Planning our travel from Estonia to Latvia
Much before we even left home in June for our travels in the Baltic countries, we sat down to do some research, as we usually do. How far is Tallinn from Riga? How long do the buses actually take? What do the timetables look like? How far in advance do we need to book? Once we got to Tallinn, which we loved, by the way, we looked at bus tickets and wondered how much they would go up in price before we got around to purchasing.
Then, we found out about the Tallinn-Riga Sightseeing Tour Bus with Traveller Tours and the funniest part is that during that first night of research, we had found their blog post, which lists methods of transport between Tallinn and Riga and rates them by ‘level of fun.’ We like fun, and so we wanted to learn more.
The Tallinn-Riga Sightseeing Tour Bus
The Tallinn-Riga Sightseeing Tour Bus is the best way to get from Tallinn to Riga in one day while also seeing some of the most famous sights in both Estonia and Latvia for which we’d otherwise need to rent our own car, or skip entirely because we didn’t want to spend time figuring how much time is needed in each. The trip between the two cities is four or five hours by standard bus. With the Sightseeing Tour bus, it’s a 12-hour day with five stops in distinct places of interest.
We left Tallinn at 9 a.m. in a comfy van for nine people – eight passengers and a driver. Besides us, the six other travelers were from Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong. Right away, we all started talking about the experiences we’d had so far in the Baltic region! Our guide, Anna, was from Riga, Latvia, and told us how our day would go.
Seeing history in Viljandi
First, we drove for two hours and stopped at Viljandi, which is one of the places in Estonia for which we would’ve needed a car or an exhausting day trip to visit. Viljandi is Estonia’s cultural center and is known for its castle ruins, song and dance festivals and charming town center. This is where we had a chance to swing on a slightly terrifying traditional Estonian swing set.
After walking among the castle and a small suspension bridge, we went inside a Lutheran church and saw the outdoor amphitheater where performances are held. As you can see from our photos, it was not so warm yet in Estonia and Latvia in late June! While the weather was moderate, we mostly kept light jackets on all day because of the winds.
The Viljandi Visitors Center has a small cafe on the upper floor, where you can get a coffee, in case the (slightly) early morning departure didn’t allow you to wake up yet. They also have a decent menu for breakfast foods, in addition to cookies and muffins.
The sweetest pit stop
While on the road, driving past Estonian villages and farmland, our guide stopped the van at a local strawberry farm, where we all tried fresh strawberries! They were some of the sweetest fruits we’ve ever had, ever.
Military history in Valga
Our second stop was the Militaarteemapark-muuseum in Valga, a border town between Estonia and Latvia. It was here that we looked at artifacts from when Estonia was occupied first by the Nazis and then by the Soviet Union, and our guide Anna shared stories from her family’s past. The museum also has helicopters, army trucks and historic maps.
Next was lunch, and we ate at a hotel restaurant for traditional regional food. Having pre-ordered our food, we didn’t have to wait long to eat, which was awesome. We were ready to cross the border into Latvia.
Gaujas National Park
Crossing the border to Latvia was simply driving on the same road and continuing! There was a small sign that said “LATVIJA.” Anna drove us toward our third destination, which was Gaujas National Park, home to Latvia’s most famous sandstone formations. It was time to get a bit sandy.
We took a small hike through the pine forest and had some views of a pretty lake below. There were lots of wooden steps built and when we looked at the sandstone, we saw how many people had carved their names into the rocks.
Medieval Cesis village
After a short drive, we arrived in Cesis, a small yet famous town in Latvia, known for its medieval castle and history. Lucky for us, Cesis was hosting its annual Conversation Festival, which Anna explained is a time when great thinkers and innovators can share ideas with panels and talks. We got to see some live performance music and enjoyed seeing the village come alive with excited people.
Up on the bobsleigh track in Sigulda
Our last stop was Sigulda Bobsleigh Track, not too far from Riga. We had a chance to walk down the bobsled track. It was windy and really cold, but it was a treat to have views of the forest from so high up.
Anna got us to Riga early, at 8:30 p.m., and we were in the picturesque Old Town. Before leaving, and while saying goodbye to our new friends, we had a few more of those incredibly sweet local strawberries, a reminder of how fantastic our day had been.
Want to join in on the fun by booking the best way to travel from Tallinn to Riga? You can check out Traveller Tours’ website or check availability here for the Tallinn-Riga Sightseeing Bus. Thanks for having us, Traveller Tours!
Last updated on December 28th, 2020