If you’re planning on travel to the Baltic countries, which include Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, be sure to fit top cities, towns, and attractions into your travel itinerary. Though these countries are lumped together these days for convenience and due to some similar history, they actually differ on a variety of points.
That means that the top attractions in the Baltic countries will help you to get a better understanding of the cultures and histories of these countries and what aspects they share and where they contrast. Whether you like nature, city life, medieval castles, or the sea coast, the Baltic countries will impress you.
Visiting Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia may veer from what you’re used to—these countries are not in your face; they must be appreciated gently by the patient traveler. However, even though their travel allure may be subtle, it’s undeniable. And with travel industries that are growing, they continually offer new and interesting ways for visitors to explore their culture, history, and natural environment. Furthermore, the Baltic states are safe!
When you visit each Baltic country, you will notice that you’re encouraged to try particular food and drink, browse through shops with handmade souvenirs created with techniques pulled from long craft traditions, and understand the symbols and most important eras of the past that helped shape each country. All of these factors combine to create an image that they hope travelers will remember.
Lithuania is the southernmost Baltic country. Its inland landscape features forest and fields, and its coastline along the Baltic Sea is swept clean with a cool breeze. Begin your tour of Lithuania in the capital, Vilnius, and then branch out to visit the following:
Trakai—Trakai is an easy day trip from Vilnius that takes you back in time. A rebuilt castle stands in an area lush with lakes, where you can take a lazy paddleboat ride or spend the afternoon on the terrace of a waterside café.
Kaunas—Lithuania’s second city and historical capital, Kaunas has a lovely old town and, as the former capital of Lithuania, it is steeped in history. It preserves the memory of both Lithuania’s best-known artist at the M.K. Ciurlionis Museum and its Japanese WWII hero at the Sugihara House Museum, has an active events calendar, and is the headquarters for many Lithuanian product brands, which you can shop for while you’re there!
Hill of Crosses—The Hill of Crosses near Siauliai is a memorable, meaningful attraction where people have deposited crosses by the thousands over the decades. Its beautiful, haunting atmosphere will draw you in and stay with you long after you’ve left.
Nida and the Curonian Spit—Cross the lagoon by ferry and enter pristine parkland punctuated by small fisherman’s villages and crowned by white sand dunes. In Nida and the rest of the Curonian Spit, you’ll relax Lithuanian style, snacking on smoked fish, enjoying a picnic, or hiking or cycling.
Topographically, Latvia is similar to Lithuania. Agricultural land, birch trees, and pine forests, as well as a charming sea coast characterize Latvia. After you’ve explored Riga, the capital, be sure to visit these other attractive destinations within the country:
Jurmala—Latvia’s premier coastal town has a charming beach and elegant wooden architecture shaded by evergreens. You’ll enjoy the clear, cool water of the Baltic Sea and long days of summer as you stroll along the beach and marvel at the historic architectural beauties along the shoreline that indicate how long this resort town has been adored by vacationers.
Rundale Palace—This renovated palace, built by the same architect who designed the great St. Petersburg palaces, preserves rooms decorated in silken wallpaper, fanciful ceiling murals, and colorful tilework. Take a tour of Rundale Palace to learn how the Dukes of Courland lived and wander through the garden, which is at its height in the warm season, with spring and summer flowers blooming by the hundreds.
Sigulda—Sigulda is for those who love castles and other old architecture. Turaida Castle is the focus of Turaida Museum Reserve, while Sigulda Castle’s ruins sit behind the still-standing New Castle. View Turaida popping out of the forest from afar and feel like a member of a medieval royal hunting party surveying your domain.
Cesis—Cesis is an up-and-coming Latvian city destination that centers around its well-preserved historic center and Latvian castle. Set amidst unspoiled nature, it’s great for history lovers and hikers alike.
Estonia, the northernmost of the Baltic states, is a land of forest, bogs, and islands. As you travel through the three countries, you will notice it differs in its landscape from Latvia and Estonia. After you have enjoyed the capital city, Tallinn, to its fullest extent, consider visiting:
Tartu—a small university city, Tartu has a robust events calendar and a long history, meaning that its old center is a beautiful mix of old and new touches that will steal your heart. Things to do in Tartu abound.
Saaremaa—the largest island of Estonia, Saaremaa requires plenty of time to explore thoroughly, from its Teutonic Knights’ castle to its windmills and historic churches. It’s natural landscape is mysterious and rich with regional wildlife.
Parnu—sun seekers and beach lovers should visit Parnu, Estonia’s summer capital. Parnu is Estonia’s answer to Palanga in Lithuania and Jurmala in Latvia. With a popular beach and bars, restaurants, and clubs, Parnu answers summer’s call.
Narva—Narva, which borders Russia, is steeped in the history of this region and is one of Estonian’s most interesting cities for travelers. From Narva Castle, you can see the imposing Ivangorod fortress across the river. Various other landmarks tell of the city’s past, and even though it was damaged significantly in WWII, it’s still possible to get an idea about how Narva originally looked.
How to Get to Top Attractions in the Baltic Countries
You can visit these top attractions in the Baltic countries in a variety of ways. While a car tour around the three countries (or even one of your choosing) may give you the most flexibility, you may also consider hiring tour guides who will take you to the most important places in the Baltics without you’re having to read any maps or make any decisions.
If you would still like to travel on your own, many places can be accessed by bus from each of the capital, and you can always fly between Vilnius, Riga, and Estonia. Bus is also a great way to get between the capitals, which you can use as your hub to explore the greater part of the country you’re in.
Of course, as you explore Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, you will realize there are many more attractions in the Baltic countries, such as cities, towns, castles, manor houses, parks, lakes, and other attractions to visit. Some you may incorporate into your travel plans from the outset and others you may stumble upon along the way. However you choose to see these countries, there is little doubt that these countries will favorably imprint themselves into your memory.