The Baltics and Poland
The Baltic states are slowly becoming more popular as tourist destinations, particularly among young backpackers. A really common way to travel through this region is to combine the trip through the Baltics with a visit to Poland, which is what we did when we visited. People tend to do this route in either direction, so it won’t matter too much which way you go. But for the sake of this description, we’ll start in Tallinn.
Tallinn – 3-4 nights
Tallinn is probaly the most popular of the three Baltic capitals, and it’s the one we liked best. It’s got a great old town and plenty to do. Generally people will stay 3-4 nights here, and we’d recommend at least three. It’s worth noting that there is a ferry that goes directly between Tallinn and Helsinki, which takes about two hours. So you can either do a daytrip to Helsinki while you’re in Tallinn and explore the city, or do what we did and actually start your trip in Helsinki, then catch the ferry over to Tallinn and carry on through the Baltics.
Riga – 2 nights
Next stop Riga. Riga is probably the most popular of the destinations from a visitor point of view, due to it being the main airport gateway to the Baltics. That means that on any given weekend, you’ll generally find a heap of European tourists, particularly British. Riga is actually pretty notorious for being a destination for British stag do’s, so look out for them too. The city itself is a bit smaller and quicker to get around, so a couple of nights here should be enough to see the city and get a feel for it. We’d recommend a 2 night stay.
Vilnius – 3-4 nights
Vilnius would probably be at this stage the least discovered of the three baltic capitals. But it’s becoming more and more popular by the year. Generally people will stay here 3-4 nights, depending on how much of surrounding Lithuania they want to see. There are quite a few day popular day trips from here that you can do. The most popular would be the trip to the hill of crosses, one of Lithuania’s most popular and interesting tourist destinations. Trakai castle is another popular trip. If you want to include both these trips, consider staying 4 nights.
Warsaw – 2 nights
The next stop on this trip is Warsaw, the capital of Poland. We think it’s a little under-rated, and a lot of people tend to skip through the city. But it’s worth a couple of nights stopover. The city itself was practically burned to the ground in World War Two, which is why it’s not as beautiful or picturesque as the more popular Krakow. But it’s got an interesting history and culture, and has some great museums, so it’s worth spending a couple of nights here exploring and learning.
- Articles on Warsaw coming soon
Kraków – 4 nights
Finally, Kraków is the last (or first) stop on the trip. It’s quickly growing in popularity as a destination in central / eastern Europe. Lots of people use Kraków as a base to visit to Auschwitz concentration camp, the most infamous of the concentration camps. You can also do a day trip to the famous salt mines, and the city itself is worthy of a couple of days exploring, so we’d recommend at least four nights here if you want to do everything.
- Articles on Kraków coming soon
Tips and things to know
- The best transport option between each city is generally the bus. Lux Express is the main bus company through the Baltics. It’s cheap, efficient and generally very comfortable.
- If you want to explore more of the countryside, you can do a Traveller Tours transfer between Vilnius and Riga and also Riga and Tallinn. It’s a full day that takes you through the countryside and visits some popular tourist destinations. It can be particularly worth it between Vilnius and Riga as a way to visit the famous hill of crosses.
- As we mentioned earlier, because of the ease of the ferry, you can also include Helsinki as the first or last stop on this journey, or just include it as a day trip from Tallinn.
- Although we haven’t included it, the other city that many people popularly visit on this trip is Gdansk. If you want to go there as well, you can add it in as a stop between Vilnius and Warsaw.
- There are certain hostels that are much more popular with backpackers than any of the others throughout this trip. They are generally the first choice for most backpackers when they’re booking accommodation. We’ve stayed at 2/3 and would highly recommend. But as always, read the reviews and decide for yourself. They are:
- Tallinn: The Monk’s Bunk
- Riga: Naughty Squirrel Backpackers (this is a party hostel)
- Vilnius: Jimmy’s Jump House