Estonia is one of Europe's smallest countries. To visitors, it offers a fascinating history, a lively, youthful culture, and a surprising variety of landscapes: from thick forests that shelter elk, bear, wolf and wild boar, to Baltic beaches and offshore islands. A wealth of historic towns, castles, cathedrals and aristocratic mansions wait to be explored.
Less than two decades after independence from the former USSR, Estonia is an exciting place as it comes into fully-fledged nationhood, emerging from a turbulent history. Membership of the European Union, which it acquired in 2004, has given Estonia a sense of belonging - voluntarily - to a greater cultural and economic identity. Estonia's language is closely related to Finnish, and so Estonians feel culturally closer to their Finnish neighbours across the Baltic Sea than to neighbours in Latvia, the small former Soviet Baltic republic on the southern border. They feel even less affinity with their big eastern neighbour, Russia, which occupied Estonia for centuries. There is still considerable hostility towards the country's Russian-speaking minority. Many visitors initially perceive Estonians as rather cold, not very welcoming; theirs is not a culture given to spontaneous displays of gaiety and wild abandon. But the standoffish attitude is typical, an expression of Estonian courteous reserve.