Estonia © TausP.
Estonia is a beguiling mix of the ultra-modern and firmly traditional, a northern Baltic land of primeval forests, rivers, and islands, with one of the smallest populations in the world. Most Estonians have opted for city life, leaving the countryside rather wild and filled with rare birds, plants and roaming deer, elk, wild boar, bears and wolves.
The low, largely flat landscape is also dotted with relics of Estonia's medieval glory, when the Teutonic knights reigned supreme and built castles which are now left as decaying hulks, testament to the wealth of traders who used the country's ports. The main port, Tallinn (still the capital city today), was part of the mighty Hanseatic League in the 13th century.
Its medieval prosperity has given the romantic city a wealth of attractions for modern-day tourists to explore. Historical and natural attractions are only one reason why Estonia is experiencing an upsurge in tourism. Access is another, as the country is sandwiched between east and west Europe, and is easily reached from the south as well. All in all, it offers fresh and unspoilt opportunities for those who enjoy the Nordic experience.
Estonia has only recently (in 1991) thrown off the shackles of Soviet domination, and a vibrant spirit of freedom and rebirth pervades the air. This is true of the capital, the lively university town of Tartu, the busy industrial centre of Narva and the idyllic summer vacation capital of Pärnu on the southwestern coast.