TOUR to the Baltic States:Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
HISTORY OF THE BALTICS
In the 13th century, the indigenous pagan Baltic and Finnish peoples that lived in the Baltic region became a target of the Northern Crusades. As a result, a crusader state officially named Terra Marianna, but also known as Livonia, was established in the territory of modern Latvia and Southern Estonia. Most of the crusaders were German and Germany remained influential in Estonia and most of Latvia until the first half of the 20th century – Baltic Germans formed the backbone of the local gentry and German was the language of international communication and record-keeping.
Lithuanians were also targeted by crusaders. They however were able to resist and in the middle of the 13th century, they formed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that allied with the Kingdom of Poland. At the end of the 14th century, a formal union between the two countries was created, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After victory in the Polish-Teutonic War, the Polish-Lithuanian union became a major power in the region. In 1558, after the Livonian war, the region was partitioned between Polish Lithuania, Denmark and the Swedish Empire, which took the greatest part.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Swedish Empire was attacked by coalition of several European powers in the Great Northern War. Amongst these powers was Russia, which sought to restore its access to the Baltic Sea. Eventually, after 21 years of war, the Baltic Dominions were ceded to Russia and became known as the Ostsee Governorates. Initially there were two Governorates named after the main cities of the areas - Riga and Revel (now Tallinn). After the Partition of Poland in the end of the 18th century, a third Ostsee Governorate was set up as Courland, which is now a part of Latvia.
After WWI, the Baltic States gained independence from Russia. In 1939, in accordance with the secret protocol of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that divided Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, the Russian Army entered first eastern Poland and then, in 1940, the territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. New, pro-Soviet governments were installed in all 3 countries and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were incorporated into the Soviet Union as Soviet Republics. The Baltic States became independent from the Soviet Union in September 1991 and they remain independent today.
The Baltic States are located south-west of St. Petersburg, on the east of the Baltic Sea. All three countries share a border with Russia and all are members of the European Union.
These three neighboring countries have an interconnected history and culture, although the indigenous population of Latvia and Lithuania are known as 'Baltic' while people of Estonia are Finnish. Since the beginning of the 18th century, the history and culture of the Baltic States have been closely linked to Russia.
TOUR TO THE BALTIC STATES
Departure to Vilnius
6:45 pm - Direct overnight train departs from St.Petersburg to Vilnius
Vilnius City Tour
8:00 am – Arrival at Vilnius, meet the guide and driver on the station platform. Beginning of the Vilnius city tour.
During the City Tour you visit Gedeminas Tower, numerous Cathedrals dated back to the 16th and 17th centuries, walk along Castle Street by the Presidential Palace, and stroll around the famous 'Uzupis' quarter, known as an independent republic of artists, poets and writers.
12:00 pm – end of the city tour check-in to your hotel. Free time in the afternoon to explore the city.
Trakai Castle Tour, flight to Riga
Free time in the morning. Check out of the hotel.
12:30 – Meeting with the guide and driver. Drive to Trakai (28km from Vilnius) with luggage on board.
13:30 - Start tour of Trakai. This tour includes a walk in the Karaites Cultural Reserve as well as a visit to Trakai Castle.
After the tour you will have some free time to enjoy the beautiful nature of this area.
Explore the traditional cuisine of Karaites in a local restaurant.
19:00 – arrive at Vilnius airport to check-in for a direct flight to Riga
21:40 – Flight departure to Riga
22:30 – arrive to Riga and transfer to the hotel, which is situated in the historical center of Riga.
Riga City Tour
Check-out from the hotel after breakfast, leave your luggage in the luggage room and meet your private guide to explore Riga, its old town and Art Nouveau district.
10:00-14:00 – Walking tour of Central Riga. After walking in the old town (about 2 hours) move to the Art Nouveau part of the city. Nearly half of the buildings in the center of Riga are built in the Art Nouveau style, which is more than in any other European city and a favorite of art and architecture connoisseurs. In an international effort to preserve Old Riga, it's wooden buildings and Art Nouveau architecture in the historical center of Riga have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
14:00-16:30 – Free time for lunch and walking around the city center.
16:30 – Return to the hotel to pick up luggage and meet the driver
17:15 – Arrive at Riga airport, check-in for the direct flight to Tallinn.
19:05 – Flight departure to Tallinn.
19:55 – Arrive Tallinn, transfer to the hotel, situated in the historical city center.
Meet your guide and driver after breakfast and begin your driving city tour around Tallinn city center.
09:30-13:30 – Driving city tour of Tallinn including visits to Roca al Mare Open Air Museum and Kadriorg Park, Kadriorg Palace and Peter the Great's Cottage.
Start your day with the driving to the most famous Tallinn museums.
Rocca Al Mare open air museum is located in the quite seaside Rocca Al Mare area and is a travel back to the rural Estonia of XVIII-XX centuries. The forested park comprises numerous farm buildings as well as historic windmills, a wooden chapel and a village school. Staff dressed in period costumes demonstrate how people lived and worked in times past. Visitors can buy handicrafts and try the traditional Estonian food in the village tavern.
Kadriorg Palace, which stands in beautiful Kadriorg Park, is a grand baroque Palace built for Peter the Great in 1718 by the Italian architect Niccolo Michetti. Currently the Palace houses paintings, prints, sculptures and other works by Russian and Western-European artists. It also has a beautiful 'decadent' main hall with an elaborate ceiling and stucco work.
Peter the Great's Cottage, also known as "the Old Palace" (Kadriorg Palace being "the New Palace"), has fascinating history that started in the early 18th century, when Tsar Peter stayed here before his Kadriorg Grand Palace project was completed. This house is situated very close to the Palace and it is now a museum that includes his living room, dining room and bedroom as well as newly renovated rooms in the attic and basement. The rooms are furnished with the items from Peter the Great's time and some of his own personal belongings are also on display.
After lunch you will continue to explore Tallinn with your private guide.
15:00-17:30 – walking tour of Tallinn old town including the visit into the Old Town’s City Hall.
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Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, situated on the banks of rivers Neris and Vilnia. The first time it was mentioned was when Grand Duke Gedeminas built a Castle on a hill there in 1323, and the old town of Vilnius is one of the largest and oldest in Eastern Europe. The magic atmosphere and the magnificent splendid architectural blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism styles makes this wonderful city to explore.
Trakai is one of the most popular tourist attraction of the country, as it is the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a small town situated in a picturesque lakeside area. The historical part of the town conserved the ruins of Peninsula Castle, the authentic heritage of small ethnic group Karaites as well as the top must-see side – the famous insular Castle on the lake, the original gothic style architectural monument from the end of the XIV century, these days a historical Museum of Trakai.
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is more than 800 years old. Here, in the narrow streets of Old Riga, you can feel the breath of centuries. The city was started in the XIII century and for a long time had been a mighty harbor as well as a member of the 'Hanseatic Trade League', which joined the traders of the Baltic Region and North Germany.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is truly one of the gems of Northern Europe. The old town has been astonishingly well preserved and was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
Tallinn's beautiful old town was built in the 13th-15th century, when it was known as Reval. It was a thriving member of Hanseatic Trade League and the city centre is full of colorful gabled houses, half-hidden courtyards and grandiose churches. The fact that it's all neatly packaged within a mostly-intact city wall and dotted with guard towers gives it an extra dose of fairytale charm.
The impressive Gothic Town Hall dominates Medieval Tallinn's main square. Built in 1404 as a meeting place for the ruling burgermeisters, it has been one of the main sights ever since. Nowadays, it is the only intact Gothic Town Hall in Northern Europe.