Welcome to atmospheric Gdansk, Poland’s fourth-largest city and major seaport. There are no activities planned until a welcome meeting this evening 6 pm. If you arrive with some time to spare, maybe head out to the National Museum for a dose of fine art, follow in the footsteps of visiting royalty with a lap or two of Royal Way, or travel a suburb over to Sopot and take a stroll along Europe’s longest wooden pier.
Get to know Gdansk on an orientation walk with your leader. After strolling through the city and taking in the sights, board a galleon-style ship for an old fashioned cruise on the waters of the Baltic Sea. Cruise along the peninsula of Westerplatte and get insight into the city’s shipbuilding heritage and political history. See the Gdansk Shipyards, which are inexorably linked with Eastern Europe’s Solidarity movement, as well as the repair yards and the historic Wisloujscie Fortress, constructed in 1308 but rebuilt several times in the centuries since. There will be time for you to explore Westerplatte, considered to be the place where the first shots of WWII were fired. Return to Gdansk and enjoy a free evening. If you’re thirsty, think about grabbing a beer at one of the lively bars along the Elblag Canal.
Malbork Castle / Wolf’s Lair / Gizycko
Today involves a fair bit of driving with several interesting stops en route to break up the journey. The first stop, just a 30-minute drive out of Gdansk, is Malbork Castle. This beautifully-preserved fortress, completed in 1406, is a classic example of medieval architecture and the world’s largest brick castle. Following an audio-guided tour of the castle, enjoy lunch before continuing on to Wolf`s Lair, the first military headquarters from which Hitler oversaw the fighting on the Eastern Front. You’ll be shown around the site by a local guide then, following a refreshment stop, continue on to Gizycko (approximately 3.5 hours). The ‘summer capital’ of Poland, Gizycko is situated on the shore of Niegocin Lake and is considered the gateway to the Masurian Lake District. Tonight, maybe grab a well-deserved dinner at one of the local tawernas (taverns).
Masurian Lakes / Gizycko
Rise and shine for a morning boat ride on Niegocin Lake, the seventh-largest lake in the country. Take a gentle cruise to ‘Love Island’ on the other side of the lake, which is filled by yellow-faced cormorants and other wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for creatures that are trickier to spot like storks, swans, deer and wolves. The Masurian Lake District contains over 2000 lakes and was a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature initiative. Head back ashore and spend the afternoon however you wish, perhaps with a swim in the lake, or a hike or cycle to one of the neighbouring villages. History buffs might want to check out Boyen Fortress, the remains of a 19th-century Prussian stronghold used as a German military intelligence service during WWII.
This morning after breakfast, travel east into Lithuania and its capital Vilnius (approximately 2.5 hours). Settle into your hotel then join the group for a city tour led by a local guide. Pass through Cathedral Square and the Old Town, and learn about the famous Grand Duke Gediminas, the legend of Vilnius’ creation and the prestigious history of Vilnius University. Continue to the painting of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, a famed painting of the Virgin Mary that adorns the 16th-century city gates. After the tour concludes you’re free to explore at your leisure. Consider joining the group for an optional dinner – your leader knows all the best spots to grab a bite.
Enjoy a free day to explore all that this lively city has to offer. There are plenty of optional activities on offer, so if you’re not sure what to choose remember that your leader is on hand to help you decide. Maybe take a hike to Gediminas Castle Tower for views over the city. Vilnius is also home to a unique bohemian neighbourhood, Uzupis, which residents declared a republic in 1997. With mixture of graffiti covered cafes and UNESCO-listed Old Town, Uzupis is a fascinating and photogenic place to wander. Historically minded travellers may be interested in an Urban Adventure that explores the Soviet Stories of Vilnius, a great way to see a different side of the city (including a Soviet-style lunch).
Hop aboard a comfortable public bus to Riga, Latvia (approximately 4 hours). On arrival, transfer to the hotel, located a short walk from the symbolic Freedom Monument – or, as she’s affectionately known to the locals, Milda. Head out on a guided walk with your leader, navigating the narrow cobbled streets to discover the significant sights of the Old Town. Visit the Central Market, which just happens to be Europe’s largest, and taste a few local specialities along the way, such s the traditional Riga Black Balsam, an herbal liqueur.
Enjoy a free day getting to know Riga at your own pace. Most of the Art Noveau architecture for which the city is famed is located in a part known as ‘the quiet centre’. A leisurely stroll along the canal that intersects the town’s central park is another popular optional outing, as is a visit to one of its many museums. The recently renovated Art Museum, located only a few minutes walk from the hotel, is particularly impressive. Perhaps take in views of the city with a drink at a rooftop cafe (your leader will be able to make some recommendations) or, if the weather is right, make the trip to the popular beach resort town of Jurmala (30 minutes by train).
Rise early for the trip to Saaremaa island, the largest island in Estonia, by private minivan and public ferry. This heavily forested island is known among Estonians as the perfect place to relax in nature, and you’ll see soon why. Arrive in the island’s south by late afternoon and transfer to a local farmhouse – your accommodation for the evening. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner tonight.
Saaremaa Island / Tallinn
Transfer to the biggest town on the island, Kuressaare, and spend a few hours exploring. Then, hop on a public bus to the Estonian capital of Tallinn (approximately 4.5 hours). Tonight’s accommodation is in Tallinn’s atmospheric Old Town, which you’ll get to know on an orientation walk with your leader. Tonight, why not head out with the group for an Estonian meal, then wash it down with a glass of kali, a fizzy drink made from boiled rye bread.
Your trip ends this morning after breakfast. There are no activities planned for today, though bear in mind you will have to comply with the hotel’s internal check-out rules and times. Tallinn has a lot to offer so we recommend you spend a few more days here. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability.