Europe’s Northern Frontier is a quiet and less visited landscape of rolling hills, scenic drives and a mix of capitals and interesting little towns all along the way. The countries bordering the Baltic Sea, namely, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are referred to collectively as the Baltic region.
We find this region to be very enjoyable to travel in car or buses because the capitals are no more than two hours between each one. An itinerary such as this can run North-South or South to North and can take in some other cities and countries just bordering the Baltic region.
One can begin the trip from Prague, through Warsaw in Poland and into Lithuania just a short distance from Vilnius the capital and it runs right on through Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia. At the Northern end of the trip one doesn’t have to finish here. Ferries to Helsinki and even roads into St. Petersburg Russia are great ways to close out the trip.
The total distance from Krakow to Tallinn without detours is around 1000 kilometers and can take around 24 hours total to drive. A good idea is to spend at least 2 days in each major city so as to explore each one’s unique history, culture and attractions. The Via Baltica as its called is convenient and safe.
It is good to be aware of local laws when moving in and out of several countries, but all the areas are Shengen so borders are open and free of inspections. Each country has their own currency and so it is a good practice to have some cash in the local currency handy for each place.
This enjoyable capital is a booming University town. It has lots of open parks, hotels, major shopping, restaurants and historic sites. The Warsaw Ghetto, the fantastic churches and museums of music and arts are indispensable to see. Traffic can be heavy so drive carefully and a city map is always helpful.
The Lithuanian capital is a bit off the main road of the trip but it is well worth a visit. The old town is more of a pedestrian zone, so park outside the historic district and walk around, it is easily explored on foot. The city is quite affordable and in addition to hearty cuisine, lively music and scenic squares, the churches and museums make great attractions. The famed hill of crosses in Siauliai is certainly worth a stop as well.
Latvia’s capital city takes in a scenic old town and a sprawling new district that makes everything well integrated. The best days to explore the city are in spring and summer when parkside festivals are underway and dining in squares and along the river’s edge is in full swing. Again the architecture of the city’s churches and more famous houses is impressive. Street performances and live music are common sites too.
The Baltic Sea greets the visitor to Estonia in the scenic capital. The old town is uniquely preserved within medieval walls that house churches, guild halls, monasteries, open air markets and even Europe’s oldest pharmacy. Progressive technology like free wifi and paying for parking via SMS message make the city a marvelous blend of old and new. The cuisine is unique and reflective of the abundant countryside.