We’re off to explore three countries that lie on the Baltic Sea! We’ll visit the Nordic nation of Finland and learn why it’s ranked The Happiest Place in the World! Then we’ll cross the Baltic Sea to go off the beaten path to the former Soviet Republics of Estonia and Latvia to check out these Baltic countries and their fairytale-like towns with their fascinating & beautifully preserved historic sites.
Get ready for a 9-night, 10-day adventure exploring the capital cities of Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga with many other intriguing and fascinating stops along the way! We’ll start our journey in Finland, northernmost country in the European Union, when we visit the vibrant seaside city of Helsinki in the land of the midnight sun. We’ll enjoy the short but sweet polar light season in Finland where the sun basically remains visible around the clock (in June when we’ll be visiting). This city is a hotspot for design and architecture and world-class culture. We’ll have excursions such as enjoying a traditional sauna experience with a sauna mama, riding fat tire bikes through the pristine Nuuksio National Park, exploring the charming medieval town of Porvoo, and learning more about the Russian & Swedish rule of Finland during a walking tour on the island of Suomenlinna.
We'll continue our exploration of medieval towns by crossing the water on a luxury ferry boat arriving in the magical town of Tallin, Estonia! Our private guide will start our tour in the Old Town Tallin - one of 200 Hanseatic cities around the World. Tallinn was a member of the Hanseatic League of cities involved in the maritime medieval trading routes, dating back to the 13th Century. In the 19th century, Tallinn was called the Naples of Scandinavia. The Gothic architecture is reminiscent of a childhood fairytale with old town walled entrances, colorful buildings and stately church towers.
The journey progresses with the next stop in Soomaa National Park where we'll enjoy leisurely, scenic canoeing and the unique activity of bog walking. After departing our afternoon of adventures in the National Park, it's onto the idyllic seaside town of Pärnu, Estonia situated near the Gulf of Livonia. The famous Pärnu white sand beaches have white sand as far as the eye can see! Pärnu's most notable attraction is the Mary-Magdalene Guild, a unique collection of artisan workshops and studios housed within a restored wooden house in the center of town. Later, we depart Pärnu and cross the border into Latvia to the Sigulda Region, where we can relax over a traditional Latvian lunch experience. And then we’ll be ready for a refreshing, invigorating hike in this breathtaking park.
Our final destination is Riga, Latvia’s coastal capital that overlooks the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava. Riga is located at the crossroads of Eastern and Northern Europe and is the largest metropolis in the Baltics. The Latvian capital has had a turbulent history… from German knights to Swedish Kings and Soviet Commissars. We’ll learn more about it during our private walking tour of the city. The architecture of this World UNESCO Heritage site is stunning! The Gothic spires of the Old Town mingle with the facades of the World’s richest collections of Art Nouveau. Our tastebuds will be exercised while tasting bread, beer and balsam during an afternoon foodie experience. If that isn't enough tasting, a visit to the enormous Central Market will be sure to satisfy your cravings.
Some of the Trip Highlights
-Welcome dinner at a vegan small plates hot spot to enjoy Europe’s hottest new cuisine destination – Helsinki! According to a CNN correspondent, Helsinki’s new food scene is “Vibrant, ingenious, inventive, fresh and fun, the food of Helsinki deserves top billing. Travelers looking for another European food destination to write home about need look no further. It is right there in Finland's relaxed capital.”
-Fat Tire Bike outing in Nuuksio National Park. We’ll be guided through this stunning National Treasure on fat tire mountain bikes. Don’t worry about being hungry or tired, we’ll stop along the way to snack on the traditional coffee & sausages and later a Finnish meal.
-Walking tour of the medieval town of Porvoo, the second oldest city in Finland dating back to 1380. There is plenty to see in Old Porvoo with beautiful architecture, quirky boutiques, and cute cafes.
-Traditional Finnish sauna experience on the shore of a clear water lake. Our Sauna Mama will explain the history of the Finnish sauna and will teach us how to use the relaxing birch tree whisks. (Finns are inventors of the concept of the Sauna.) Followed by a traditional Finnish meal by the lake on an open fire.
-Ferry ride and walking tour of Suomenlinna Island - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Suomoenlinna is considered a town within the town of Helsinki. The 18th-century sea fortress and centuries old artillery and defensive walls protected Finland from maritime attacks.
-Luxury ferry boat ride from Helsinki to Tallinn. Enjoy a 2-hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia where we’ll meet our local tour guide Davide who will travel with us through Estonia and Latvia.
-Walking tour of the capital of Estonia - World UNESCO Heritage Site and storybook Old Town of Tallinn. Learn about the significance of Tallinn’s membership within the maritime Hanseatic League.
-Canoeing trip and bog shoe walking on the protected wetlands of Soomaa National Park. Take in the views of the biologically diverse glades wooded meadows and gorgeous forest land within this stunning park in Estonia.
-Guided tour of Turaida Museum Reserve in Sigulda Latvia. Turaida means “God’s Garden” in ancient Livonian. Visit the red brick castle with its tall cylindrical tower built in 1214 and learn about the Livonian State from 1319 to 1561.
-Relaxing hike in Sigulda. Overlooking the picturesque Gauja River in the majestic Gauja National Park, Sigulda's forested valleys are steeped in myths and legends.
-An afternoon at a traditional Latvian farm. Dine in the ancient log barn & terrace called The Zipari Barn. Our hosts Vilma & Sanita will show us their ecological products & produce as well as the woodworking operation on the farm. Learn about Latvian folklore and listen to their daughter Marta play the traditional instrument the kokle followed by a delicious farm to table meal.
-Walking tour of Riga the Capital of Latvia. Learn about the largest metropolis in Latvia, which started as a sea trading post in the late 12th century where the Reformation gained a foothold in the 1520’s. Check out the Gothic spires that dominate the cityscape as well as the flamboyant art nouveau district.
-Foodie inspired tour of Riga where will be guided through the Central Market and surrounding area. Sample a wide range of foods including Latvian specialties of beer, bread and balsam.
Hope you can join us for all the fun, adventures, laughs, smiles and memories! [Early bird pricing thru Oct 31.]
Nights 1-3: Klaus K Hotel (Helsinki, Finland)
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
Finland’s first design hotel where a beautiful Art Nouveau building meets the modern Scandinavian lifestyle. Hotel Klaus K’s soundproofed rooms have décor inspired by the Finnish national epic poem, Kalevala (considered most significant work of Finnish literature). Throughout the hotel’s interior there are small details that bring you to the magical world of Finnish folklore and mythology. The hotel is located in the heart of Helsinki near the shopping district, galleries, museums, and tourist destinations – everything within walking distance. Klaus K has been awarded the Green Key international eco-label, a designation that the hotel's entire staff carries out daily eco-friendly work based on specific environmental criteria.
Nights 4-5: Bern Hotel (Old Town Tallinn, Estonia)
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
The boutique style Hotel Bern Built was built in 2007 and fully renovated in 2010. The hotel has an excellent, central location in Tallinn’s Old Town and a quick walk to the Viru shopping district, restaurants and bars. The hotel has comfortable rooms with duvets that invite you to sink in and rest. Customer service is an important part of the hotel, which offers a care-free stay with knowledgeable, attentive friendly staff who make you feel at home. The luxury rooms are decorated in historic style and offer air-conditioned rooms with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a mini-bar and free Wi-Fi.
Night 6: Villa Ammende (Pärnu, Estonia)
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Villa Ammende, considered the most luxurious hotel in Pärnu, is a century old, and the most beautiful architectural landmark in the region and one of only three genuine Art Nouveau hotels in the world. Originally built for a wedding party on 1905, the property now offers refined luxury of timeless elegance for its guests. Villa Ammende is located in the heart of an idyllic oak garden just a ten-minute walk away from the shopping precinct, Pärnu Concert Hall, and the famous Pärnu white sand beach. The hotel offers a luxurious historical environment, excellent service and highly personalized genuine hospitality to help you feel the way of life of the Old World, a hundred years ago, where people had enough time and space to ourselves, and to each other.
Night 7-9: Metropole Hotel (Riga, Latvia)
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Hotel Metropole is located in a historical building from the 19th century that has been fully renovated in a Scandinavian style to create luxurious accommodations. Metropole is the first operated hotel in Riga, which interweaves centuries of remarkable history and architecture with all the conveniences of modern amenities. The hotel is located in the heart of pre-eminent historic downtown Rīga - a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, all steps from shopping and the city’s key attractions. The hotel offers world-class service in beautiful and historic spaces with a personal and intimate experience. All the rooms are tastefully decorated with classical style with all the details required to guarantee the utmost comfort and convenience.
Arrive Helsinki (HEL) before Noon on May 28th or the day prior. Transfer provided to the hotel in Helsinki. We'll explore this pedestrian-friendly, vibrant, cosmopolitan Scandavanian city with its renowned design & architecture. In fact, Helsinki is home to the the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe. Evening group dinner together in the Design District in Helsinki within walking distance of the hotel. [D]
Overnight - Hotel Klaus K
Wake up early for breakfast at the hotel and then it’s off to explore the Helsinki Market Square and taste their traditional korvapuusti (Finnish cinnamon bun). We’ll be picked up by our private tour guide and host Timo and drive 35 minutes to The Nuuksio National Park. Here we’ll ride fat tire bikes from Haltia to Northern Nuuksio and Pikku-Parikas pond about 9.2 km. Once there, we’ll enjoy coffee and grilled sausages. After our lunch, we continue on our biking adventure to Salmi Manor another 4.7 km. We’ll have a traditional Finnish meal prepared by Miia and Marjo at Pohjoinen Pirtti. Transfer back to our hotel in Helsinki. Approximately a 50-minute drive. Retire for the evening or explore Helsinki’s nightlife. [B,L,D]
Overnight - Hotel Klaus K
Breakfast at the hotel followed by pickup by our tour guide to be transferred to the medieval town of Porvoo (approx 45 minutes). We’ll get to explore Porvoo during our walking tour of town including the cathedral. Lunch in Provo. We’ll then drive to experience The Heritage Sauna Experience at Saaksi Lake. Sauna Mama Arja will provide the Finnish Sauna School Experience with birch branch whisking, swimming in the crystal clear lake and explaining the history of sauna and how it is a main component of the Finnish lifestyle. We’ll enjoy a traditional Finnish meal by the lake on an open fire. Transfer back to our hotel in Helsinki. [B]
Overnight - Hotel Klaus K
Breakfast at the hotel and free time exploring Helsinki in the morning. We can explore the Helsinki National Museum, the amazing Helsinki library, visit the Design Museum, or shop and enjoy Finnish coffee. This is your time to soak up the wonderful city of Helsinki. At 1:00 p.m. Timo will pick us up to transfer our group via ferry to Suomenlinna Island and Fortress. We’ll enjoy an afternoon learning about the island and UNESCO World Heritage Site through a walking tour. Then, it’s our last meal in Finland before being transferred to The Helsinki Port to ride a luxury ferry to Tallinn Estonia ( 2-hour ferry ride). We bid farewell to Timo our Finnish tour guide. Davide will greet us and transfer us to The Hotel Bern in Old Town Tallinn and takeover guiding us through the remainder of our adventures. [B,L]
Overnight - Bern Hotel Tallinn Estonia
Today we wake up in Estonia and enjoy the magical town of Tallinn another World Heritage UNESCO Site! Davide will greet us after breakfast and take us on an informative walking tour of the well-preserved Old Town Tallinn. Later in the day we’ll get to enjoy a beer tasting. If you like beer, Estonia is a good place to be! Later in the evening there is an option to dine together as a group at a fabulous Tallinn restaurant that books up months in advance. [B,L]
Overnight - Bern Hotel Tallinn Estonia
We’ll have breakfast at the hotel and then depart for Soomaa National Park. Here we’ll partake in bog shoe walking over pristine bogs preserved over centuries. We’ll view the biologically diverse glades wooded meadows and gorgeous forest land of this stunning Estonian treasure. Afterwards, we’ll have a picnic in the park and then depart for Pärnu on Estonia’s West Coast. Pärnu is known for its beautiful white beach and Kabli. Pärnu is also famous for its spa procedures. You may want to consider a real Estonian spa procedure such as home beer or peat treatment. The city of Pärnu is filled with age old traditions. Consider spending the evening relaxing in a spa. Group dining option will be available. [B,L]
Overnight - Villa Ammende
After a delicious breakfast at Hotel Ammende, we’ll depart Pärnu and Estonia and cross over into Latvia towards the Sigulda region. Once here, we’ll visit the amazing Turaida Museum Reserve and learn more about this castle built in 1214 under the direction of Albert, Bishop of Riga. The forces of the Livonian Order besieged and took over the Turaida castle from 1298 until 1486. The stunning red brick castle with its tall cylindrical tower is a dramatic focal point against the Latvian Winters.
The afternoon will be spent at an authentic farm to table experience nearby. Our hosts Vilma & Sanita will show us their ecological products & produce as well as the woodworking operation on their farm. We’ll learn about Latvian folklore and listen to their daughter Marta play the traditional instrument the kokle followed by a delicious farm to table meal freshly made from their gardens and farm.
If time permits, we can hike off the hearty meal during a short hike in the Gauja National Park. Then get on the road for our final destination of the Capital City of Riga! [B,L]
Overnight - Hotel Metropole Riga Latvia
In the morning after breakfast, we’ll explore Riga and see the magnificent architecture that has helped to place Riga on the World Heritage UNESCO Site list. We’ll learn about the largest metropolis in Latvia, which started as a sea trading post in the late 12th century & where the Reformation gained a foothold in the 1520’s. We’ll get to see the Gothic spires that dominate the cityscape as well as the flamboyant art nouveau district.
The second part of the day will be spent focusing on the foodie side of Riga. We’ll be touring the Central Market and tasting food and beer authentic to Riga and Latvia. If you’re still hungry, you can join the group for an optional dinner outing later in the evening. [B,D]
Overnight - Hotel Metropole
Today is a free day to explore the gorgeous city of Riga and visit the museums, shops and favorite dining spots that we learned about on our walking and foodie tours on Thursday.
A group dinner and last night celebration will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night and maybe dancing! [B,D]
Overnight - Hotel Metropole
Unfortunately, it’s the last day of vacation! But we’ll have all of our great memories of our wonderful adventure. After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll have an early morning transfer to the Riga International Airport (RIX). [B]
All airport transfers and transportation
All accommodations - 9 nights beginning on May 28, 2020
Excursions: 8 total
-Fat tire bike ride in Nuuksio National Park
-Guided walking tour Porvoo
-Traditional Sauna Experience
-Guided walking tour Suomenlinna
-Guided walking tour Old Town Tallinn
-Bog Walking Soomaa National Park
-Guided tour Turaida Castle
-Guided walking tour Riga
Culinary Experiences: 6 Total
-Finnish modern culinary scene Welcome Dinner (alcohol not included)
-Coffee and sausage during bike trip
-Traditional Finnish meal at Salmi Manor
-Beer tasting and lunch in Tallinn Old Town
-Latvian Farm to Table Experience
-Riga Foodie Tour
Other Excursions-Food Included:
-Breakfast Included at hotel 9 mornings
-Light lunch during bog walking tour
-Picnic lunch hiking in the Gaujas National Park
-Final night dinner celebration (alcohol not included)
Any meals or beverages not listed in Inclusions
Any activities on Day 5, the free day in Riga
• Hotels - Tip good service similar to U.S.
• Restaurants - No need to tip. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill ranging from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% - 15%.
• Tour Guides - It's customary to offer our local tour guides a tip at the end of each guide's segment. 20 Euros suggested amount per person per guide.
Trip Price - (double occupancy): $2,980
Booking Deadline: February 18, 2020
Single Room Supplement: $511 (This is to have your own room without sharing/having a roommate, not for upgraded rooms.)
Deposit: 30% of trip price due at booking
Final Balance Due: March 14, 2020
Estimated Airfare: $800 -$1,200 (Multi-city trip - Helsinki arrival and Riga departure (prices varies depending on your departure airport, flight quality, etc)
Cancellation policy: Only 100% refundable only within two weeks of paying your deposit.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe, which can be booked easily from our website. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. These premium policies must be paid for within 10-14 days of your initial trip investment.
While a 30% deposit is due at booking, the balance can be paid over time up until departure using our self-service payment feature. You can make payments of any size at anytime by logging into your account on the Gen X Travel Club website. This is a great way to finance/budget for the cost of a trip - instead of paying a larger single lump sum payment for the balance, you can make small monthly payments over time.
Google flights is the best comparison for flight options. The country codes is HEL for Finland arrival and Riga Latvia RIX. Remember to book arrival to HEL and departure RIX.
Visas & Passports
Visas are not required for US citizens. All passengers traveling internationally are required to have a passport. European law requires you to carry your passport with you at all times.
The official currency of Finland is the Euro, Tallinn is the Kroon, and Riga is the Euro. There will be opportunities to exchange on the Ferry to Estonia.
Euro coins differ according to country, but they can be used in any Eurozone state. Bank notes are of uniform EU design.
Credit cards are accepted in most places (Visa and MasterCard) and you should have no problems using them in shops and restaurants. However, smaller shops may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card.
Voltage for outlets is 220V. (U.S. voltage is 110V) using round, 2-prong plug.
Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga time difference is approximately 7 hrs. to the East Coast of the USA
Making Phone Calls Home
The country code for Helsinki is +358, Tallinn is +372, and Riga is +371
Dial your international access code (011), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number.
Judy: Travel Planner / Trip Leader / SoCal Gen X Travel Club Meetup Organizer / VP of Road Trip Affairs
Hi! I'm Judy and I'm looking forward to leading our Nordic & Baltic adventure!
I'm an experienced trip leader who has lead trips all over the world including Italy, Maui, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Banff National Park in Alberta Canada, Alaska, and Joshua Tree National Park.
I am an avid hiker and love the outdoors. I'm passionate about leading our groups and creating new travel friends! I am certified by the National Outdoor Leadership School in First Aid & Safety and CPR. I thoroughly enjoy planning trips with Gen X Travel Club to off the beaten path places with authentic excursions and culinary delights.
This trip is going to be amazing! I had a blast conducting on-the-ground planning for this trip... rmeeting with our local guides, visiting hotels, and checking out the best activities for us. I had a blast visiting and researching again, most recently in September 2019, and I can’t wait to share these incredible experiences with you on our adventure to Finland, Estonia and Latvia! Join me!
We always recommend trip insurance & suggest TravelSafe insurance - a reputable company with competitive pricing and great coverage options.
Here are a few reasons to get trip insurance:
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties (which can be 100% of your investment) in the event of an unforeseeable illness, injury or death of you, your travel companion or a family member.
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties if you are called for jury duty, your home is damaged due to fire, windstorm, flood or vandalism or military leave cancelled.
● Reimbursement for unused portion of your trip if it is interrupted.
● Medical evacuation/repatriation expenses to an appropriate medical facility or back home in the event of a serious illness or injury while traveling.
● 24-hour help line for any travel emergency, such as medical, lost tickets, lost passports, and other travel documents.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. Note: The 'Cancel for Any Reason' premium policy must be purchased within two weeks of your initial trip deposit.