The great writer Ernest Hemingway once said: “In every port of the world at least two Estonians can be found.” For such a small country, that’s impressive.
It’s a quote proud residents love to recite as proof of their worldly outlook – but arguably, with so much to explore on their doorstep, they have no need to travel far.
Today, February 24, marks 100 years of the Republic of Estonia, providing an excuse (if needed) to visit the Baltic state. Baffled about what to expect? These five sights alone should justify a trip.
1. Bizarre crater lakes make for great photographs
Located on Estonia’s biggest island Saaremaa, Kaali is a small group of nine meteorite craters – with the largest stretching 110 metres in diameter. It’s estimated a rock from space hit the area 7,500 years ago with the impact of an atomic bomb. Look out for remains of a Late Bronze Age wall.
2. There’s a large sandy beach for sunshine lounging
Estonia’s resort town, Pärnu, in the southwest, is popular with local residents during summer. Modern spas and water parks sit alongside historic bath houses, meaning there’s plenty to do besides topping up a tan. Shallow waters and a promenade packed with facilities make it a good option for families, too.
3. Wild animals roam the forests
Moose, wild boars, brown bears, lynxes and foxes can all be found in Lahemaa National Park, 70km east of Tallinn. Hike through pine forests, along limestone cliffs or down onto sandy shores. Fishing villages, an abandoned Soviet submarine base and Bronze Age graves add mystery and allure.
4. A white-washed manor house has magic powers
Dating back to the 17th century, the sprawling Kirna Manor in Järva county was inhabited by various Baltic German and Russian noble families. The land surrounding the neo-classical building supposedly has geological crust cracks generating a healing, positive energy. The park is open all year and is free to enter.
5. Part of the capital is trapped in a time warp
By far the country’s best-known attraction, Tallinn’s cobblestoned Old Town is awash with medieval and Gothic architecture. If spires and turrets don’t rock your world, simply perch in one of the pretty squares soaking up the atmosphere – and some of the country’s great beers.