Tallinn Surroundings: Islands and more
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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.
Information about Tallinn’s nearby areas can be found from the following websites: www.visitharju.ee and www.visitestonia.com.
Islands: Aegna, Naissaar, Prangli
During the summer season, passenger ferries make regular trips to Aegna, Naissaar and Prangli 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. It is the only Northern Estonian Island, that has been continuously inhabited for more than 600 years now. It still has very strong traditions in fishing, its own dialect of Estonian language, very diverse nature and friendly locals. Prangli is untouched by mass tourism, and has wonderful sand beaches and pine forests that create enough fresh air to overwhelm the senses.
Transportation to the islands:
To Aegna: 60 min by vessel Vesta (operated by AS Kihnu Veeteed)
To Naissaar: 60 min by vessel Monica
60 min by vessle Katharina
To Prangli: 60 min by vessel Wrangö
The Viimsi peninsula
The rocky Viimsi peninsula, 15 km from Tallinn city centre to the east, 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
, which is built around a historic farm. You can take a fun tour of all three museums with the Museum bus.
There are some great hiking and biking trails. The area is also a home to a few restaurants inspired by the coastal vibe. Lovely restaurants and bars like Paat, RootS Beach Bar, RootS village restaurant and the well-regarded NOA, whose Head Chef's area frequently features near the top Estonian best restaurant lists, give plenty of opportunities to enjoy local cuisine made by Estonia's best chefs.
Jõelähtme Parish, 24 km from Tallinn city centre to the east, 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 Estonia – 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.
If you’re looking for active entertainment, try the Estonian Golf & Country Club. You can get an idea of what coastal life is like in the seaside villages of Kaberneeme and Neeme, where you will also find the fish restaurant Ruhe and the prize-winning restaurant OKO.
Lahemaa national park
Lahemaa National Park, approximately 60 minutes drive from Tallinn (70 km from Tallinn city centre to the east), 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 city of Paldiski
Paldiski, approximately 40 minutes drive from Tallinn (47 km from Tallinn city centre to the west), 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. Stop at the Türisalu cliff, with its height over 31 metres, it’s one of the most impressive limestone cliffs in the country, opening to a scenic view of Naissaar island and nearby Vääna-Jõesuu sandy seashore. Nearby areas include Keila Joa, which has the third highest waterfall in the country, and a 19th-century Neo-Gothic manor house. Scenic areas also include Laulasmaa, the home of a popular beach area named after its “singing sands”. The beach is a perfect place for swimming during the summer, not to mention walking and jogging.
For spa treatments and relaxation there is Laulasmaa Spa and Conference Hotel. Golf lovers can visit the 18-hole Niitvälja golf course, in a beautiful natural setting surrounded by trees and dotted with bodies of water. At the Niitvälja stables, opposite the golf course, you can put your horse-riding skills to the test indoors on sand, outdoors in a field, in the open air, or cross-country.
In Kose municipality, approximately 20 minutes drive from Tallinn (26 km from Tallinn city centre to the north) are a number of interesting places to visit. Its ancient Viking village offers both accommodation and catering services. Across the road from the village you can admire the magical blue springs of Saula. The Tuhala area is home to the mysterious Witch’s Well, which starts to bubble and boil in spring. Across the road from the well is Polli Petting Zoo, which the youngest members of the family are sure to love, since they have the opportunity to feed and pet the animals. The zoo also offers pony rides.
A little further south you will come across the gorgeous Kau Manor, which dates back to the 13th century. Today it is a boutique hotel with 20 rooms, which won the 2016 World Boutique Hotel Award for World’s Most Inspired Design Hotel.
Other tours of areas close to Tallinn: