Estonia © TausP.
Estonia is a beguiling mix of the ultra-modern and firmly traditional, a northern Baltic land of primeval forests, rivers, and sea islands, with one of the smallest populations of any country 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, testifying to the wealth of the traders who made use of the country's ports. The main port, Tallinn, today still the capital city, 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. The country is sandwiched between east and west Europe, also easily accessible from the south, offering fresh and unspoilt opportunities for those who enjoy the Nordic experience. The country lies along the Baltic Sea, just below Finland, with Russia to the east and Latvia to the south.
Estonia has only recently (in 1991) thrown off the shackles of Soviet domination, and a vibrant spirit of freedom and rebirth pervades the air not only in the capital but also the lively university town of Tartu, the busy industrial centre of Narva and the idyllic summer vacation capital of Pärnu on the southwestern coast.