WHAT TO SEE
If visiting Tallinn isn't enough of an escape in itself, there are some fantastic day trips leaving from Tallinn that will put you in touch with Estonian nature and history. From the islands off the coast of Tallinn, vast national parks to curious nearby towns, there are many fascinating opportunities to explore the local life and surroundings. Taking a trip to these places requires a little bit of planning, so please consult the Tourist Information Centre or a tour operator for assistance.
Islands: Aegna, Naissaar, Prangli
During the summer season, passenger ferries make regular trips to these three small islands just off the coast of Tallinn. The extensive military history of Aegna and Naissaar stretches back to the Tsarist era. During the Soviet era in Estonia, the islands were part of a tightly-controlled border zone, with restricted access to all three islands. Nowadays the islands are popular for their nature, particularly for the quiet pine forests and secluded beaches. Naissaar is known for the remnants of its military infrastructure, as well as its narrow gauge railway. Prangli on the other hand is unique among the three for having maintained its fishing-village culture since the 13th century.
Transportation to the islands:
To Aegna: by vessel JUKU (operated by AS Kihnu Veeteed)
The Viimsi peninsula
Jutting out from the coast just 15km north of Tallinn's city centre, the rocky Viimsi peninsula is both a nature-lovers' getaway and a worthy destination for history buffs. Highlights here include the Estonian War Museum, the Museum of Coastal Folk and the seaside Viimsi Open-Air Museum, built around a historic farm. The area is also a home to many restaurants inspired by the coastal vibe.
Lahemaa national park
Lahemaa National Park is located 70 kilometres from Tallinn and is well-known for its coast, Käsmu and Altja fishermen villages and for the beautiful Palmse, Sagadi and Vihula mansions. Viinistu Art Museum and the national park host many popular events during the summer season. Take a hike through the park and explore the local forests and bogs to familiarise yourself with the local wildlife. Your path will also cross Estonia’s highest waterfall of 50 metres called Jägala juga.
The parish is appreciated for its archaeological and historical legacy. The area boasts a picturesque view of the winding coast, peninsulas, nature reserves and the highest natural waterfall in the Baltic States – Jägala juga. The river dives underground at the Kostivere karst valley, while the massive boulders attract many admirers since the ancient times. For some architectural delight, visit the Püha Neitsi Maarja church and the Saha chapel.
The city of Paldiski
This coastal town 45km from Tallinn is the favourite destination for history buffs – it was a highly restricted submarine and rocket base during Soviet times, and after the Russian military left in 1994 much of it fell to ruins. But apart from being covered in crumbling barracks, the Pakri peninsula on which Paldiski sits is also worth visiting for its striking limestone cliffs and a home to some rear local wildlife.
Taking the scenic, coastal route to Paldiski offers many beautiful sights. Your first stop should be the Türisalu cliff. 31 metres in height, it’s one of the most impressive limestone cliffs in the country, opening to a scenic view of Naissaar island (see above) and nearby Vääna-Jõesuu sandy seashore. Farther along is Keila-Joa, where you can see the third highest waterfall in the country and a 19th-century Neo-Gothic manor house. On the nearby coast you’ll find Laulasmaa, a beach area named after the “singing sands.” It’s a perfect place for swimming in the summer, not to mention walking and jogging.
Information about Tallinn’s nearby areas can be found from the following websites: www.visitharju.ee and www.northestonia.eu.