Summer Sunshine in Estonia and Finland

Posted by Garrott Kuzzy, Lumi Experiences on Jun 6th 2024

Summer Sunshine in Estonia and Finland

Summer sunshine in Estonia & Finland

What do Estonia and Finland have in common? There’s a lot more that connects these two small countries in northern Europe than simply the Baltic Sea – although, the 2-hour ferry ride across the Baltic is pretty incredible too. Lumi’s newest cross country ski vacation takes guests to Estonia & Finland and offers the opportunity to ski the Tartu and Finlandia Worldloppet events on back-to-back weekends.

In preparation for the new Estonia & Finland Lumi trip, I spent last week in both countries, immersing myself in the local landscape and culture. In fact, the city of Tartu – namesake of Estonia’s Tartu Ski Marathon and the country’s second largest city behind the capital Tallinn – is the 2024 European Capital of Culture, known for its cobbled pedestrian streets, traditional and modern architecture, music festivals and access to the outdoors . I should not have been surprised when I learned that Finland’s new president was on an official visit to Estonia and also staying at the hotel in Tartu where Lumi guests will be staying this February. The first international trip of a new president is typically to visit their country’s closest ally. In this case, Finland was visiting Estonia. Did you know that both Finland and Estonia even have the same melody for their national anthems? At an Olympic Games, a Finnish champion or an Estonian champion on top of the podium would each have the same anthem played for them, though they’d be singing different lyrics, of course.

Speaking of singing, Estonia is particularly well known for the “Singing Revolution” – the peaceful protests that led to Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 with miraculously no bloodshed. Every 5 years, over 30,000 singers gather at the song festival grounds in Tallinn to perform for a crowd of over 60,000 spectators, which in total is close to 10% of the entire population of Estonia. The Song Festival started in Tartu in 1869 and is now recognized by UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Coincidentally, the Song Festival grounds in Tartu are also home to the race office for the Tartu Ski Marathon and the international headquarters of the Worldloppet (see: What is the Worldloppet).

I was particularly impressed by the Tartu Ski Marathon itself. Running 63 km from Otepää – a small village south of Tartu, known to many cross country ski fans as a popular World Cup venue for both Nordic and Biathlon, to the village of Elva, where the race finishes at a resort in the woods that feels like the Telemark Village outside of Cable, WI. The main event is classic-only on Sunday, February 16. Due to the popularity of the classic event, the race organizers added a new 31 km skate option on Saturday, February 15, so skiers now have the option to ski either classic or skate events. There is also a 31 km classic event on Sunday. Along the way, the course meanders through the woods and fields, beneath a fire tour and features wooden carvings every few km. It feels like skiing the American Birkebeiner course, though not nearly as hilly. Similar to the Birkie, race organizers have also added snowmaking to several key areas on the course, which increases the snow-certainty for this popular event with over 5,000 participants.After dialing in details for the trip in Tartu, I traveled north to Tallinn – Estonia’s capital city on the Baltic. The medieval city center has a history dating back prior to 1219 when the city was captured by Denmark. Strolling through the pedestrian streets, there are signs left behind by the countries who have at various times controlled Tallinn: Danish city walls around the old town, a Swedish-built university, a Russian Orthodox church with iconic onion towers, German trade unions from it’s time in the Hanseatic Trade League, the Soviet Union-style concrete buildings, including a hotel that houses the KGB spy museum and, since 1991, Estonia has been in control of its own capital city. Today, Tallinn’s rich history and thriving art scene offers lots much to explore for a variety of interests.

Innsbruck, Austria, where I currently live, is nestled land-locked in the Alps, which offers endless opportunities to explore in the mountains, but for someone who grew up in Minneapolis, I often miss the water. In Tallinn, the waterfront is another highlight. Strolling along the boardwalk, there were many restaurants and even the Estonian Maritime Museum, in the building where early submarines were manufactured during the first World War, plus several ships on the water to explore. In the winter, saunas in the harbor are particularly popular. I can’t wait to get back for a dip this winter!

Towering over the bay were several giant cruise ships. Personally, I prefer travel where I can be active and settle into a place for a few days, rather than the seemingly confined experience of days on a cruise ship, with short stops in various port cities along the route. That said, I am intrigued by the cruise ship concept and traveling by boat. I never expected to have a cruise ship experience on this trip, but when I boarded the two-hour ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, that’s exactly what I got.

The ferry shuttling passengers 90 km across the Baltic Sea takes about two hours and is big enough to fit over a mile of cars and trucks. Once on board, the ferry was like no other ship I’ve been on. Three floors of restaurants ranging from Burger King to fine dining offer something for everyone. A duty free shop (we were traveling through two ports, after all) rivaled any airport duty free I’ve experienced and featured some fun souvenirs from both Estonia and Finland. On deck, a VIP lounge included a swimming pool and hot tub with views over the Baltic. My highlight was simply exploring the boat and standing on deck overlooking the sea with no land in sight in any direction.

What awaited me upon arrival in Finland? How does Finland, Lahti and the Finlandia Hiihto ski marathon compare to Estonia and Tartu? Check back in again soon for highlights and discoveries from the second half of the trip.

Ready to travel to Estonia and Finland? Lumi’s 2025 Estonia & Finland trip is already sold-out. Reach out to add your name to the waiting list or to be first to know when we open the trip to bookings for 2026. If skiing two Worldloppet events in back-to-back weekends appeals to you, we still have several spots available on the Marcialonga & König Ludwig Lauf trip, where you can ski in Italy, Austria and Germany during the 11-day trip. Is a trip to a port city where you can sauna in the bay and get out on the water and also go skiing on your list? I recommend either the Norway Birken Trip, where you can explore Oslo and ski the Norwegian Birkebeiner or the Trondheim World Championships Trip where you can catch the 2025 Nordic World Championships and ski on Trondheim’s vast trail network overlooking the Trondheim fjord. Reach out soon! All three of these trips have only a handful of spots still available.

See you on the trail,