Daugava river in Riga city, Latvia
Daugava river in Riga city, Latvia
NEW for 2019

Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia: Along the Baltic Shores


14 days From $5,230

June 4 2019

A preconception that the adjoining Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are essentially similar could not be wider of the mark. While one common characteristic may be their relatively modest size, in key respects – culture, language, tradition, temperament – each has its own identity and spotting the differences can definitely add to the enjoyment of our tour.

Their three ancient coastal capitals – Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia) – are steeped in history and offer a feast of architectural eye-appeal. Tallinn is the smallest, its picturesque medieval Lower Town a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Riga the largest and especially notable for its array of Art Nouveau buildings; while the Baroque is pre-eminent in Vilnius (which also claims Europe’s oldest and most extensive medieval town). In all three labyrinths of old town lanes, cobbled stone squares and lofty church spires have been restored to new life in today’s post-Soviet era.

The Baltic States’ turbulent past of conquest and partition over the centuries is also explored on our tour through a balanced program of museum visits ranging from Vilnius’ important Amber Museum to the Archaeological Institute Museum and Araisi Archaeological Park in Tallinn. The Baltic also majors on medieval castles (both fairytale and ghostly) – and castle connoisseurs will appreciate the many examples featured in our itinerary!

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Prof. John Hines

Prof. John Hines

John Hines is Professor in the School of History and Archaeology at Cardiff University, and is a specialist in the archaeology of the early medieval period, particularly the material culture and literature of the Vikings.

Book Now $5,230
Includes deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $995

Tour highlights:

  • Explore Lithuania’s Kernave Medieval Complex, where hillforts, settlements and burial sites show activity from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages
  • Visit the enchanting Medieval lake castle of Trakai, whose stunning island setting hides a long and surprisingly violent history
  • Trace the captivating story of the Amber trade, which was so important to the Baltic economies throughout the years
  • Compare the three great cathedrals of the Baltics as we visit Vilnius, Riga and finally Tallinn
  • Discover Latvia’s picture-book little Medieval town of Kuldiga and its castle, and look at Grobinia Medieval castle, along with the nearby hillfort and settlement

Tour details

Dates June 4 2019 - June 17 2019
Duration 14 days
Cost $5,230
Single supplement: $995
Deposit: $1,250 , balance due by March 12 2019
Activity Level Easy-Going
Tour code A19BAL

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

June 4 2019: Itinerary

After arriving at Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, we transfer to our hotel for a 3-night stay. The remainder of the day is free for relaxation after our journey until we meet up as a group later to enjoy an introductory lecture, followed by a welcome dinner together.

 

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel, Vilnius

Our day begins with a walking tour of historic UNESCO-listed Vilnius, founded in 1323. Though among Europe’s smaller capitals, Vilnius has at its heart a labyrinthine Old Town that represents one of the continent’s grandest collections of medieval and baroque architecture. An all-pervading sense of history suffuses its wealth of picturesque ancient streets and squares - quaint one minute and stately the next - and skyline of steeples and domes, all amid a backdrop of parks and hills. A city of both distinction and charm, today’s Vilnius adds the energetic pulse of a lively contemporary café culture to this historic heritage. Our first day begins with a walking tour of the city. We pause at the university campus (the oldest in the Baltic States) before visiting the city’s Amber Museum Gallery. Within this Neo-Renaissance building we can follow the trading history of the Baltic Sea coast’s renowned amber (fossilized tree resin), through collections from the prehistoric to post-medieval periods. We later take time to explore the Ducal Palace, originally built in the 15th century for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Today’s handsome reconstruction of what was once the political, diplomatic and cultural center of the State houses a museum dedicated to the history of Lithuania. Our afternoon also includes visits to several of the capital’s finest Orthodox and Catholic churches.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel, Vilnius

This morning’s program opens with the short drive to the peninsula town of Trakai, where we call is at the Karaite Ethnographic Museum, whose interesting artefact displays trace the life, culture and history of the minority Karaite communities of Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. Afterwards we traverse the walkway to Trakai’s splendid Island Castle for a tour of this impressively-restored 15th century gem, now looking more fairytale than fortress in its setting. Weather permitting, we enjoy an optional afternoon lake cruise (about 1 hour) before our return to Vilnius.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel, Vilnius

The first leg of today’s journey to Palanga takes us to Kernavė Archaeological Site, 25 miles from Vilnius. Overlooking the winding River Neris, UNESCO-listed Kernave provides exceptional evidence of some 10 millennia of human settlement in this region. The extensive site encompasses the town of Kernavė, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages, when the town was destroyed by the Teutonic Knights. We continue to Kaunas, about an hour away, to explore the very attractive old town of Lithuania’s historic second city on the banks of the Nemunas river. Our visit also takes in the 14th century castle - one of Lithuania’s first castles to be built of stone and alone in having two rows of defensive walls. Our day ends with the 130-mile drive west to Palanga on the Baltic coast.

All meals included

Hotel: Vanagupe Spa Resort, Palanga

A popular Baltic seaside resort, with a five-mile beach backed by dunes and pines, Palanga is close to the remains of Klaipėda (formerly Memel) Castle, which we visit this morning. Built by the Teutonic Knights and currently being restored, the castle has been the focus of extensive excavations, which may still be in progress during our visit. We also see the theater balcony where Hitler gave his infamous speech in 1939 confirming Nazi Germany’s annexation of Memel Land. We then follow the coast south to the traditional wooden houses of picturesque Nida, a fishing village poised on the sand-fringed Curonian Spit between a lagoon and the Baltic. Here the Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead Museum gives us a vivid picture of a local fisherman’s life in times of old. Before heading back to Palanga we have time to discover more about the area’s unique history and culture at the Neringa Museum of History - and to visit German author Thomas Mann’s thatched Baltic summer house, now a museum. 

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Vanagupe Spa Resort, Palanga

Before leaving Palanga we dig a little deeper into the history of the town, which as long ago as c.3000 BCE was the start of the “Amber Road” trade route used to transport this valuable Baltic commodity to the rest of Europe. In the 12th and 13th centuries Baltic amber became a major source of income for the Teutonic Knights, overlords of the region at the time. Today small pieces of this fossilized resin still regularly wash ashore here. We visit the hill fort at Birutė Hill and walk through the landscaped Botanical Gardens to the elegant neo-classical former palace housing Palanga Amber Museum. The museum boasts an impressive collection of “Baltic gold” amber (totalling over 20,000 examples, many containing fragments of insects and plants), artwork and jewelry. After lunch we travel north into neighboring Latvia’s Grobina, about an hour away, where we pause to enjoy the evocative lakeside ruins of the town’s medieval castle (remarkably well preserved despite repeated destruction and rebuilding over time) and nearby hill fort and settlement area. We also visit Grobina’s archaeologically important barrow cemetery before ending our day’s tour in adjoining Liepaja.

All meals included

Hotel: Promenade Hotel, Liepāja

Our morning in this major Latvian port-city is devoted to the attractive Liepaja Museum, whose collection chronicling the history of the region from the Stone Age to the modern day includes archaeological artefacts and cultural items. We then embark on a 50-mile journey north to Kuldiga, an early member of the powerful Hanseatic League now cherished as a Latvian architectural gem. Its historic center with narrow cobbled streets lined with its red-roofed and pastel-colored wooden buildings has remained largely unchanged since the 18th century. Our schedule allows ample time for exploration and to look in at the interesting little District Museum. After lunch we head east on our 2-hour journey to Riga, the Latvian capital.

All meals included

Hotel: Avalon Hotel & Conferences, Riga

Like Vilnius, Riga is an appealing historic city that beguiles the visitor with the same engaging fusion of the old and the new - but with a distinctive Baltic character of its own. Clustered on the banks of the Daugava river, the city offers a feast for the eye, with a wealth of ornate Art Nouveau architecture in the heritage-listed Old Town. Today, though, this is a cultural crossroads of Northern and Eastern Europe that thrives as a vibrant and welcoming modern capital. On our first morning we take a relaxed walking tour of the city highlights. We focus on the Old Town, whose origins go back to 1201, and 13th century Riga Cathedral, whose great tower rises to over 1,200 feet, making it Europe’s third tallest tower, and other Lutheran churches of the city. Lunch is followed by a free afternoon to explore Riga independently - perhaps to admire the beautifully restored 14th century Riga Castle and its history museum; or to learn about the footprint of more recent history at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Avalon Hotel & Conferences, Riga

Today’s drive to Tallinn, 200 miles to our north, is broken by a visit to the Araisi Archaeological Museum Park beside Lake Araisi. Here we spend time exploring this unique site - setting of a memorably authentic replica of a fortified settlement of the ancient Latgallian tribe (who made their home in the region in the 9th and 10th centuries), as well as reconstructions of Stone and Bronze Age houses. Also on the lakeside are the ruins of Araisi Stone Castle, built by Livonians in the 14th century. Resuming our journey, we cross the border into Estonia and later in the afternoon arrive at the capital, Tallinn, our home on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland for the next 5 nights.

All meals included

Hotel: My City Hotel, Tallinn

An engrossing day awaits as we set out to become acquainted with beautiful Tallinn. The third of our trio of Baltic capitals, Tallinn is more than a match for its neighbors in its blend of a dazzling array of architectural treasures (its walled medieval heart was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of the world’s best-preserved Hanseatic town centres) with the city’s vibrant ambience of a national cultural hub. Today’s unhurried walking tour embraces such major highlights as St. Nicholas’ Church (now an ecclesiastical art museum); the handsome 13th century Town Hall (the oldest of its kind in the Baltic region) in picturesque Town Hall Square; the Russian revival-styled Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; and the Renaissance-style House of the Blackheads (a merchants’ guild). During the day we also tour Estonia’s State Maritime Museum, located in a 16th defensive tower named “Fat Margaret” and today showcasing the country’s fascinating seafaring history and traditions.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: My City Hotel, Tallinn

Our morning is devoted to the Estonian History Museum, housed within the city’s 15th century Great Guild Hall and with well-presented exhibits spanning 11,000 years of Estonian history. Later on we pay a visit to sturdy Toompea Castle, a city landmark set high on a hill in central Tallinn. It’s an intriguing “two in one” affair, much altered over time, with a stern medieval face to one side (surviving from the days of the German Knights of the Sword) and on the other an 18th century baroque pink palace dating from the era of Catherine the Great - and now home to Estonia’s Parliament.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: My City Hotel, Tallinn

A tour south into the Estonia interior today takes us first to Varbola, a circular native-Estonian hill fort whose impressive earthworks once defended prehistoric and early medieval settlements that became among the largest and most powerful ancient fortresses in northern Europe. We then travel on to Koluvere Castle, an important ecclesiastical fortress, built on an artificial river island in the 13th century and later owned by Catherine the Great of Russia. Our last call of the day is at the much fought-over and now ruined castle of Lihula, whose checkered fortunes involved the key players in Estonia’s history, including the Teutonic Knights, for whom it was once a major center.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: My City Hotel, Tallinn

Today we enjoy another interesting tour, this time taking us to Estonia’s western coast. The first of our three visits is to the partially-restored ruins of Padise Cistercian Monastery, whose turbulent history mirrors that of Estonia itself. It was founded in the 14th century after the first monks here had been dispossessed by the Teutonic Knights. The monastery later became an important and prosperous name in medieval Estonia – only to be dissolved in the 16th century. Then made into a fortress, it was fought over by Swedish and Russian armies before much later being converted into a country house - which in turn was badly damaged in 1766 after being struck by lightning!  From Padise we travel to the coastal town of Haapsalu to explore the atmospheric and exceptionally picturesque ruins of the medieval bishop’s castle. As we travel back to Tallinn we pause to admire the notable mural polychromes at the very pretty little 13th century church at Ridala. Our day ends later in Tallinn with a farewell group dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: My City Hotel, Tallinn

This morning, we transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

June 4 2019: Additional Info

June 4 2019: Accommodation

Built in 1901, Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel is located in the heart of the old town of Vilnius and it offers an indoor swimming pool and a fitness room. All major sights are within easy walking distance.

Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel offers free WiFi access in the entire hotel. All rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with a TV with cable channels and a minibar, as well as a bathroom.

The exclusive restaurant Astorija Brasserie serves modern French cuisine. It overlooks the town square and St. Casimir's Church. There is also Astorija Bar where guests can relax with a drink and admire the views. A rich buffet breakfast is served in the mornings, but guests with early departure times are offered the Grab & Run takeaway breakfast.

At surcharge, guests can benefit from 3-Hour Express Laundry service, as all clothes handed in before 20:00 will be returned the same day.

This property is 12 minutes walk from the beach. Surrounded by pine forests, the 5-star Vanagupe Spa Hotel is only a 12-minute walk from the wide, sandy beach. It offers air-conditioned rooms with a balcony, free internet, and the elegant Golden Spa.

The Vanagupe’s spa area features a pool complex, including a salt-water pool with underwater music, various saunas, and a Turkish steam bath. A selection of over 100 spa treatments is available. There is a seasonal heated outdoor pool available free of charge.

The restaurant serves classic European cuisine with Mediterranean touches. There are seasonal menus, daily specials and creative desserts on offer.

The Vanagupe Spa’s rooms are decorated in soft colors and furnished with elegant curtains, Italian furniture, and carpet floors. Each comes with a flat-screen TV with cable channels.

This property is 6 minutes walk from the beach. The 5-star design Promenade Hotel enjoys a unique location on a canal, next to the yacht marina and the Liepaja’s Port. It features elegant rooms with air-conditioning and plasma TV. WiFi and parking are free.

This former grain warehouse has a lobby that is used as a popular art gallery. Some architectural features date back to 1770.

All individually designed rooms are equipped with a minibar, cable TV and a seating area. Each comes with a modern bathroom with toiletries. Some offer a sauna.

The Piano restaurant serves traditional Latvian and international cuisine. In summer, guests can dine on the restaurant terrace and enjoy the view of the docks.

The 4-star Avalon Hotel & Conferences is located in Riga’s Old Town, only 550 yards from the Opera House and Freedom Monument. It offers spacious, air-conditioned rooms with a flat-screen cable TV, breakfast buffet and free WiFi.

The rooms at the Avalon Hotel & Conferences feature an elegant and classic interior design in bright colors with wooden furniture. All feature a laptop safe, coffee/tea makers, a minibar, ironing facilities and a work desk. Each has a hairdryer and toiletries in the bathroom.

The reception is open 24 hours a day offering car rental and airport shuttle services. The hotel also features a restaurant with local and European cuisine, a lobby bar, conference and banquet facilities and a smoking club Havanna. The hotel offers massages, manicure/pedicure, as well as other body and beauty treatments at the Beauty Residences.

Situated in Riga’s UNESCO-listed historic city center, the hotel is within a few minutes’ walk from the city’s most important landmarks, including the Dome Cathedral, the Guild of the Blackheads and the National Library. Riga Central Station and Central Market are 350 yards away. 

The 4-star My City Hotel is located in a beautiful building in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, 250 yards from the Town Hall Square. It offers air-conditioned rooms with free internet and flat-screen TV.

All rooms at the My City are spacious, bright and decorated with warm colours. Each comes with cable TV, a safe and a minibar. Some come with tea and coffee-making facilities.

A varied buffet breakfast is served every morning at the Mix restaurant, which specialises in international and Estonian dishes. Guests can enjoy a drink at the bar.

Front desk staff is available 24 hours a day and can arrange concierge services or assist with luggage storage.

June 4 2019: Enquiries

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