Holiday Traditions in Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia
The three Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn are magical places in winter, and especially during the holidays. From the end of November through the New Year, each Baltic capital plays host to charming and traditional Christmas Markets. Skip the crowds of Europe’s more famous markets, and opt instead for these wonderfully atmospheric old-world Baltic gems. During this private tour of the Christmas markets, walk historic, cobbled town squares grandly decorated with festive trees, plus explore baroque palaces and important rural sites that dot the landscapes in between the capitals as you are driven from city to city.
- This itinerary can also be done in reverse, starting in Tallinn and ending in Vilnius.
Days 1-2 Vilnius (Lithuania)
Admire the 16th century Gates of Dawn; wander Pilies Street, lined with artisans selling traditional wares; visit neoclassical Vilnius Cathedral; and descend into the cathedral crypts, where remnants of churches and pagan temples from centuries past have been found. Marvel at the increasingly elaborate decorations adorning the trees while strolling through charming Christmas markets like those found near the city’s cathedral, hall and train station.
- UNESCO-listed Vilnius, capital of Lithuania and the largest baroque city north of the Alps
- Elegant St. Anne’s, a diminutive red brick church that represents the pinnacle of Gothic architecture in Lithuania
- Vilnius Christmas Market
- Lithuanian Dziugas cheese and wine tasting experience
Days 3-4: Hill of Crosses, Riga (Latvia)
Investigate the Hill of Crosses, a powerful monument planted with crosses by local believers. In Latvia, tour Rundale Palace, designed by imperial architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, and explore Riga’s imaginative and decorative art nouveau architecture. Enjoy the elaborate Christmas trees on display and the lively Christmas markets of central Riga.
- Hill of Crosses, covered by a multitude of crosses, some of them treasured examples of folk art
- Castle of Rundale, designed in the early 18th century by Rastrelli, who also built St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace
- UNESCO-listed Old Town of Riga, capital of Latvia
- Riga’s section of ornamental art nouveau buildings, one of the finest collections in Europe
- Riga Christmas Markets
- Traditional Latvian Riga Balsams tasting
Days 5-7: Gauja National Park, Tallinn (Estonia)
Visit the Livonian Knights’ 13th century Turaida Castle in Gauja National Park, and the Song Festival Grounds where Estonians defied the Soviet Union in 1988. Explore Kadriorg Park and Palace, built by Peter the Great, and explore Tallinn’s Old Town, the best-preserved medieval town center in Northern Europe. Soak up the wonderfully atmospheric old town, the Christmas markets, and learn about the city’s heritage as the first community to reportedly publicly display a Christmas tree.
- Turaida Castle, originally founded in 1214 by the archbishops of Riga
- Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, whose winding cobbled streets, red roofs, and turreted fortress wall are on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Song Festival Grounds, center of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution”
- One of the oldest continuously running pharmacies in Europe, which used to sell powdered unicorn horn in the Middle Ages
- Telliskivi Creative City
- Tallinn Christmas Market and festive tree displays
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included meals.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group.)
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, as noted in the itinerary.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Final document packet, including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance, including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary in modern and cosmopolitan Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is designed for private travel and features long days walking and standing, and some possibly long days in the touring vehicle. Only those fit to travel and who accept the local conditions should consider joining this program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases, and museums rarely have elevators.
Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
Accommodations in the basic program are generally moderate, three star to four-star hotels. Upgrades may be available, please call for details.