Adventure in Estonia: 1, 3 and 5 day road trips from Tallinn
Going on a holiday in Estonia? If you want to explore outside Tallinn, let us help you extend the list with thoughtfully planned 1, 3 and 5-day road trips. Our Estonia-based Finnairians Hyo Jeong Chang and Kristiina Laapas share their suggestions whether you seek a nature adventure, town hopping, historical tour or a mix of it all. Get ready to hit the road and create lasting memories!
Driving is one of the best options to get around Estonia, thanks to well-maintained roads and easy car rental services. We've included practical information on driving and renting at the end of this article.
1-day road trip in Estonia
Here are two options to see some of the most beautiful places and idyllic cities and still make it back to Tallinn in daylight (which in summer means as late as 10-11 p.m.)
Head west for a blue lagoon, surf beach and a 13th-century castle
This route is perfect for the Estonian summer season (end of May till beginning of September, depending on the weather).
Start the day by heading to Rummu quarry (~45 min. from Tallinn). The quarry, which once offered work for thousands of inmates from the nearby prisons, is now an unearthly sight. The crystal clear greenish-blue lake and the limestone-white artificial hills are a unique combination alone, but it's Rummu's history that makes it a truly rare experience. Everyone can find something to their liking: hike on the hills, pedal boat over the underwater trees and buildings, sunbathe, take a tour of the former Murru prison with an audio guide and so on.
From Rummu, head to Roosta Beach (~45 min.) through a beautiful pine forest. On a warm summer day, it's easy to forget you are in the northern hemisphere here. The white sand, the sound of waves lazily gushing ashore, and a laidback beach bar with handpainted signs transport you to the Caribbean. Roosta is also a favourite of surfers, and the adjoining Roosta Holiday Village offers other things to do for families and active holidayers.
As you have reached the northwestern part of Estonia, keep your eyes open for signposts with Swedish place names – often unnoticeable but symbolic proof of the 700-year history of the coastal Swedes in Estonia.
If you feel like having a bite before continuing the journey, a 10-minute ride away is Dirham's fish café. It's safer to make a reservation for lunch by the yacht harbour as the place is popular among locals and visitors equally.
Last but not least, go to Haapsalu (~35 min. from Roosta). The serene seaside town has one of the best-preserved castles in Estonia and a romantic seaside promenade with an elegant wooden Kuursaal (so-called resort hall with a restaurant and musical salon). Haapsalu is full of cute cafés and bakeries, like Hapsal Dietrich, Küünik or RADO, but their opening times might be affected by seasonality, so it's good to check beforehand.
The nostalgic Haapsalu railway station makes a fitting final stop. The 216-metre-platform was the longest in Europe at the time of its opening in 1906. It had to be long enough to serve the old Russian czars' trains when they arrived in highly regarded Haapsalu for their holiday. No trains run from this station anymore, so you can hop back in your car for a 1.5-hour ride back to Tallinn.
Art museum in a fishing village, manor life and a medieval castle
If this sounds more like your cup of tea, you'll be heading east and taking the Tallinn-Viinistu-Vihula-Rakvere route.
Viinistu (1 hr from Tallinn) is an old fishing village in the calm greenery of the northern coast. The seemingly remote museum hides an extraordinary art collection featuring Estonian artists, like Konrad Mägi and Eduard Wiiralt, to name a few, and a lovely fish restaurant paying homage to the village's history.
Vihula (~37 min. from Viinistu) is an elegant 16th-century manor complex. A stroll through the estate and lunch with a view of the manor park gives a glimpse into the life of noblemen centuries ago. More modern comforts await in the manor's boutique spa, where you can treat yourself to a treatment or massage. Why not relax and stretch mid-road trip?
Just half an hour from Vihula lies Rakvere, a real treat for history lovers. As you enter the Rakvere castle, the everyday life of the 16th century unfolds in front of you. Various activities, tours and exhibitions can keep visitors on their toes for hours. If you happen to be in Rakvere around sunset, Vallimägi offers lovely scenery for a final evening stroll. The hilly area around the castle ruins was transformed into a spectacular open-air centre in 2020 and has enchantingly illuminating trails.
The drive back to Tallinn will take 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3-day road trip in Estonia
Here are two options to include Tartu, the second largest city, and beautiful small towns in the south. These routes are suitable for three days, enough time to stay longer in places you fall in love with and discover several hidden gems.
A breathtaking bog and charming towns on your way south
It is hard to imagine Estonian nature without bogs. Bogs have been around in Estonia for up to 10,000 years, making up around 22% of the country’s landscapes. These mystical natural treasures have been inspirations for Estonian folklore and havens for locals seeking peace and quiet.
The most popular among tourists is Viru Bog, but if you want to enjoy more serenity, head to Kakerdaja Bog (~75 min. from Tallinn). It has a short 4km hiking option, including an easy-to-walk boardwalk trail. Start at the Kakerdaja bog parking area and follow the route. Take in the amazing scenery of open skies and unique nature. Don’t miss a chance to dip your feet in the soft water of the bog pond, enjoying the utmost tranquillity.
After reconnecting with nature, head to the charming town of Viljandi (~1.5 hrs from Kakerdaja bog), home to the magnificent 13th-century Viljandi Castle. Just a 15-minute walk from the centre leads you to the impressive castle ruins that take you back in time. These ruins serve as stages for the renowned Viljandi Folk Music Festival, the largest of its kind in Northern Europe, held every July.
For a quick but quality bite, visit Rohelise Maja Pood ja Kohvik, known for its excellent coffee and pastries loved by tourists and locals. If you fell in love with Viljandi and want to stay the night, check out the award-winning Park Hotell or the boutique Schloss Fellin that used to be a manor house.
Finally, reach your destination, Tartu (~1 hr from Viljandi)! This compact and quaint city bubbles with vibrant cafés, streets and museums nestled around the 17th-century Tartu University. Each season reveals unique charms. In summer, the Old Town is livened up with people enjoying strolling as one of the main roads becomes car-free. Winter brings a touch of Christmas magic and turns Town Hall Square into an ice rink and Christmas market with glittering lights.
One of the most beautiful attractions is Tartu Cathedral, located on Toome Hill. Ten minutes on foot from the main square, these imposing medieval church ruins will leave you in awe. You can also go up the cathedral’s towers from May to September and admire a panoramic view of the city.
Tartu never lacks places to eat and drink. Get a hearty Estonian meal in the Gunpowder Cellar of Tartu, boasting a high ceiling and brick arches of over 250 years old. Visit Krempel for a lovely brunch and Aparaat for a tasty dinner in a creative atmosphere. For remarkable coffee and desserts, Karlova Kohv is there to delight you. While at it, explore the Karlova district, adorned with cute wooden houses and street art. Complete your night out with a visit to Möku, an iconic bar beloved by students.
Hidden treasures: from museums to 14th-century castle ruins
If you feel like discovering lesser-known places near Tartu, head on to Southern Estonia, a region chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2024 alongside Tartu itself.
One of the great advantages of road-tripping in Estonia is that you can explore beautiful hidden gems in the south that are hard to reach with public transport. Roads to Southern Estonia unveil idyllic landscapes with pristine nature where you can feel time going slower. Võru is a great place to start, a picturesque town 50 minutes away from Tartu. Visit Saatse Seto Museum and delve into the fascinating culture of the Seto people, an ethnic minority known for their unique language and rich folklore.
In 20 minutes, find yourself transported back in time as you explore Vastseliina Episcopal Castle, a spectacular fortress once a cherished destination for medieval pilgrims seeking indulgence. And for an unforgettable finale, make your way to the Piusa Cave Museum, where the largest man-made caves in the country await. The guided tour unfolds the secrets of these underground marvels, offering insights into their intriguing history and formation.
5-day road trip in Estonia
If you have planned a longer stay, you can easily make any of the above-given itineraries into a 5-day road trip and take your time. Naturally, there is a lot to do and see everywhere in Estonia, but some routes are such that can be enjoyed to the fullest if you have five or more days. These include road trips to the islands with the ferry. Among locals, some of the most loved places to go are Muhumaa and Saaremaa, Kihnu (via Pärnu) and Hiiumaa.
Before hitting the road in Estonia
Here are some good things to know when planning your road trip.
Driving in Estonia
Estonia has right-hand traffic, a speed limit of 90 km/h in the countryside and 50 km/h in urban areas unless specified otherwise. Waze is a commonly used navigation app in Estonia, and in addition to having the latest traffic information, like possible hazards or jams, it helps the driver by showing speed limits as you go.
Thanks to its size, driving from one side of Estonia to another will take you 3 hours at most. It's a perfect place to explore on your own time and terms. Whether you wish to cruise the smaller village roads or take the main highways, stop to admire the yellow rapeseed fields, take a dip in the bog lake or head straight to the main attractions.
Estonia recognises driving licenses issued in countries worldwide, and the local minimum driving age is 18. The seat belt needs to be always fastened (except on one-of-a-kind ice roads!), and there is zero tolerance for driving under the influence.
Renting a car in Tallinn
In a compact airport like Tallinn's, getting from the arrival gate to a car rental is easy and quick. Tallinn Airport is voted one of the best and cosiest in Europe for a reason! Numerous car rentals are located in the same area, just a 5-minute stroll from the main building. As a Finnair Plus member, you can earn points or get a discount with these car hires, so remember to present your membership number.
Another option is to rent a car with Estonia's own Bolt app. Bolt Drive is a car-sharing solution available 24/7, meaning you can start and end the rental at any time of the day as long as you are in the operational area. After downloading the app and going through the required verification, you can locate (and reserve) your preferred car on the map, but there's no guarantee there is one close to the airport. Consider that you will need to use other means of transportation to get to the car first.
Travelling around Estonia by bus or train
Although these itineraries are for travellers with a car, it's possible to hit the road with public transportation too. For example, Pärnu-Viljandi, or Viljandi-Tartu, make an excellent city-pair to discover by bus or train. It'll require more planning to align the schedules, but views from the windows remain the same, with just less room for spontaneity.
For travelling across the country by bus, check Tpilet's site for timetables and buying tickets and Elron's site for train travel. Buying tickets on-site is possible if seats are available, but prices are typically lower online.
You can take a tram directly to the bus or train station from the airport, but first, make sure to check that the construction of the new Old City Harbour tramline is completed. During the works, both routes are temporarily replaced by buses.
As Estonians would, we wish you head teed – meaning both ‘good roads’ as well as ‘goodbye and good fortune on the journey ahead’! We fly from Helsinki to Tallinn every day, up to eight times a day.