I booked my self-guided bicycle tour through Latvia and West-Estonia so long ago, it seemed completely unreal for the big day to finally arrive. This particular bicycle tour can be run in either direction (from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia… or from Riga, Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia). Because I had already cycled from Poznan, Poland to Lithuania and then north from there to Riga, I chose to conduct this bike tour in reverse, cycling north from Riga, Latvia and finish in Tallinn, Estonia.[button_black url=”http://bicycletouringpro.com/west-estonia-latvia-bike-tour”]Bike Tour Review[/button_black] [button_yellow url=”http://bicycletouringpro.com/estonia-latvia-citybike-tour” target=”_blank”]Official Tour Company Website[/button_yellow]
I spent three nights in Riga before the time came for me to officially begin the bike tour. City Bike Ltd. (the company that operates this bike tour) suggests that when you arrive in Riga you simply take a train from the city center to the nearby city of Sigulda where the bike tour officially begins. The train ride takes just over an hour, but because I had already cycled all the way from Poznan, Poland, I decided to cycle from my campsite in Riga to the hotel in Sigulda where I would be staying on the first night of the bike tour. Under normal weather conditions, this would have been no problem whatsoever. It’s only about 60 kilometers from Riga to Sigulda and the terrain is largely flat. There’s even a seperated bike path that takes you out of the capital city, so you don’t have to cycle in the street with all the vehicles. But as luck would have it, it was raining on the first day of the tour… and it was raining hard! So, what did I do? I dressed up in my rain gear and prepared for a long, cold day.
The bike ride to Sigulda was relatively easy, but it didn’t stop raining for even a minute the entire time there. I got absolutely drenched along the way and only took one photo the entire day (because I was too afraid to take my camera out in the pouring rain for fear that it might get damaged). The one photo I did take, however, is a good one (if I do say so myself). SEE BELOW. The photo was taken in a small stretch of forest that paralleled the highway. Rather that cycle on the busy highway, I took a small detour and cycled about 6 kilometers along the dirt road that ran through a beautiful, moss-covered forest. The forest was lovely, but it was really difficult getting my bicycle through the soft sand on this forest road, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped back on the highway and quickly made my way to Sigulda.
There was a moment, just as I was about to arrive in Sigulda, where I cycled over a small bridge, looked to my left and realized that I was in a truly beautiful place. To my left I could see the tops of hundreds of green pine trees, all of which were popping out the top of several small hills and mountains in the distance. And around those treetops were a bunch of dark grey clouds, floating amongst the trees. If I could have stopped on the narrow bridge and taken a photo, I would have.
I was instantly impressed with Sigulda as soon as I arrived there. I had heard that this tiny city just an hour’s drive outside of Riga was Latvia’s most popular tourist destination, and I could quickly see why. The city is small, but it’s very charming, and there’s so much to see and do in the area – especially if you like the outdoors.
Because I was dripping wet from cycling in the rain all day, the first thing I did was go to my hotel and check in. I had a big, beautiful room on the top floor of the hotel… and just outside the hotel room was a big outdoor deck with a table and chairs (which I would later enjoy – as soon as it stopped raining). After checking out my room for the night, I took a shower and then promptly went about hanging up all my wet clothes in an attempt to dry them all for the following day.
With the rain still falling outside my hotel room, I spent the next several hours catching up on computer work and reading over the bike tour materials that the company had sent to me. Because this is a self-guided bicycle tour, there is no tour leader escorting me along the way… and there are no other tour participants joining me on the tour. If I had wanted, I could have had another person come along with me, but I was unable to find anyone who was willing or able to join me here in Latvia/Estonia for such a long period of time. In the materials that the company provided for me was a large packet of maps, which I would be using to navigate my course each day… and another packet of papers containing information on my route, the hotels in which I would be staying, points of interest along the way, recommended restaurants, and a whole lot more.
A couple hours after arriving in Sigulda, the rain stopped and the sun even came out for a couple minutes. I took this opportunity to go for a short walk around the city… and one of the first places I stumbled across was a small part dedicated to walking sticks. That’s right! – Walking sticks. Apparently, walking sticks became a popular souvineer in Sigulda more than 200 years ago, when people from all over would come to visit the region and walk through the nearby forests and hills.
Another attraction in Sigulda that was not mentioned in the bike tour materials, but is something I would personally be interested in, is the city’s Tarzan park. This is an outdoor adventure park consisting of all sorts of rides and activities. There is a ropes course, roller coaster, carousel, ski lift, archery, and a whole lot more. If I were in Sigulda for another day, this would have been something that I would have really liked to do. And if I ever find myself in Latvia again, the Tarzan park in Sigulda will be at the top of my to-do list.
After walking around the city, I returned to my hotel room and called it a night. The next morning I woke up, threw on a clean pair of clothes, and then went down to the hotel’s dining area for a small buffet breakfast consisting of bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and a small bowl of cereal. Then I returned to my room, packed up my things and said goodbye to my little hotel room in Sigulda.
Back on my bicycle, I cycled north out of town, down a big, steep hill, and over a concrete bridge. From this bridge there were some impressive views of the river and forests surrounding the city of Sigulda… and on this bridge were hundreds of metal locks, placed on the bridge by lovers (just like the famous Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris, France).
A short distance up the road I stopped to check out Latvia’s serpentine road. This isa short, steep and windy road that is supposedly windiest road in the country (it’s kind of like the Lombard Street of Latvia). This is not something that is recommended you ride as part of the City Bike tour, but it was something that I wanted to see for myself. In the photo below you can see me cycling down the sharpest turn on the road.
After cycling up and down the serpentine road, I cycled just a short distance further up the road and stopped there to explore the Gutmana Cave, the biggest internal erosion cave in the Baltic States. The cave isn’t really that big, but the cave is the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia and on the walls of the cave there are hundreds of inscriptions – some of which date from as far back as the 17th century.
There was a short, but steep hill just up the road from the Gutmana Cave (and the nearby Gauja National Park), but once I got to the top I found myself at my next destination – the Turaida Medieval Castle. I locked my bicycle up at the entrance to the park, paid 4.98 Euros to get in, and then I started walking.
The first place I discovered inside Turaida was this large stone sculpture garden. In the garden were dozens of massive granite sculptures like the one you see in the photo below. These scultpures varied in size, but most of them were about six to eight feet tall and depicted either faces or people performing various acts (some of which were rather sexual or gruesome).
The real reason I pad the 4.98 Euros, however, was to see the Turaida Castle (the oldest castle in Latvia (built in 2014 AD)) and to climb to the top of the five-story tower. The views of the Castle/Tower were impressive from the ground, but the views from the top were even more spectacular.
A narrow stairway slowly delivers you to the top of the tower, but along the way you pass through several large, spacious rooms where to only thing in the space is a massive chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Then, once you reach the top, you are treated to spectacular 360 degree views of the entire area. Off in the distance there are trees and rivers and houses and more! But my favorite views from the top of the tower were straight down.
After more than an hour in Turaida, I returned to my bicycle and hit the road. During this first day of the bike tour, I would cover only 24 kilometers on my bike, so I had plently of time to enjoy these various sights and still reach my destination for the night with plenty of time to spare. So after finishing at Turaida, I switched into cycling mode and cycled straight from there to my hotel, located at the Igate Castle.
This impressive castle was built in the 15th century and was first mentioned in 1455 when Idsel Diderik Fitingof sold the village and the castle to Peter fon der Borh. Today, the castle has been converted into a hotel and is frequently used for weddings and other similar events. During my stay at the Igate Castle, I was the only guest. I stayed in a small, but well-equipped room overlooking the estate’s pond and was spoiled by the friendly hotel staff.
Before retiring for the day, I decided to go for a walk and explore the area surrounding the Castle. From the map that I was given, I could see that there was a large lake within walking distance, so after showering and getting settled in my room, I walked to the lake.
At the lake I found two small boats and a wooden fishing hut. I snapped a few photos and relished in knowing that I was the only person on the entire like. I had the whole place to myself!
After walking back to the Igate Castle, I returned to my room, read a book before going to bed, and then woke in the morning just in time for my 9 AM breakfast. I hadn’t told the hotel staff that I was a vegetarian when I check in, so when I went down for breakfast I was given a place of bacon and eggs (plus some bread, butter, cucumbers and tomato). I apologized for not having said anything sooner, and the proceeded to eat the bread and veggies while pushing the meat off to the side. It was a good breakfast, but because I was the only person in the hotel that night, I felt pretty strange eating all by myself.
After breakfast I returned to my room, packed up my things and said goodbye to the Igate Hotel & Castle. I loaded up my bicycle and then cycled about 12 kilometers up the road to the nearby city of Limbazi. In town, I stopped to buy some food from the local supermarket and then spent a few minutes at the city’s medieval castle ruins and viewing platform. I climbed to the top of the tower and then snapped this photo of me riding my bicycle past the ruins on the ground.
Cycling out of Limbazi, this is what the buildings looked like. Lots of charm and character to the Latvian homes in this area.
On this third day of the bike tour, I would need to cover about 63 kilometers to reach my next destination, so after I left Limbazi the serious cycling began. And the first part of the ride was indeed pretty serious because I had a strong headwind that was really slowing me down. Lucikly, the headwind didn’t last for long, because as soon as I reached the A1 highway, which runs from Riga, Latvia in the south to Tallinn, Estonia in the north, the wind switched from being in my face to being at my side (or even a little bit behind me). This allowed me to cycle with relative easy on the large, flat and forested highway.
I was happy that the wind was now at my back, but the traffic on this highway was a little frightening at times. There were several large semi-trucks and when there weren’t semi-trucks passing me as I rode in the narrow shoulder, there would be drivers overtaking the vehicles in front of them, and often times doing so at the worst possible moment. Luckily, growing up in the United States, I’ve had a lot of experience cycling on roads like this, so I was pretty comfortable with the experience. But as I was cycling this stretch of road, I tried to imagine myself in the shoes of another individual (someone with less cycling experience than I), and I’m sure that this short stretch of highway would make many cyclists nervous.
Just as I was thinking this, I ran into another traveling cyclist named Tom Young. Tom was from Scotland and one of the first things he said to me was how nervous he felt cycling on this road with all the cars and trucks passing him at such a high rate of speed. Tom also said that he was cycling from Riga to Tallinn (just like me), but that once he reached Tallinn he was going to get on a ferry and go to visit a friend of his in St. Petersburg, Russia.
I cycled with Tom for a short while, but when we reached the city of Salacgrive, Latvia, we said our goodbyes. Tom continued cycling north and I stopped to load up on groceries at the local market.
In Salacgrive I took this photo of a church, cycled across a bridge, and then cycled a short distance further north on a separated bicycle path, which is part of the Eurovelo 13 route (the Iron Curtain Trail).
There is no off-road riding on my self-guided bike tour across Latvia and Estonia with City Bike Ltd., but when I saw a small section of forest trail near the Eurovelo bike path, I knew I had to stop and take a few photos. The image below is the result of that short quick-stop… and it is my favorite photo from the day.
Then my day came to a finish around 5 PM, when I reached the Kapteinu Osta Hotel and checked into my room, which was decorated in a modern seaside theme and (my favorite part) had a large private deck attached to the room, with views of the Baltic Sea in the distance. I took a shower, ate dinner, worked on my computer and then called a night just after 1 AM.
The next morning I woke up early and wandered down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I was told that I could choose two items off the menu and also get a drink, so I chose the Swedish pancakes and a side of fruit and orange juice. The Swedish pancakes were the best I’ve ever had. I was kicking myself for ordering the side of fruit. I should have asked for two orders of Swedish pancakes. They were that good!
After returning to my room, packing my panniers and loading up my bicycle, I then left the hotel and began my bike ride for the day. All night long it had been raining cats and dogs, but the rain stopped just in time and by the time I was back on the road, the weather outside was perfect – warm with patches of blue sky.
I made a quick stop at the Kabali Bird Station (above) and then cycled a short distance further before running into a couple from Germany at the Latvia/Estonia border. They were stopped by the side of the road, so I pulled over and chatted with them for a few moments before saying goodbye and then crossing the border into Latvia! Latvia is the 30th European country for me to cycle in, so I was excited to have crossed the border… and I was looking forward to seeing how Estonia might be different from the other Baltic countries I had already cycled through (German, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia).
There was a long, quiet stretch of road (about 10 kilometers) that ran parallel to the highway, and I enjoyed cycling through this forested part of the country because there were few cars to deal with and I could simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
But this secluded little sideroad didn’t last long and I eventually had to turn back onto the main highway that runs between Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia and cycling in the road’s narrow shoulder, with semi-trucks passing far too close in several instances. I’m pretty comfortable riding on these types of roads, because growing up in America and having cycled across the United States six different times, these are the types of roads that I have become used to riding on. But I met several other bicycle travelers in this area who were either complaining about or totally afraid of this small stretch of road. I even met a couple of cyclists who jumped on a bus just so they could avoid cycling on the highway. Personally, I think this is unnecessary… and I found the road to be rather pleasant, even with the trucks, RVs and autos passing all the time.
Luckily, the highway riding did not last too long. After a little more than 20 kilometers, the highway came to an end and I began my entrance into the Estonian city of Parnu, which is where I would be spending the night.
After stopping at a large supermarket and buying a new Estonian SIM card for my smartphone, I cycled through the center of Parnu and found my place of accommodation for the night – the Parnu Yacht Club. I snapped a few photos of the sail boats and then went inside to ask about my room.
The woman at the desk spoke perfect English and was quick to help me find a place to safely store my bicycle for the evening. She had me park it in the large hangar where all the little boats were stored each night.
Then I carried my panniers up to the second floor and was shown to my room. The place was small, but from my room I had an excellent view of the Yacht Club’s outdoor dining area and the boats on the water.
After taking a shower, I changed into my street clothes and spent about an hour walking around the center of Parnu. The city felt quite small, but there was a lot going on. People were outside eating, singing, dancing, playing music and enjoying the company of their friends, families and loves ones. It felt like a very active place!
While City Bike Ltd. had made some recommendations on places to eat in town (which did look very good – I went and checked them all out), I decided (instead) to go to a Mexican themed restaurant and ordered a vegetarian burrito. When I travel, Mexican food is one of the things I miss most about home, so if I find a Mexican restaurant, I will usually eat there. But this Mexican burrito wasn’t Mexican at all. Just like every other Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in Europe, they were not using the right type of bean. Instead of using black or pinto beans, they were using green beans and kidney beans in their burrito. The burrito was expensive and it tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t the Mexican burrito I’ve been craving.
After eating, it was nearly 11 PM and the sun still hadn’t set. I had no idea it was so late until I looked at my watch and realized I needed to be getting back to the yacht club so I could go to bed and get some sleep. So that’s exactly what I did! I walked back across town, returned to my room and then called it a night. I was exhausted.
When I woke up the next morning I struggled to get out of bed. I could have easily used another hour of sleep. But I needed to get out of bed in order to get breakfast. So I woke up, took a quick shower, and then walked downstairs and was presented with a large buffet of food. There was the traditional European bread with meet and cheese, cucumber and tomatoes. But there was oatmeal as well… and I love oatmeal. There was even a large pitcher of orange juice (my favorite drink).
After eating in the dining area, I returned to my room, packed up my things and then loaded up my bike and hit the road.
Cycling out of Parnu, I stopped at a small supermarket and bought a few things to get me through the day (water, trail mix, cookies, etc.) and then I began cycling to the west.
I only had about 45 kilometers to cycle, so I took my time and stopped to take several photos along the way. At one point, I was passed by a small peloton of bicycle racers. There must have been a bike race going on!
About 5 kilometers before reaching my accommodations for the night, I met a young couple from Switzerland who were spending 18 days traveling around on their bicycles.
I asked if I could ride with the couple for a little bit, and they graciously allowed me to join them. They were from Luzern, Switzerland… and were surprised when I told them that I had lived in Luzern for a short period of time in 2009. And I had passed through Luzern again 2012 when I participated in the Challenge Tour with Bike Switzerland.
After just a few minutes of riding with the young couple, I had to say goodbye. I gave them my name, website and email address and told them to write me and I’d send them the photos I took of them on their bicycles. Then I turned my bicycle around and returned to the Maria Talu farm in Kopu, Estonia – the place where I would be spending the evening.
When I arrived at Maria Talu, I found a woman and told her that I had a reservation there for the evening. But because the woman didn’t speak English (and neither did any of her co-workers), it took some doing to explain that I had a reservation. She thought that I had just wandered into the place and was looking for a place to stay. But once she figured out that City Bike had already booked a room for me, then we were able to communicate effectively.
After she figured out who I was and what I was doing there, she then told me that my room was still being cleaned and that it would be about an hour before the place was ready. It was a short bike ride from Parnu to Kopu, so I had arrived pretty early. But there seemed to be about 30 different rooms available on the property… and there was no one else in sight. So it seemed strange that they would not yet have a space for me. Whatever the case, I wasted an hour by cycling into the nearby woods and taking a few photos, listening to a podcast and eating some lunch.
When I returned to Maria Talu, I was presented with a key to my room. The small apartment-style homes you see in the photo below are where I stayed. Very modern buildings… and inside my room was a small kitchenette, a bathroom, a dining table and three twin-size beds. If I had known that this place had a kitchen, I would have brought some food with me that I could have cooked. Because I’m not traveling with a camp stove, I’ve been dying to make some warm meals for myself.
In the morning I was treated to another delicious plate of Swedish pancakes (my favorite!) and some break, cucumbers, tomatoes, orange juice and more. Then I packed up my bicycle and hit the road. I had a long day ahead of me. I would need to cycle about 70 kilometers and reach the coastal city of Virtsu in time to take the ferry across to Muhu island. And from there I would need to cycle another 20 kilometers before reaching my accommodations for the night.
Knowing that I had a big day ahead of me (the longest of the entire bike tour with City Bike Ltd.), I was on the road by 10 AM and rather than stopping to take lots of photos I focused on covering some serious ground. The good thing about this strategy was that there wasn’t a whole lot to stop and see on this particular stretch of the tour. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was nice (forests and farmland), but there wasn’t much more than that. Just a couple small villages and a whole lot of trees.
When I was about 20 kilometers from Virtsu, the nice paved road suddenly turned to dirt (which I don’t normally mind in the least). But after about 5 kilometers of dirt road, I had to stop because I could feel that I had a flat tire.
My rear tire wasn’t completely flat, but I could tell that it was going in that direction, so I pulled over in a shady part of the road and went about making this most basic of bicycle repairs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any cause for the flat tire right away. There wasn’t any glass, nails or thorns in the tire. For a moment I thought it might have just been a pinch flat caused by the rough road that I was riding on. But then I noticed that the sidewall of the tire (not the tube inside the tire, but the tire itself) was falling apart!
This was not good. I’ve had this happen to me before… and I even wrote about it in my review of the Co-Motion Pangea (the bicycle I’m currently riding)… so I knew that this was not good.
In the photo below you can just barely make out the damage. Right below the letters “C” and “o” in the word “Country” you can see that the threads holding the tire together in this part are starting to stretch and break apart. And if enough of these threads break, the tire will pop open entirely in this area, making it impossible to hold the tube inside and ride the bicycle in any way.
Knowing that my rear tire was now on its last leg, I repaired the tire as best I could and just hoped that I could, at the very least, get my self to Virtsu in time for the ferry… and that maybe I’d find a replacement tire in one of the cities or villages along the way.
I was so terrified about my tire blowing apart that I walked the bicycle in certain parts and was pleased beyond belief when the road suddenly returned to being paved and smooth. Back on the smooth pavement, I jumped back on the bike and focused on riding slowly, while at the same time avoiding any major cracks or bumps in the road.
Incredibly, I was able to limp my way into the city of Virtsu and boarded the ferry just a few minutes after arriving there. My bicycle tire had held up!
The ferry ride to Kuivastu was a short one (only about 30 minutes). I wanted to run around the boat and take photos, but I was worried about my bike tire, so I spent the time on the ferry searching the Internet for bike shops on Muhu Island and the various cities I would be passing through over the next several days. According to my research, the nearest bike shop was in Kuressaare, Estonia – more than 80 kilometers away. I didn’t think my tire would last that long.
But then, just as I was sure I might have to hitchhike to Kuressaare in order to buy a new tire, I walked into a small supermarket in Liiva village, and there, in the back of the store, were some cheap bike tires! I couldn’t believe it when I rounded the border and saw them all sitting there. I was saved!
Unfortunately, none of the tires that they had there were of any quality. These were cheap tires meant for mountain biking – not something designed to take you around the world. But with a price tag of only 6.90 Euro, I purchased a 26 inch tire and was on my way.
A short distance down the road from the supermarket I stopped alongside the road to change my tires out… and that’s when I met Christian and Tilly – bicycle travelers from Germany who are traveling around Europe for an entire year! We stopped and spoke with one another for a short while and then I said goodbye.
After my new tire was installed, I rode a short 5 km down the road and checked myself into the Vanatoa Tourist Farm. Vanatoa village is supposedly the best-preserved 19th century village in Estonia and is considered a heritage conservation area. There are stone walls that run all around the village and these walls are more than 200 years old. Even the buildings are old – dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Once again I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations for the night. I didn’t think anything so nice would be here in such a remote place in Estonia. But the Vanatoa Tourist Farm has been recently renovated and is very modern inside, even though it looks old and charming on the outside.
Breakfast at the Vanatoa Tourist Farm consisted on Swedish pancakes (yum), oatmeal (double yum) and the classic bread, cheese, meat, tomatoes and cucumber. There were several other cyclists staying at the Tourist Farm, so it was fun speaking with them all in the morning before we left the property and went our separate ways.
Leaving Muhu Island I passed the Nautse Ostrich Farm, where they also have emus and nandus, and then cycled by the Eemu Windmills.
Leaving Muhu Island didn’t take long as I was already on the far western corner of the island. So it only took a short while for me to reach the 3.5 kilometer long causeway that runs between Muhu Island and Saaremaa Island (the largest of 1,500+ islands in Estonia). The photo above shows me with my bicycle in the middle of the causeway.
After crossing the causeway and reaching Saaremaa Island, I turned to the right and took a small detour into the tiny town of Orissaare, where I went into the supermarket and bought some food to get me through the day. I saw a strawberry smoothie that looked really good, so I grabbed it, along with another one of these packaged waffle cone ice creams that are all over Estonia.
Once I left Orissaare, the real cycling for the day began. I should mention at this point that after the whole tire incident from the day before, I was not pleased when I woke up on this particular morning and found my rear tire to be completely flat. Was there something wrong with the replacement tire I had just purchased? Or was there now something wrong with the tube that was inside the tire? In the end, I didn’t really know. I just blew some air back into the tube and hopped that it would hold me until I reach the city of Kuressaare – my final destination for the day.
So when I left Orissaare, I was a little nervous about my rear tire. It was a good 60 kilometers to Kuressaare and I wasn’t sure my tire would hold. And I knew that there was very little between where I was and where I was going. Luckily, the tire held!
The bike ride to Kuressaare was hot and pleasant, but also a little boring. There landscape looked like it does in the photo below. It was beautiful, but there was very little to look at during the 60 kilometer stretch. I did, however, stop at a small church and take a couple photos. While at the church I spotted a young girl (probably around 3-4 years old) bathing in a metal bucket in the front yard of her home. The girl’s mother was hanging clothes on a clothesline behind her, and the little girl was singing – in Estonia, of course. It was really cute… and I even recorded a bit of the girl singing on my smartphone (in an attempt to capture the moment).
When I did finally make it to Kuressaare, the first thing I did was find a bike shop, purchase two brand new tires, two new tubes, and a new water bottle cage (to replace one of the three cages currently on my bike, which broke about a week ago). The total cost for the new tires, tubes and water bottle cage was 40.50 Euros (about $55 USD) – not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. The big question now is this: how long are my new tires going to last?
After buying my new tires and spending a good 45 minutes putting them onto my bicycle, I rode a short distance down Kuressaare’s main road and then found my hotel right next to the Kuressaare Episcopal castle. I had a great view of the castle from my hotel room window.
After checking in and securing my bicycle inside the hotel’s covered bicycle garage, I took a shower and then wandered around town on foot. I explored the nearby castle, watched the hundreds of people playing in the park and in the nearby water (on the beach). Then I strolled into town, where people were dining at roadside cafes and socializing in large and small groups at charming little restaurants.
I then walked a little further up Kuressaare’s main road before going into a supermarket to get some food to carry with me the following day… and on my way back to the hotel, I picked up a pizza to eat for dinner.
The next morning I woke around 8:30 and then walked a short distance to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Again, it was a buffet-style breakfast with bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, oatmeal, sausage, orange juice, coffee and tea.
After eating, I packed up my bags and returned to my bicycle to find that my rear tire was once again flat. I was afraid this might happen. For reasons not worth explaining, I put the old tube back (the one that had been inside my tire when it died on me) back inside my new tire… and I think that this tube had been damaged by used in conjunction with my old damaged tire. So before I left the hotel, I stopped to put a new tube into my rear tire. Once I blew up the tube, I was on my way and I quickly cycled out of town, back in the direction I had come the previously day, before turning left onto a small road headed toward the city of Leisi, Estonia.
About half-way to Leisi I turned right on another small side-road and cycled 3 kilometers to the entrance of the famous Kaali crater.
At the time of the meteor impact that caused the crater (4,000 – 7,600 years ago), Estonia was in the Nordic Bronze Age and the site of impact was forested with a small human population. The estimated impact energy of about 80 TJ (20 kilotons of TNT) is comparable with that of the Hiroshima bomb blast and it incinerated forests within a 6 km radius. Today the crater is filled with water and is a popular tourist destination on Estonia’s Saaremaa Island.
After leaving the crater I cycled north toward Leisi, passing this small grouping of windmills by the side of the road, and then cycling just a few kilometers further into Leisi.
I stopped to buy some groceries at a small local store, then cycled a short distance further, through a dense seaside forest, to the tourist farm where I would be spending the evening.
When I arrived at the farm, no one was on the property. I considered cycling a bit further up the road to explore the area on my bike, but at that very moment it began to pour rain. For only about two minutes, it absolutely dumped and my bicycle and I made a quick shelter under one of the property’s various picnic table covers.
With the property deserted and my bicycle now covered in water, I decided to use the time to do some quick computer work. I got about 30 minutes of work done before the property owners showed up and let me into my room for the night.
My room was situated in a small, but well-designed wooden cabin or sorts. It looked old and rustic from the outside, but it was warm and modern on the inside – with a refrigerator, microwave, dish washer, bathroom, hot water, electricity and even wireless Internet. I shot a short video to document the property, then ate dinner alone in my bedroom, while other guests began to arrive at the farm.
The next morning I woke up, ate breakfast, and then packed up my things and cycled a short distance to the ferry landing. When I got there, the ferry was already in port and there were several cars and people waiting to go on board. But about 30 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave, people began getting in their cars and leaving. Then the ferry closed its main door and drove away. For a moment I was afraid I had missed the ferry entirely, but I was soon thereafter informed that there was something wrong with the boat and that it would be unable to take me to the neighboring island as planned. The man at the ferry terminal told me to “Come back tomorrow.”
At first I was a little freaked out. Because of the self-guided tour that I was participating in, I knew I had to get on that boat and make it to the next island if I was going to stay on schedule. But then I called City Bike and they assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. They arranged for me to stay an extra night at the Tourist farm I liked so much… and the following day I would get on the ferry and simply skip the follow night’s accommodation. I’d essentially skip ahead to the next accommodation on the tour… and everything would be fine from that point forward.
After speaking with City Bike and realizing that being stuck on Saaremaa island for one more day wasn’t that big of a deal, I realized that I was actually very happy to be stuck on Saaremaa. I now had a whole day to do as I pleased.
Instead of rushing back to the tourist farm, however, I decided to cycle to a nearby beach and lookout point that I saw on the map. It was about 20 kilometers away, and when I got there I realized that I had the entire place to myself.
I stayed at this spot for several hours – eating lunch, listening to podcasts and reading some articles on the Internet. Then I cycled back to the tourist farm, returned to my cozy wooden home, and called it a night.
The next morning I returned to ferry landing and had my fingers crossed that the ferry would be working today. The old ferry boat wasn’t there when I arrived, but a new boat soon appeared and I jumped on board the boat, along with about eight other bicycle tourists and a whole bunch of people traveling in cars, trucks and small RVs.
Do you see those two bicycle travelers in the photo above? That’s Andreas and Elizabeth… and they are from Germany. I met them at the tourist farm in Leisi and then I rode with them all day long. We took the first ferry together, the cycled across Hiiumaa island together. Then we took a second ferry back to mainland Estonia and cycled all the way into the city of Haapsalu, which is where I finally said goodbye to them.
Before saying goodbye to them in Haapsalu, however, we stopped at the Ungru Manor to explore and take some pictures.
What’s the story behind this delapidated castle? Well, according to rumors, count Ewald Adam Gustav Paul Constantin von Ungern-Sternberg had visited the renaissance style castle of Merseburg in Germany in the beginning of the last decade of the 19th century, where he fell in love with the daughter of the castle’s owner. When he proposed to her, the young lady claimed to be so fond of her father’s castle that she promised to stay there for the rest of her life. After that the count in love had promised to build exactly the same castle. Having received a promise from the lady to marry him as soon as the castle is ready, the man hurried back home, where in 1893 the construction begun.
In a couple of years the frame of the house and the roof were ready. Interior works took some longer time and they were almost completed when a message arrived informing about the death of the beloved lady. The count himself fell ill in 1908 during a trip to St.Petersburg where he died as well. According to his wish he was brought back to Haapsalu by train and then carried into the manor, where he spent, though already dead, his only night. Later he was buried in Hiiumaa, to his family’s burial plase in Korgessaare.
After visiting the Ungru Manor, Andreas and Elizabeth and I cycled along a flat and well-cared for bicycle path that led us straight into the center of Haapsalu – a small Estonian’s town that is surrounded by the Baltic Sea on three sides.
In Haapsalu I took some time to explore the city’s famous medieval Episcopal Castle, which is said to be the dwelling place of the most celebrated ghost in Estonia – the White Lady.
That evening I stayed at the Paeva Villa Hote, which is a small 3-story house/hotel with themed rooms and spectacular views looking out over the Baltic Sea. I was given the room at the very top of the house and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this hotel. I could have easily lived in this small, but scenic, property.
My bike ride the next day was a short one (only 55 km), but there was a strong headwind that made forward progress difficult.
Once I reached the city of Padise, I parked my bike outside the Padise Manor and climbed up a long, wooden staircase to the lookout tower at the top of the monastery ruins.
Then I cycled a short distance further down the road before turning into the forest and cycling a short 2 kilometers or so out to my accomodation for the evening. Before turning in for the night, however, I rolled off into the forest and took these few photos.
My accomodation, once again, was a really interesting place. It was a large property located in the middle of the forest. And on this property were all kinds of small wooden homes. There was a disc golf course, and large outdoor stadium, a ropes course, a small creek, goats, a camping area, and even a ping-pong table.
I checked into my room, took a shower, and then spent the next hour or so playing ping-pong against several of the locals. They were amazed to hear that an American was riding a bicycle from Poland to Finland. And I think they were having fun playing ping-pong against a guy from the United States.
The next morning I woke up to what would be my final day of bicycle touring on the West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour with City Bike Ltd. I walked from my room to the main cabin where the kitchen was located and was treated to another delicious buffet breakfast. As I was leaving camp, I said goodbye to two other bicycle travelers from Finland, who were also leaving the property.
After buying some food at the corner store to get me through the day, I cycled several kilometers before stopping to take in the Keila Joa waterfall. This small waterfall is only 6 meters high, but it is more than 10 meters across, making it the third most powerful waterfall in Estonia.
After visiting the waterfall I stopped at Turisalu Cliff to snap a few photos and take in the view.
From there I began my long bike ride into the city center of Tallinn, Estonia. Along the way I saw this small truck advertising the local bike shop, Hawaii Express.
My hotel for the night was located right in the center of the city, making it the perfect place to being my bicycle tour across Latvia and Estonia to an end.
I checked into the hotel, took a shower, and then spent a coupe hours walking around the city. In addition to walking through the city center, I climbed up to one of the city’s highest points and did my best to take in the views of the city.
Then I returned to my hotel and called it a night. The next morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, packed up my things and checked out. My 12-night/13-day bicycle tour with City Bike Ltd. through West-Estonia and Latvia was over. It was a wonderful experience and I will be remembering this bike tour for a very long time.
To learn more about this West-Estonia & Latvia self-guided bicycle tour, be sure to visit the City Bike Ltd. website or give the company a call at +372 5111819
To read my full review of the West-Estonia and Latvia bike tour… and to hear about my favorite parts of this unique and memorable bicycle touring holiday, please click here.[button_black url=”http://bicycletouringpro.com/west-estonia-latvia-bike-tour”]Bike Tour Review[/button_black] [button_yellow url=”http://bicycletouringpro.com/estonia-latvia-citybike-tour” target=”_blank”]Official Tour Company Website[/button_yellow]