The Baltics cycling holiday
Description of The Baltics cycling holiday
Add easy-going gorgeous terrain to history and cultural diversity, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have few rivals as a cycling paradise. Discover contrasting capitals - medieval Tallinn, funky Riga, quirky Baroque Vilnius – along with fabulous beaches, bird-filled national parks and glittering lakes.
After touching base in Estonia's lovely capital Tallinn, it's time to go island-hopping to Muhu and Saarema, riding at times with the sea on both sides – with pauses at lovely rural museums en route to the island town of Kuresaare, where an imposing 14th century Teutonic castle is complemented by muscle-soothing spas! You'll also get to see the Kaali craters, believed to have been formed by a massive meteorite strike around 5000 years ago.
The distinctive beauty and vibrant birdlife of the Natsi-Volla Nature Reserve will make you rethink all your ideas about the word 'bog', while nearby Parnu is an exquisite beach resort where golden sands meet charming period architecture.
Head to Latvia to compare Parnu with the Latvian resort town of Jurmala, set on a 33km white sand beach, before diving into the lively capital Riga – famous for excellent bars for a well-earned drink.
Riding on into Lithuania, stop the famous Hill of Crosses pilgrimage site, before taking a break from the saddle to drive to the former Prussian city of Klaipeda. This one-time key player in the historic Hanseatic League is the gateway to the Curonian Spit.
This long, slender sand dune peninsula – 98km long but at times only 400m wide – is part Lithuanian, part the mysterious Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. You'll explore this striking and wonderful landscape of dunes and tiny coastal hamlets like Nida.
Driving to Trakai, dip into the former capital of Lithuania – and its fine 14th century castle – before continuing by bike to the charming capital Vilnius. As well as its ravishing Old Town, be sure to visit the quirky self-proclaimed artistic 'independent republic' that is the boho neighbourhood of Uzupis.
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PlanetOn cycling trips, it’s easy to use plastic excessively, especially in hot climates or during the summer months when we ride. Rather than use single-use plastic bottles, we refill our water bottles from a large drum kept in our support vehicle. We also encourage travellers to snack on fresh, seasonal fruits rather than processed foods in plastic wrappers. As well as carrying a large water drum, we also take advantage of the Baltic tradition of having a drinking water fountain in many villages and fill up our bottles directly from the source.
We have also spoken with many of the accommodation providers we use on this trip about minimising the overuse of linens and towels. Many hotels will display signs asking you to reuse yours and take short showers to minimise water wastage.
Our greatest contribution to minimising our transportation's impact on the environment is to travel by bike, avoiding the use of any energy or fuel. When we do use a vehicle, we are committed to providing local experiences and as part of this philosophy we use local forms of transport wherever possible. Where we use private transport, we stick to the small back roads, minimising the impact on locals using the main roads for their daily routines. Where we do use a support vehicle we will always ensure that it is an appropriate size to suit our cyclist numbers i.e. we wouldn’t use a 16-seater minivan for five travellers.
On this trip we use our own local Europe-based supplier who shares our commitment to responsible business, from waste and water management to ensuring we are leaving as minimal a foot (or tyre) print as possible. Where we use a third party to assist in the running of the trip we ensure they are educated on all aspects of responsible business, and supported in making any changes they need to improve in this regard.
PeopleAn important part of travel is mixing with the locals and experiencing “real life” in a destination. On this trip, along with staying in locally-owned hotels and guesthouses, we visit small cafes and restaurants and buy locally produced crafts and food. This gives locals the opportunity to earn money directly and our travellers the chance to interact with local Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian people in their everyday environment. We also use only European cycling guides and support staff, as well as local guides in many destinations.
We source local activities that we believe are sustainable to the economy in that they allow the flow of income from visitors to be distributed to a greater audience rather than remain concentrated with tourism providers. This could be as simple as spending time in a local café, a cooking classes in someone’s home and shopping at small local stores.
The role of females in cycling has often been that of support staff. To help combat this we try and ensure as many of our cycling trips as possible have a head female cycling guide.
All aspects of this trip (on the ground) are operated by Europeans (most of whom live locally) including all our cycling guides, support vehicle drivers, local site guides and accommodation providers. We provide our cycling leaders with a formal four day cycling training course, so that they are up to speed with the needs of our travellers as well as building their skills.
Locals know where the best food, souvenirs, local crafts and entertainment can be found. This trip is operated by local Europeans and we ensure any shopping opportunities, from the larger centres like Tallinn and Vilnius to the tiny villages we stop off at along the way, are authentic experience and showcase the Baltic's rich and unique culture and crafts.
This cycling trip has a maximum group size of 12, to minimise our impact on the smaller communities we cycle through. We believe this is the perfect size for a cycling trip while respecting the capabilities of the destinations we visit. Overtourism is an issue we are very conscious of and we are taking measures to ensure our impact on the communities we visit and their environment is our top priority.
We have a foundation that was set up to empower travellers to have a positive impact on the communities they visit. It now supports over 50 local, grassroots projects around the world. And over the past 15 years, the foundation has distributed over AU $5 million to projects tackling areas such as sustainable development, human rights, child protection, environmental conservation, wildlife protection, education and healthcare.
As part of our commitment to responsible travel a portion of your trip cost will be donated to Bicycles for Humanity – a not-for-profit, volunteer run, grass roots charity focused on the alleviation of poverty through sustainable transport – in the form of a bicycle.
In the developing world a bicycle is life changing, allowing access to health care, education, economic opportunity and the wider community. A bicycle means you can travel twice as far, twice as fast and carry four times the load, providing a profound and lasting positive effect for the individual as well as their community. Bicycles for Humanity collect donated (used or new) bicycles, repair them if needed and send them to Africa. Along with donated bicycles each of the 40ft shipping containers that Bicycles For Humanity sends becomes a bike workshop, providing employment, skills, training, business opportunity and economic development for the community in which it's placed and helping the community to move away from aid dependence.