What to see and do in Latvia and Estonia

In capital cities - Riga and Tallinn - everyday routine is close to the one in European capitals, while it might differ in rural areas. Traditionally, in rural areas people live in stand-alone farmsteads or small villages. There are also charming small towns, full of history and peaceful ambience. To feel the real spirit of the countryside, choose a countryside place to stay and enjoy the variety of activities on site and in local surroundings.  Guest houses, manor hotels and country hotels offer pick-up transfers, meals, local excursions to nature attractions, open farms, craft shops, nature based guided activities, spa services and other experiences of nature, local life and culture. Both countries are happy to share with their visitors a variety of experiences rooted in old traditions and skills that are still in use in everyday life. You will see and might even try learning how to bake bread, how to weave, how to milk a cow, how to collect and use medicinal herbs, how to forge a nail or make a wooden barrel. For countryside visits pre-booking is always required.

More information can be found from the web sites of the tourism organisations:
www.countryholidays.lv   - Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania
www.maaturism.ee  - Estonia


Accommodation

There is a variety of accommodation available in the countryside. Rooms in manor hotels are furnished with much attention to detail, design and style. Country homes and cottages offer comfortable and functional rooms. In all places guest accommodation are in SGL, TWIN or DBL rooms with shower or bath. In many places morning coffee or dinner can be served on a terrace with a view over a lake or wide rolling landscape for you to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature. Breakfast is almost always included in guest houses and country hotels. Self-catering accommodation with fully equipped kitchen is also available.

Food

Breakfast is almost always included with accommodation while lunch and dinner can be pre-ordered. Menus are often based on locally grown and seasonal foods. Traditionally meals in Estonia and Latvia include beef and pork meat, fish, eggs, cooked and fresh vegetables, fresh salad, cheese, white and black bread. Various dietary requirements can be met upon prior arrangement. We diversify our seasonal menus with wild mushrooms, wild grasses, herb teas, birch sap and fish from lakes and rivers. More information: www.balticseaculinary.com 

Open farms, home food producers and self-sustaining  farms

They relate to various food production sectors, receive visitors, and offer their products for tasting and sales. Production facilities are registered with food and hygiene authorities, many products are certified as bio or eco foods and production processes are often open for demonstrating to visitors. Enjoy country goodies such as cheese, fruit, berries, homemade sausages, smoked fish, mushrooms, bread, honey, beer and homemade wine. 
Visit self-sustaining farms  if you wish to see real countryside life – with farm animals, gardens and fields. Guests can feel like a part of the family and try their hand at daily chores: feeding goats, weeding, picking berries and apples, making cheese. Wholesome country food will be served at the family’s table while dietary requirements and tastes of guests will be respected.  Natural farms may also offer accommodation, the rooms might be simple but functional and cosy. WC and shower facilities are provided.
More information: www.countryholidays.lv – section Countryside Goodies.

Craft workshops

Visit craftsmen to watch demonstration of traditional skills, see exposition of their works and try out your hand at ancient crafts and skills such as making clay pots, churning butter, using a bow and arrow, forging a nail at a blacksmith’s shop. Purchase practical and design elements made by craftspeople at workshops and souvenir shops. 

Sauna traditions

Sauna is an intrinsic part of living in the countryside and of national culture in Estonia and Latvia. There are considerable differences in sauna traditions and practices in each country. UNESCO has inscribed the Võrumaa smoke sauna tradition, practiced in southern Estonia, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Sauna restores the body in physical and spiritual terms. A sauna ritual is an adventure on various levels – healing and purifying the body, concentrating the emotions, learning about yourself, and even experiencing a positive change in your consciousness. Sauna rituals are offered by certified and experienced experts, and the rituals make use of gifts from the environment – branch and plant switches, scrubs and body masks from natural and local raw materials. Herbal teas are also offered. Sauna rituals can be experienced under guidance of a professional sauna expert as many hosts have inherited sauna traditions passed down the generations or attended special sauna schools.

Mushrooming and berry picking 

Both countries are rich in forests so staying in the countryside in August or September must involve mushrooming as a seasonal activity. In our forests we have chanterelles, russulas, Chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus), Lurid Bolete (Boletus luridus), edible tree-fungus – Sheep polypore (popular in Scandinavian cooking) (Albatrellus ovinus), Golden corall (Ramaria aurea), (Hapalopilus croceus), European bolete (Boletus edulis), golden Coral Tooth (Hericium coralloides.  Local people know edible mushrooms well and will show their special mushrooming spots to guests. In early autumn serving mushroom dishes is a leading trend in home kitchens as well as restaurant menus.

SPA

Many country hotels, manors and guest houses specialise in SPA services offering high-quality spa procedures so that you can relax and restore yourself. Added value is provided by fresh air, lovely natural and rural landscapes, and the sounds of nature. People have known for centuries how to use nature materials for their health and wellbeing, and some of this is adapted in modern spa and health treatments, for example, milk or birch sap baths, combined with massage.

Wedding celebrations

Castle and manor hotels as well as guest houses specialise in services for wedding ceremonies and celebrations. Young couples pronounce the sacred vows in front of an outdoor altar surrounded by beautiful countryside. Wedding banquets are professionally serviced by restaurants and wedding organisers.

National parks 

National parks welcome visitors who enjoy nature and share the feeling of responsibility to preserve and protect it. Wild animals can be seen in their natural habitats, unique landscapes, rare plants are all nature values that are attractively explained by nature guides. Nature experiences usually include walks in specially appointed nature trails with wooden boardwalks and viewing platforms in beautiful landscape areas, hiking along the seashore, enjoying magnificent moments like sunrise or sunset by the sea, listening to the sounds of nature and admiring its colours. 
Natural parks have their visitor centres offering tourist information and guidance.