Tallinn, Estonia Tallinn, Estonia

Self-Drive Baltics

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Exeter International White Glove Self-Drive Program Includes: 

  • A pre-programmed GPS system for you to use while in Europe. Every day will be set up for you and you can’t get lost!
  • 24-hour local help line, available to you as you travel and manned exclusively by Exeter local staff.
  • Our expert advice in finding the perfect car for your trip. Your car will be waiting for you to pick up locally and we’ll show you exactly where to return it when you are finished.
  • The freedom to deviate and explore on your own and then jump back into your planned itinerary at any time.

The following is just a suggested daily touring schedule. You will have complete control over your daily schedule and may change your plans at any time simply by telling your guide or by deviating from your Exeter-provided GPS itinerary. Your time in Europe is yours to enjoy as you like!

For custom luxury travel, tours and self drive programs to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, please contact one of our travel experts.

White Glove Self-Drive Downloadable PDF

Download a PDF itinerary here

 

 
Day 1
Arrival | Vilnius

Arrival to Vilnius airport where you will be met by your Exeter International driver to transfer you to your hotel in the historic center of the city. Your hotel is the finest in Vilnius, the Kempinski Cathedral Square, recently opened in the center of the city and within walking distance of all the major sights. Please note that no airfare is included in your trip cost.

Vilnius Old Town boasts outstanding architectural diversity in one of the largest and best-preserved old towns in Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage site is filled with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. Narrow medieval streets, secluded courtyards, town castles and fortifications and an incredible number of churches reflect the city’s rich and vibrant history.

This afternoon, you will meet your Exeter guide in the lobby of your hotel for an overview waking tour of Vilnius Old Town. You will visit Gediminas Castle Museum, the Cathedral Square and the Vilnius Cathedral and the Royal Palace.

You will return to your hotel for an evening at your leisure.

Special Note: All touring today is on foot and you will largely be in pedestrian only areas. Please wear comfortable footwear.

Exeter Services: Transfer; Half-Day Guide (4 Hours)

Day 2
Vilnius | Vilnius

This morning your guide will continue your walking tour of Vilnius’ Old Town with you. If you are interested, you can visit the Amber Gallery and Museum which explains the origins and history of this precious material and exhibits amber of various sizes, forms and color. Exhibitions of works of art from amber are constantly held at the museum’s gallery. Amber jewelry of modern and classical design is available for purchase as well.

A tour of the Old Town is not complete without a visit to Vilnius University, founded in 1570 by Jesuits and one of the most important centers of the Counter-Reformation. The observatory tower dates back to 1569 and the library contains nearly 5 million volumes, making it the richest collection of Lithuanian books and one of the best-known libraries in Eastern Europe.

Also in the Old Town, you will see the Presidential Palace, which has been the official seat of Lithuania’s President since 1997. A flag displaying the coat of arms of the President is hoisted when the President is in the Palace and in Vilnius.

You will also see the Gothic St. Anne’s Church, which was originally built for the Catholic Germans and other visiting Catholics. The present brick church was constructed in the late 15th century at its exterior has remained almost unchanged since then. St. Anne's Church is part of a complex including the much larger Gothic Church of St. Francis and a monastery.

This afternoon meet your driver for a visit to the moving Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, which was opened in 1992 in the former KGB headquarters. The museum is the only one of its kind in the former Soviet republics. The execution chamber in the basement, where more than a thousand prisoners were killed between 1944 and the early 1960s, can also be visited. The Museum stirred a bit of controversy by renaming itself somewhat misleadingly a Museum of Genocide Victims (it does not include much about the Holocaust.)

Finally, you will visit the Renaissance Palace of the Radziwills, who were for centuries one of the most influential and powerful Polish-Lithuanian princely families. The current building was erected in the middle of the 17th century but was partially destroyed in the following wars and remained mostly neglected for centuries. It was further devastated during World War I when only the northern wing of the palace survived. It was restored in the 1980s and is now a branch of the Lithuanian Art Museum. Return to hotel and enjoy at evening at leisure.

Special Note: Some touring today is on foot and you will largely be in pedestrian only areas. Please wear comfortable footwear. If you are tired at any time, your guide can arrange for taxi service on the spot and you can pay locally.

Exeter Services: Half-Day Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours); Full-Day Guide (8 Hours)

Day 3
Vilnius at Leisure | Vilnius at Leisure

This morning you will pick up your rental car from the downtown location near your hotel. Today is the perfect opportunity to explore some of the locations around Vilnius. Please note the cost of the rental car is not included. Rental costs are based on your individual vehicle needs.

We suggest stopping in Trakai, about 20 miles west of the city. Trakai, the ancient capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is situated amidst picturesque lakes, the largest of which – Galve - has over 20 islands. It is best known for its captivating 14th Century fairytale castle which was presumably one of the largest in Lithuania of those times and served as residence for a number of Lithuanian rulers before the insular castle was constructed a short distance away on an island of Lake Galve. The Castle Museum offers a view into Lithuania’s past, when Trakai ruled an empire from the Baltics to the Black Sea. The Tartars, once part of this empire’s royal bodyguards, still live in Trakai today.

Trakai was also home to a large Karaite community. The origin of the Karaites is very interesting. Some scholars link them to the Khazars, Turkic people that converted to Judaism in the eighth century while others view them as descendants of the Karaite Jews who lived in Crimea. They were brought to Lithuania by Grand Duke Vytautas from the Crimea and served as his bodyguards. Today you may visit the Karaites' house of worship, called kenesa, and a museum of Karaite culture.

After you tour Trakai, we suggest you stop at the city of Paneriai, which was once a quiet small suburb before being turned into a mass-murder site by the Nazis in World War II. Nowadays, the entrance to the Paneriai memorial complex is marked by three stone slabs with inscriptions in Russian, Lithuanian and Hebrew honoring the memory of the hundred thousand who perished here.

Exeter Services: No Services 

Day 4
Klaipeda | Klaipeda

Today you will make your way towards Klaipeda. On the way you may wish to stop in the town of Kaunas.

Arrive into Klaipeda this afternoon where you will meet your guide for an introductory walking tour of the town. You will see the Castle Museum and walk to the Drama Theatre Square with a famous sculpture of “Annchen von Tharau”. If you are interested your guide will also take you to the Blacksmith Museum or the Clock Museum. Finnish your tour with a leisurely stroll through the wonderful Mazvydas Sculpture Park.

Exeter Services: Klaipeda Guide (3 Hours)

Hotel: Michaelson

Day 5
Klaipeda at Leisure | Klaipeda at Leisure

Today we recommend that you drive to visit Neringa National Park at the Curonian Spit with the help of your preprogrammed Exeter GPS. First you will board a ferry that will take you and the car to across the strait. Curonian Spit, a UNESCO listed 60 miles long peninsula, features dramatic white sand dunes and beautiful pine forests.

Besides climbing sand dunes for beautiful views, you may wish to visit the Hill of Witches and the Amber Gallery in Juodkrante or perhaps the Thomas Mann house in Nida, where the famous German writer once vacationed.

In the evening, return to Klaipeda.

Exeter Services: No Services

Hotel: Michaelson

Day 6
Klaipeda to Riga | Klaipeda to Riga

Today, check-out of your hotel and continue your journey into neighboring Latvia. Before you cross the border, we recommend that you stop in Palanga, just a short drive north of Klaipeda, and enjoy its beautiful sandy beaches. You may also want to visit the local Amber Museum in the Palace of Count Tyszkiewicz. If you haven’t realized it, you are in the amber capital of the world!

If you are interested you can drive up the coast and stop to visit Latvia’s richest town and port of Ventspils and visit its expertly renovated Old Town. Alternatively, take the highway from Liepaja straight to Riga.

Late afternoon or evening arrival into Riga and check-in at the charming Hotel Grand Palace in Riga.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

Day 7
Riga | Riga

This morning, your Riga guide will meet you in the lobby for a walking tour of Old Town Riga. You will visit the 13th century St. Peter’s Church, which was damaged by fire during World War II and later (ironically) rebuilt by the Soviets. A good place to start any tour is atop the church’s spire, where you can see the whole of Riga laid out before you. This is the perfect way to get your bearings before you wander down the cobble-stoned streets. From here you may see the exterior of the Dome Cathedral one of the largest and most distinctive houses of worship in the region.

After, you will view the famous House of Cats with cat sculptures perched on the top of its roof and hear about the intrigue surrounding these feline figures. Just across the street, you will also see the former headquarters of the Great Guild, now the home of the Riga Philharmonic. Other good examples of medieval dwellings are in this neighborhood, including the Three Brothers building, dating to the 15th century.

Continuing your tour of the Old Town, you will see the Riga Castle (Rigas pils) In 1938, the Latvian government declared the castle its official residence and today it houses the residence of the President, as well as two museums - the Museum of Latvian History and the Museum of Foreign Art.

In the afternoon meet your driver, we suggest visiting Riga’s Central District. Not far away from the Old Town, you can stop by the Freedom Monument - a memorial honoring the soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence from 1918-1920. Later you will visit the Latvian National Art Museum, which houses more than 52,000 works of art reflecting the development of the arts in Latvia from the middle of the 18th century until the present. It also features Russian art from the 16th to the first half of the 20th century.

The area around Elizabetes and Alberta Streets is known as Riga’s Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil) District, which features impressive examples of the style. In total, there are some 800 Art Nouveau buildings in Riga, many of which were designed and built by Latvian architects including Mikhail Eisenstein.

Time permitting you may wish to see the Riga Central Market or the Bergs Bazaar.

Exeter Services: Guide (8 Hours); Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours)

Day 8
Riga - Rundale - Riga | Riga - Rundale - Riga

Today we recommend that you drive to the elegant 17th century Rundale Palace, located a short distance outside of the city.

Rundale Palace was designed by the famous architect (and Catherine the Great’s favorite) Rastrelli as a summer residence for the Duke of Courland and is an exquisite masterpiece of symmetry and beauty. The palace was built from 1736-1740 and the Rococo interior decorations were added from 1765-1768. The parade rooms, the duke's private apartments and the duchess' boudoir are open to visitors.

You may wish to have lunch at the restaurant located inside the palace today. The cost of lunch is not included in your trip.

Return to Riga’ s Old T own Center or back to your hotel. Y ou will ha ve the rest of the evening at leisure.

Note: It is possible to arrange a privately led tour of the palace. This is not included in the price, please inquire for details.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

 

Day 9
Riga - Gauja National Park | Riga - Gauja National Park

Today you will leave the capital of Latvia behind and make your way towards Gauja National Park.

We suggest leaving early so you have time to explore the sights in the area, including Sigulda Castle, Cēsis Castle, and Turaida Castle.

We can also arrange a private wine tasting in a traditional sandstone wine cave, a wood carving workshop, or a tour a former Soviet Bunker.

Check into your hotel this evening and enjoy the ambiance of staying in a real castle. Your stay provides complimentary access to the castle’s expansive grounds.

This area of Latvia provides a number of sights and activities, the perfect place to spend an extra night or two if time allows.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

Hotel: Birini Castle Hotel

Day 10
Riga - Muhu Island | Riga - Muhu Island

Today check out of your hotel and continue your trip by driving to neighboring Estonia.

Drive north along the coast to Parnu, where you may wish to stop for a lunch break. Parnu is Estonia’s main summer resort but has the laid back atmosphere of a small charming town. During Soviet times it was a popular spa escape for the Russians and is now gaining popularity among Scandinavians. You can stroll through the Old Town or on the beach, or, if you like modern art, you should not miss Parnu’s Museum of New Art.

Continue your drive to Muhu Island. To get there you will drive to the town of Virtsu to board a ferry that will take you to the Island (full instructions will be given to you and your Exeter GPS will take you right where you need to go!). Then drive to the village of Pädaste and check-in at the wonderful Pädaste Manor, your home for the next two nights.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

Day 11
Muhu Island | Muhu Island

Today enjoy at leisure in the beautiful nature of the Muhu Island. The hotel has bicycles for your use and many other activities in and around the resort.

Alternatively, you may explore the neighboring islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.

Hiiumaa is home to several Nature Preserves, ideal for hiking and bird watching, while Saaremaa is especially attractive for retaining its prewar character . Y ou should visit the Bishop’ s Castle in K urresaare, the main town on Saaremaa, that dates back to the 14th century. A half-hour drive from Kurresaare you will encounter a group of beautifully preserved wooden windmills and the medieval Karja Church.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

Day 12
Muhu Island - Tallinn | Muhu Island - Tallinn

Today, check out of your hotel and drive to Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.

Tallinn has a unique history of seafaring, foreign occupation and merchant activity dating to the 13th century. A beautiful city of ancient castles, stone towers, and medieval streets, its ageless charm is unmistakable.

Return your rental car in Tallinn and check in at your hotel and enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Exeter Services: No Services (Self-Drive)

Hotel: Telegraaf

Day 13
Tallinn | Tallinn

This morning meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a walking tour. The Upper Old City or Toompea Hill, is the oldest part of Tallinn, inhabited since pre-history. Unlike Vilnius and Riga whose walls were destroyed, eighty percent of the original wall around Tallinn in the 1500’s is still intact today. In addition to having Tallinn’s oldest buildings, the upper old town has good viewing platforms to view the entire old town. Toompea Castle is one of Estonia’s most treasured landmarks, built by Danes and Germans after they defeated the Estonians in the early 1200’s.

At the foot of the hill, you will see the St. Nicholas Church, which was originally built in the 13th century by German merchants and dedicated to the patron saint of sailors and merchants. It was partially destroyed when the Soviet air force bombed the city in World War II. After extensive restorations it is now used as an art museum and concert hall.

In the afternoon, your guide will take you to the Kadriorg Park and Palace outside of the Old Town. Construction on this lovely palace was begun by Peter the Great in 1718 and was originally called Ekaterinenthal in honor of his wife, Catherine I. The humble cottage where Peter the Great stayed during his visits to Tallinn before the Kadriorg Palace was complete now houses a small museum displaying a few items from the emperor's life, as well as some early 18th-century furnishings. Kadriorg Palace now houses the National Gallery of Art and its collection of Western European, Oriental, and Russian art. You may choose to visit the museum or just enjoy the lovely gardens and grounds.

Afterwards, you may decide to continue to the KUMU art museum – Estonia’s largest. Opened in 2006 in an enormous, cutting-edge facility built into a limestone cliff in Kadriorg, the KUMU exhibits works from Estonian artists dating from the 18th century through the end of World War II, as well as a permanent exhibition of Estonian contemporary art dating from 1945-1991. The collection located on the third floor portrays the interesting relationship that existed between the art in Estonia and the Soviet Union.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours) & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Telegraaf

Day 14
Departure | Departure

Today, meet your driver for a transfer to the airport for your flight onwards. Please note the cost of the flight is not included.

Exeter Services: Departure Transfer

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