BALTIC CAPITAL CITIES
This trip is the perfect introduction for first time visitors to the Baltic states. We explore the three capital cities on foot, as well as visiting the KGB Museum in Vilnius, Europe’s largest market in Riga and going underground in the tunnels beneath Medieval Tallinn. We stay overnight and enjoy a traditional beer tasting and dinner in the historic Pakruojis Manor, founded in 1531. As well as visiting Trakai Castle, Kaunas, the Hill of Crosses and Parnu on the Baltic Sea.
Estonia (Tallinn, Parnu) | Latvia (Riga) | Lithuania (Hill of Crosses, Pakruojo Dvaras, Jaunas, Trakai Castle, Vilnius)
• Seven nights accommodation in a standard hotel
• Seven breakfasts, one dinner
• Local transportation: bus driver, explore tour leader
• Group size: generally 12 - 18
Level of support:
Day 1: Join trip in Vilnius, Lithuania
Our trip begins in Lithuania's capital city, Vilnius. After checking in to our hotel and meeting the group, this evening is at leisure for you to enjoy your first taste of the city's vibrant cafe, restaurant and nightlife culture.
The majority of visitors to the Baltic States will be surprised by the quality, variety and value of food and drink on offer. The majority of food is locally sourced and part of the regions heritage is being able to forage for food and make local brews. Walking through the forests you will see locals passing the time picking mushrooms and gathering berries. There are a lot of traditional restaurants, with influences from Germany and Russia, serving locally produced dishes. There's a wide variety on the menu including soups, casseroles, salads, meat and fish dishes. Beer is locally brewed and you can find light and dark beers, filtered or unfiltered all for a reasonable price. You can also find flavoured wines such as raspberry and cherry wine and each country has its own herbal liquor which is a popular after dinner tipple.
Please note on our BAT 22 July 2017 departure, we will be flying into Kaunas airport rather than Vilnius airport due to the closure of Vilnius airport for runway maintenance. The drive from Kaunas airport to our accommodation in Vilnius will take around 90 minutes.
Day 2: Walking tour of Vilnius and visit to the KGB Museum
The Catholic influence on Vilnius is very evident from the numerous baroque churches. By the turn of the last century, Vilnius also had an 80,000-strong Jewish community. However, by the end of World War II, it had been completely decimated. During our morning orientation walking tour of the capital, we'll visit the ancient university founded by the Jesuits - a centre of the Counter Reformation and a source of Lithuanian culture. We'll also see the cathedral and Church of the Dawn. In the newer part of Vilnius lies the main shopping street with the opera, cafes and parliament building.
This afternoon we'll visit the KGB Museum. The museum is located in the former KGB Headquarters and has exhibits documenting the crimes that were planned and committed from this very spot during Soviet rule. The displays also show you how the Lithuanians fought back to re-claim their independence. You'll be able to see the inner prison cell that has been preserved in the same condition as when the headquarters closed in 1991.
Day 3: Drive to Pakruojis Manor via Trakai Castle and Kaunas
Our first stop this morning on our full day's journey will be at Trakai Castle set on an island in Lake Galve. Trakai is the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and this splendid red brick castle dates back to the 14th century. You'll have the opportunity to go inside to view some of the interesting museum exhibits that it houses including one on pre-war Lithuania.
We continue our drive to Kaunas where we'll have free time for lunch. Kaunas was the country's temporary capital between 1920 and 1939 when Vilnius was forcibly annexed by the Poles. Situated in the heart of Lithuania, it is often regarded as the most characteristic city in the country. Many of its buildings date back to the 17th century, when the Jesuits bought tracts of land here and built a large monastery. Some buildings are older, with impressive examples of Gothic architecture.
Later this afternoon we arrive at Pakruojis Manor where we will be spending the night. The manor consists of 34 buildings including the main house, a stable block, mill and perfumery all set in a beautiful park setting, which is now a living museum that shows how the residents and staff would have lived and worked in 19th century. You'll have the opportunity to explore these historic buildings before we have a traditional dinner and an included beer tasting - all brewed on site.
Day 4: Visit the Hill of Crosses en route to Riga, Latvia; walking tour of Riga
Before leaving Lithuania we'll make a stop at the Hill of Crosses near Siauliai where a vast number of rosaries and crosses adorn a small hill. Both German and Soviet troops in the past have tried to crush this symbol of national and religious fervour, but images of the Virgin and literally thousands of crosses always reappeared despite their best efforts to destroy them.
This afternoon we'll arrive in Riga, Latvia's capital, and take an orientation walking tour. Most of the important sights in Riga are concentrated in a small area, so walking is the most effective way to explore. We will take in the Freedom Monument, Gunpowder Tower, Saint Jacob's Church and the city's cathedral. Buildings have been painstakingly restored over the last twenty years and commanding Gothic structures sit adjacent to Baroque and lavish Art Nouveau architecture.
Day 5: Visit to Riga Central Market; afternoon at leisure
This morning we'll visit Riga's huge and lively Central Market, which sells traditional produce, such as smoked fish, sauerkraut, pickled garlic and crusty cheeses.
The rest of the day is free for you to discover more of the city. Riga is an old Hanseatic city on the banks of the Daugava River and is arguably the most beautiful in the Baltics. Its skyline is pierced with spires, towers and weather vanes, making the streets a joy to amble through. The Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum and Riga Castle are well worth a visit or you may choose to enjoy a long lunch in one of the many restaurants. Cheese and meat filled pastries served with wild berry preserves are popular, especially when washed down with a local beer or perhaps a glass of Riga Black Balsam, a traditional herbal liqueur - an acquired taste!
Day 6: Drive to Tallinn, Estonia via the seaside city of Parnu
This morning we bid farewell to Latvia and head for Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. After we've crossed the border we'll make a stop in the pretty seaside town of Parnu on the Gulf of Livonia. This Baltic coast spa resort has been popular with tourists since the 1830's with people flocking to its clean sand beaches and to revitalise in the Parnu Mud Baths. After time here for lunch we'll continue our journey to Tallinn; in total today's drive takes us around five hours.
With just half a million citizens, Tallinn is not a sprawling metropolis. This adds to its charm, as it is easy to explore on foot, with minimal traffic. Famed for its Medieval architecture, the Old Town is one of the best preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has a huge range of restaurants, pubs and wine bars for you to choose from this evening.
Day 7: Orientation walking tour of Tallinn; visit to the Bastion Tunnels
Less than 100 kilometres across the water from Helsinki and midway between St. Petersburg and Stockholm, Tallinn has come under several different cultural influences since the first stronghold was built in the 10th century. Linguistically and economically, Estonia's closest ties are to Finland, despite the best efforts of other nations. In 1561, as a coveted trading port, it was seized by the Swedes and held for 150 years until the Russians took over and industrialised much of the Medieval town. Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, we'll explore the cobbled Old Town on foot this morning. The colourful houses of the crooked streets reflect the German, Scandinavian and Russian periods of Tallinn's history. We'll walk through the quarter where merchants once traded and take in the historical and architectural highlights. The busy town square is a hectic mix of pavement cafes and shops, dominated by the 14th century Gothic Town Hall. The pink Parliament buildings and Toompea Castle lie near the imposing deep yellow Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
This afternoon we'll visit the Bastion Tunnels beneath the city. The tunnels were constructed in the 1670's and were used by the military as defensive tunnels beneath the city walls and buildings above. The tunnels lay unused for many years, but at the start of World War II they were renovated to be used as bomb shelters and then during Soviet rule they were installed with electricity, ventilation, water and telephones. During our excursion you'll get to see the tunnels still in their Medieval state and those that have been modernised in the 20th century.
This evening you may choose to participate in a traditional Medieval dinner.
Day 8: Trip ends in Tallinn
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tallinn.
Trip operated by Explore World Wide. Prices will be quoted in CAD. CDN$ per person, land only. Based on double occupancy. Other dates available, prices may vary, please contact us for details. Trip Style Classic.
® Merit Travel trademark owned by, and use is granted by, Merit Travel Group Inc. Offers are based on availability and may be subject to change. Certain exclusions, limitations and restrictions may apply. For full terms and conditions visit, https://merittravel.com/terms-and-conditions/.