Tucked away, but not forgotten, the Baltics stand at the edge of Europe - revived and reinvigorated after years of Nazi and Soviet occupation. Storybook capitals and stunning natural landscapes lie ahead, but first Poland's capital gets the nod as your launchpad to a region that has emerged vibrant despite its tumultuous history. Meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers later this evening for a glimpse into what lies ahead on your Baltics value tour.
A lesson in courage and perseverance awaits this morning as you meet your Local Specialist for a guided sightseeing tour of Warsaw's Old Town. Its façades are more modern than medieval and a testament to the resilience of the Poles who have lovingly restored their capital city after it was razed to the ground in retaliation for the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. See the moving site of the Warsaw Ghetto, then spend the rest of the day exploring the city your way. An Optional Experience could see you explore Wilanów Palace with its collection of royal furniture.
Your journey north through the highlights of the Baltics begins today, through pastoral landscapes and rural villages to Vilnius, Lithuania's elegant capital. There isn't a city in Northern Europe with a medieval Old Town that can match its size and you'll have an opportunity to explore every inch of its Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance splendour on your own. Signs of the city's 50-years of Soviet occupation can still be seen, but it is the city's beautiful architectural heritage, gritty street art and youthful spirit which take centre stage on your visit. Launch into a love affair with Lithuanian food this evening, joining an optional dinner and folklore show. Skanaus!
All the iconic sights of Vilnius are revealed this morning as you join a Local Specialist for a guided sightseeing tour of the city to view the 16th-century Bishop's Palace and the University, the oldest in the Baltics. Explore the Baroque Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. built on the site of a temple to the pagan goddess of love. Then walk to the Gates of Dawn, the Carmelite Church of St. Theresa and former Jewish Ghetto, passing the Cathedral, new Royal Palace excavations and the former site of the synagogue, destroyed during World War II. This afternoon, join your fellow travellers and head back to the former communist era on an Optional Experience to the KGB museum.
This morning, switch the new capital for the old on an Optional Experience to Trakai, for a guided sightseeing tour around its enchanting lakeside castle. Later, we'll say goodbye to Vilnius, but don't leave without fuelling up on some of the city's famous kibinai pasties. Savoury or sweet, take your pick, before heading for the Hill of Crosses at Šiauliai, where millions of crosses jostle for their spot in a non-violent protest against decades of Russian and Soviet rule. Arrive in the ancient city of Riga later - its Gothic skyline has witnessed German, Scandinavian and Russian rule across eight centuries. You'll get to hear all their tales of triumph and tragedy over the next day.
You'll get to know one of the world's finest collections of Art Nouveau buildings when you visit Riga's UNESCO-listed Old Town. The beautiful architecture and rich Hanseatic trade heritage will come to life in the colourful stories shared by your Local Specialist this morning. Stroll through the winding medieval streets keeping your camera at hand to capture St. Peter's Church, the Three Brothers and Riga Cathedral. The rest of the day is free to explore Riga on your terms. Admire the skyline from the comfort of a canal boat, indulge in the herbal flavours of the city's favourite Black Balsam at a traditional city tavern, or join an Optional Experience at the Bergi Open Air Museum, revealing Latvia's cultural heritage.
Follow the Gulf of Riga north into Estonia, travelling via Pärnu, a popular beach resort for Tallinn locals. Arriving in their fairy-tale hometown a little later, you'll encounter a lively blend of Scandinavian and Russian flavours. It is the enchanting and well-preserved Old Town that will capture your heart however, as you take a step back in time and wander through cobbled streets lined with red-roofed Hanseatic merchant houses and medieval churches. The city's strategic location has made it a gateway to the Baltics and Russia for centuries and it has lost none of this old-world ambience as you'll come to discover over the next day.
Behind the 13th-century Walls of Tallinn lies a UNESCO-listed treasure trove of beautifully preserved medieval façades. You'll discover it all when you meet your Local Specialist this morning for a guided sightseeing tour around the city. Admire the city's gabled houses and hidden courtyards that reveal the rich heritage of a city which once held pride of place in the Hanseatic League. Walk past the 15th-century Luhike Jalg Gate and visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a symbol of Russian power with its magnificent gold-plated dome. The afternoon is yours to explore and perhaps you'd like to leave the city behind on an Optional Experience to Lahema National Park. You'll enjoy afternoon tea and pastries in one of the 18th-century manor houses before returning to Tallinn. A second Optional Experience could see you visit Tallinn's Kalamaja, a fishing harbour turned Bohemian Quarter with its colourful wooden buildings.
You've embraced the youthful spirit of a Baltic region, now free from the shackles of its Soviet past and explored beautifully restored medieval capitals and historic towns along the way. Inspired by the resilience and courage of your Baltic hosts, you'll close the curtain on your incredible journey across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, saying a fond nägemist to new friends. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.