10 Reasons to Visit the Baltics

If the medieval charm and Soviet nostalgia don’t grab you in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the timeless natural beauty of the Baltics surely will.

Their neighbors may all be either Nordic or Slavic, but the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania form a unique cultural microclimate at the northeast corner of Europe, rich with proud traditions, magical castles and Old Towns, and timeless natural beauty. And while the Baltic trio are similar to one other in many ways—each has a West Virginia-like size, and all three were swallowed into the Soviet Union for half a century—they’re surprisingly distinct, making it well worth your while to experience the Baltic bounties of them all.

  • Visit the Baltics Kadriorg Palace

    Tallinn

    When you visit the Baltics, wander the windy streets of Tallinn’s storybook Old Town, then head up to the commanding hill fortress of Toompea for a fantastic panoramic view of the Estonian capital. Just east are two must-sees: the stunning Kadriorg Palace, which was built by Peter the Great for Catherine the Great, and the world’s premiere collection of Estonian art at the nearby Kumu.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: Gediminas Tower

    Vilnius

    Go for baroque in Lithuania’s historic capital city. It’s full of reminders of its key role in the once-vast Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Learn about it at the Palace of the Grand Dukes, then climb the medieval Gediminas Tower for an incredible city view. For the best view of all, soar above in a hot air balloon—Vilnius is one of few European capitals where that’s possible.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: A look at Art Nouveau architecture in Riga

    Riga

    Feel the pulse of the biggest, oldest, and most cosmopolitan city in the Baltic region, Latvia’s capital of Riga. Wander the gothic Old Town and climb the tower of St. Peter’s Church for a breathtaking view. Take in the gorgeous architecture in the Art Nouveau District and learn about the country’s difficult history at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: Saaremaa Estonia

    Estonia’s islands

    Ferry off the mainland to Estonia’s islands, where nature is especially pristine. The slower pace has helped preserve ancient local culture and customs. Saaremaa and its sister Muhu, the country’s most popular islands, offer perfect escape-worthy blends of history, folklore, nature, resorts and beaches.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: Inside Trakia Castle

    A cornucopia of castles

    Historic castle lovers should prepare for an embarrassment of riches during your visit to the Baltic region. There’s Tallinn’s imposing hilltop Toompea Castle in the north and the picturesque Lithuanian island castle of Trakai in the south and you’ll find more than a hundred in between in Latvia alone.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: Pädaste Manor

    Manor hotels

    Centuries of German aristocrats left behind striking manors dotted across Estonia and Latvia, many of which have now been converted into luxury spa hotels. In Estonia, two of the best are Pädaste Manor on Muhu Island, and Kau Manor about 30 miles southwest of Tallinn. In Latvia, Mālpils Manor and Liepupe Manor are among the finest.

    Photo Credit: Pädaste Manor / Lauri Laan

  • Visit the Baltics: A view of Vilnius

    Vibrant hipster neighborhoods

    Hang with the Baltic states’ most creative locals in the cafe-filled bohemian districts of its three capitals: Riga’s Miera Iela (or “Peace Street”), Tallinn’s former fishermen’s quarter of Kalamaja, and Vilnius’s Užupis—a self-proclaimed independent republic with its own tongue-in-cheek constitution.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics: Muusu restaurant

    New Baltic cuisine

    Now that the Baltic states have shirked off their Soviet-somber culinary shackles, you can taste the excitement at a new generation of excellent restaurants, especially in the capital cities. A few of your best options are Tallinn’s superb and waterfront Noa, Riga’s Nordic-influenced Muusu, and the daring nouvelle-historic Lithuanian fare at Vilnius’s Namas.

    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Muusu

  • Visit the Baltics: Mushrooms in Latvia

    Berry and mushroom hunting

    Sure, you can find berries and mushrooms at home, but you’ll be hard pressed to ever find a populace that delights as much in fleeing to the countryside and hunting them in the wild. Springtime is best for Baltic region berry picking excursions, while mushroom search parties go down mostly in the fall.

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • Visit the Baltics Ligatne Latvia

    Soviet nostalgia

    Turn back time to the shadowy post-World War II era at the myriad Baltic sites paying homage to the Cold War. Tour the top-floor command center where the KGB spied on foreign guests at Tallinn’s Hotel Viru, and step down into the elaborate underground bunker (followed by a Soviet-style meal) in rural Latvia’s Līgatne.

    Photo Credit: Goddard New Era / Alamy Stock Photo

  • Visit the Baltics Kadriorg Palace
  • Visit the Baltics: Gediminas Tower
  • Visit the Baltics: A look at Art Nouveau architecture in Riga
  • Visit the Baltics: Saaremaa Estonia
  • Visit the Baltics: Inside Trakia Castle
  • Visit the Baltics: Pädaste Manor
  • Visit the Baltics: A view of Vilnius
  • Visit the Baltics: Muusu restaurant
  • Visit the Baltics: Mushrooms in Latvia
  • Visit the Baltics Ligatne Latvia

Plan your trip to the Baltics with the travel experts at AAA. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

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David Kallas, AAA Travel Counselor, Murray, Utah

I'm all about once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as the Cook Islands, Australia or an African safari. I love to plan trips that my clients return from not regretting anything.

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