The Perfect Baltic Travel Itinerary: Explore Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania


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The countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia all make up what is colloquially referred to as the Baltic States. These three countries, though small both in size and population, have a lot to offer travellers, especially if they’re looking to get off the beaten path. Not only are the Baltics one of the most affordable places to travel in Europe, they are also safe and easy to get around and remain — with the possible exception of the cruise ship crowds in Tallinn — relatively untouched by foreign tourism. This is a shame, as the Baltics are easily one of the best places to travel in Europe, but planning a Baltics itinerary can be daunting as there is little information available beyond the capital cities of Tallinn, Riga & Vilnius.

Whether you’re only able to sojourn into the Baltics for a short time or you have weeks on end to explore this undiscovered region, there are many routes you can take for a Baltic travel itinerary. Each country has its own unique culture, incredible nature, beautiful beaches, and postcard-perfect towns and cities.

The Ultimate Baltic Travel Itinerary

If you are keen to dive deep and really get a good taste of what the beautiful Baltic countries have to offer, then we would recommend spending at least 3-4 weeks in the region. If you only have a shorter period of time, it is best to concentrate on only one or two of the countries rather than trying to rush through all three. Here are our top Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania itineraries to help you plan your trip!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia Itinerary

Estonia is the northernmost country in the Baltic States and is the one that is most ethnically and culturally unique compared to Lithuania and Latvia. Most famed for the excellently-preserved medieval old town in its capital city of Tallinn, there is so much more to this country than that. Alternative culture, an innovative cuisine, hip and modern cities, and a large expanse of forests, bogland, and beaches make Estonia one of the most interesting countries to visit in Europe. If you want to get the most out of Estonia and see all that you can, we recommend that you spend about 10 days in the country. This will allow you to explore the biggest cities and really get a feel for the unique culture of this beautiful Baltic nation.

Days 1 – 4: Tallinn

Begin your Estonia itinerary in the capital city of Tallinn. Many people treat this beautiful city only as a day trip, hopping over on a ferry from Helsinki or strolling around while on a land excursion from a Baltic cruise. However, Tallinn has a lot more to offer tourists than its compact (albeit absolutely beautiful) Old Town, which is why we recommend you spend at least 3 days in Tallinn, however, four days is best to really get to know the city.

While the Old Town can easily be explored in only one day, Tallinn has a lot of interesting things to offer tourists beyond it. Take the time to wander around the trendy Kalamaja district — once a neighbourhood for fisherman and their families, it has now been gentrified and taken over by the city’s hipsters. The nearby Telliskivi Creative City and Balti Jaama Turg have some of Tallinn’s best street art, restaurants, and street food in town.

It is also worth exploring the Estonian capital’s hopping (pun intended) craft beer scene. There are so many incredible beers available in Tallinn that travellers could easily spend days jumping from one taproom to the next without coming close to sampling them all.

And while Tallinn is famous for its medieval charms, it is also well worth exploring the city’s more recent history. Though Estonia has all but shaken its Soviet past, has a thriving capitalist economy, and is often considered the most technologically advanced country in the world, there are still striking reminders about the occupation this small country was under less than thirty years ago. Imposing communist structure, such as Linnahall just outside of the Old Town, serve as a reminder for just how far this city has come.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Tallinn at sunset
Where to Stay in Tallinn

Because Tallinn’s tourism is increasing exponentially with the passing of each year, there is no shortage of great places to stay. Here are some of our top picks:

Fat Margaret’s Hostel – this hostel is a fantastic place to stay in Tallinn if you’re on a budget or travelling solo. It is in a great location near the harbour, just minutes from the Old Town and the Kalamaja neighbourhood. They have both dorm and private rooms available and also have a sauna — perfect to really get the feel of Estonian culture! Click here to check their latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com

Vabriku Guesthouse – this budget hotel located in the heart of trendy Kalamaja is just minutes from a number of cool cafes and restaurants and a short walk into the Old Town. They offer private rooms, so it is perfect for couples. Click here to check their latest prices

Airbnb – If hostels or hotels aren’t quite your thing, Airbnb is another great option when visiting Tallinn. There are myriad places to choose from depending on your budget and desires, from private rooms to full apartments such as this great place in Kalamaja! Click here to browse the best Airbnbs in Tallinn!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best deals for hotels in Tallinn!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Tallinn’s city walls

Days 5 – 7: Tartu

Although it is Estonia’s second-largest city, Tartu doesn’t get nearly the amount of tourism it deserves. Home to the country’s oldest and largest university and filled with a lively and youthful energy, there are many fun and interesting things to do in Tartu.

Spend your first day exploring the charming Old Town, with its many cafes and restaurants and distinct lack of tourists. Take some time to admire the Kissing Students fountain and view the main square through the yellow National Geographic Frame.

It is also well worth taking the time to visit the Tartu University Botanical Gardens and taking a stroll along the Emajogi River — the only fully navigable river in Estonia.

On your second day, get to know Tartu outside of the Old Town. The hip neighbourhood of Karlova is well worth exploring, especially given it has some of the city’s best street art. Also worth stopping by is the Aparaaditehas Complex, a former Soviet widget factory that has been repurposed and now houses a number of hip restaurants, cool shops, and art galleries.

Stops at the Estonian Print & Paper Museum and the KGB Cells museum are also a great idea, especially if you want to learn more about the history of Tartu and Estonia in general.

Tartu’s charming main square
Where to Stay in Tartu

Though Tartu is a large city, it doesn’t see nearly the amount of tourism that other Estonian cities do, however, that doesn’t mean that there is a lack of accommodation options to choose from. Here are some of our top picks:

Hotel London – Located in the heart of Tartu’s Old Town, this boutique hotel is a good option for those travelling on a mid-range budget. They have a range of rooms available and breakfast is even included in the room rate. Click here to view their latest prices!

Looming Hostel – If you are travelling on a budget, then Looming Hostel is a great accommodation option in Tartu. This small, environmentally-friendly hostel has a couple of dorm and private rooms on offer, good common areas, and a nice roof terrace. It is also possible to purchase breakfast at an extra cost. Click here to view their latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other accommodation options in Tartu!

Tartu Travel Guide
The iconic Kissing Students Fountain in front of the town hall
Have more time?

If you are planning a stand-alone Estonia itinerary or have an extended period of time to travel in the Baltics, we recommend heading to the seaside city of Pärnu after enjoying the culture and alternative scene of Tartu. With many kilometres of white-sand beach and numerous interesting things to do, Pärnu is often considered to be Estonia’s “summer capital.” Two to three days here should be sufficient to get a feel for the city.

If you have even more time to devote to Estonia, then make sure to head to one of Estonia’s many islands. Saaremaa and Hiiumaa are the two largest and easiest to get to and they will offer a unique cultural experience that isn’t available on the mainland.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Linnahall Concert Hall in Tallinn

Latvia Itinerary

Located right in the centre of the Baltic nations, Latvia’s foreign tourism is mostly concentrated to the capital city of Riga. While Riga is an incredibly dynamic city and worth a stand-alone visit, there is much more to this country than the capital. Like its neighbours, Latvia boasts some stunning nature, a beautiful coastline, and quaint cities that just beg to be explored.

Devoting about one week out of your Baltic itinerary specifically to Latvia is the best amount of time to be able to get to know this amazing country.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
A view of the Freedom Monument from a tranquil park in Riga

Days 8 – 11: Riga

Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States by population and certainly has a more cosmopolitan vibe than the other two Baltic capitals. While the UNESCO-listed Old Town is very much worth exploring, with iconic sites such as the House of the Blackheads and the Gunpowder Tower, the real charms of the Latvian capital lie in central Riga.

With more Art Nouveau architecture than any other city in the world, Riga is a visual wonder. There are also many cool and interesting things to do in the city, we recommend spending at least three days here.

Spend the first exploring the Old Town. While this is the most touristy area of the city, prices are still quite affordable and there are significantly fewer tour groups than in Tallinn. Your second day should be devoted to wandering through the central district, admiring the architecture, eating at some hip restaurants or wine bars, and visiting a few of the many museums. A detour to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum just outside of the city is also a great idea, especially if you want to see what life in Latvia was like hundreds of years ago.

On the third day, take a trip to the nearby seaside villages of Jurmala — a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. If the weather is warm and sunny, spend the day basking on the fine, white sand. Or else, there are many affordable spas so you can treat yourself to a massage or a pedicure.

If you want to spend more than three days in Riga, there are a number other day trips to take from Riga, including the charming towns of Cesis and Sigulda with their imposing medieval castles and to Kuldiga, which boasts the widest “waterfall” in Europe.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
The House of the Blackheads is one of Riga’s most iconic sites
Where to Stay in Riga

Riga is booming in popularity as a stop for eager city-breakers, so there is no shortage of great places to stay. We would recommend finding accommodation in Central Riga rather than in the Old Town, not only will it be more affordable, it will also be more quiet at night and close to some of the best restaurants in the city. Here are some of our tops suggestions:

Cinnamon Sally Backpacker’s Hostel – located close to the Central Market, this small hostel is one of the best places to stay in Riga for budget backpackers or solo travellers. They offer both dorms and private rooms and also organise social events, making it’s a great option if you’re travelling solo and want to meet some people to explore Riga with! Click here to see the latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com

Redstone Boutique Hotel – if you’re travelling as a couple and have a slightly higher budget, then this boutique hotel is a great option. It is centrally located and within walking distance of all of the main sites. They have a large range of rooms on offer and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best deals for hotels in Riga!

The Nativity Cathedral in Riga is the largest Orthodox Cathedral in the Baltics

Days 12 – 14: Liepaja

As Latvia’s third largest city, the main appeal of Liepaja is it’s seemingly endless stretch of immaculate beach and a city centre that is absolutely oozing with charm. It seems a miracle that so few visitors to Latvia even have Liepaja on their radar.

While most people will make a beeline to the beach — which, incidentally, has the softest sand we have ever encountered — there are a number of cool things to do in the city of Liepaja itself and it deserves to be explored.

Take the time to browse the city’s many markets and get to know it’s musical history. Outside of the centre, there is a charming Art Nouveau quarter that has been used as a filming location for many Hollywood movies as a stand-in for the likes of Paris. The former Soviet prison in the suburb of Karosta is also, now, a tourist attraction. It is even possible to stay a night at the prison and have a complete, accurate taste of what it was like for inmates there in years past — not for the faint-hearted!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
The Liepaja sign on a sunny, summer’s day
Where to Stay in Liepaja

Liepaja is a popular destination amongst locals, especially in the short summer months. Therefore, there are myriad accommodation options to choose from. It is most popular to hire a private apartment, however, there are also a few hotels to choose from. Here are our recommendations:

Seaside Park Apartment — this private apartment has everything you might need to feel at home while visiting Liepaja and it also just happens to be about a five-minute walk from the beach! The owners are incredibly kind and helpful and will ensure that your stay is as perfect as possible. Click here to see the latest prices on Booking.com!

Boutique Hotel Roze — Also located within a stone’s throw from the beach, this small hotel is perfect for a romantic getaway in Liepaja. They have a range of rooms on offer, have a restaurant on site, and also you can add a breakfast option to the room rate. Click here to see the latest prices on Booking.com!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other accommodation options in Liepaja!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Liepaja’s main market is the second-largest in Latvia

Lithuania Itinerary

No Baltic travel itinerary would be complete without including the southernmost country in the Baltic States, Lithuania. While it is slowly gaining popularity on traveller’s radar, tourism in Lithuania is lacking and even it’s most popular area, the Curonian Spit, doesn’t get nearly the amount of recognition that it deserves.

Lithuania has a number of interesting sites, beautiful, and impeccable nature to explore and it is another country that travellers could easily spend weeks in. However, in order to get the most out of the country, we would recommend spending 8 – 10 days in Lithuania.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
The beautiful Trakai Island Castle

Days 15 – 18: Klaipeda

Klaipeda, Lithuania’s third-largest city, is the country’s only port. However, contrary to many other port cities, it is incredibly charming with a quaint old town, a number of great restaurants, and a thriving arts scene. It is also the gateway for exploring the naturally stunning Curonian Spit.

Spend at least one full day exploring Klaipeda proper, where there is a surprising amount of things to do. Walk along the quaint cobbled streets, admire the many art installations, and enjoy the peaceful seaside charm. The city also has an interesting Hanseatic history and many museums that are worth exploring.

Take another day or two to explore the Curonian Spit. And easy a quick ferry from Klaipeda, the Lithuanian side of the Spit spans for 50 kilometres and offers an incredible ecosystem unique to this narrow strip of land. The imposing sand dunes, the charming villages of Nida, Juodokrante, and Smiltyne, and the beautiful expanse of beaches make the Curonian Spit one of the premier places to visit in Lithuania.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
A mermaid basks in the sunshine on Klaipeda’s riverfront
Where to Stay in Klaipeda:

There are a number of great places to stay in Klaipeda, from private apartments, hostels, and boutique hotels. Here are our top recommendations:

Hostel Kubu – If you’re travelling on a budget or are keen to meet other travellers while visiting Klaipeda, the Hostel Kubu is the place for you. This small hostel has both dorm beds and private rooms on offer and is in a great location. Click here to see the latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com

Michaelson Boutique Hotel  – If you’re looking for a romantic getaway in a cute boutique hotel, then look no further than the Michaelson Boutique Hotel. Located in the Old Town, this small hotel offers a range of rooms and comes incredibly highly rated. Click here to see their latest prices

Friedrich Guesthouse – Another small hotel, this Friedrich Guesthouse is good for couples and families alike. They have a number of rooms to choose from, are located very close to the Old Town and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other accommodation options in Klaipeda!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
The idyllic Curonian Spit is a highlight of visiting Klaipeda

Days 19 – 21: Kaunas

Because it is a hub for budget airline Ryanair and has recently been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2022, Kaunas is seeing more visitors than it used to in past years. However, many people visiting the second-largest city in Lithuania make a beeline either for Vilnius or the coast and leave the city unexplored.

This is a huge mistake, however, as Kaunas has a quite a lot to offer travellers. A more artistic and alternative city than you will find elsewhere in Lithuania, there is a thriving street art scene in the city. There is also a fascinating history, a number of interesting museums, and an imposing medieval castle to explore.

Spending two days in Kaunas is a perfect addition to your Lithuania itinerary and we assure you that this edgy city won’t disappoint.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Kaunas Castle
Where to Stay in Kaunas

Kaunas is beginning to attract more and more tourists, and with that there are a number of great accommodation options to choose from. To help you narrow it down, here are some of our top picks:

Monk’s Bunk Hostel —  this small and cosy hostel is an excellent option for budget backpackers and solo travellers alike. Located in central Kaunas, they have both dorm and private rooms available, have great reviews, and an excellent staff. Click here to see their latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com

Hof Hotel —  this small hotel is one of the best places to stay in the city if you aren’t after the hostel lifestyle. Situated in a great location, they have a number of rooms on offer, come very highly reviewed, and even have free breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other accommodation options in Kaunas!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Kaunas is filled with awesome street art

Days 22 – 25: Vilnius

The perfect ending point for this Baltic States itinerary is in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Boasting one of the largest Old Towns in all of Europe, Vilnius has a fraction of the tourists of Riga or Tallinn but sacrificed none of the charm.

The stunning baroque architecture and the laid-back vibe make Vilnius one of the best cities to explore in the Baltics. Spending at least three or four days in Vilnius will be the perfect amount of time to see everything that this dynamic capital has to offer.

Spend your first day exploring the massive Old Town, taking in all of the main sites such as the Town Hall Square, St Anne’s Church, and the central market of Hales Turgus. Enjoy the city’s thriving cafe culture and dine in some of the best restaurants in the region.

Devote your second day to wandering through the bohemian “independent republic” of Uzupis. This alternative area is filled with great street art, cool craft beer bars, and some of the best restaurants in the city. This is also a great time to visit some of Vilnius’ fantastic museums in order to learn more about the city’s and country’s complex history.

On the third day, take a day trip to the charming lakeside village of Trakai and admire the beautiful island castle. If the weather is fine, you can even rent a pedal boat or swim in the lakes.

Baltic Travel Itinerary
St Anne’s Church in Vilnius
Where to Stay in Vilnius

Vilnius is becoming a popular destination for an affordable city break and there are a number of great places to stay in Vilnius because of this. Here are our top picks:

Jimmy Jumps House/Hostel – this small hostel has a lively atmosphere and is a place to stay if you’re travelling on a budget. Located just off of the Town Hall square, they have both dorm and private rooms at affordable prices and also include breakfast in the room rate. They also organise social events in the evening. Click here to see their latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com

Hotel Tilto – excellently located close to Cathedral Square in the Old Town, this boutique hotel comes very highly rated. They have a range of rooms on offer and also have breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Airbnb – Airbnb is a fantastic option if you want to see how locals live in Vilnius. There are numerous private rooms and apartments listed on the website. This private apartment in the Old Town is undoubtedly one of the best choices! Click here to browse the best Airbnbs in Vilnius!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best deals for hotels in Vilnius!

Baltic Travel Itinerary
Uzupis is a bohemian escape from the baroque charms of the Vilnius Old Town

Planning the perfect Baltic travel itinerary can be a complicated task, with so many interesting places to visit. Take the time to really explore the places you visit and get to know the countries you are in and it certainly won’t disappoint!

When visiting the Baltics, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you planning a Baltic countries itinerary? Have you been to Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie Turansky

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

Comments

  1. I’m planning to travel from Helsinki to Prague over 2+ weeks. What’s your advice for affordable accommodation through the Baltics and should I be concerned about not speaking Russian or German. I am a 58 y o women traveling solo for a little adventure.

    Reply
    • Sounds like a great trip! For affordable accommodation, I would recommend looking at Airbnb. Depending on where you are, private rooms will probably set you back about €20/night and a full apartment will probably be about €35-40/night. You also get the added bonus of staying with locals!
      As for a language barrier, It shouldn’t be much of an issue. Most people, especially the younger generation, tend to speak English at quite a high level. Of course, it’s always good to know a few words and key phrases in the local language and having Google translate downloaded will get you by in a pinch.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for publishing this, as the Baltics have been on my radar for a while. I’ve wanted to avoid traveling by cruise ships (for many reasons)

    We are planning to visit in July -Aug 2019, more or less traveling from Tallinn to Vilnius (might reverse, also a St Petersburg stop will be included at end/beginning).

    Would you recommend traveling by train or bus in certain areas? Suggestions by country would be great.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Jake! You can see a lot more of the Baltics if you avoid cruise ships so it’s great that you’re trying to avoid them. If you’re relying on public transport to get around (which is totally doable), your best bet is going to be to go by bus. There isn’t a well-developed train network throughout the Baltics but the buses are modern, extensive and reliable, and will get you everywhere you need to go.

      We have a bunch of content on specific cities and regions throughout Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania if you want to check it out (https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/category/baltics/) and have also recently published an entire guidebook about travelling in the region if you’re interested (https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/baltics-travel-guide-ebook/). And if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi

        Thank you for an excellent and informative read.

        I am heading to Baltic in June, starting ( 2 nts) and ending (2 nts) in Kaunas.

        Can you suggest an itinerary to get the most from my ten days?

        I intend all transfers to be by bus as is cheap and see more of the region that way.

        Accommodation hopefully be Airbnb.

        So many places to see, starting to think I should have booked more than ten days.

        Do you think Kaunas,Tallinn,Riga,Vilnius,Tartu are doable in that time frame?

        Some places you suggested that I hadn’t considered ( eg Tartu) have complicated things further.

        Given Kaunas already booked I have a week to cover other places.

        Would appreciate your itinerary ideas.

        Got a feeling I shall need to book a return visit.?

        Would much appreciate your input.

        Stuart.

        Reply
        • Hi Stuart, glad you found the itinerary helpful! I think that you might be a little bit pressed for time if you only have 10 days for all those stops. I would honestly recommend only heading to the capitals during that time (you can start in Kaunas and end in Vilnius, Kaunas is only maybe 1.5 hours away by bus from Vilnius). That would give you a good taste for the region without exhausting yourself. However much I love Tartu, for instance, I think it would probably more fulfilling to give Tallinn a proper amount of time during your first visit to the Baltics. Like you said, there is always room for more in a return visit! Hope this helps.
          If you need more help planning your trip, we have a ton of Baltics content here: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/category/baltics/

          Reply
      • Hi Maggie, very helpful information. Wanted to check on what is the best way to travel between the cities mentioned in the Baltics

        Reply
        • Hi Indrani, the best way to get between cities in the Baltics if you’re relying on public transport is by bus. There isn’t a well-developed train network in any of the three countries and the buses, especially Lux Express, are very comfortable and quite efficient.

          Reply
  3. Hi
    That was a pretty comprehensive guide to the Baltics! We are a group of 4 (husband, daughter, son-in-law and myself), planning a trip to the Baltics for around 2 weeks, starting Oct 18th or so. We thought we could travel the 3 Baltic countries by road (bus or hired car), then head to Warsaw for a few days, and head back home to Bangalore from there.

    Do you think this itinerary would work with the time available? All 3 of my co-travellers are architects, so which cities / towns would you recommend we visit in this trip for experiencing / enjoying the local architecture ? And, is late October a good time to see fall colours, or should we plan to go a week or 2 earlier?

    Thanks !

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Vijaya! I think that two weeks should be sufficient with your plans — I would recommend starting in Tallinn and heading south if you want to end your trip in Warsaw. For the architects, definitely spend some time in Riga as it has an amazing array of Art Nouveaux buildings and Vilnius would be a great option if they like Baroque architecture.
      I think your plan for mid-late October is a good one if you want to see some autumn colours — just make to pack some warm clothes as it will start to be very chilly!

      Reply

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