Baltic Explorer


Baltic Explorer

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

Explore the enchanting Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  On this small group tour we start in cosmopolitan Helsinki before moving on to explore the magnificently preserved old towns of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. The tour also gets off the beaten track to see some areas of outstanding beauty away from the capitals including national parks and the stunning Curonian Spit. There is also the option after the tour to visit Russia in the form of St Petersburg or Kaliningrad the exclave also known as little Russia.


Tour Rating 

Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●○○ | Culture ●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights

  • In-depth tour of the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia
  • Explore the enchanting and history filled Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki
  • Quaint fishing villages on the Baltic Sea
  • The Curonian Spit – UNESCO
  • Stunning valleys in Gauja National Park
  • Forests and marshes of Lahemaa National Park
  • Medieval castles
  • Optional extension to ‘Little Russia’ Kaliningrad

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Comfortable hotels with private bathrooms
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Helsinki – please arrive any time on Day 1
End Point: Vilnius – you can depart any time on Day 14
Transport: Minibus and ferry
Countries: Finland, Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania with optional extension to Russia (Kaliningrad or St Petersburg)

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour you will have different English speaking guides in each country.

Day 1 – Helsinki

Arrive in Helsinki and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be some time for you to explore the city or you may wish to just relax after your journey. This evening around 7:30pm there will be a short pre tour briefing by your local Helsinki guide. Overnight at Hotel Cumulus Kaisaniemi or similar.

Day 2 – Helsinki - Tallinn

This morning we explore some of the key sights of Helsinki. We visit the Market Square and Market Hall, the Uspenski Orthodox Church, Senate Square and Cathedral, the Church in the Rock and Sibelius Park. This afternoon will be at leisure until you are transferred to the port for the ferry to Tallinn. Your Estonian guide will be accompanying you on the ferry to answer any questions you may have. On arrival in Tallinn you will be transferred to the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Centennial or similar (B)

Note – We recommend today that you have your evening meal on the ferry between Helsinki and Tallinn. Your luggage will be taken care of on the ferry so you can take the journey just with your essentials and enjoy the ferry journey.

Tallinn

Tallinn is a modern city with a medieval twist; a place where the past is still alive and kicking. Despite the boom of 21st century development, Tallinn remains loyal to the fairy-tale charms of its two-tiered Old Town – one of Europe’s most beguiling walled cities. It’s an intoxicating mix of old and new, with ancient church spires and glass skyscrapers, baroque palaces and shiny shopping malls. Increasingly sophisticated without being overly sanitised and forward focused whilst embracing the past, Tallinn is truly a fascinating city.

Day 3 – Tallinn

Today we explore the city of Tallinn. Visits include Pirita with St. Briggita’s convent ruins, Kadriorg Park and Palace and Russalka Monument. We take a guided walk of the old town and see the medieval city walls of the upper city of Toompea with Toompea Castle, Aleksander Nevsky Orthodox Church, Dome Cathedral and the lower city including the Town Hall Square, the Black Head’s House, Fat Margarita Tower and Viru Gates. After the sightseeing you may have some time at leisure later in the afternoon. Overnight at Hotel Centennial or similar (B)

Day 4 – Tallinn – Lahemaa National Park – Tallinn – 3 hours driving approximate

Today we visit Lahemaa National Park and Palmse Manor. We take a walk on Viru Bog on a marked 4km boardwalk trail which passes through a forest and marsh environment typical of Lahemaa National Park. On the walk we learn about the flora and fauna of the area. We can climb a viewing tower which affords a scenic view of the landscape. We also visit the manorial estate of Palmse dating back to the 18th Century containing remarkable pieces of period furniture and clothing. Both the manor itself and the grounds are a delight. Lunch will be taken here and afterwards it will be possible to take a walk in the grounds. Finally today we visit Altja fishing village, first mentioned in the mid-15th Century and containing many reconstructed traditional buildings. Later return to Tallinn. Overnight Hotel Centennial or similar (BL)

Day 5 – Tallinn – Parnu - Saulkrasti – Riga – 4 hours driving time approximate

This morning we transfer to Parnu, a coastal city of Estonia famous for its beautiful coastal scenery and white sand beaches. After a short stop in Parnu we continue south along the coast of the Baltic Sea towards Latvia. We visit Munchausen’s museum, located in the picturesque seaside town of Vidzeme in Dunte, 55km from Riga. If time allows we can also take one of the forest trails ranging from 1-5km in length. Continue to Saulkrasti and take a walk on the fine stretch of beach and admire the dunes. Continue to Riga and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at City Hotel Teater or similar (BL)

Riga

Riga, Latvia’s capital is the largest, liveliest and most cosmopolitan of the Baltic capitals. A heady mixture of the medieval and the contemporary, the city has much to offer architecture and history enthusiasts in the narrow cobbled streets of Old Riga and the wide boulevards of the New Town, where beautiful examples of Jugendstil Art Nouveau architecture – “music in stone” – line Strēlnieku iela and Alberta iela. The city also has all the trappings of a modern capital, with efficient and affordable public transportation, excellent shopping, and a lively restaurant and bar scene.

Day 6 - Riga

This morning we start a city tour of Riga. We visit the old town including the National Opera House, the Freedom Monument, the big and small guildhalls, the Dome Cathedral, Riga Castle, Three Brothers’, St Jacobs’s church, the renovated house of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads and St Peter’s church. Lunch today is at your own leisure. This afternoon we visit the central market, Art Nouveau Museum, and drive on the left bank of the Daugava River to see the interesting architecture of the old wooden houses, and visit Kipsala Island which has nice views of the city. Towards late afternoon enjoy a 1-hour canal and river boat trip which again affords nice views of Riga city. Overnight at City Hotel Teater or similar (B)

Day 7 – Riga – Gauja National Park – Riga – 3 hours driving time approximate

Today you will travel inland to the picturesque green valleys of the National Park of Gauja River, also known as North Switzerland. We visit Sigulda city, where you will visit the authentic medieval castle of Turaida, Gutman’s Cave and Sigulda Castle ruins. We will also visit Amber craftsmen who will explain to us how to distinguish real amber from fake, teach us about different amber crafts and show you his unique family collection of different coloured amber stones. Later we return to Riga. Overnight at City Hotel Teater or similar (BL)

Day 8 – Riga – Ragaciems – Jurmala – 2 hours driving time approximate

From Riga we drive a short distance to Ragaciems, a fishing village situated on the Baltic Sea gulf after the Jurmala border. You will have the opportunity to see the authentic and modern fishermen houses. You may get the chance to chat with one of the local fishermen. After Ragaciems we continue to Jurmala, a summer resort town with a lovely white sand beach and authentic wooden houses which are included in UNESCOs heritage list. This afternoon is at your leisure to stroll along the beach or relax at the hotel which has good spa facilities. Overnight at Jurmala Spa Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 9 – Jurmala – Klaipeda – 4 – 5 hours driving time approximate

This morning we depart for Klaipeda. En route we stop at the Hill of Crosses where pilgrims over the years have left crosses one the hill. The number is estimated to be over 100,000 and it is a quite remarkable sight. Continue to Klaipeda and on arrival transfer to the hotel. This afternoon take a city tour and visit the old town with its ‘Fachwerk’ and interesting neo-gothic buildings. If time allows we can visit the Blacksmith Museum which has a particularly interesting local story.  Overnight Old Mill Hotel or similar (B)

Klaipeda

Lithuania’s third-largest city is a mix of old and new. This former Prussian capital (when it was named Memel) has retained a distinct German flavour in the architecture of its heavily cobbled Old Town and one remaining tower of its red-brick castle. It’s also Lithuania’s only port of call for Titanic-sized cruise ships, and a vital sea link for cargo and passenger ferries between Lithuania, Scandinavia and beyond.

Day 10 – Klaipeda – Nida Curonian Spit – Klaipeda – 2 hours driving time approximate

Today depart early with our local guide to explore the Curonian Spit. A short distance from the centre of Klaipeda we take the short car ferry over to the Spit. Once on this wonder of nature we will take in a number of places of interest. Firstly we will stop to admire the fabulous stretch of Baltic Sea coast and take a short stroll on the sands. Visit the ‘Hill of Witches’ where your guide will regal some of the local fairy tales of this region. Next stop at a remarkable site where a huge colony of black cormorants has taken residence of a stretch of the pine forest. Continue to the Parnida dune with its spectacular views of the lagoon to one side and the Baltic Sea to the other across the forest. Visit the Thomas Mann Museum, a former residence of the famous German writer and winner of the Nobel Prize. His summer house has magnificent views over the lagoon. Continue to Nida close to the Russia border to explore the town and take a short boat tour to admire the dunes from the Curonian lagoon. Finally visit the Great Dune for stunning panoramic views over the amazing landscape. For those that wish, it is possible to take a scenic 40 minute walk from the Great Dune back to Nida where you can meet the transport.   Later return to Klaipeda once again taking the short car ferry journey across from the Curonian Spit. Overnight Old Mill Hotel or similar (BL)

The Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit is 98km long, thin, curved sane-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea Coast. Its southern portion lies within Kalingrad Oblast, Russia and it’s northern within south-western Lithuania. It is an UNESCO world heritage site shared by the two countries.

Day 11 – Klaipeda – Palanga – Vilnius – 5 hours driving time approximate

This morning we travel to Palanga where we will visit the Botanical Garden and the Amber museum which is particularly notable for specimens of Amber with inclusions of fossils such as mosquitos, insects and even lizards!  Continue to Vilnius and on arrival transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Hotel Grata Vilnius or similar (BL)

Vilnius

Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital is a city of immense allure with Europe’s largest baroque old town at its heart. Despite its troubled past with the Soviets and Nazis, the spirit of freedom and resistance has prevailed, with the city forging a new identity combining the past with a present and future that involves world cuisine, a burgeoning nightlife and shiny new skyscrapers.

Day 12 - Vilnius

This morning we explore the city of Vilnius including a visit to Peter and Paul Church, the old town and Cathedral Square, Vilnius Cathedral, Gediminas Castle and Tower, Gediminas Statue and St. Anne’s Church. We also visit Subacius Hill where you get a panoramic view of Vilnius. Finally we visit the Dawn Gate, one of the most important symbols of Vilnius City. You will have some leisure time in the afternoon and those who wish to do more sightseeing may like to visit the KGB museum (own expense). Overnight at Hotel Grata Vilnius or similar (B)

Day 13 – Vilnius – Trakai – Vilnius – 1 hour driving approximate

Visit Trakai Castle, a medieval castle located on an island on Lake Galve, built in the 15th Century by Kestutis, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Drive back to Vilnius where any time remaining in the afternoon is spent at leisure. Overnight at Hotel Grata Vilnius or similar (B) 

Trakai Castle

Trakai Castle is a picture postcard island castle situated on Lake Galve. The castle dates from the 15th Century and is attached to the shore by a footbridge. A moat separates the courtyard from the main tower.

Day 14 – Vilnius Departure

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)  


Optional Extension 1 – Kaliningrad

Day 14 - Vilnius – Kaliningrad

After breakfast you will travel with a local English speaking guide to Kaliningrad crossing the border from Lithuania. On arrival in Kaliningrad transfer to the hotel. Please note that the driving today is 4.5 hours but delays can occur at the Russia border post so we cannot be certain of our arrival time today. Overnight Hotel Tschaika or similar (B)   

Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad, former Koenigsberg is one of the several cities along the Baltic coast founded by the Teutonic Knights. It was founded in 1255 and from then until the end of the Second World War, it played a major part in German history as a port and as a centre of academic excellence. At the end of the Second World War the town of Koenigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad.

Day 15 - Kaliningrad and Baltijsk

This morning take a city tour including a visit to the remains of the city walls, the tomb of Immanuel Kant, the Amber Museum, and the Luisen Church. We also visit the Oceanographic Museum founded in 1992 and situated on the Pregel River. A fishing quay in the 14th century, this location is now known as the Embankment of Peter the Great. The main museum exposition is housed on board the German-built ship «Mars», which helped thousands of Germans flee East Prussia. In the 20th century the ship took part in expeditions all over the world attracting thousands of visitors for whom the chance to meet a Soviet citizen and to see a Soviet ship was a very rare experience. A Navy submarine docked nearby is another attraction of the museum. After lunch we travel to Baltijsk, home to the Baltic Fleet and closed to visitors without special permission. Several old structures which survive from German times give this small town its charm. The Citadel was built by the Swedish king, Gustav Adolf von Schweden during the brief Swedish domination of the area. The former court building houses the Baltic Fleet Museum which we will visit. If time allows we can also visit the 32 metre lighthouse built in the 19th Century which is the symbol of the town.  Overnight in Kaliningrad at Hotel Tschaika or similar (B)

Day 16 - Curonian Split – Kaliningrad

A full day exploring the beautiful Curonian Spit, a natural area with excellent opportunities for birdwatching. Also see and walk on the second highest sand dune in Europe and listen to the phenomenon known as the ‘singing sands’. Visit the Ornithology station and the museum which tells the history of the spits formation and the stories of its inhabitants. Overnight Hotel Tschaika or similar (B)

Curonian Split

The Curonian Spit is a unique area of wooded sand dunes, which separates the Baltic Sea from the freshwater Curonian Lagoon. The spit, a national park, offers unparalleled opportunities to see migrating birds at the Rybachy (Rositten) bird watching station and the nearby museum tells the history of the spit’s formation and the stories of its inhabitants.

Day 17 - Kaliningrad – Zamland peninsular: Svetlogorsk and Yantarny

Today we explore the Zamland Peninsula on the Baltic coast. First we visit Yantarny where you will see the huge amber pit where 90% of the world’s amber is produced. Also visit an amber workshop to see how this stone becomes jewellery or art. We continue to Svetlogorsk where we enjoy the town’s tree lined streets, pine woods and beaches, and visit a former Catholic church where organ concerts are held daily during summer. We also visit Brakhert Sculpture Park, the 19th century Water Tower and an art nouveau bathhouse, and take a walk along the pleasant promenade. Return to Kalingrad. Overnight Hotel Tschaika or similar (B)

Day 18 - Kaliningrad – Gdansk (Poland)

After breakfast you will be transferred across the border into Poland and the extension will end in the city of Gdansk where there are more options for flights. If you wish to end your extension in Kaliningrad then please let us know. (B)

If you wish to book extra accomodation in Gdansk then this can be arranged. Please contact us for a quote


Optional Extension 2 – St. Petersburg - Russia

Day 14 - Vilnius – St. Petersburg

At a suitable time transfer to the airport for your flight to St. Petersburg (not included in the extension price). On arrival meet your local guide and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at Oktiabrskaya Hotel or similar (B)

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a Russian port city on the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, it was the imperial capital for 2 centuries, and it remains the country’s cultural center, with venues like the hypermodern Mariinsky Theatre hosting opera and ballet, and the Russian Museum showcasing Russian art, from Orthodox icon paintings to abstract works by Kandinsky.

Day 15 - St. Petersburg

Today we take a city tour to explore St. Petersburg, including Nevsky Prospect, Kazansky Cathedral, the Church of the Bleeding Saviour, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Peter and Paul Fortress (entrance). Later we visit the world famous Winter Palace of St. Petersburg, or Hermitage Art Museum, that is proud to house a large collection of around 3 million works of art and artefacts of world culture. Overnight at Oktiabrskaya Hotel or similar (B)

Day 16 - St. Petersburg

Today travel to Pushkin to visit Catherine Palace, one of the biggest palaces in the St. Petersburg neighbourhood. Catherine Palace, the best sample of Russian Baroque, was constructed in 1717 by Catherine I, Empress of Russia. The palace is breathtaking, with gorgeous decorations, interiors and the mystery Amber Room that was destroyed and stolen during WWII. It was recreated in 2003 for the 300-year anniversary St. Petersburg. After visiting the palace explore the Palace Park. Return to St. Petersburg and take a boat trip on the canals and Neva River. Overnight at Oktiabrskaya Hotel or similar (B)

Day 17 - St. Petersburg

After the breakfast we visit the world famous Winter Palace, also known as Peterhof. The Peterhof Museum Complex is one of the most popular museums not only in Russia, but in the whole world. Spending just a few hours here is enough time to feel the spirit of history, which still lives on in this magnificent place. As a former residence of the Russian monarchs, Peterhof brings together the finest achievements in national and international culture. Return to St. Petersburg where we take a Metro tour and walk along Nevsky Prospect. Overnight at Oktiabrskaya Hotel or similar (B)

Day 18 - St. Petersburg

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. (B)

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation on twin/double share (unless single supplement paid)
Services of English speaking guides
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees
Helsinki – Tallinn ferry ticket
All ground transport on tour

Excluded:
International flights
Travel Insurance
Visas if applicable
Meals not mentioned on the itinerary
Drinks
Items of a personal nature
Tips