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Estonia travel guide - Travel S helper

Estonia

travel guide

Estonia, formally the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is a nation in Northern Europe’s Baltic area. It is bounded on the north by the Gulf of Finland, on the west by the Baltic Sea, on the south by Latvia (343 kilometers), and on the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). Sweden is to the west of the Baltic Sea, while Finland is to the north. Estonia’s landmass consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, with a total land area of 45,339 km2 (17,505 sq mi) with a humid continental climate.

Estonia has been inhabited since at least 6500 BCE, with Finno-Ugric speakers — the linguistic forebears of contemporary Estonians – coming as recently as 1800 BCE. Following centuries of Teutonic, Danish, Swedish, and Russian domination, Estonians underwent a national awakening, culminating in independence from the Russian Empire towards the conclusion of World War I. During WWII, Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940, then by Nazi Germany a year later, and taken by the Soviets again in 1944, when it was reconstructed as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Estonian SSR published the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration in defiance of Soviet authority in 1988, during the Singing Revolution, and independence was restored on the night of August 20, 1991, during the Soviet attempted coup.

Tallinn, the capital and biggest city of modern Estonia, is a democratic parliamentary republic split into fifteen counties. It is one of the least populated member nations of the European Union, Eurozone, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), OECD, and Schengen Area, with a population of 1.3 million.

Estonians are a Finnic people with strong cultural connections to their northern neighbor, Finland, and Estonian, the official language, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and the Sami languages, as well as distantly to Hungarian.

Estonia is a developed nation with a sophisticated, high-income economy that is one of the EU’s fastest expanding. It has a high Human Development Index and scores well on measures of economic freedom, civil rights, education, and press freedom (3rd in the world in 2012 and 2007). Estonians have universal health care, free education, and the world’s longest paid maternity leave of any OECD nation. Since its independence, the nation has quickly expanded its information technology industry, becoming one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated civilizations. Estonia was the first country to conduct elections via the Internet in 2005, and the first to provide E-residency in 2014.

Estonia is a Baltic jewel that offers tourists the opportunity to view a small dynamic country on the Baltic Sea’s coasts. Although the swimming season is brief, the coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches. After all, the Baltics are not known for their pleasant weather, which every tourist to Estonia should be aware of; the summer is brief and the winter is harsh.

Tallinn’s medieval old town was constructed by the Germans during the Middle Ages and is in excellent shape, with the medieval city walls and towers nearly entirely intact, ranking as one of Europe’s finest medieval old cities. Visitors may also see an ex-Soviet occupied nation that is now a member of the European Union. Traces of the Soviet period may still be observed, for example, Paldiski, an abandoned Soviet army camp that was previously off-limits to Estonians, can be readily visited on a day trip from Tallinn. Estonia is well-known for its idyllic islands and vast bogs, which have been turned into national parks with easy access for visitors.

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Estonia - Info Card

Population

1,331,796

Currency

Euro (€) (EUR)

Time zone

UTC+02:00 (EET)

Area

45,339 km2 (17,505 sq mi)

Calling code

+372

Official language

Estonian

Estonia | Introduction

Geography Of Estonia

Estonia is located on the flat northwestern portion of the rising East European platform between 57.3° and 59.5° N and 21.5° and 28.1° E, on the eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea, just across the Gulf of Finland from Finland. The average height is just 50 metres (164 feet), while the highest point in the nation is the Suur Munamägi in the southeast at 318 metres (1,043 ft). The coastline is 3,794 kilometers (2,357 miles) long, with many bays, straits, and inlets. The total number of islands and islets is believed to be about 2,355. (including those in lakes). Two of them are big enough to be considered counties in their own right: Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. On Saaremaa, Estonia, there is a small, recent cluster of meteorite craters, the biggest of which is named Kaali.

Estonia is located in the northern temperate climatic zone, on the border between marine and continental climates. Estonia has four seasons that are almost equal in duration. In July, the hottest month, average temperatures vary from 16.3 °C (61.3 °F) on the Baltic islands to 18.1 °C (64.6 °F) inland, while in February, the coldest month, average temperatures range from 3.5 °C (25.7 °F) on the Baltic islands to 7.6 °C (18.3 °F) inland. The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2 degrees Celsius (41.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The average annual precipitation varied from 535 to 727 mm (21.1 to 28.6 in) from 1961 to 1990.

Snow cover typically lasts from mid-December to late March, with the heaviest coverage in the south-eastern portion of Estonia. There are approximately 1400 lakes in Estonia. Most are relatively tiny, with Lake Peipus being the biggest at 3,555 km2 (1,373 sq mi). The country is riddled with rivers. The longest are Vhandu (162 km or 101 mi), Pärnu (144 km or 89 mi), and Pltsamaa (144 km or 89 km) (135 km or 84 mi). Estonia contains a lot of fens and bogs. Estonia is covered by forests about 61 percent of its total area. Pine, spruce, and birch are the most prevalent tree species.

Estonia is shared phylogeographically by the Circumboreal Region’s Central European and Eastern European provinces within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, Estonia’s land is part of the Sarmatic mixed forest ecoregion.

Demographics Of Estonia

Prior to WWII, ethnic Estonians made up 88 percent of the population, with national minorities accounting for the remaining 12 percent. Russians, Germans, Swedes, Latvians, Jews, Poles, Finns, and Ingrians were the biggest minority groups in 1934.

The proportion of Baltic Germans in Estonia had decreased from 5.3 percent (46,700) in 1881 to 1.3 percent (16,346) by 1934, owing mostly to emigration to Germany in the aftermath of widespread Russification at the end of the nineteenth century and Estonia’s independence in the twentieth.

Between 1945 and 1989, the proportion of ethnic Estonians living within Estonia’s current borders fell to 61 percent, owing primarily to the Soviet program promoting mass immigration of urban industrial workers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as wartime emigration and Joseph Stalin’s mass deportations and executions. Minorities comprised more than one-third of the population by 1989, as the number of non-Estonians had almost fivefold increased.

At the end of the 1980s, Estonians saw demographic change as a national disaster. This was the consequence of migratory policies crucial to the Soviet Nationalisation Programme aimed at russifying Estonia — administrative and military immigration of non-Estonians from the USSR, along with deportation of Estonians to the USSR. Large-scale emigration by ethnic Russians and the evacuation of Russian military posts in 1994 increased the percentage of ethnic Estonians in Estonia from 61 percent to 69 percent in 2006.

Modern Estonia is a highly ethnically diverse nation, although this diversity is not visible in most of the country since the non-Estonian population is concentrated in two counties. Thirteen of Estonia’s fifteen counties are above 80 percent ethnic Estonian, with Hiiumaa being the most homogenous, with Estonians accounting for 98.4 percent of the population. However, ethnic Estonians make approximately 60% and 20% of the population in the counties of Harju (containing the capital city of Tallinn) and Ida-Viru, respectively. Russians account up 25.6 percent of the overall population, but 36 percent of the population in Harju county and 70 percent of the population in Ida-Viru county.

The Estonian Cultural Autonomy Act of 1925 was unique in Europe at the time. More than 3,000 individuals from minorities with long-standing connections to the Republic of Estonia may be awarded cultural autonomy. Prior to the Soviet takeover, German and Jewish minority were able to elect a cultural council. In 1993, the Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities was reintroduced. Historically, indigenous ethnically Rannarootslased people have inhabited vast portions of Estonia’s northern coast and islands (Coastal Swedes).

Due to property changes in the early 1990s, the number of Coastal Swedes has increased in recent years, reaching almost 500 individuals in 2008. In 2005, Estonia’s Ingrian Finnish minority elected a cultural council and received cultural autonomy. In 2007, the Estonian Swedish minority gained cultural autonomy in the same way.

Religion In Estonia

The Teutonic Knights converted Estonia to Christianity in the 13th century. Protestantism expanded throughout the Reformation, and the Lutheran church was formally founded in Estonia in 1686. Many Estonians claim to be atheists since religion was linked with German feudalism in the nineteenth century. Another minority religion, Russian Old-believers, has historically existed around Lake Peipus in Tartu County.

Today, Estonia’s constitution protects religious freedom, separation of church and state, and individual rights to religious and believe privacy. Estonia, according to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, is one of the world’s least religious nations, with 75.7 percent of the population professing to be irreligious. According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2005, just 16% of Estonians believe in God, the lowest percentage of any country examined. The ancient Lutheran denomination has a significant presence, with 180,000 registered members, according to the Lutheran World Federation.

According to Eurobarometer’s 2012 surveys on religiosity in the European Union, Christianity is the most popular religion in Estonia, accounting for 28.06 percent of Estonians. Eastern Orthodox are the biggest Christian group in Estonia, accounting for 17% of the population, followed by Protestants at 6% and Other Christians at 22%. Nonbeliever/Agnostic account for 22%, Atheist account for 15%, and undeclared account for 15%.

The biggest religious denomination in the country is Lutheranism, which is practiced by 160,000 Estonians (or 13% of the population), mostly ethnic Estonians. According to other groups, such as the World Council of Churches, there are as many as 265,700 Estonian Lutherans. Furthermore, there are between 8,000 and 9,000 subscribers worldwide.

Another significant group is those who practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is mostly practiced by the Russian minority, and the Russian Orthodox Church is the second biggest denomination with 150,000 adherents. Another 20,000 people are members of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with the Greek-Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity, the number of Lutherans and Orthodox followers is nearly equal. Catholics in Estonia have their own Latin Apostolic Administration.

According to the 2000 census (data in the table on the right), there were about 1,000 followers of the Taara religion or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda). The Jewish community has a population of about 1,900 people. Around 68,000 individuals identify as atheists.

Language & Phrasebook in Estonia

Estonian is the official language, which is linguistically extremely similar to Finnish and therefore unconnected to other neighboring languages including English. Many individuals in cities (particularly young ones) are fluent in English. According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2005, 66% of Estonians can speak some Russian; nevertheless, fewer and fewer young Estonians can or want to speak Russian. This excludes native-language speakers. Russian is often referred to be Estonia’s unofficial second language, and 50 percent of Tallinn residents speak Russian as their first language. Due to significant tourist and TV transmissions from the opposite side of the gulf, many people in Tallinn speak Finnish very well. German is taught in schools in Estonia, and many individuals are fluent in it (22 percent according to Eurobarometer).

It may be tempting to brush up on your Russian, given that about 25% of Estonia’s population speaks Russian. A stranger beginning a conversation in Russian, on the other hand, is considered very impolite by local Estonian speakers. Always attempt to start a discussion in a language other than Russian before asking whether the other person speaks Russian. Following initial pleasantries, Estonians may be ready to speak in Russian with a tourist, but many are hesitant to converse in Russian with a native Russian. In Tallinn and north-east Estonia, there is a good possibility that you may encounter a native Russian speaker, such as a bartender or a bank teller.

There is a significant Slavic minority, mostly Russians and Ukrainians (some 25 percent ).

Internet & Communications in Estonia

Internet

  • Tallinn and Tartu have extensive access to wireless, free internet.
  • On the open road, you will often come across gas stations that also provide wireless internet connection.
  • If you do not own a laptop, public libraries have free computers.
  • The number of internet cafés is decreasing, although many are open nearly all night in Tallinn and Tartu (expect to spend €2-3 per hour).
  • Most hotels also provide a computer with internet connection.
  • Tallinn airport’s departure lounge offers numerous free internet connection stations for travelers.

Landlines

  • Dial the 7 or 8 digit number provided for local calls. There is no “0” before local numbers.
  • To make an international call from Estonia, dial “00” followed by the country code and number.
  • To make an international call to Estonia, dial “00” from most countries or contact your operator, followed by the country code “372” and the 7 or 8-digit number.
  • Dial “112” in an emergency. Dial “110” exclusively for police.

Mobile phones

  • In Estonia, “everyone” owns a cell phone.
  • To call Estonia from overseas, add +372 to the number.
  • Mobile service is accessible everywhere, even on tiny islands and at sea.
  • R-kiosks sell prepaid (pay-as-you-go) SIM cards and top-up cards (ask for a “knekaart” – calling card in English). Smart, Simpel, Diil, and Zen are popular brands. Start-up packages vary from €1.55 to €10.

Postal service

  • Within Estonia, the cost of mail for a letter weighing up to 50 grams is €0.45.
  • The fee is €1 for other EU nations, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, and €1.10 for the rest of the globe.
  • Mark all air mail pieces with “Prioritaire/Par Avion” stickers available at post offices, or plainly print it on the mail if necessary.
  • Stamps are sold in post offices, which are typically open during regular business hours, as well as at newsstands.
  • Saturday post offices are operating, although for fewer hours than during the week, while Sundays are closed.

Economy Of Estonia

The World Bank classifies Estonia as a high-income economy since it is a member of the European Union. According to the IMF, the country’s GDP (PPP) per capita in 2015 was $28,781, placing it between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania, but behind other long-standing EU members such as Italy and Spain. The nation is rated eighth in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, and its economy is the fourth freest in Europe. Estonia, along with Lithuania and Latvia, has been dubbed the Baltic Tigers due to its fast development. Estonia joined the euro on January 1, 2011, becoming the 17th eurozone member state.

According to Eurostat, Estonia had the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among EU nations at the end of 2010, at 6.7 percent.

Estonia’s market economy is distinguished by a balanced budget, virtually non-existent public debt, a flat-rate income tax, a free trade environment, a competitive commercial banking sector, innovative e-Services, and even mobile-based services.

Estonia generates about 75% of the power it consumes. In 2011, about 85 percent of it was produced using locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass account for around 9% of primary energy output. In 2009, renewable wind energy accounted for about 6% of total consumption. Petroleum products are imported into Estonia from Western Europe and Russia. Key areas of the economy include oil shale energy, telecommunications, textiles, chemical goods, banking, services, food and fishing, wood, shipbuilding, electronics, and transportation. Muuga, near Tallinn, is an ice-free port with excellent transshipment capability, a high-capacity grain elevator, chill/frozen storage, and new oil tanker off-loading facilities. The railroad connects the West with Russia and other places to the East.

Because of the worldwide economic crisis that started in 2007, Estonia’s GDP fell by 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 2008, more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2008, and more than 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The Estonian government enacted a supplemental negative budget, which the Riigikogu approved. The budget’s income was reduced by EEK 6.1 billion in 2008, while spending was reduced by EEK 3.2 billion. In 2010, the economy stabilized and began to expand on the back of robust exports. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Estonian industrial production rose by 23% over the previous year. Since then, the nation has seen economic development.

In 2008, Estonian PPS GDP per capita was 67 percent of the EU average, according to Eurostat statistics. The average monthly gross wage in Estonia in March 2016 was €1105.

However, there are large differences in GDP across various regions of Estonia; presently, Tallinn generates more than half of the country’s GDP. Tallinn’s GDP per capita was 172 percent of the Estonian average in 2008, making Tallinn’s per capita GDP as high as 115 percent of the European Union average, surpassing the typical levels of other countries.

In March 2016, the unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, which was lower than the EU average, but real GDP growth in 2011 was 8.0 percent, which was five times the eurozone average. Estonia remained the only eurozone member with a budget surplus in 2012, and with a national debt of just 6% of GDP, it is one of Europe’s least indebted nations.

Entry Requirements For Estonia

Visa & Passport for Estonia

The Schengen Agreement includes Estonia.

Between nations that have signed and implemented the pact, there are usually no border restrictions. This covers the majority of the European Union as well as a few additional nations.

Before boarding foreign planes or vessels, identification checks are typically performed. At land boundaries, there are sometimes temporary border restrictions.

A visa issued to a Schengen member is also valid in all other Schengen nations that have signed and implemented the treaty.

How To Travel To Estonia

Get In - By plane

Tallinn serves as Estonia’s primary international gateway. Aside from direct daily flights to/from all main Scandinavian (Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo) and Baltic cities (Riga and Vilnius), there are direct flights from all major European hubs such as London, Frankfurt, Munich, Brussels, and Amsterdam, as well as regional hubs such as Prague and Warsaw. Connections to the east are available from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Kiev. Nordica, Estonia’s flag airline, provides half of the services, while Finnair, SAS, Lufthansa, LOT, Aeroflot, Air Baltic, and others offer the remainder. Easyjet is one of a few low-cost airlines that fly to Tallinn on a regular basis. Ryanair also runs a number of summer flights.

Because of the close proximity and good ferry connections to Helsinki, open-jaw air travel is possible. Riga is just a 2-3 hour bus ride away from southern Estonia and may be another viable alternative.

Other Estonian airports mostly serve local flights, but Tartu has a regular link to Helsinki and Pärnu and Kuressaare may have occasional flights to Stockholm.

Get In - By car

Good road connections are available to the south (through Balticaroute Tallinn-Riga-Kaunas-Warsaw) and east (by Balticaroute Tallinn-Riga-Kaunas-Warsaw) (Tallinn-Saint Petersburg, Tallinn-Pskov). Any vehicle trip to Russia includes unforeseeable border delays. The Narva/Ivangorod border crossing is renowned for its half-day-long waits, so utilize the southern crossing in Pechory whenever feasible and pay particular attention to the ticketing system that books you a spot in the Estonian queue.

Get In - By bus

There are many excellent and inexpensive connections between Riga and Saint Petersburg to Tallinn. Long-distance service is also accessible from Vilnius, Kaunas, Kaliningrad, and even Warsaw or Kiev. Luxexpress Group is the most popular regular service provider; others include Ecolines and Hansabuss.

Get In - By boat

Tallinn is connected by ferry to Sweden (Stockholm) and Finland (Helsinki, Mariehamn). Tallinn-Helsinki is one of Europe’s busiest maritime routes, with 11 ferry crossings each day and 6-7 distinct fast-boat crossings (not during the winter) in each direction. Tallink, Viking Line, and Eckerö Line run ferries, while Linda Line operates fast boats. Ferry tickets may be purchased for as little as €19 for a single or return trip (usually the return is free if returning the same day; they want day cruisers who supposedly spend more on board).

Minor international routes include the newly re-established link between Ventspils, Latvia, and the island of Saaremaa, as well as Paldiski – Kapellskär, Sweden, with two separate operators.

Get In - By train

International rail services are available. Tallinn, on the one hand, and Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia, on the other, have had their trips canceled on numerous occasions. Russian Railways (RZD) now operates daily night trains between Moscow and Tallinn (via St. Petersburg). Trains leave Moscow at 21.20 and arrive at 13.38 in Tallinn. Tallinn services leave at 15.20 and arrive in Moscow at 09.32. The extensively (and sometimes obnoxiously) promoted Riga-to-Tallinn rail link is everything but sensible, since it takes a lengthy detour and almost an entire day to get between the Baltic cities. Local trains from northern Latvia to southern Estonia (with a connection at Valka/Valga) may, nevertheless, be helpful.

How To Travel Around Estonia

Because the local Eastern European style driving culture may be hazardous for the untrained, it is recommended to walk, bike, or use public transportation in Estonia.

Get Around - By bus

Estonia has a well-developed bus system that runs across the nation. A direct bus from Tallinn may take you to almost any place. Other major cities, like as Narva–Pärnu and Tartu–Kuressaare, have their own bus lines. Peatus.ee is a fantastic route planner that is available in English, Estonian, and Russian. Bussireisid.ee has a more user-friendly schedule search and booking facility (notice that printouts of electronic tickets may not be accepted; check the website for details!) Tickets may also be purchased from the driver.

Get Around - By car

The condition of the roads varies. The majority of highways are two lanes, although the Narva–Tallinn route is an excellent four-lane motorway. Unless otherwise stated, the speed limit is 90 km/h in the countryside and 50 km/h in towns. Seat belts are required for all passengers. Lights must be turned on at all times.

Parking vehicles are charged a price in the core sections of larger cities, although locating a supplier of tickets may be problematic due to the extensive use of mobile parking.

There are several vehicle rental businesses in Estonia, and their personnel speak a good level of English. Rent is less expensive than in Western Europe. The Tallinn International Airport’s Level 0 has agency counters.

Driving in Estonia is very simple, but it may be a little more inconvenient than in Western Europe or the United States. Although most drivers are courteous, they may not adhere to speed limits and other traffic regulations, particularly when overtaking. Speeding is not tolerated, as shown by regular police radar checks and stationary speed cameras on key roadways. In comparison to Western Europe or, for example, Poland, Estonian roads have relatively little traffic. Estonian rules prohibiting driving while intoxicated are severe and adopt a zero-tolerance approach. However, be wary of inebriated pedestrians. They’re not unheard of.

Get Around - By plane

There are numerous domestic flights in Estonia, mostly between the mainland and the islands. Tallinn to Kuressaare or Kärdla is served by Avies on a regular basis. Pärnu to Ruhnu and then to Kuressaare is served by Luftverkehr Friesland-Harle.

Get Around - By train

The railway network in Estonia does not cover the whole nation. Thanks to significant EU investment, the quality of railway lines and services is gradually increasing. The aging Soviet diesel locomotives have recently been replaced by modern trains.

Elron has been in charge of all domestic passenger train operations since 2014. Tickets are available for purchase on board. You may also purchase them online, at major stations, or at one of the few ticket machines, although this is only recommended for first-class tickets, which are restricted in quantity and may sell out. When purchasing tickets via the internet, you will get a -10% discount.

The cost of a one-way ticket from Tallinn to Tartu in first class is just €14.20.

Get Around - By bicycle

BaltiCCycle, an international cycling initiative, may be able to offer you with a wealth of information and assistance.

Get Around - By thumb

In general, hitchhiking in Estonia is a pleasant experience. Hitchhiking is quite popular in the Baltic nations.

Destinations in Estonia

Regions in Estonia

The country of Estonia is split into 15 counties (or maakonnad, singular – maakond). In this guide, we utilize four different areas to highlight Estonia’s unique features. Because Estonia is a tiny country, most places can be visited in a few hours from Tallinn.

North Estonia

With almost a third of the population, it is the most industrialized area. Tallinn is a well-known tourist destination due to its nightlife and UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town. Kaberneeme, Laulasmaa, Nva, Käsmu, and Vsu are just a few of the lovely little seaside communities. Tallinn is about an hour away from Lahemaa National Park.

East Estonia

County of Ida-Viru, which borders Russia. Narva is the easternmost point of the European Union, featuring many landmarks. Toila and Narva-Jesuu are two of Estonia’s most popular seaside resorts.

West Estonia and Islands

It is known for its resorts, such as Haapsalu and Pärnu (Estonia’s summer capital), as well as its islands (Saaremaa and Hiiumaa the biggest). The area has a long and illustrious history. Coastal Swedes live on Noarootsi and the islands of Ruhnu and Vormsi. The islands of Kihnu and Muhu, with their rich cultural history, and the national parks of Vilsandi and Matsalu are also noteworthy.

South Estonia

The region is centered around Tartu, a bustling university town. Setomaa and Mulgimaa, to the south and south-east, have a distinct cultural history that is still evident today. The area includes Karula National Park, Soomaa National Park, and the ski resorts near Otepää.

Cities in Estonia

  • Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, has a charming medieval center.
  • Haapsalu is a coastal vacation town in Finland.
  • On the island of Saaremaa, Kuressaare is home to the Kuressaare castle.
  • Narva is Estonia’s easternmost city, located near the Russian border.
  • Pärnu is Estonia’s summer capital and a historical coastal resort city with a modest port.
  • Rakvere is renowned for its castle remains and distinct personality.
  • Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest and oldest city, is known for its universities and as an intellectual center.
  • Valga is a Latvian border town.
  • Viljandi is the site of a yearly folk music festival.

Other destinations in Estonia

Estonians have a particular affinity for nature, and many would tell you that sitting beneath a tree in an empty forest or hiking in a national park is preferable to practically anything else. Estonia’s Baltic islands are peaceful, laid-back, and unspoilt, making for a wonderful nature escape.

  • Hiiumaa is Estonia’s second-largest island.
  • Karula National Park is Estonia’s smallest national park, situated in the south of the country.
  • With 1000 km2 of beaches, peninsulas, and woods, Lahemaa National Park is 50 kilometers east of Tallinn.
  • Matsalu National Park is one of Europe’s biggest and most significant fall migratory bird halting places.
  • Saaremaa is Estonia’s biggest island, home to the town of Kuressaare and one of the Baltics’ few well-preserved medieval castles.
  • Soomaa National Park is a peat bog that developed about 11,000 years ago when a glacier melted.
  • Vilsandi National Park spans 238 square kilometers, including 163 square kilometers of water and 75 square kilometers of land, as well as 160 islands and islets.

Accommodation & Hotels in Estonia

Following the restoration of Estonian independence, the number of hotels has grown from a few to tens of thousands. Tallinn was top among Baltic Sea cities in terms of hotel overnight stays in 2004, although it was still behind Stockholm and Helsinki in terms of overall overnight stays.

Following the disbandment of Soviet communal farms, many farmers began operating “turismitalud,” or tourism farms, which are cheap and essential locations to spend vacations in nature, typically in a former farm home. Estonian Rural Tourist is a website that offers information about Estonian Rural Tourism. Hostels are another popular choice for budget-conscious travelers; see the Estonian Youth Hostel Association website for more information.

Things To See in Estonia

Medieval history and manors

Tallinn’s Old Town is Europe’s most preserved and well-protected medieval city and Estonia’s top tourist destination. Its unique significance stems from its well-preserved (intact) medieval atmosphere and structure, which has been lost in other northern European cities. The Old Town has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997.

Estonia boasts a unique and rich mix of historic monuments as a result of being under the authority of Scandinavian monarchs, the Russian empire, and the Teutonic Knights. From the 13th century forward, Estonians constructed over a thousand manors. Some of the manors have died or fallen into ruins, but many have been rebuilt and are popular tourist attractions. Around 200 manor homes are protected as architectural monuments by the state, with another 100 in use.

Islands and coastline

There are approximately 1500 islands in Estonia. With their remoter rustic vibe, the environment is basically unspoiled and provides quite a distinct beach experience. In the summer, the majority of the public beaches are sandy, with an average water temperature of 18°C. Inland waters and the waters of certain small bays are much warmer.

Saaremaa, the biggest island, has an undamaged and well-restored medieval castle at Kuressaare, its only city. Saaremaa is known for its stone walls, thatched roofs, functioning windmills, and home-brewed beer. Hiiumaa, on the other hand, is famous for its lighthouses, unspoiled environment, the Hill of Crosses, and the people’ sense of humour. Both islands have airports and are easily accessible from Tallinn.

Kihnu, Ruhnu (with its “singing sand” beach), Muhu, and Vormsi are other significant islands, each with its own distinct features. The majority of the other small Estonian islands have little cultural importance, although they may be attractive for bird viewing, canoeing, sailing, or fishing, among other activities.

Pärnu, Estonia’s summer capital, is the major attraction in July and August. The coastline offers several undeveloped beaches, and a trip from Narva-Jesuu (in the east) to Tallinn is a wonderful way to see them all. Toila, Vsu, Käsmu, and Kaberneeme are just a few of the well-known locations.

Things To Do in Estonia

Film festivals

Music festivals

  • Tallinn Music Week, Tallinn. Spring. Showcase festival with the goal of showcasing the finest and most remarkable Estonian artists over two nights in Tallinn’s most dynamic live venues, as well as a networking event for music industry professionals.
  • Tallinn International Festival Jazzkaar. April. Jazz performances are also held in Tartu and Pärnu, in addition to Tallinn.
  • Tallinn Old Town Days, Tallinn. May/June. free. 
  • The Estonian Song Celebration (In Estonian: Laulupidu), Tallinn. Every five years, the event, which began in 1869, is held. In 2009, 35,000 choral singers performed in front of a 90,000-strong crowd. UNESCO has designated it as a Masterpiece of Humanity’s Oral and Intangible Heritage.
  • Õllesummer Festival, Tallinn. July. Every year, over the course of four days, about 70,000 people attend the event.
  • Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Viljandi. July. Viljandi, a tiny yet beautiful village, hosts an annual folk music festival. The event attracts around 20,000 people each year.
  • Saaremaa Opera Days, Saaremaa. July.  
  • Leigo Lake Music Festival, near Otepää. August. On the steep landscapes of the Otepää highland, open-air concerts are performed in totally natural settings. The musicians’ stage is located on a small island in the middle of the lake, surrounded by hundreds of spectators on the sloping coast. 
  • Birgitta Festival, Tallinn. August. The remains of the ancient Pirita (St. Bridget’s) convent are hosting a music and theater festival.

Food & Drinks in Estonia

Food in Estonia

Estonian cuisine is strongly influenced by German and Nordic cuisine. Verivorst, or black pudding, is the closest thing to a national meal, and it’s paired with mulgikapsad, or sauerkraut stew.

Many foods, such as hapukoor (smetana in Russian), a sour 20 percent-fat milk dressing for salads, particularly “kartulisalat” or “potato salad,” are comparable to Russian meals and are virtually solely available in the former USSR.

Because Estonia was a food mass-production powerhouse during the Soviet era, several of its dishes, which are unfamiliar to Westerners, are still well-known in the CIS. This is also true in the opposite direction; goods from former Soviet Union nations, such as Georgian mineral water, are commonly accessible in Estonian supermarkets.

Some wildlife goods, such as wild boar, elk sausages, and deer grill, are sold at Estonian grocery shops alongside other daily foods. Bear meat is also available at certain places.

For those with a sweet taste, “Kalev” is the national chocolate producer, with numerous specialty shops and supermarkets selling the product across the country.

The more daring may wish to try “kohuke,” a chocolate-covered milk-curd treat that can be found in every store.

Drinks in Estonia

The Estonians, like their Russian neighbors, are well-versed in booze. The local beer Saku, or A. Le Coq, the local vodka brands Viru Valge (Vironian White) and Saaremaa Vodka, and the unexpectedly smooth and delicious rum-like herbal liqueur Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn), which is renowned in former Soviet nations, are also popular tipples.

“Kali” (the Estonian counterpart of “kvass”) is a popular soft drink prepared from fermented brown bread. It’s what you’d call an acquired taste.

Many residents swear by “keefir,” a fermented milk beverage.

Money & Shopping in Estonia

Currency

The Estonian currency is the euro. It is one of many European nations that utilize the Euro. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender across the EU.

One euro is made up of 100 cents.

The euro’s official sign is €, and its ISO code is EUR. The cent does not have an official symbol.

  • Banknotes: Euro banknotes are designed the same way in all nations.
  • Normal coins: Every eurozone country issues coins with a unique national design on one side and a standard common design on the other. Coins, regardless of design, may be used in any eurozone nation (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
  • Commemorative two euro coins: These vary from regular two-euro coins solely on their “national” side and are freely circulated as legal currency. Each nation may make a specific number as part of their regular coin manufacturing, and “European-wide” two euro coins are sometimes minted to mark exceptional occasions (e.g. the anniversary of important treaties).
  • Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins of larger denominations (e.g., ten euros or more) are considerably uncommon, feature completely unique designs, and often contain significant quantities of gold, silver, or platinum. While they are legally legal currency at face value, their material or collector value is typically considerably greater, and as a result, they are unlikely to be in real circulation.

Banking

ATMs and currency exchange offices (valuutavahetus) are common. You will obtain the greatest exchange rates if you exchange only after arriving in Estonia. Avoid exchanging money at the airport or port since the exchange rates are cheaper.

Tipping

Tipping became popular in Estonia just after the country regained its freedom, thus it isn’t usually expected. In restaurants, a 10% tip is typically included to the bill, while taxi drivers often retain the change. Some restaurants and bars feature a jar or box on the counter labeled ‘Tip’ where customers may place their spare coins.

Costs

Estonia is usually less expensive than Western Europe, although it is no longer the bargain cellar it was in the 1990s, and costs in touristic regions may be comparable to Scandinavian levels.

A bottle of local beer (0.5L) costs about €1 in stores and €2.5-3.5 in a small bar in July 2012.

Festivals & Holidays in Estonia

Holidays in Estonia

  • National holiday : Independence Day, February 24th; on this day in 1918, the United States declared independence from Soviet Russia (20 August 1991 was the date of re-independence from the Soviet Union). The president hosts a big gala on February 24th for famous and significant members of society as well as international guests.
  • Jaanipäev : St. John’s Day, also known as Midsummer Day, is celebrated on the nights of June 23–24. The evening of the 23rd and into the morning of the 24th are marked with bonfires and a typical celebratory cuisine centered on barbeques and drinking.
  • Võidupüha (Victory Day) : The 23rd of June is observed to commemorate the decisive victory against Baltic-German troops during the War of Independence in 1919.
  • Christmas or Jõulud : Celebrated purely as a family occasion.
  • New Year’s Eve : Since a Soviet province, the authorities attempted to popularize the New Year celebration, as Christmas was virtually banned due to its claimed “religious” and “nationalist” nature. The importance of the New Year diminished after the restoration of independence, although it is still a day off and is observed. This day is utilized by the country’s leaders to address the people.

Traditions & Customs in Estonia

When meeting a stranger, Estonians in general are surprisingly reticent to begin with. They don’t speak much in the way of social pleasantries or small chat; they just say what’s appropriate. Once you’ve broken the ice, you’ll find them to be open and honest.

Estonians maintain a physical distance from others. If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen each other, a hug may be appropriate.

In a discussion, do not raise your voice. The Estonian method of conducting business is to have a good, calm discussion, which is much appreciated.

Estonians are often extremely proud of their homeland and nation. As a tiny country, they were able to achieve independence and endure all of the hardships that decades of warfare had inflicted on them.

Contemporary history may be a touchy topic. Any favorable discussion about the USSR (or today’s Russia) among Estonians is frowned upon, but they will tell you anything if you ask.

Estonia has a population of 25% ethnic Russians, and even more people understand some Russian. Still, some individuals advise against striking up a discussion in Russian with strangers, since this may be considered impolite by some Estonians.

Culture Of Estonia

Estonian culture combines indigenous roots, as shown by the Estonian language and the sauna, with mainstream Nordic and European cultural elements. Estonian culture has been affected by the traditions of the surrounding area’s diverse Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, and Germanic peoples, as well as cultural changes in the previous dominating powers Sweden and Russia, due to its history and location.

Today, Estonian society promotes liberty and liberalism, with widespread support for the principles of limited government, while opposing centralized authority and corruption. The Protestant work ethic is still a cultural mainstay, and free education is a widely valued institution. Estonian culture, like the mainstream culture of the other Nordic countries, can be seen to build on ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a legacy of comparatively widespread egalitarianism for practical reasons (see: Everyman’s right and universal suffrage), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency (see: summer cottage).

The Estonian Academy of Arts (Estonian: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia, EKA) offers higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history, and conservation, whereas the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu promotes native culture through curricula such as native construction, native blacksmithing, native textile design, traditional handicraft, and traditional music. In 2010, Estonia has 245 museums, with a total collection of more than 10 million items.

Music

The first reference of Estonian singing may be found in Saxo Grammaticus Gesta Danorum (ca. 1179). Saxo tells of Estonian soldiers who sang in the middle of the night while ready for a fight. The earlier folk songs are also known as regilaulud, which are songs in the poetic metre regivärss, which is a tradition shared by all Baltic Finns. Runic singing was common among Estonians until the 18th century, when rhythmic folk melodies took their place.

Traditional wind instruments adapted from those used by shepherds were previously prevalent, but are increasingly becoming more popular. Other instruments used to perform polka or other dancing music include the violin, zither, concertina, and accordion. The kannel is a native instrument that is regaining popularity in Estonia. Viljandi’s Native Music Preserving Centre launched in 2008.

The tradition of Estonian Song Festivals (Laulupidu) began in 1869, during the height of Estonian national awakening. It is now one of the world’s biggest amateur choral festivals. The Song Festival drew about 100,000 attendees in 2004. The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) have hosted the festival every five years in July since 1928. The most recent event was held in July of 2014. Furthermore, Youth Song Festivals are conducted every four or five years, with the most recent one taking place in 2011, and the next one planned for 2017.

In the late nineteenth century, professional Estonian musicians and composers like as Rudolf Tobias, Miina Härma, Mart Saar, Artur Kapp, Juhan Aavik, Artur Lemba, and Heino Eller arose. Arvo Pärt, Eduard Tubin, and Veljo Tormis are the most well-known Estonian composers at the time of writing. For the fourth year in a running, Arvo Pärt was the world’s most performed living composer in 2014.

Georg Ots, an Estonian baritone, came to international fame as an opera singer in the 1950s.

Kerli Kiv, an Estonian singer-songwriter, has gained modest success in North America as well as in Europe. She composed music for the 2010 Disney feature Alice in Wonderland as well as the American television series Smallville.

Tanel Padar and Dave Benton won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 with the song “Everybody.” Estonia hosted the tournament in 2002. Maarja-Liis Ilus has represented Estonia twice (1996 and 1997), while Eda-Ines Etti, Koit Toome, and Evelin Samuel have all gained fame as a result of the Eurovision Song Contest. Lenna Kuurmaa, together with her band Vanilla Ninja, is a well-known vocalist in Europe. “Rändajad” by Urban Symphony was the first Estonian song to chart in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Switzerland.

Architecture

Estonia’s architectural history mostly reflects the country’s current growth in Northern Europe. The architectural ensemble that makes up Tallinn’s medieval old town, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is particularly noteworthy. Furthermore, the land contains many unique, more or less surviving pre-Christian hill forts, a significant number of still intact medieval castles and cathedrals, and the existence of a large number of manor homes from previous ages.

Cuisine

Historically, Estonian cuisine has been strongly affected by seasons and basic peasant fare, although it is now inspired by many nations. Today, it contains a wide variety of traditional foreign cuisines. In Estonia, the most common foods are black bread, pig, potatoes, and dairy products. Traditionally, Estonians like eating anything fresh throughout the summer and spring, including berries, herbs, veggies, and anything else fresh from the garden. Hunting and fishing have also been popular, but these activities are now mainly enjoyed as hobbies. Grilling outdoors in the summer is also extremely popular nowadays.

Traditionally, jams, preserves, and pickles are served at the table throughout the winter. Gathering and storing fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables for the winter has long been popular, but gathering and storing is becoming less frequent since everything can be purchased in shops. Preparing food for the winter, on the other hand, is still extremely popular in the rural.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Estonia

Stay Safe in Armenia

Following the introduction of democratic freedoms in 1991-1994, the reported crime rate rose significantly. This is due, in large part, to the fact that crime was a taboo topic before to 1991, since Soviet propaganda sought to demonstrate how safe and generally wonderful it was. The murder rate per 100,000 people has steadily decreased, and according to a 2012 UN report, it is currently on level with that of the United States.

Official sources say that the nation has seen a significant decrease in crime in recent years. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council, crime rates in 2007 were similar to those in other European countries such as Scandinavia. Criminal activity is dispersed unevenly throughout the region, with virtually no crime on the islands and a high incidence of drug trafficking in the North-mainly East’s Russian-speaking industrial sector. Petty crime is a concern in Tallinn, and there have been several instances involving visitors, mostly pickpocketing (especially in the markets). Local police and private security firms keep a careful eye on Tallinn Old City and other major tourist sites.

Every year, about 80-110 people are murdered and 1,300 others are wounded as a result of reckless driving by Estonians. The number of traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 persons is comparable to that of South-European nations such as Portugal or Italy. Despite stringent drink-driving regulations and a zero-tolerance attitude, accidents involving inebriated drivers are a significant issue in Estonia. Estonian traffic regulations mandate the use of headlights at all times when driving, as well as the usage of seat belts by all passengers.

Estonia recently enacted a new legislation mandating pedestrians to wear tiny reflectors, which are often pinned to jackets or purses. Although this rule is seldom enforced in cities, reflectors are critical in rural regions where vehicles may struggle to see pedestrians, particularly during the winter months. Infringers may face a fine of approximately €30-50, or a greater punishment of up to €400-500 if the pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol. Reflectors are cheap and should be available at most supermarkets, kiosks, and other stores.

In comparison to neighboring Russia, the police are highly efficient and not corrupt.

The key piece of advise for anybody concerned about personal security is to remain fairly sober in the face of enticing alcohol pricing. Make sure you haven’t consumed any drink before getting behind the wheel.

Dial 110 for police; 112. For other situations, such as fires, dial 112.

Ordinary Estonians are unlikely to approach a total stranger or a visitor on their own. If someone unexpectedly approaches you on the street (with inquiries or small business), keep a close watch on your things.

Although open homosexuality may elicit attention, violence is very rare.

Stay Healthy in Armenia

It is considered “mauvais ton” for an Estonian not to criticize the Estonian healthcare system. Recent EU surveys, however, indicate that Estonia ranks a healthy fourth in the union in terms of fundamental public health care metrics, on par with Sweden. In reality, between 1998 and 2000, the Estonian healthcare system was remodeled from the outdated USSR model, aimed at dealing with the catastrophic effects of large-scale conflict, and brought up to date by Swedish specialists. Estonia has aligned its regulations on traveler health insurance with those of the EU. The government agency Eesti Haigekassa provides information about health care in Estonia.

Dial 112 for immediate assistance or rescue.

Estonia presently has the second highest incidence of adult HIV/AIDS infections in Europe, at more than 1.3 percent, or one in every 77 people. In general, the rate is considerably greater in Russian-speaking areas like as Narva and Sillamäe. Don’t aggravate the issue by failing to safeguard yourself and others.

Ticks transmit illnesses such as viral encephalitis and Lyme disease to people; their season typically begins in April and lasts until October.

Poisonous plants such as Sosnowsky’s Hogweed and Giant Hogweed should be avoided. Wear goggles and protective clothing. If you’ve been burnt, wash your skin with soap and water and keep it out of the sun for at least 48 hours.

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