If you had asked me to go to Estonia a few months ago, you would have been greeted with a blank look followed by an ignorant, “Where the heck is that?”. Little did I know that I would be munching on fresh produce, bouncing on bogs, trawling vintage shops and bopping to interesting beats during my time away! And to top it off? It definitely did not break the bank to explore what Estonia had to offer. That fact always makes me happy.

IMG_0825 IMG_0688

I happened to head off to the European country by chance, as my boyfriend’s dear Australian friends happened to be visiting Estonian relatives there. I knew next to nothing about the country, entrusting in the local’s knowledge of the areas, but I managed to jam-pack quite a lot into my real short trip.

Although Estonia has had a tumultuous history, you wouldn’t be able to tell from how it is today.  Throughout the centuries, it has battled against countries that have wanted to claim the ‘Gateway to Europe’ as their own, but in retaliation, the spirit and heart of their people have ensured that the culture has stayed alive and strong. From the unbelievably friendly locals to the innovative music, there is much depth in culture which they display proudly and invite all to experience it with them.


You can go to Estonia on a budget with minimal spending money and still take away a brill experience no matter how short your trip is. I wasn’t there for long at all, and I was predominantly there for the XXIII Viljandi Folk Festival in Viljandi, but it’s a country that has demonstrated Baltic beauty and an abundance to check out – I know I need to go back.

There are many ways to see what the country has to offer and I got to view it through many different ways that I want to walk you through. Have a look at some of my favourite bits of Estonia – I hope it inspires you!

8 ways to see Estonia…

1. Through The Music

An Estonian Folk Festival sounds slightly odd, but it’s not all about traditional dancing to fiddles, accordions and strange yodelling as you may envision! There were traditional instruments used, but the Viljandi Folk Festival is crammed full of performances to suit any age or taste.

IMG_0084 IMG_0078

Set in the castle ruins that loom over a vast blue lake, the stages are precariously balanced on the castle grounds with deep moats surrounding it, creating the ultimate surroundings to listen to haunting music or upbeat folk tunes.

IMG_0111 IMG_0159

With 2015’s theme being ‘freedom’, the music presented traditional music inspired by vast world sounds. The festival’s sounds are more a folk revival to attract the younger generation’s interest in the heritage of their ancestors.

viljandi folk festival dancers estonia

The organisers note that the greatest wealth of Estonia is the talent of their people and creative freedom which needs to be protected and developed: “The traditional way of life is disappearing and folk music is looking for its place in the urban environment where diversity bears an impact”. And the music certainly does bear an impact.


Whether it’s fresh Estonian music that only the locals know the words to, a polyphonic troupe singing old sailor songs or DJ’s spinning electronic beats with oriental influences (till 5am!); there’s something that will have everyone tapping their feet, hypnotised by the sound. It’s a brilliant journey into modern and old Estonian folk music that embraces worldly influences and innovative new sounds.

2. From Above

The Old Town of the capital, Tallinn, is full of spires and cobbled streets that have small shops jammed in side-by-side. It makes for an easy-to-navigate wander and you’ll always stumble across hidden gems for shopping in this UNESCO World Heritage town. However, it’s well worth getting an ace view from above to take in the many church spires and the plethora of pink and apricot buildings.


You can go up the Tallinn TV Tower which is the tallest building in the capital with an observation deck that hovers 314m high. Take in the 360 degree panoramic view after the high-speed lift, and take a daring walk along the edge tethered by a cable. You can also try base jumping from its height if you have the guts. The TV Tower has a real futuristic interior, so alternatively you can head over to St Olaf’s Church on the edge of the Old Town.


You’ll see this sharp spire thrusting into the sky wherever you look up in the Old Town. This impressive church is believed to have been built in the 12th Century to be the centre for  the community prior to the Danish takeover in 1219. Climb the 258 stepped spiral staircase if your thighs are strong enough, just don’t take any large backpacks up there as you’ll have to perilously pass those descending. There’s not a heap of room, lets just say that.

Once at the top, you can walk the base of the steeple taking in the epic views across the rooftops. Although there will be a few others joining you up there, everyone usually walks in one direction so you can all take in the panoramic view without having to clamber over each other on the narrow viewing platform.

IMG_0803 IMG_0807-1024x683

3. By Sedating Your Shopping Habit

Who knew that Tallinn would have such great vintage shopping gems? If you’re anything like me and need to check out the local talent (i.e. the shops) in every destination, then arm yourself with a pen and take some notes. Tallinn does indeed have some great shops but you do have to keep an eager eye out for them, and being armed with a map definitely helps!

IMG_0672 annimaris

There’s a theme with my favourite Estonian vintage treasure chests; they’re hidden from sight up on the second floors. Spy the vintage suitcase in a darken doorway for the entrance of Annimari Vintage. Head up the long stairs to a small boutique of floral dresses, sequinned jackets and vintage trinkets to decorate your home. Lovingly hand-picked by the two Estonian girls, all is quality and incredibly feminine.

IMG_0656 IMG_0660

Fankadelik Vintage Shop has a doorway hidden by street cafes which I hurriedly clambered through once I finally spotted the entrance to the second floor shop.


This emporium holds a vast amount of vintage that spans from leather handbags to brogues, spangled jewellery to leather jackets, and intricate bridal gowns to the boho flowing dresses. There’s also a random hairdressers nestled within, but the friendly staff will show you around and point out their hidden room full of designer pieces.

IMG_0732 IMG_0677

Don’t forget the design shops, such as, TALI Design Shop and the vinyl shop opposite it. Plus the arts and craft oasis that is the Masters Courtyard, where you can browse handmade wares and enjoy a coffee in the quiet cobbled spot.

IMG_0704 IMG_0680

4. On The Lake

During the warm months, the countryside is bright under the golden sun and comes alive. Viljandi is scattered with large placid lakes that are still as mirrors reflecting sky and trees.

IMG_0595 IMG_0246

Head down to the lakeside and watch swimmers do their laps up and down the cordoned off area of the lake, or take a deep breath and jump from the high dive board. You’ll feel the pressure to jump as kids a quarter your age dive bomb off in glee.

IMG_0242 IMG_0249

A fake sand beach lines the shore so you can sun-soak (in the warm summer) or get a bit more active by hiring a jet ski or a twee rowing boat. Alternatively, see if you can get hold of a speedboat. Our friends knew someone who wanted to take us out on his boat and armed with a surfboard and wetsuits, the boys managed to catch heaps of waves in the wake of the boat.

IMG_0265 surf

It looked pretty tough, but after surfing the roaring waves of Western Australia since they were young, they managed to stand and keep on the small wave as we roared across the lake. Who knew you could surf on a lake?

5. With Your Taste Buds

The food of Estonia is beyond fresh as all produce is harvested from the land, organic and preservative free…. and my favourite Chanterelle mushrooms are in wide abundance. It’s a popular ingredient that is incorporated into many dishes and this delicacy.


You may be sat in a restaurant feasting on ingredients that had been freshly picked from the garden outside or the woods across the road! You can taste the goodness as nothing quite beats fresh veggies. I covered Estonian food in its own separate post as it’s so good, but I would highly recommend chomping on some Chanterelle mushrooms. Not to mention the rich sour cream that accompanies many dishes – positively drool-worthy.


Vibrant in colour when ripe for the picking, Chanterelles are used widely in their cooking as they are packed full of flavour and really are quite delicious. You never have to venture far to stumble upon an eatery that will benefit your health as well as your rumbling belly.


6. Errr… With Your Eyes

This might sound a bit obvious, but I what I mean is see Estonia with your eyes when road-tripping the country. Hiring a car is incredibly useful, but not paramount as there are trains that run between the towns across the country. However, with a car, you can cruise the small country with complete flexibility with your time management, stopping off wherever you please. There are many small picturesque areas you would miss if you zipped by on a train!

Photo 24-07-2015 11 07 46 IMG_0028

The landscape of Estonia is vast and flat. Coming from hilly England, it’s quite a sight to behold when on the open road surrounded by flat fields and farmland that disappears into the far-off horizon! Fields and farmland lie side-by-side with hardly any fencing between them, appearing like one vast park of green. Corn fields scatter the greenness besides the highways and you’ll pass the odd beautiful farm house or abandoned shack that adds to the country atmosphere.

IMG_0558 Photo 24-07-2015 11 39 02

Big long highways that are easy to navigate connect the towns and villages, and you can traverse the country in minimal time. But be sure to keep an eye out for your turning so you don’t miss out on the hidden spots to see!

Out in the countryside, take your time as there shouldn’t be any need to rush your trip. I would recommend not to cram in too much and take a pause where you pass through. You’ll notice that the air smells so fresh and clean out of the cities; it invigorates the lungs and clears the head. It might sound crazy, but even the water tasted pure and fresh from the taps in the town of Viljandi!

7. On The Bog

The forests that engulf the land are always close – you never have to venture far to become enclosed in a peaceful copse of trees. Reminiscent to a fairy woodland, you can become one with nature by walking national parks, such as, Soomaa – “Land of the Bogs” and the “Wilderness Capital of Estonia”.


This park holds plenty of mushrooms growing besides the walkways (I think I’m obsessed with them now) and a variety of berries, plus a crap load of mosquitoes – don’t forget your bug spray if you want to avoid being eaten alive.

IMG_0533 IMG_0521

Plush and full of singing birds, it’s really idyllic and great for those who love a good ramble. Plenty of hiking trails are available, or you can walk on the raised bog with some pretty sexy bog shoes. There’s a pathway you can follow on Soomaa’s bogland that can take you onto the flood plains that look similar to the African Serengeti (if you squint) due to its wide grassy flatness and sporadic trees.


During the floods, or the ‘fifth season’, Soomaa is only accessible by boat as the water rises metres deep from the thawing snow and heavy rains. When walking through the forest, you can see tide marks on the trunks of trees showing exactly how high the waters rise during this time and how saturated the native forests become.


The pathway takes you up to the bog pools which you can swim in and enjoy the silky water infused with the peat that makes up the surrounding squishy ground. The peat bog is about 7m – 8m deep and the thought of drowning in a bog isn’t pleasant, so don those bog shoes and go for a hike; bounce and wobble on the soft ground! Just take a look at my Instagram video getting jiggy with it.

It’s pretty surreal to bounce on what seems like solid ground and watching the ripples of your movements wave the ground surrounding you. Bog’s are a lot more pretty and fun than I ever thought them to be!

8. By Walking Tallinn’s Fortifications

Tallinn’s Old Town is famous for its Hanseatic architecture which is both stunning and authentic. The centre of the Old Town has quite a medieval theme park feel as dressed-up performers play traditional instruments and act out plays for the crowds of tourists, but if you take a wander away from the crowded theatricals, you’ll find yourself lost in the enchanting cobbled streets.

streets cobbled

You can lose yourself but never get lost, as the Old Town is easy to navigate with plenty of landmarks dotted around the place. Preserved medieval churches, grand merchant houses and warehouses date back to the 11th Century, creating endless photo opportunities. It helps with orientation that the area is enclosed by tall city walls that acted as its defence from intruders.

Photo 27-07-2015 21 04 10

Within the fort walls, small wool handicraft market stalls sell their wares in case you want to pick up a momento of your time in Tallinn. Follow the route along the walls, starting at the Viru gates (near Fankadelik Vintage Shop) where the original ancient walls are fantastically preserved. The fort walls are one of the reasons why Tallinn’s Old Town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The route will take you past 26 watch towers and give you a great sightseeing circuit of the town.

IMG_0755 IMG_0767

Estonia is heaving with spectacles to view and it is sad that I didn’t get to see more on my trip! I didn’t get to venture over to the spas in Pärnu, I didn’t have time to see the sandy beaches of Osmussaar, I didn’t fit in paddle boarding on the north coats by the Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve, I didn’t walk the Piusa Caves in South Estonia and I didn’t get to explore the Blue Lagoon that holds the Rummu underwater Soviet prison (which looks insanely haunting). All these things and more have been added to my list for when I next visit as I really could spend a good few weeks exploring the country.

From the food to the music, the architecture to the activities, you really can get some serious bang for your buck and have an adventure and wanderlust filled trip in Estonia! Who’s keen for a visit?

All photos by Sophie Saint.

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane