Exotic escapism in Estonia

Estonia has shed its reputation for rowdy hen and stag parties and has been replaced by cool art-house festivals and adventurous outdoor pursuits.

Around a decade ago, Estonia’s reputation in travel circles was for rowdy stag and hen parties, and the low-cost flights that delivered them.

Today, things are very different: air fares to the Baltic country might remain a bargain, but the stewed revellers and their numbered T-shirts now carouse elsewhere.

In their stead have come art-house festivals and eco-spirited outdoor adventures, plus a clump of voguish places to stay. In short, Estonia has gone cool.

With over half the country – found in north-eastern Europe, west of Russia and across the Baltic Sea from Finland – covered in forest, exotic escapism is readily accomplished.

Particularly in demand are moonlight safaris, where you listen to animal calls while ghosting along solemnly-still waterways. In Soomaa National Park, four-hour guided versions include canoeing and walking, and focus on beaver dams and lodges.

Soomaa additionally hosts another increasingly-popular Estonian pursuit: bog-shoeing. Dotted with wild cranberries and fragrant rosemary, Europe’s largest intact peat-bog system is located here.

Tours with 360 Degrees wade across it using specially-adapted shoes shaped like tennis racquets.

Using much more humdrum footwear, wilderness walking is equally trendy. The current hotspot is Alutaguse in Estonia’s remote east, a primeval place where pine and birch expanses surround vast swamps.

Forget humans; the true locals here are flying squirrels, wolves, brown bears and magnificent golden eagles.

Hikers are also discovering the western coastal island of Kassari. Pleasingly varied in terms of terrain, peregrinations here tick off exposed sand spits, stream crossings, enchanting juniper meadows and a special birding tower for sightings of migrant avocets.

Northern Estonia’s Lahemaa National Park, meanwhile, specialises in geographical phenomena: large gravel-and-sand terraces, and peculiarly-striped forest bogs. See VisitEstonia.com for hiking routes in both places.

estonian-bog

Estonia’s burgeoning activity scene is rivalled by its growing arts credentials. In Tartu, the second-largest city, a gooey festival of movies themed around love is now held on focal Town Hall Square each August.

Called Tartuff, it has become the Baltic region’s biggest open-air cinematic event.

To discover rural Estonia, attend more quirky arts festivals. Held in the idyllic small town of Kilingi-Nõmme, Schilling now lures music know-it-alls with the presence of acclaimed alternative acts.

Finnish electronic wizard and current Pitchfork darling Jaakko Eino Kalevi is playing in 2016, for example. Then there’s the Kabli Sunset Festival, a month-long hoopla of salon evenings, film screenings and all-night parties in the eponymous beach town.

Still, capital Tallinn remains the general HQ of all things trendy in Estonia. Not least Telliskivi Loomelinnak, a repurposed railway depot whose Berlin-like vibe is established by organic coffee shops, interiors stores, street-art murals, open workshops and craft-beer bars.

As the place where Skype was invented, Estonia has long specialised in innovation. That enterprising spirit is now extending to its gastronomy, with a new crop of young chefs delivering an Estonian twist on New Nordic cuisine.

Where to stay? Check out Pronksi Apartments – the first self-service business and holiday apartment complex that features keyless check-in, free high-speed wifi and astonishing panoramic view from the rooftop.

tallinn-pronksi-apartments-city-view

http://pronksiapartments.ee/

Read the original article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/untapped-destinations/escapism-in-estonia/

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