“Why in the world would you want to go bike touring in Latvia and Estonia?”
That’s what people kept asking me after I made plans to conduct a self-guided bicycle tour across these two European countries several months ago. And they have a good point. The small Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia are not the first (or even the second or third) places you might think to go on an memorable cycling-themed holiday. But Estonia and Latvia actually have a number of things going for them that make them the perfect destination for a bicycle touring getaway.
First of all, the countries are easy to get to. Just fly into Riga, Latvia or Tallinn, Estonia… and you’re ready to begin. Because this bike tour can be run in either direction (starting in either Tallinn or Riga), it’s easy to plan a trip that is quick, easy, and inexpensive.
Latvia and Estonia are also incredibly flat countries, which makes the cycling that much easier. Whether you are an experienced cyclist or someone who has very little cycling background, this is a bicycle tour that you can not only accomplish, but go home feeling proud to have completed.
Even though Latvia and Estonia are now part of the European Union and benefit from that inclusion, they are still a whole lot less expensive than many other western European countries (such as Germany, France, Switzerland, etc.). The cost of this 13-night bicycle touring adventure is not only quite affordable, but so are all the other expenses associated with traveling through these countries.
Plus, there is a whole lot to see in Latvia and Estonia that you don’t know about until you come here and experience it for yourself. I met dozens of travelers from foreign countries during my bike tour in Latvia and Estonia and they were all so very impressed with just how kind the people were, how beautiful the landscapes were, and how memorable their journey had been thus far.
There are so many reasons to go bicycle touring in Latvia and Estonia. The question shouldn’t be, “Why would you want to go bicycle touring in Latvia and Estonia?” but instead, “Why haven’t you yet been to Latvia and Estonia?”
In this article I will share with you my experience on the West-Estonia and Latvia Bike Tour with City Bike Ltd. I’ll give you all the important bike tour information, describe in detail exactly who this tour has been designed for, what kind of cycling experience you need to have in order to complete this tour, describe what a typical day is like during the tour, share some of my favorite moments from the bike tour with you, talk about how the food and lodging works, and then I’ll finish by telling you whether or not this is a bicycle tour I would recommend (HINT: Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend it! But keep reading to find out why.)
Important Bike Tour Information
- Tour Name: West-Estonia and Latvia Tour
- Tour Company: City Bike Ltd.
- Tour Type: Self-Guided
- Official Tour Website: www.citybike.ee
- Tour Length: 13 days / 12 nights
- Price: €498 Euros ($677 USD) per person
- Starting Location: Tallinn, Estonia or Riga, Latvia (tour can be run in either direction)
- Ending Location: Riga, Latvia or Tallinn, Estonia (tour can be run in either direction)
- Approximate distance cycled throughout the tour: 627 km+ / 390 miles+
- Average daily cycling distance: 52 km / 32 miles
Who Is This Bike Tour Designed For?
The West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour is designed for individuals who:
Are capable of cycling for several hours per day and covering moderate distances. This is not a bike tour for absolute beginners, nor is it a bike tour for people wishing to cycle over challenging terrain. This is a bike tour for people who want a flat, enjoyable bicycle touring experience with a moderate amount of cycling each day and enough time to stop and enjoy themselves along the way. You need to be in good physical shape to complete this tour, but you don’t need to be a Tour de France racer. Casual cyclists with a good amount of bike riding experience are ideal.
Want a little bit of luxury on their bicycle touring holiday. If camping in a tent or going for days without a shower is not your thing, then this might just be the bicycle tour you’ve been looking for. You will get all the benefits of traveling long distances on a bicycle, but at the end of the day you will be able to sleep in a nice hotel or guesthouse, take a warm shower, eat a delicious meal, use the Internet to stay in touch with friends and family back home, and still have time to just relax and enjoy the company of your travel companions.
Are capable of navigating on their own and repairing their own bicycle if need be. Because there is no guide to escort you along your way, you need to not only know how to read a map and follow the directions that City Bike Ltd. lays out for you to get from one accommodation to the next, but you also need to know how to repair your bicycle (change a flat tire, adjust your derailleurs, etc.) in the event that something should go wrong with your bicycle at any point during the tour. There are long distances between many of the towns on this bike tour and if you get a flat tire in a remote region, you will need to know how to repair the flat yourself in order to keep cycling and reach your destination at the end of the day.
Enjoy taking time to stop along the way, see the sights and move at a pleasant pace. One of the many benefits of a self-guided bicycle tour like this one is that you get to move at your own pace. If you like to wake up or (or sleep in late), ride super fast (or super slow), stop and take pictures along the way (or rush to your destination as quickly as you possibly can), this type of bicycle tour with allow you to enjoy your holiday in the manner you deem most desirable to you. During the West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour, City Bike gives you dozens of recommended places to stop and explore along your route. If you want to, you may choose to stop and explore each and every one of these destinations. Or, if you like, you can skip over the recommended points of interest and just continue cycling. The choice is up to you!
Want to travel alone, with a friend, family member or loved one. You get to choose who you travel with on this bike tour. You can travel by yourself, go with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, a group of friends, or anyone you please. Unlike a guided bike tour, where you might be grouped together with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, this type of bicycle tour allows you to choose the travel companions who will compliment you most.
Want to choose what foods and drinks to eat. Breakfasts are included for free each morning while you are on tour… and these breakfasts usually consist of oatmeal, bread, butter, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, sliced meat, Swedish pancakes with jam, coffee, tea, milk and/or orange juice. Outside the breakfasts, however, you are on your own to prepare your own lunches and secure you own dinner each night. While several of the accommodations along the way do serve lunch and dinner meals, you aren’t in any way forced to eat at these locations. In fact, City Bike makes several recommendations throughout the tour for as to where to eat each day. You can choose to take the company up on one of their preferred dining areas, or you can go out on your own and find your own place to eat. If you are vegetarian, vegan, or have any type of dietary restriction, you don’t have anything to worry about, because you are in complete control of the foods you eat throughout the bicycle tour.
Don’t want to deal with doing all the route planning research and work involved with booking hotel stays, etc. More than anything else, participating in the West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour with City Bike Ltd. takes all the time, energy and grunt work out of planning your bicycle holiday. Instead of spending countless days and hours on the computer, researching possible routes and places to stay, just call up City Bike (or send them an email) and they will do all the hard work for you. Just tell them what days you want to travel, where you want to start (in Riga or in Tallinn), and they will do the rest for you. After your accommodations have been booked, your only job is to show up for the start of the tour, follow the instructions that have been provided for you by the company, and enjoy thirteen days of cycling in beautiful West-Estonia and Latvia.
What Is Your Typical Day On Tour Like?
Each and every day on tour is pretty much the same, although the landscapes change on a daily basis, as do the people, food and accommodations.
You’ll begin each morning by waking up, taking a shower (if you like), and then going to breakfast at the hotel or guesthouse where you are staying. Most breakfasts on the tour are a buffet-style breakfast with an assortment of foods to choose from, although there are a few breakfasts where specific meals can be ordered.
After eating breakfast, you’ll return to your room and pack up all your things. You’ll be carrying everything you need for the tour with you on your bicycle (in a set of panniers that you either bring from home or have provided for you by City Bike Ltd.). Once your bike is packed and your water bottles are filled, you will begin cycling for the day.
Each day on the road is a little different (which makes this bike tour both fun and exciting). Some days you will travel short distances, but have a lot of time to stop and look at things along the way. You might stop to explore castles, churches, windmills, traditional bakeries, or any number of addition sights. Other days you will cover longer distances while having fewer things to look at during the ride. Whatever mileage you might cover throughout the course of the day, you’ll be on your own to choose the rate at which you cycle, when you want to stop and rest, where you eat along the way, and a whole lot more.
In the late afternoon you will reach your destination for the night. Some nights you’ll be staying in a modern hotel, while other nights you will be put up in a tourist farm and sleeping in a 100+ year-old house made of logs (but with all the modern conveniences you could ask for).
As soon as you arrive at your accommodation, you’ll be given a room for the night and then you’ll be free to shower, take a nap, read, explore the property and the surrounding area, or do just about anything you please.
You are on your own for dinner each night. While many of the hotels and guesthouses do have dinner options available, not all of them do. In the tour materials that City Bike provides you with at the start of the tour, there are usually one or more good dinner recommendations for the area that you are staying in. And if you don’t want to eat dinner out, you can always make a cold picnic-style dinner and eat it in your room or somewhere on the property.
In the evening (after dinner), you are free to do as you please. Walk around the city, read a book, socialize with those in your party or others you meet along the way, or go straight to bed. The choice is up to you! You’ll go to sleep after having completed a wonderful day of cycling, eating delicious foods throughout the day, and sleeping in a comfortable bed each night. Then you get to wake up the next morning and do it all over again!
Highlights From The West-Estonia & Latvia Bike Tour
There are so many memorable moments and wonderful sights to see along the way during the West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour with City Bike Ltd. Just to give you a taste of some of the things you can expect to see during the tour… here is a short list of my favorite moments places and/or moments from this self-guided bicycle touring holiday.
The Tourist Town of Sigulda, Latvia & The Neighboring Sights
Staying and Dining at the Yacht Club in Parnu, Estonia
Exploring the Windmills and Thatched Roof Homes of Estonia’s Vanatoa Village
Sleeping and Dining in Kuressaare, Estonia – Plus the Castle & Town
Cycling Across Estonia’s Three Largest Islands
The Accommodations at the Leisi Tourist Farm in Leisi, Estonia
Cycling Through Endless Forests & Beautiful Scenery Along The Way
The Walled City of Tallinn, Estonia
Other Important Things You Should Know
- In addition to the cost of the bike tour itself, you will need to get yourself to and from either Tallinn, Estonia or Riga, Latvia for the start and finish of the tour. This means paying for your flight, train, bus, food and/or hotel reservations along the way.
- At the start of the tour you will be given a packet of papers containing all the information you need to know for the duration of the tour. This booklet contains maps of the routes you will be cycling each day, information on the sights you can expect to see throughout the tour, lunch and dinner recommendations, and details on the optional excursions along the way.
- Navigating the routes on this bike tour via GPS is not necessary. City Bike will provide you with both maps and written instructions for the roads you should be cycling on. Most of the bike tour follows the EuroVelo 1, 10 or 13 routes, so as long as you follow those signs, you will stay on track.
- Many (but not all) of the optional excursions and sights along the tour route do cost extra. However, most of these optional sights costs between 1-5 Euros.
- In addition to the cost of the bike tour, you will also need to pay for the three ferry crossings. These three crossings will cost you, in total, about 11 Euros.
- You can pay for everything in Euros on this bike tour. Obtaining Euros in both Latvia and Estonia is easy, as ATMs are available at multiple locations along the route.
- Every accommodation on the bike tour has free WiFi Internet access, although not all accommodations have WiFi access in the rooms.
- If I had to say anything negative about the bike tour (and I’m being really picky here, because there isn’t much to criticize) I would point out that there are a few spelling errors in the tour materials and one or more of the prices for the various tourists sights along the route were incorrect. In addition, I think the communication could have been just a little bit better at the start of the tour. I would have liked to have received a welcome letter/email before the tour began or something like that, just so I would know that everything for my bike tour was in place. Other than those two things, I think this self-guided bicycle tour is designed exactly as it should be… and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
- If you have any additional questions about participating in this unique and memorable bicycle-themed holiday, or you run into any problems during the tour itself, just contact the City Bike tour company directly. They are usually very quick to respond to any messages that you send them and they go out of their way to help you in any way that they can.
Would You Recommend The West-Estonia & Latvia Bike Tour?
Absolutely! While Latvia and Estonia might not be the first countries that comes to mind when you think about bicycle touring bliss, these two European countries are incredible well-suited for a bicycle touring holiday such as this. The land is flat, the scenery is vast, the prices are low, the food is good and the people are friendly.
City Bike has done an excellent job of putting this bike tour together. The accommodation they’ve selected are both clean and incredibly diverse, making each day on tour a real surprise – you never know where you’ll be spending the night, who you might meet along the way, or what you might see or experience along the way.
Latvia and West-Estonia are wonderful places to go bicycle touring. I thoroughly enjoyed my 13-day tour with City Bike Ltd… and I’m sure you will too!