Tallinn is Estonia’s most visited destination and one of the most important tourists’ spots in the Baltic Countries. After a couple of days in Estonia’s capital you will understand why. It is famous for its wonderfully preserved Old Town inside the original city walls. There is also plenty of cool modern architecture, nice parks and cute wooden houses. And contrary to what we were expecting, there are a couple of very interesting places nearby. You can easily visit them as day trips from Tallinn, although spending a night or two in each is an even better idea. We went to Lahemaa National Park and Pärnu and had a fantastic time.
Day Trips from Tallinn: how to choose the right one
Lahemaa National Park and Pärnu make the best day trips from Tallinn since they combine nature and architecture. Additionally, you can get to both by public transport. Other interesting options include Tartu, Narva, Saaremaa Island, and Helsinki. The beautiful city of Tartu is Estonia’s second-largest city and home to its oldest university. You’ll love its small old town full of neoclassical buildings. If you are into fortresses and castles, go to Narva to visit its imposing Hermann Castle. Saaremaa Island is Estonia’s largest island and home to yet another castle, Kuressaare. That’s not all; you’ll find plenty of beautiful forests, beaches, windmills, and wooden houses. Finally, you’ll be surprised just how close Helsinki is. You can visit the Finnish capital as a day trip from Tallinn.
Lahemaa National Park
The privilege of having great friends: Our friend Jako and family drove us to unique Lahemaa National Park. Although you can get there by public transport, you can also make some friends and share a car. Lahemaa is one of Estonia’s most important forest conservation areas. Large mammals such as wild boar, lynx, brown bear, fox, and moose live amongst forests, limestone cliffs, rivers, and sandy beaches. Viru Bog, next to National Road No. 1, is the easiest access point. Another interesting place you can stop at on your way to the park is Jägala Waterfall, Estonia’s widest.
We spent our time at scenic Viru raba (Viru bog). We had never seen anything like that before. A collection of wooden paths 3.5 kilometers long crosses several lakes and swamps with a wooden watchtower at the end offering surreal views. Not that our photos aren’t good, but you really have to see the colors directly to understand. All along the paths, there are signs with interesting facts about the bog. You can swim in some of the bogs, but we decided not to. We spent time exploring the area and even encountered a small snake inside the forest. An unforgettable day!
Where to Stay in Lahemaa National Park
Most tourists go to Lahemaa on organized day trips from Tallinn, but few know you can stay inside the national park. The most interesting option is the historical Sagadi Manor Hotel. This unique hotel is an architectural complex of national importance. You’ll enjoy beautifully decorated rooms, a tailored garden, and a fantastic restaurant. Another fabulous hotel is the Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa. This old mansion offers sophisticated luxury and top-notch amenities. For an even more authentic experience, stay at the Park Hotel Palmse, a manor distillery converted into a hotel. If you want to stay in the park close to the beach, then Kuivoja Holiday Center is the place for you.
On our way from Tallinn to Riga we stopped in Pärnu, a charming little town halfway between the capitals. It is Estonia’s largest beach resort and a popular summer destination. The beautiful old town, elegant mansions, relaxing parks and the large sand beach didn’t let us down. We spent our time discovering the nice pedestrian area, entering a couple of churches and people watching. On our way to the beach we stopped at the beautiful Pärnu Rannapark. Naturally we ended our Pärnu tour at the beach. Unfortunately our swimming suits were in our bags at the bus station. Don’t be like us, bring your bathing suit and take a dip at this gorgeous beach!
Estonians consider Pärnu Beach the best beach in the country. This popular summer destination is famous for its white sand. If you are into sports, you’ll be able to play golf, volleyball, or go windsurfing. If you get hungry, you can stop at one of many ice-cream and hamburger kiosks. Pärnu became a holiday resort in the middle of the 19th century. In 1837 a tavern near the beach was turned into a bathing facility. The wooden building didn’t survive World War I, and in 1927 the neoclassical building of Pärnu Mud Baths was built to replace it. Today it is part of a first-class hotel and conference center.
Where to Stay in Pärnu
In Pärnu, you can either stay in the city center or at the beach. The historical Pärnu Mud Baths are now part of the Hedon Spa and Hotel. This gorgeous hotel offers first-class facilities, a fabulous spa, and sea views. If you are into unique historic architecture, stay at the Art Nouveau Hotel Villa Ammende, Pärnu’s fanciest hotel. The lavish art nouveau villa from 1905 is as classy as it gets. If you have a thing for wooden houses, Hotel Villa Katariina is a great place to stay. Finally, if you prefer staying downtown, the Hotel Victoria is another nice historic hotel.
How to get from Tallinn to Lahemaa National Park and Pärnu
As mentioned above, Lahemaa National Park is north of National Road No. 1, so it’s easy to get there by public transport. Several local buses stop on the national road, near the Viru Bog, including 151, 151A, 155E, 277. You can catch them on Kivisilla bus stop in Gonsiori Street in downtown Tallinn. The journey takes 45 minutes. To get to Pärnu you can take any of many daily buses. Some of them continue towards Riga and even further. Tallinn’s bus station is on Odra Street, between the city center and the airport. In Pärnu, you’ll arrive at the bus station on Pikk Street, a 4-minute walk to pedestrian Rüütli Street.