Folk music at a Lithuanian ale tasting.
The Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, is for Americans a little-known, region – an experience just now beginning to be appreciated by them.
Your guide will provide you with entertaining, informative and intimate insights into the history and culture(s) we will visit. You will have frequent opportunities to connect with the locals, in conversations with them in the array of places where they work, and even in private homes. We plan to see and hear musical and dance performances, and meet with crafts people. Naturally, we will also see the natural and architectural highlights of the Baltics: the sea, the forests, the cathedrals, churches, monasteries, castles and residential and civic areas.
The Baltics were formerly a part of the Soviet Union but achieved their independence in 1991, when the union collapsed. Historically, the three countries have been united by their proximity east of the Baltic Sea. They also share a complex interaction of historical, linguistic and political connections as well as divergences, which have spun a rich tapestry of cultural contrasts. In the early years of this century, the region enjoyed marked prosperity – and relatively swift recovery from the disruptions of 2008 – because of strong global confidence in its skilled labor force.
Monday, June 11 Travel Day from US
Tuesday, June 12 — Arrival in Tallinn, Estonia
Transfer from the airport to the hotel located in the Old Town. Dinner in the old town (a short walk from the hotel). Overnight in Tallinn. (D)
The old town of Tallinn
Wednesday, June 13 — Tallinn
The day will begin with a 3-hour walking tour around Old Tallinn (Vana Tallinn) during which you will have lunch in the Old Town. After lunch continue to tour the town by bus. See the ruins of old Brigit’s Monastery, also called Pirita Convent. Learn how this sight is very meaningful to Estonians, despite the ruinous condition it is now in. Later, visit the home of the most famous patchwork artist in Estonia, Marja Matiisen. www.marjamatiisen.com Marja speaks English and will introduce you to what she is doing, and will show her unique and creative work.
From the hotel you will have a pleasant 10-15 minute walk to dinner in the old town. Overnight in Tallinn. (B, L, D)
Making lace in Estonia
Thursday, June 14 — Tallinn
Your bus will take you to visit the Kadriorg Palace and Park.
After that, you’ll be driven to visit a typical and picturesque farm about 30 minutes from Tallinn. At Esko Farm there is large production of milk products and cheese which you will have a chance to enjoy in their tasting room. This farm has operated and welcomed visitors for many years.
Following lunch visit Nomme, (a local market) and in the afternoon enjoy free time and an option of dinner on your own in Tallinn. Overnight in Tallinn. (B, L)
An Estonian outdoor vegetable market
Friday, June 15 — Kuresaare
In the morning you will be driven about 2 hours to the shores of the Baltic sea and take a ferry to the beautiful island of Muhu, the 3rd largest belonging to Estonia. From there continue to Kuresaare, the only town on the island of Saaremaa.
You’ll be offered an overview tour of Koguva village and lunch in an authentic local restaurant. Visit the village of Angla to see the windmills and also see the meteorite crater in Kaali. Late afternoon arrival in Kuresaare for dinner and overnight in Kuresaare. (B, L, D)
The Kuressare Castle
Saturday, June 16 — Kuresaare
Your first visit of the day will be the Kuresaare Castle and then you will have a tour around Saremaa Island to visit the main sites of interest. Drive to Panga cliff to see the Baltic Glint. Lunch will be in Lumanda in a local restaurant which serves organic food that they grow. The menu is traditional, simple, Estonian food, typical for Saaremaa Island.
The drive back to Kuresaare is scenic, so along the way there will be some visits and photo stops. See St. Michael’s Church in the village of Kihelkonna (1280). Return to Kuresaare for dinner in walking distance of the hotel. Overnight in Kuresaare. (B, L, D)
A parade of locals in traditional costumes, Kuresaare,
Sunday, June 17 — Riga, Latvia
After breakfast drive to the port and again take a ferry, this time, to the mainland. On the mainland, drive to Parnu (about 100 miles away), have a short tour there and lunch. Parnu is the most popular health tourism destination in Estonia and a popular summer vacation resort destination. Continue on a drive of some 185 miles, across the border into Latvia (population 2 million) and to Riga (the capital, population 650,000). Dinner and overnight in Riga. (B, L, D)
The main square in Riga, Latvia.
Monday, June 18 — Riga
A morning walking tour of Old Riga (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) will give you a flavor of this unique city, after which you will be treated to an organ performance in Dome Cathedral, the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral of the city. This edifice was built in 1211 and is considered the largest medieval church in the Baltic states.
Plaza del Mercado, Riga
After lunch, tour the Art Nouveau quarter and learn about this genre of art. Inspired by nature, delighting in bunches of flowers, ornamentation, sinuous and undulating lines, Art Nouveau rendered many buildings and rooms of Riga with a lavish, mysterious and seductive style. This is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture, applied art and the decorative arts that was most popular from 1890-1910. 40% of the buildings in the center of Riga belong to this style, much more than in other European cities. This area too, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later visit the State Art Museum of Jugendstil (the Germanic name for Art Nouveau). Dinner in town (walk from hotel to Old town and back) Overnight in Riga. (B, L, D)
The building of the Brotherhood of Blackheas in old Riga
Tuesday, June 19 — Riga to Turaida and return
Drive into the Latvian countryside from Riga (about 50 miles each way). You will be driving through the green rolling hills of the Gauja National park territories where we’ll stop to visit Turaida Castle. Begun in 1214, this castle is constructed largely in the classic red brick style of the Baltic crusading orders.
You will also visit Gutman’s Cave (a small grotto with a charming love story). This cave lies halfway between the Sigulda and Turaida Castles and has a small stream flowing from it. Although it is small, it is the the largest cave in the Baltics.
Visit a private beekeeper to learn about his work, have a short tour around his farm and lunch, with honey-tasting as dessert. Return to Riga where you will have free time for dinner in a location of your choice. Overnight in Riga. (B, L)
Old town Riga
Wednesday, June 20 — Klaipeda, Lithuania
Early morning departure from Riga for a drive of approximately 1.5 hours to Rundale park and Palace - one of Latvia’s most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art. Tour of the Palace which was built in two stages beginning in 1736 and completed in 1768. The well-renovated and restored rooms reveal it’s grandeur and wealth.
After lunch near the palace, cross the border into Lithuania and continue driving towards Klaipeda. On the way stop at Siauliai to see the Hill of Crosses, an impressive sacred site for Lithuanians. Mounted upon a small hill are many hundreds of thousands of crosses which represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity.
The Hill of Crosses
Continue to Klaipeda for a late arrival, dinner (at approximately 8 pm) and overnight. Overnight in Klaipeda. (B, L, D)
Summer evening in the port city of Klaipeda
Thursday June 21 — Curonian Spit and Klaipeda
Today will offer a full day trip to the Curonian Spit, a unique, natural, long, thin, curved sand-dune 60 miles long, which is found between the Baltic Sea and Curonian Gulf (Lagoon). The southern portion of the split lies within Kalingrad Oblast (Russia), and its northern part is within Lithuania. It is a UNESCO world Heritage Site shared by the two countries.
In Juodkrante, walk up the “Hill of Witches” (begun in 1979) to see the collection of more than 80 wooden sculptures located on a forested sand dune. Later, in the area, you will have a chance to visit an Amber gallery where genuine, treasured, Baltic Sea amber is exhibited and have you will experience an amber polishing class.
See the magnificent point from where there is a vista over both sides of the Split, the gulf and the Sea. Lunch will be in Nida. After returning to Klaipeda, enjoy a short walking tour there before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Klaipeda. (B, L, D)
Friday, June 22 — Kaunas
A drive of approximately 130 miles will bring you to Kaunas. Visit the museum dedicated to M.K. Curlionis, who was a Lithuanian painter, composer and writer. He is considered one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe and contributed much to Art Nouveau and the fin de siècle epoch.
Lunch in Kaunas followed by a visit to the Siguhara Museum. This museum concerns a Japanese ambassador who helped Jews escape from Kaunas, when Nazi troops were nearing. Siguhara issued Japanese visas for them although he was forbidden to do this by the Japanese government (as they were on the side of Nazis during the war). He risked his life and career at that time but decades later became a hero in Japan and in Israel. There will be a walking tour of the town after lunch. Dinner and overnight in Kaunas. (B, L, D)
The Great Bridge in Kaunas
Saturday, June 23 — Vilnius
The first stop of the morning will be just outside Kaunas at Pazaislis Monastery (about 75 miles away). Built by Camaldolese monks in the 17th century, this monastery is the most magnificent example of Italian Baroque architecture in Lithuania. Continuing on to Vilnius, visit Trakai and see the beautiful Island Castle.
Lunch will be in Trakai in Karaim’s restaurant. This is a very authentic establishment run by a local national minority known as Karaims, who appeared here from Crimea centuries ago to serve as bodyguards for the local Duke. There are only 300 members of this minority left in the whole country. They speak their own distinct language and have their own unique religion which is an amalgum of several larger religions.
Continue for 30 minutes on to Vilnius (population 545,000), the capital of Lithuania (population 2.82 million). Upon arrival, and time permitting take a short walking tour of the old part of town. You are free for dinner this evening. You will be offered an optional late night visit to Kernave to see the local Midsummer celebrations Overnight in Vilnius. (B, L) .
Old town Vilnius
Sunday, June 24 — Vilnius
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in beautiful Vilnius today by bus and a walking tour. Enter the Vilnius University Campus and Gediminas Castle which offers an excellent vantage point, where the panorama of Vilnius’ Old Town can be admired. We will cross our fingers that the Gediminas Hill will not be closed for renovation, as it often is, without prior notification. If it is, you will be taken to another viewpoint. The tower at Gediminas is an important state and historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania itself. It is mentioned in numerous Lithuanian patriotic poems and folk songs.
After lunch visit to Uzupis district which has been popular with artists for some time. It has been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, due to its bohemic and laissez-faire atmosphere.
The afternoon will include free time followed by a “Farewell” dinner and overnight in Vilnius. (B, L, D)
Monday, June 25 Day — Vilnius
Transfer to airport for US departures from Vilnius.
(Often the flights are very early in the mornings with departures from the hotel almost at night).
Kaunas: Santaka Hotel
NOTE on HOTELS: Traveling thru the Baltic region is best seen using small, local hotels that capture the authentic charm and local flavor. Given that many of the above noted properties have limited capacity, Iconic Journeys Worldwide reserves the right to substitute similar properties to accommodate our groups.
Cost per person: $4,895 based on double occupancy.
Single supplement of $845.
What is included:
* All hotels with breakfast and meals included, as indicated by B, L, D, entrance fees at sites noted on itinerary, water with group sit-down lunches and breakfasts, English speaking guide and private vehicle and driver.
* Airport transfers
What is NOT included:
* International airfare to the Baltic region.
* Gratuities to guides and drivers.
* Alcohol, additional beverages and any items of a personal nature.
* Travel insurance.
TO REGISTER OR FOR INFORMATION
For additional information, contact Iconic Journeys Worldwide at;
info@IconicJourneysWorldwide.com or 888-474-5502.