Estonia is the northernmost and smallest of the Baltic States – it’s about the size of Switzerland. It borders Russia on the east and Latvia on the south. To the west are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga, and the Gulf of Finland lies to the north. Helsinki is just 80 km (50mi) away across the Gulf of Finland; St Petersburg is 320km (200mi) east of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, which is on the north-western coast.
Given that the country’s pretty flat, you can see a lot of it from the highest point – the 317m (1040ft) Suur Munamägi, in the south-east – without getting a nosebleed. Lake Peipus, on the Estonia-Russia border, is the 4th largest in Europe at 3500 sq km (1400 sq mi). Islands make up nearly 10% of Estonia’s territory; the biggest are Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, both off the western coast. Forests cover nearly half the country, and about a quarter of Estonia is wetland- some of the peat bogs are 6m (20ft) deep.
Estonia’s rich flora includes 1470 varieties of indigenous plants, while its fauna features thriving populations of large European mammals, among them roe deer and elk. Estonia also has 10 species of rare and protected amphibians. A number of large raptors, including golden eagle (250 pairs), white tailed eagle, spotted eagle and eagle owl are protected, as is the rare black stork.
One of the unique sights of the Estonian forest is the European flying squirrel. The climate is on the cool and damp side of temperate, verging on continental as you move inland where, in winter, it can be a few degrees colder than the coast or, in summer, a few degrees warmer. Winters are fairly severe. The waters around Hiiumaa and Saaremaa Islands freeze over in mid-January and usually don’t thaw for 3 months, during which time the entire country is covered in snow. Rain is heaviest in September and lightest in spring.