One Hour From: Tallinn

Sea, sand ÿ and a Soviet nuclear base
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The Independent Travel

Take a trip to the Estonian seaside, journey to deserted isles and see some old Soviet sights.

Take a trip to the Estonian seaside, journey to deserted isles and see some old Soviet sights.


This picturesque resort boasts the warmest seawater in Estonia and curative mud baths. Top sights include the Episcopal castle and the imposing railway station, which had one of the longest covered platforms in Europe when it was built in the early 1900s. There are many cultural festivals, including the Tchaikovksy Music Festival. Tchaikovksy and other well known artists regularly took up residence here during the summer.

By car: follow Parnu route and then follow signs to Haapsalu; journey time approx an hour. By bus: frequent hourly express service; approx an hour plus.


As crumbling emblems of the Soviet empire go – including the old nuclear training facility – this is one of the best. The Cold War-era security means this unique limestone-block landscape is relatively isolated and unspoilt. It's worth taking a boat to the secluded Pakri islands.

By car: west from Tallinn; approx 40mins. By train: eight a day; approx an hour.


The Estonian summer capital swarms with holidaymakers who come here for the white sandy beaches and the hot summer nights. Look out for the impressive Baroque St Catherine's Church, the 17th-century town gate and the neo-Gothic town hall.

By car: south out of Tallinn, follow Parnu route; an hour. By train: several departures daily; an hour plus.

Aegna and Naissaar

These two delightful islands were closed military zones during the Soviet era but are now favourite picnic spots for Tallinners. There are fantastic beaches. Naissaar, now a nature reserve, has a narrow-gauge railway.

By bus and boat: Pirita bus from Tallinn to Pirita harbour. Boats leave several times a day; 40mins to Aegna, an hour to Naissaar.

Lahemaa National Park

Dense forest, numerous lakes, clear rivers, waterfalls and coastal bluffs.

By car: take the St Petersburg Highway west; approx an hour. By bus: twice daily to Palmse; an hour plus.

Matsalu Nature Reserve

A twitchers' paradise. Expect arctic duck, barnacle geese, leaf warblers, nightingales, swans and cranes.

By car: take the Haapsalu route and follow signs; journey time approx 1 hour plus. By bus: twice daily; approx an hour.

Ian McCurrach

Cresta Holidays (0870 161 0950; offers three nights' b&b at the three-star Hotel Scandic St Barbara from £277 per person, including return flights from Gatwick. Europcar (0870 607 5000; offers weekend car hire in Tallinn from £132.