With a combined average of just three million visitors a year, you have the Baltic trio of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all to yourself. Most known to students for their boasting of cheap alcohol and accommodation ideal for lads' holidays and stag nights, these hidden gems offer a lot more than what first meets the eye. All three countries each offer a UNESCO heritage site Old Town in their capitals complete with stunning castles, historic monuments and beautiful cobbled streets. With miles of uninhabited forestland and wilderness for the more adventurous, rich cultural histories and - perhaps most surprisingly - endless stretches of Baltic beaches, there’s something for everyone.
Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn is a medieval theme park, scattered with original taverns run by in-costume barmaids, museums of torture and a multitude of towers, walls and castles. If looking for something a little bit more modern, there’s the outer district of Telliskivi; the urban ‘Creative City’, founded by artists. Characterized by innovative new restaurants in old train carts, impressive graffiti projects, a plethora of theaters and studios and hosting over 600 cultural events a year, it is the bursting hub of a new generation of Estonians claiming their own creative space.
Riga, the sprawling capital of Latvia, offers an incredible nightlife with endless streets of bars and nightclubs set in factories, warehouses and basements. Riga is a lively city blending grand Gothic architecture with quaint colourful houses. It boasts a new, modern feel, yet remains a city often defined by it’s fascinating past. Outside of the capital, the seaside resort city of Jurmala boasts 26 miles of white-sand beach and three untouched national forest parks, ideal for an all-natural getaway.
Lithuania and its peaceful capital of Vilnius encompasses all that is whimsical; the city is warm and illuminates its bold architecture with spectacular golden lights in the evenings, making for one of the prettiest night-time walks in Europe. Most interestingly, it also plays host to Uzupis; an autonomous region established as an April Fool’s joke within the city complete with its own passport stamp and constitution. An hour out of the city center is the iconically picturesque floating castle of Trakai, nestled on an island in the center of a tranquil lake, a popular local swimming destination for hot summer days.
Coming with all three countries is, of course, a fascinating and often painful recent history. The crime of being overlooked in favor of more popular, Western European destinations is that in doing so, we risk missing out on experiencing the revitalization of national identity and culture which is occurring so fervently within these too often forgotten coastal states.