Beautiful Baltics

September 23, 2015
  • By Robyn Levy

    What is it about the world’s most up-and-coming destinations that piques our curiosity, making us want to explore them? Perhaps it’s because so many of today’s travelers are seeking truly authentic cultural escapes — and it’s often the lesser known cities and countries that offer such genuine experiences. But make no mistake; you’ll want to visit these off-the-beaten-path treasures before the rest of the world does. Enter the Baltic states.

    The Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, were once Russian provinces and republics of the former USSR. Each boasting its own distinct character, the countries that make up the Baltic states are chock full of well-preserved medieval cities that are just waiting to be explored. Each of the three countries is unique in its own way, making for an enriching vacation experience individually or as a region as a whole.

    Thanks to its small size, travelers can experience all of what Estonia has to offer in a few days’ time. For a tranquil retreat, visitors can enjoy more than 1,500 islands, partaking in nature hikes and bird watching. Spa-lovers can experience the pleasures of jumping from a hot sauna into a cooling lake or snowdrift. The country’s unofficial “fifth season” — the time between winter and spring — is a natural phenomenon. Fast-thawing snow floods Soomaa National Park, leaving people to travel around by boat.
    Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval city has successfully preserved many of its cobblestone streets, barns, warehouses and important state and church buildings, all dating back as far as the 11th century.
    No visit to Estonia is complete without sampling medieval cuisine, such as wild boar, bear and venison. Traditional dishes have a German influence and rely heavily on pork, vegetables and potatoes. Some traditional items include Sült (boiled pork in aspic jelly) and Silgusoust (Baltic sprats — a type of fish — with bacon and cream).

    Latvia sits just south of Estonia and, because of its geographical location, is influenced by the cuisine and traditions of many European nations. From the contemporary metropolis of Riga, its capital city, to the natural surroundings of the countryside, there is lots to see and do. F or those with an affinity for art and architecture, Latvia is a bucket list destination. Just 40 minutes outside of Riga sits Pardaugava, a small town adorned with 19th century wood buildings and cobblestone streets. Rundale Palace, a Baroque gem boasting décor dating back to 1765 is another worthwhile sight, though no visit to Latvia would be complete without allotting some time to explore other castles and manors.

    The largest of the three Baltic states, Lithuania has a variety of offerings, from active pursuits and art to rich history, authentic cuisine and more. F or outdoor enthusiasts, Lithuania has five national parks to explore, nearly 3,000 lakes and lakelets and a 68 mile coastal bike trail. For those with an interest in history, Kernave, the first capital of Lithuania, is a must-see city. Or, head to Trakai for a medieval experience, admiring the 14th and 15th century castles and 19th century historic manors. Vilnius, the capital, is one of the most frequented Eastern European cities and is made up of narrow streets and passages that lead travelers through beautiful courtyards, churches and museums.
    There are several cruise lines and guided tour companies offer unique itineraries that include the Baltic states. Cosmos’ Jewels of the Baltics and Scandinavia 16-day itinerary includes a visit to the baroque Palace of Rundale, the former summer residence of the Duke of Courland and locally guided tours of the historic streets. Alternatively, Trafalgar’s Best of Finland, Russia and The Baltic States 16-day tour features walking tours of Vilnius, Riga and Tallin. F or those who prefer to travel by sea, Oceania, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Line all offer spectacular itineraries cruising through the Baltic states. Norwegian’s nine-day Baltic Capitals sailing embarks from Copenhagen and ports in Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Stockholm.

    While on board, guests can choose from multiple dining options, bars and lounges, and enjoy amenities including a spa, a casino and kid-friendly activities. Oceania’s mid-sized ships are perfect for those looking for a more intimate sailing and feature enrichment classes, live entertainment and a spa. Their seven-day Baltic Marvels itinerary sails from Copenhagen to Stockholm, also docking in Germany, Estonia, Russia and Finland. You may also consider setting sail aboard Holland America Line’s m/s Eurodam for its 12-day Baltic Adventure itinerary. The ship features a culinary arts center, show lounge, youth facilities, a spa and more.

    For additional Baltic cruise itineraries, be sure to check out Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises — they too have some excellent itineraries that mingle in stops along the Baltics. Whether you choose to travel by land or by sea, a vacation to the Baltic states promises to be a memorable experience filled with remarkable history, interesting culture and delicious cuisine.

    Which Cruise Line is the Best Fit for You?

    Celebrity Cruises
    For all ages and those wanting classic cruising combining modern luxury, superior design, spacious accommodations, attentive service and exceptional cuisine.

    Holland America Line
    Exotic destinations, spacious and comfortable ships, award-winning service, five-star dining, extensive activities and compelling itineraries.

    Norwegian Cruise Line
    For anyone wanting to experience the joy of Freestyle Cruising, lots of complimentary dining options and entertainment, and thoughtfully designed accommodations.

    Oceania Cruises
    Appeals to discerning, sophisticated travelers in search of world-class cuisine, unparalleled personal service; and an enriching, in-depth, destination-oriented experience.

    Princess Cruises
    Offering 100+ itineraries to more than 300 ports, innovative ships, Movies Under the Stars®, tasty dining options and beautiful customer service.

    Silversea Cruises
    Global voyages aboard intimate, luxury ships, gourmet cuisine inspired by Relais & Châteaux, unparalleled service and comfort.

    Royal Caribbean International
    A large variety of destinations, international cool, first-at-sea innovations (like the surf simulator), Tony Award®-winning Broadway shows and more.

    See which cruise line is best for you. Contact your travel professional Today!

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