12-Day Baltic Road Trip Itinerary: a Journey Through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Baltic road trip itinerary started in Tallinn, Estonia, then Latvia, Lithuania, and ended in Tallinn. In general, the Baltic states are less visited compared to those countries with sunshine coastlines. In 2016, our family decided to spend our summer holiday in these less crowded Baltic states instead of our traditional beach holidays in the southern European countries.

Our trip was in August that year. For half of our 12-day trip, it was rainy, cloudy, and windy. In response to the bad weather, we also tried to alter our Baltic road trip itinerary as much as we could.

In 12 days, we discovered the magical lakes covering the stretches of the countryside, had hiked in the soaring dunes, explored the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, searched for pebbles of golden amber on the coast, and marveled at the architectural buildings.

View from the Kohtuotsa viewing platform north-east of the Toompea Castle

Baltic road trip itinerary planning

Flight booking

Lufthansa has direct flights from Frankfurt to Tallinn, Vilnius, or Riga. Based on the flight schedule, we decided to enter Tallinn and booked return flights. 

If you travel to Helsinki or Riga, you can pre-book a transfer to reach Tallinn as well. 

Rent a small car

Then, after a thorough search on the car rental platform, we rented a small car for our trip. Since we were not sure how the parking situation could be, a small car would be easier to handle. The pickup place was  inside the Tallinn Airport. 

Book hotels

Afterward, we selected several places along our driving route and booked hotels. The five hotels we have stayed are:

Finalized Baltic road trip itinerary

1st Day: Tallinn (Estonia)

Tallinn arrival

The Lufthansa Flight landed in Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport on time. Everything worked as planned, got our luggage, and picked up the rental car, all done within one hour. 

Overnight stay

The airport is not far from the city centre, where the Tallink City Hotel is. The hotel is a large building with a glass facade. After check-in, we went to Tallinn’s Passenger Port, a few hundred metres away from the hotel, and had dinner.

2ed Day: Tallinn (Estonia)

Tallinn old town

Undoubtedly, the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a unique medieval atmosphere, was the first place we visited. Narrow cobbled streets, centuries-old architecture, and the hidden courtyards and passages around the Town Hall Square are the heart of the old town.

Viewing platform

The next place we went was the Kohtuotsa viewing platform north-east of the Toompea Castle. It offers spectacular views of the city, including the Dome Church.

Overnight stay

Tallink City Hotel is a few hundred metres away from the old centre. It had WiFi, a sauna, a bar, etc. Since it was only a few hundred metres away from the old town, we could stay in the old town till quite late.

Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum

After a short break in the romantic cafe, we walked partially on the old wall to reach the Maiden’s Tower (Neitsitorn). Next to the tower is the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum. The museum is full of medieval atmosphere and has mysterious underground passages.

Get around in Tallinn

You can take the Tallinn Hop-on Hop-off bus to do the sightseeing. The bus has also a stop at the cruise terminal.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn; Baltic road trip itinerary

3rd Day: Mustvee, Lake Peipus, and Tartu (Estonia)

Mustvee and Lake Peipus

Mustvee is a small place on the bank of Lake Peipus. The Peipus area is home to a traditional religious minority recognized as hard-working and skillful fishermen, builders, and keen onion cultivators. Mustvee is also on the famous Estonian Onion route.

Tartu

The onion route is not far from Tartu, home to one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities. Most sights, restaurants, and nightlife of the Tartu crossed a couple of parallel streets. There was hardly any tourist in the town. Many restaurants were empty during the day. But as the evening came, more and more people came out for dinner. Being the second largest town in Estonia, Tartu is a centre for creative and scientific culture. Meanwhile, theatre performances, concerts, and festivals take place in Tartu throughout the year.

Overnight stay

We stayed at Hotel London for one night. It was a great stay in the very heart of Tartu, right next to the excellent restaurants and the University of Tartu.

Tartu, Estonia
Lake Peipus, Estonia

4th Day: Riga (Latvia)

Overnight stay

The distance between Tartu and Riga is about 244 km. It would take us about three and a half hours without any stop. Because we left Tartu quite late and had a stopover in Sigulda, we arrived at our next accommodation Tallink Hotel in Riga the late afternoon.

Riga old town

The highlight of Riga is the old town and the Art Nouveau district of Riga. Riga has a few hundred stunning Art Nouveau buildings characterized by elaborate motifs, curvy figures, and curly lines based on natural forms.

When it was getting darker, our desire for food grew. So we opted for the Gutenbergs Rooftop restaurant since it has a pleasant open terrace. From above, we realized the spectacular way to explore the city. 

View from Gutenbergs Rooftop restaurant in Latvia; Baltic Road Trip Itinerary

5th Day: Jurmala beach (Latvia)

Jurmala beach

One of the top things to do near Riga is the Jurmala beach resort. Jurmala has 25 km-long white sand beach and is so spacious that everyone could find a quiet place for sunbathing and swimming. We had a good time on the beach on that day and had a late lunch on Jomas street (Jomas iela), one of the oldest streets of Jurmala.

The wooden architecture

Jūrmala is also home to the historical wooden architecture in Latvia. Some of the houses are the best examples of the romantic and classical architectural style of the country. I have seen different types of wooden houses in the Bavaria of Germany and Zakopane of Poland. But the wooden houses in these places have a massive style.

Overnight stay

The Tallink Hotel in Riga has a convenient location. The Central Train Station and the International Bus Station are only a short walk away from the hotel. Riga’s historic Old Town and the Latvian National Opera are only a few hundred metres away.

Jurmala beach and the wooden Architectural House, Latvia

6th Day: Riga (Latvia)

Riga Central Market

The Riga Central Market is next to the River Daugava, just a few hundred metres away from the old town. It is not only one of the largest marketplaces but also one of the most visited markets in Eastern Europe.

There were so many Latvian-grown and homemade products, exotic fruit and spices, and manufactured merchandise. The market has five categories, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, and gastronomy products. The outdoor area has stalls and stands, and the Night Market and ‘Round the Clock Farmers’ Market. Riga Central Market is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list now.

For a small budget, you can join a food tasting tour of Central Market.

Overnight stay

The stylish restaurant of Tallink Hotel in Riga offers a breakfast buffet and international cuisines. The hotel also provides a sauna and hot tub.

Riga Old Town, Latvia; Baltic Road Trip Itinerary

7th Day: Palanga, Karkle, Klaipeda (Lithuania)

Karkle

The Baltic coast between Karkle and Melnrage is famous for the valuable ambers tossed ashore by the waves. We planned to go there and hope we would be lucky enough to find a piece of our own. However, the weather was very stormy, and it was raining heavily.

Palanga

So we turned back and visited Amber Museum in Palanga instead. The displayed amber products were so beautiful that I spent 150 Euros on a bracelet together with a certificate of authenticity.

Klaipeda

We visited Klaipeda when the rain stopped. Klaipeda is the oldest city in Lithuania and also the only port town of Lithuania. Klaipeda used to be a German town since the 13th century and only joined Lithuania in the 20th century. The city has a mix of architecture, such as odd timber-framed houses, modern glass buildings, and grey building blocks from the 1960s.

Overnight stay

We stayed two nights at Vila Radailiai next to a Dinosaur Park. The entrance to the Dinosaur Park was part of our room rate. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit the park.

Pick up amber pieces on the Karkle beach, Lithuania

8th Day: Curonian Spit (Lithuania)

Curonian Spit

Curonian Spit is the most beautiful place in Lithuania with untouched nature. Beautiful beaches, endless sand dunes, a large area of pine trees, and pretty small fishing villages have left us an unforgettable experience.  From Klaipeda, you can book a Curonian Spit full-day tour to explore the area.

Parnidis Dune

The first place we stopped was the 52-metre Parnidis Dune, one of the highest shifting dunes in Europe. Surrounded by the white sand dunes and the pine forest, the sand dune has stunning scenery. Even on that stormy day, the view looked dramatically. On top of the dune, there is a big sundial. It would be fun to figure out how it works.

Nida

Other than the Parnidis Dune, the highlights in Nida are the water promenade along the Curonian lagoon and the colourful fishermen’s houses. When it started to rain, we turned in a restaurant with only Germans and German-speaking waiters. 

Since the rest of the day was only raining, we could not do any walking but visited the Thomas Mann house museum.  

Further south of Nida is the border between Russia and Lithuania. But without a visa, we could not cross the border to the Russian side.

Overnight stay

Vila Radailiai is good for families with kids like us. It has a children’s play area and a SPA corner.

Parnidis Dune on Curonian Spit, Lithuania
On top of the Parnidis Dune on Curonian Spit, Lithuania

9th Day: Vilnius (Lithuania)

From our hotel in Radailiai to Vilnius is about three and a half hours of driving. We could not look around Kaunus as planned because it was heavily raining again. Therefore, we went straight to the Vilnius Grand Resort, where we stayed for the next two nights.

The resort is in the middle of pine and birch forest. It has a SPA and wellness centre, where we spent the rest of the day after check-in.

Bora Bora Restaurant of the Vilnius Grand Resort, Lithuania
Bora Bora Restaurant from Vilnius Grand Resort

10th Day: Trakai Castle and Lake Galve (Lithuania)

The parking in Trakai was problematic. Local residents took the chance and opened their gardens to the public parking. We drove into one garden. The owner charged us two Euros and assigned a place for us. 

Trakai Castle

Trakai Castle, used to be a residence for the Grand Dukes of Lithuania,  stands on an island on Lake Galve, one of the deepest lakes in Lithuania. We reached the castle by crossing the long wooden bridge. The view of the historic building is straight out of a fairy tale.

Lake Galve

Near the castle, there were some boats waiting for the tourists. We rented one motor boat for 35 Euros and toured around the lake. The boat was quite new and spacious. We were allowed to drive as well, a lot of fun for a small budget.

Trakai

We had our lunch in restaurant on the lake shore and tasted the flavour of Lithuanian Karaim cuisine, the traditional kibinai (or kybynlar) and meat soups. Then, we strolled through the town and admired the wooden architecture telling the story of Karaim and Tartar communities.

Overnight stay

One of the best things we liked in Vilnius Grand Resort is the exotic summer restaurant Bora Bora on the water near the sandy beach. It is a great place for our family to have a quiet and cozy time. The Bora Bora restaurant offers Asian fusion cuisine. We had a tasty dinner on that evening.

Trakai Castle, Lithuania
the wooden architecture telling the story of Karaim and Tartar communities in Trakai

11th Day: Vilnius (Lithuania)

Architectural building in the old town

In the early morning, most of the streets in Vilnius were empty. The old town of Vilnius is also on the UNESCO list. It is full of historical buildings, such as the Presidential Palace in Daukantas Square, the Gate of Dawn, Vilnius Cathedral, the Town Hall, and the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

Stikliu Street and the restaurant corner

Once the heart of the Jewish Quarter, now Stikliu Street is filled with boutiques and artisan studios. The winding cobblestone streets in this area line up with quaint bars and restaurants. We had our lunch in the Belgium Restaurant Rene. 

Gediminas’ Castle

Gediminas Castle, perched atop a hill, is one of the best places to see the magnificent panoramas of Vilnius. After lunch, we climbed up the Gediminas Hill for the views of the city. The red roofs of Vilnius, the church towers, and the narrow streets of the old town are a stunning sight.

Overnight stay

The reception of the Vilnius Grand Resort was very friendly and efficient. On the next day, in the beach town Saulkrasti, we found out that we had forgotten to pack our swimming suits. In a hurry, we connected the reception and informed the situation. After a few minutes, they found our stuff and were in the process of sending them to our home in Germany. And, our swimming suits arrived in Germany earlier than us. 

Architectural building in the old town of Vilnius, Lithuania; Baltic Road Trip Itinerary
Street of Vilnius in the early morning; Baltic Road Trip Itinerary

12th Day:  Saulkrasti (Latvia), Pärnu (Estonia), and Talinn (Estonia)

On the last day of the Baltic road trip itinerary, we had to cross Lithuania and Latvia to Estonia. Does it sound exciting?

Saulkrasti

It was quite a long way from Vilnius to Saulkrasti, the beach town. Its coastline stretches for 17 km and is one of the best places to view the sunsets. After a long drive, It was such a pleasant time to walk on the White Dune and breathe the sea breeze while looking over the Gulf of Riga. 

Saulkrasti is a holiday area with many recreation possibilities. We had our lunch at the beach restaurant before heading to the next place.

Pärnu

Pärnu is the ultimate summer holiday destination in Estonia and attracts travelers with its large sandy beach, numerous restaurants, cocktail bars, spas, and a relaxed atmosphere. As we left our swimming suits in the last hotel, we just walked on the long, white sandy beaches. Blessed by the best sun in Estonia, the shallow water was quite warm. 

Tallinn Airport

Finally, we were back at Tallinn Airport and returned our rental car. Because our flight was in the early morning the next day, we booked the overnight stay at Hotel Ülemiste next to the Airport.

Our last hotel is about 10 minutes of walking to the Airport terminal and has 24X7 reception hours. They also packed breakfast boxes for us upon our check-out. For those who want to catch early or late flights, Hotel Ülemiste is a perfect place to stay. 

Pärnu, Estonia
Pärnu Beach, Estonia

Travel tips for Baltic road trip itinerary

The road trip was an unforgettable tourist experience. We were surrounded with exotic languages, a history of merchant cultures, different traditions, and markedly different temperaments.

Alternative Baltic road trip itinerary

Coronian Spit, Pärnu, and Jurmala are the top places for a longer holiday. We could easily spend one week at each of these places since the landscape boosts many outdoor activities.  And, we would also like to see more in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius.

Alternative Baltic road trip itinerary

Curonian Spit, Pärnu, and Jurmala are the top places for a more extended holiday. We could easily spend one week at each of these places since the landscape boosts many outdoor activities. And, we would also like to see more in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. 

Consider several organized tours.

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