Four countries, many adventures.
Photo by Mike Beales
The Baltic Run minimal assistance winter driving challenge explores an incredibly underrated part of the world, filled with nature, culture, and delicious vodka. We travel through four different countries and sometimes we are guilty of lumping them all together as one block of trees, ex-soviet relics, and freezing winters. However, the countries we visit on the Baltic Run — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia — are all quite different, each with its own special charm.
We start off in Poland, in magnificent Krakow. It’s a fantastic city, with pristine historical architecture, plenty to do, and lots of great restaurants and bars. Poland offers incredible variety, and we try to experience as much as we can while we’ll here. We stay in picturesque Kazimierz Dolny, once an artists’ colony, before discovering a far darker side to the country’s history at The Wolf’s Lair. We don’t have a chance to see much of the Poland’s often spectacular nature — beyond snow-covered scenes from the car window — but don’t worry, we’ll get plenty of that later on.
Our first stop in the (official) Baltic States is Lithuania. Here we encounter the perfect combination of urban and natural. We love to party in the capital, Vilnius, and marvel at the Curonian Split (the “Lithuanian Sahara”). The castle at Trakai has an incredible setting, which is even more beautiful in winter, while we also check out the spa town of Druskininkai, once a favourite of the Russian tsars.
We couldn’t possibly rank the beauty of the Baltic States but, well, Latvia is hard to beat. We love Riga, Liepaja, and the secret Soviet bunker at Ligatne; however, it’s not cities that make Latvia so special. Rather, we love its many rivers, forests, the stunning scenery of places like Gauja National Park, and coastal treasures like at Jurmala.
Our final stop is Estonia, a captivatingly unique country. While a Baltic State, in many ways it’s closer to Northern Europe, and at Narva Castle you can see how its history was also shaped by its proximity to Russia. The nature is rich and untouched, and it’s so far north that snow is pretty much guaranteed, which means more fun for driving! Our final stop is Tallinn, one of the highlights of the trip, and especially beautiful at Christmas time.