The Baltic region boasts an assortment of countries each unique in their own right. Estonia is no different. Located in Northern Europe, Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea. As a Finnic people, Estonians share a historical culture that is similar to Finland as it is a near neighbour to the north.
Semi-nomadic people have lived in Estonia since the end of the ice age nearly 13,000 years ago. At that time the country was covered with forests, with people gathering in communities near bodies of water surviving by hunting, gathering and fishing. During the Bronze age, Scandinavian and Germanic tribes inhabited the Estonian lands as evident by the remains of bronze goods from this ancient period.
The Vikings included Estonia in their Baltic territory, followed by centuries of rule by the successive German, Danish, Swedish, and Russian empires. Estonia finally reached independence in 1990 after being annexed by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of WWII.
Estonia may be known as a country with sprawling coastlines, numerous rivers and 1400 lakes, however half of the country is covered in forests. A northern country with long nights and cold winters, the midnight sun and warmer summers have allowed for a rich ecosystem of abundant pine, spruce and birch trees.
Estonia tours concentrate on the elegant capital of Tallinn, which is located in the north of the country on the Gulf of Finland. Due to its strategic importance historically, Tallinn has been attacked, sacked, razed and pillaged on numerous occasions. Although extensively bombed by Soviet air forces during the latter stages of World War II, much of the medieval Old Town still retains its charm. The Tallinn Old Town became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
The best way to explore Tallinn on our Estonia tours is by walking the numerous historical highlights. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built in the nineteenth century and dominates the Lossi Plats, and is an imposing testament to the Russian imperialist influence. Another religious building with important historical ties is the Dominican Monastery, which played an important role in bringing Christianity to Estonia. Estonia was Christianised in the 13th century but during the Reformation, Protestantism spread, and the Lutheran church was officially established in Estonia in 1686.
Continuing on with Estonia tours, stops include a visit to the Toompea Castle, a 13th century castle where the current parliament of Estonia holds its sessions. In the immediate area we will also visit the Toomkirik Lutheran cathedral, founded in 1233, with its impressive carved tombs inside.
Estonia is a country that often surprises visitors with its elegance. Tallinn's Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is the major political, financial, cultural and educational center of Estonia. It is often thought of as extravagant in terms of antiquity. When seeing the parliament gather at the Toompea Castle, it is an amazing opportunity to how an ancient structure can still serve a purpose just as well today.
For a country that has seen so much invasion and subjugation so frequently from a multitude of foreign powers throughout its history, Estonia is in remarkably good shape. Time and again, Estonian borders have been traversed and most of its European neighbours have at one point or another attempted to conquer the Baltic nation with varying degrees of success. Scandinavian Vikings, Soviet Russians, Nazi Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles and the Teutonic Knights are among the hosts of peoples who have ventured into Estonian territory over the ages, some holding dominion over the land and people for several centuries, and yet the independent Estonia of today displays very little physical scarring, considering its tumultuous history. In actual fact, parts of Estonia's urban and rural areas nowadays often gain worldwide recognition for being some of the best-preserved historic sites in Europe.