Four-day dream trip to fall in love with Estonia (Days 3&4)
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Monday, 24 June (Day 3)
Third day for us started with a bright sunshine right where we went to sleep, and our lucky days continued with another sunny and warm day in Estonia. The first early morning pitstop at Keila Waterfall brought us many memories, as we have been here numerous times, but not so often in summer, so, yes, we made sure that it is just as beautiful in summer as in winter, when we are used to see it. ;)
After that we continued our way to Pakri peninsula near Paldiski town. There is a decent cliff and a lighthouse at the coast - that might not seem as anything special, but we, Latvians, are used to living at the sea level, and nearly all of our coastline is a flat, sandy beach, so anything different than that is interesting for us. :)
Next stop was Rummu Quarry - it is a place that has gained a lot of popularity over the last years. At least amongst the Latvians. There was a mining site for limestone for a long time and because there was a prison next to the site, many workers for the mining job came from there. Now the prison is closed and water has flooded the area and prison buildings, so it is an interesting place for explorers and nature lovers. We did not stay here for too long, but were happy that we had a Subaru Forester - the roads around the lake are pretty adventurous, to say the least.
After visiting the quarry, we went to Haapsalu town, visited Haapsalu Castle, walked along the promenade and checked out bird watching tower as well as Happsalu Resort hall - a romantic wooden building built in 19th century.
Our plan was to visit both biggest islands of Estonia - Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. Although there was a ferry near Haapsalu, that could bring us to Hiiumaa island, we could not use that ferry because all tickets were sold out, so we had to change the route - we went to Virtsu and went to Saaremaa first. Then we got on a ferry and got from Saaremaa to Hiiumaa and in the last day of our trip we took this route back again - Hiiumaa to Saaremaa and from Saaremaa to mainland.
Buying tickets to the ferries is very easy and you can also change your departing time to another without extra fee. We had to use this option two times when we realized that we could not get to the ferry in time. One trip for two passengers and a car cost us 14.40 EUR, so we had to buy four tickets altogether. After the trip we read the news that ferries transferred record amount of passengers and cars that weekend and during Midsummer festival. The funny thing is - we did not see that many people. It was like the islands were empty. And we actually liked it. ;)
To get to Saaremaa, we had to cross another island - Muhu - and then drive a road - a narrow land embankment - to Saaremaa. Saaremaa is the biggest island of Estonia and there are some special places to see. First, we stopped at a local football field that has a 150-year-old oak tree growing in the middle. It has been voted European Tree of the Year, and definitely is an interesting factor when actual football games take place there.
After that we went to one of the most famous spots in Estonia - Kaali meteorite crater. They say it is more that 7 thousand years old. There are other craters around the area, but the biggest is Kaali and it is 110 meters' wide and 22 meters' deep, so quite a surreal feeling gets to you, when you think about how it might have happened.
Our next stop was the capital of Saaremaa and Saare County - Kuressaare. The town gave us those chill vibes and it seemed that the town is living its' own life - distant from others and in their own pace not really rushing anywhere, because why would you? There is life to enjoy, no rushing anywhere ;) We visited Kuressaare Castle, Town hall and Windmill tavern, as well as other places during the walk through the town.
On our way to the ferry that would bring us to Hiiumaa island, we stopped at the Panga cliff - a 2.5km long escarpment that starts on the island of Gotlande (Sweden) and goes all the way through the Baltic Sea. The view was nice, the cliff was scary, and it was time to leave Saaremaa. For today.
What we noticed - although the idea of spending holidays on an island sounds nice, the coastline could ruin the dream for you. There are plenty of places in both - Saaremaa and Hiiumaa - where the coast is a high cliff or a field of rocks or just a meadow full of nasty plants, so do not get too excited - you will have to specifically look for those sandy beaches!
Also nature in both biggest Estonia's islands is similar, but we noticed one difference. If Saaremaa was full of juniper trees and short pines that you usually see close to the seaside, then Hiiumaa was a little bit more green, having different kinds of trees and looking more like a forest not a cactus field.
In Hiiumaa we went straight to Rebastemäe study trail (a 1.5km long hiking trail with observation towers and information desks) and then to Kõpu lighthouse - it is a symbol of Hiiumaa and highest coastal lighthouse in Estonia. We would have loved to visit the lighthouse, but unfortunately it was closed. But it looked massive and impressive!
The day was coming to an end, so we had to finish our route and again find a place at the sea where to spend the night. Old lighthouses are a thing in Estonian islands, so we saw many of them during our visit. On our way to the next one, we stopped at a place, where a local man has built a wooden copy of an Eiffel tower. It was 31 meters high, which is one tenth on the length of the original. There were many other buildings, but we did not meet anyone there, who could help us show around and we did not want to invade private property so off we went.
Although we did not visit any museums, and this was not an exception, I loved the idea to make a proper tank as an arrow to show the direction to Hiiumaa History Museum. Pretty cool, I have to say ;)
It was a really pretty and sad sunset that we saw, when we arrived at Tahkuna lighthouse. The lighthouse was not the sad part, but the bronze bell - the memorial to the victims of cruise ferry "Estonia" disaster in 1994 - was. The bell ring is supposed to ring in strong wing, but anyone who feels the need to ring it, can do it. The place for the memorial was chosen here, because this is Estonian land that is the most closest to the place, where the disaster happened. We felt the sadness of the place. Although the tragedy somehow decided to not take away a relative of mine who was on the ship, but the feeling of solidarity was there. Before the sunset was completely gone, we found a perfect spot at Tõrvanina beach, where to spend the night and wake up with a perfect view.
Tuesday, 25 June (Day 4)
The final day of the trip started in the only town in Hiiumaa island - Kärdla, where we drove around and stopped at a church. On our way to the ferry, that would take us to Saaremaa, we visited another bird observation tower (oh, boy, the birds are loud here!), and that was the last place before we said goodbye to Hiiumaa island.
We had some unfinished business in Saaremaa island, that we could not do yesterday because of our tight ferry schedule, but today was all ours. At first we went to Kiipsaare Lighthouse. I had read previously, that it was built about 150 meters inland, but because of coastal erosion it is now about 50 meters in the sea and not only that - the lack of ground support, as well as waves and wind have made the lighthouse to lean to one side, so they call it Saaremaa Pisa tower. It seemed very interesting to me.
What I had not found out was that apparently there is this Vilsandi National Park and you can not drive to the lighthouse with a car - you can either walk there, run there or rent a bike for 10 EUR per 2 hours and go by bike. We decided to rent bikes. I am not a huge fan of bicycles, but sometimes they come in handy...well, this was not the case. The road to the lighthouse was awful - gravel, pits on road and sand so thick and deep that it was impossible to ride. We had to push our bikes for many hundreds of meters. It took us 1 hour to go there and back.
A good workout is never a time wasted, let's put it that way. But if you do not have time and do not want to ride a bike - do not waste your time by going there. It also is not possible to see the lighthouse from afar. :)
The last pitstop in Saaremaa was Sõrve lighthouse. It is located at the tip of Sõrve cape in the far South of Saaremaa and was a special experience, because from the tip of the cape and over the Strait of Irbe you can easily see the land of Latvia - specifically, those were famous forests of Dundaga municipality, my childhood home! So nice to actually be able to see over the sea, because I have tried to spot any Estonian land from Latvian coastline, but have never succeeded, probably because Estonian lands are flat and also the treeline here is very low.
By the way, before leaving Estonian islands - have you seen such cute bus stops? Like little houses decorated with flowers. There were a lot of them and each one of them was different from others. I really liked it. Kudos to Estonian islanders for a great job! ;)
Up next in our voyage was getting to mainland and visit the fourth largest city in Estonia - Pärnu. Based on our short stay there, I'd like to say that they have done a great job by making the city into what it is - a great holiday destination with sandy beach, tourist attractions, walking routes and beautiful parks with pathways and fountains. And it was clear that you can do so much more here!
We stopped to walk around Munamäe park and check out Tallinn Gate and walked around Pärnu coastal meadow 600m hiking trail, that goes above coastal area that is rich in species and a nesting place for many birds as well as eating place for cows. Cows are brought here during summer to help preserve the meadows.
We also took a special walk to the end of a stone mole of Pärnu that goes about 1.5 kilometres into the sea. It was quite a challenge to jump from stone to stone for 3 kilometres straight, but we had a lot of fun doing so and we were lucky that the sea was very calm and there was no wind, so we could easily get till the end and back. As you know - a good workout is never a time wasted.
To be in wilderness is a great place to be. It would not be us, if we did not use the opportunity to explore more of Estonian national parks and bog hiking trails, so that is exactly what we did after Pärnu.
Riisa study trail is a hiking trail in Riisa bog in the Soomaa National Park. Although it is almost 5km long, we only took a look and walked about 2.2km, because the day was coming to an end. Anyway, those 2km were enough - there is a beautiful pathway through the bog, there are information stands, resting areas and, of course, just beautiful and peaceful nature all around.
It was very easy to notice, that it was a raised bog. Last picture below shows and it was so easy to spot the difference, how the bog area is much higher and regular ground is significantly lower with different type of forest and different trees growing there. Definitely an interesting thing to notice!
Our trip and the final day both were coming to an end. What was left for us to see were two spots - Viljandi town and lake Võrtsjärv. The first place - Viljandi town - seemed to be a small town, but it turned out to be the 6th largest in Estonia by population. We saw St. John's church, St. Paul's church, The Old Water Tower as well as famous ruins of Viljandi Castle built back in 13th century. The town looked like it had just come out of Middle Ages - it had a lovely charm and a beautiful lake, that, I heard, is a great place to go for a run.
After Viljandi we rushed further - the sun was setting and we wanted to see lake Võrtsjärv. It is the second largest lake in Estonia or the largest, that has the whole territory in Estonian land (as we know, lake Peipus is bigger, but part of it is in Russia). Some misunderstandings and our lack of Estonian language knowledge made us go to the wrong place and we lost the daylight, but why not be happy for another adventure? We found the right place at lake Võrtsjärv and it was just as huge and beautiful in the dark as I thought it might look in daylight. There was a big observation tower right next to it and the presence of the lake made us believe in its beauty. You do not always need to see something, in order to believe in it.
Estonia was very kind to us - despite Midsummer time when it usually rains, we had beautiful sunny days, calm sea and peaceful experience throughout all of the days of our trip. And, of course, those sunsets that we got to see, before going to sleep left my soul speechless. Big cities with world famous attractions or monstrous mountains may take your breath away for a moment, but sometimes it is those little things that make your soul richer and remind you to be grateful and see the beauty in every little thing that God has created on earth.
All places we visited by date HERE and in the map below: