist-era architecture. Hara, on the Juminda Peninsula has a former Soviet submarine degaussing station that can be explored at your own risk.
Rakvere is worth a stop to visit Rakvere Castle, which sits proudly on the hillside in the centre of town. The castle dates back to the 14th century. While the ruins are fascinating to look at, it’s the wide range of medieval-style activities that can be enjoyed that make this a fun stop for the whole family. Try dressing up in costumes, visit the animals at the petting zoo, or try your hand at archery or jousting, among other things.
Driving further, the majestic cliffs at Ontika make for a good place to stretch your legs.
We would recommend driving through Narva (coming back of course to visit the next day) and staying overnight in the seaside town of Narva-Jõesuu, known for its long sandy beaches and spas.
Narva offers a taste of Russia without having to cross the border. Most of the residents here are Russian and you’ll definitely hear more Russian than Estonian spoken on the streets. A wonderfully restored 13th century castle is one of the highlights of the city, where you can look over the Narva River to Russia.
TEXT KRISTINA LUPP, PHOTOS ANDREI CHERTKOV