As the New Year begins, you might be thinking about planning some spring, summer, or fall travel to a cool European destination. Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I live in Vilnius, but I think planning a trip to the Batlics is a great budget option for road trips with families or friends. There is so much to see in the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) that a road trip through the three countries would allow for great city breaks, relaxing spa trips, hikes, and swimming (depending on the time of year). You'll also get to learn a bit about the culture and sample food from three different countries along the same journey.
In this 2 week road trip itinerary through the Baltic States, I've started in Vilnius, since that is where I'm based, but you could easily reverse this itinerary to start in Tallinn.
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Day 1 & 2: Explore all that Vilnius has to offer. Spend three nights in Vilnius to allow for packed, but not rushed days and a day trip outside of Vilnius. If you are looking for a place to stay in Vilnius, my mother-in-law loves staying at the Shakespeare Hotel* and my parents really liked the Europa Royal Vilnius*. Both hotels are in great locations and have delicious restaurants.
- Shop local at locals.lt (in Gedimino 9) and Aukso Avis
- Learn about cafe culture at Crooked Nose and Coffee Stories, Taste Map, and Coffee 1
- Marvel at St. Anne's and Bernardine's Church Complex and St. Peter and Paul's Church
- Get lost in the old town
- Eat lunch or dinner at The Town, Gaspar's, or Bistro 18
- Explore Uzupis' street art and learn about its constitution
- Learn about Lithuania's sad history at the Museum of Genocide Victims
- Eat kibinai at Pinavija Cafe
Day 3: Take a day trip to either Kaunas, Trakai, or Rumsiskes. Personally, my vote would have to be Kaunas for if you like city breaks or Rumsiskes if you'd like to learn more about culture and spend the day outdoors. In Kaunas, wander the old town, visit the Devil's Museum, and stroll down Laisves Ave.
Total distance: Vilnius to Kaunas (104 km; 1 hr 20 min; one way), Vilnius to Trakai (30 km; 40 min; one way), Vilnius to Rumsiskes (95 km; 1 hr 20 min; one way)
Day 4: Travel to Klaipeda by way of Siauliai and the Hill of Crosses. Be sure to stop at the Hill of Crosses and be wowed by the massive number of crosses placed on this tiny hill. Spend the night in Klaipeda and be sure to eat dinner at Momo Grill.
Total distance: Vilnius to Siauliai (222 km; 2 hr and 30 min), Siauliai to Klaipeda (165 km; 2 hr 10 min)
|The Hill of Crosses in Siauliai|
Day 5 & 6: Wake up early to grab a coffee and some sweets at Kavos Architektai before taking the ferry to the Curonian Spit, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have written a detailed guide to getting to the Curonian Spit --> find it here! Hike, bike, swim, and birdwatch along the Curonian Spit. Spend two nights in a guesthouse or hotel in Nida, Juodkrante, or one of the other tiny villages along the spit, but I suggest staying in or near Nida. Hiking and learning about Lithuanian culture on the Hill of Witches is a highlight of a visit to the Curonian Spit. Don't forget to watch the sunset over the sand dunes!
Total distance: Klaipeda to Nida (19 km; 55 min)
Day 7: Leave the Curonian Spit by ferry and head to Jurmala, Latvia. Spend the afternoon and evening relaxing in Jurmala. Lounge at the beach or enjoy a spa treatment in this resort town formerly favored by Russian oligarchs. Eat a delicious dinner at the Uzbekistan restaurant and marvel at the impressive, wooden houses built in Art Nouveau architecture. Be sure to spend tons of time at the awesome Dzintari mezaparks, which is a huge, free, outdoor playground for adults and kids.
Total distance: Nida, LT to Jurmala, LV (274 km; 4 hr and 10 min)
Day 8 & 9: Next up, visit Latvia's hip capital, Riga, to enjoy the Art Nouveau architecture, wander the old town, and learn about cool Minox spy cameras. My favorite hotel in Riga is easily the Wellton Centrum Hotel*, so I'd have to suggest you spend both nights there. You can read my reviews of the Wellton Centrum here and here.
- Shop local at Pienene
- Check out the Latvian Museum of Photography
- Learn about Latvian pharmacy at the Museum of Pharmacy
- Wander the beautiful streets of the old town
- Taste Riga Black Balsam
- Purchase handmade gloves at Tines
- Enjoy locally brewed beer from Labietis, which has amazing beer
Total distance: Jurmala to Riga (37.8 km; 36 min)
Day 10: Head out from Riga and spend the day exploring the Cesis Castle complex. The Cesis Castle is ruins of a Livonian castle. Be sure to spend some time wandering the old town and the castle complex. Drive on to spend the night in Parnu, Estonia.
Total distance: Riga to Cesis Castle complex (89.6 km; 1 hr 23 min), Cesis Castle complex to Parnu, Estonia (172 km; 2 hr)
Day 10 & 11: Spend the night and the next day wandering Parnu to enjoy some beaches and spas in this cute Estonian town. In Parnu, enjoy some delicious local food and birdwatching.
Day 12: Leave Parnu early to drive to Matsalu National Park, which is one of Europe's best birdwatching destinations. Spend the night in a guest house or set out in the evening to spend the night in Tallinn.
Total distance: Parnu to Matsalu National Park (116 km; 1 hr 30 min)
Day 13 & 14: Enjoy the magical medieval city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Spend your first day exploring the old town and reserve your second day for visiting Telliskivi Creative City and the KGB Museum. If you are looking for a hotel in Tallinn, I'd suggest either the Tallink Express Hotel*, which is located near the port -- a 5 minute walk from the old town, or St. Olav Hotel* located right in the old town. You can read my reviews of Tallink Express Hotel here and of St. Olav Hotel here.
- Take a free walking tour of the old town
- Shop, eat, and drink at Telliskivi Creative City
- Learn about Estonia's sad history at the KGB Museum
- Eat amazing food at Ribe, 16 Rataskaevu, and Old Hansa
- Walk the old city walls
- Shop local at Oma Asi Design
Total distance: Matsalu National Park to Tallinn (117 km; 1 hr 40 min)
This massive itinerary consisting of two weeks in the Baltic States stops in five destinations in Lithuania, three in Latvia, and three in Estonia. If you stop in all of these destinations, you'll be passing through four UNESCO World Heritage sites (the old towns of Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, and the Curonian Spit).
The total distance covered by the whole trip is approximately 10,266 km! That is one epic trip! Now you might be wondering where to rent a car in Vilnius. Almost every time we've rented a car it has been from AutoBanga, and we've had great experiences with them (although if you want to pick the the car early, you should call ahead the same morning to remind them to show up). Depending on what type of car you rent, the prices aren't that bad, but do keep in mind that I always suggest purchasing the extra insurance, which does add a significant fee. Read my review and tips for renting with AutoBanga here. See the approximate stopping locations (excluding the day trip from Vilnius) on the Google Map below.