Estonia itself is divided into 15 counties (or maakonnad, singular – maakond). However, to bring out the unique characteristics of Estonia, we use 4 distinctive regions in this guide. As the country is small, most destinations can be reached within a couple of hours from Tallinn.
It’s the most industrialized region with over 1/3 of the population of Estonia. Tallinn, with its nightlife and UNESCO-protected medieval Old Town, is a well-known tourist attraction. Nonetheless, there are many small and beautiful beach villages on the coastline as well (such as Kaberneeme, Laulasmaa, Nõva, Käsmu and Võsu). Furthermore Lahemaa National Park can be reached within an hour from Tallinn.
East Estonia is as close as you can get to Russia. Seaside resorts, such as Toila and Narva-Jõesuu, are considered to be among the best in Estonia.
|West Estonia and Islands|
West Estonia is well known for its resorts, Haapsalu and Pärnu (the summer capital of Estonia), and its islands (Saaremaa and Hiiumaa being the biggest). This region also has historical significance. Noarootsi and the islands of Ruhnu and Vormsi have been (and are) inhabited by coastal Swedes. Other unique places include the islands Kihnu and Muhu with their rich cultural heritage and the national parks — Vilsandi National Park and Matsalu National Park.
Centered around the lively university city of Tartu. Further south and south-east there are Setomaa and Mulgimaa with their unique cultural heritage that’s still visible today. Karula National Park and Soomaa National Park are also part of the region, as are the ski resorts near Otepää.
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- Tallinn — capital city with an enchanting medieval core
- Tartu — Estonia’s second-largest and oldest city, intellectual hub famous for its universities
- Haapsalu — seaside resort town
- Kuressaare — home of the Kuressaare castle
- Narva — the easternmost point of the mainland European Union
- Rakvere — known for its castle ruins and unique character
- Pärnu — historical resort seaside city with a small harbour, Estonia’s summer capital
- Valga — border-town with Latvia
- Viljandi — home of the annual Viljandi Folk Music Festival
Estonians have a special love for nature, and many will tell you that they would rather sit under a tree in an empty forest or hike in a national park than almost anything else. Estonia’s tranquil, laidback and unspoiled Baltic islands provide a splendid getaway to nature.
- Hiiumaa — second largest island of Estonia
- Karula National Park — the smallest national park, located in South Estonia
- Lahemaa National Park — 50km east of Tallinn, with 1000km² of bays, peninsulas and forests
- Matsalu National Park — one of the largest and most important autumn stopping grounds for migratory birds in Europe
- Soomaa National Park — a peat bog formed from a glacier melt from around 11,000 years ago
- Vilsandi National Park — covers 238km², including 163km² of sea and 75km² of land, plus 160 islands and islets
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