The understated Baltic state of Estonia lives up to its national emblem, the swallow in many ways. It has peacefully emerged from centuries of disputed rule into a placid independence felt in the open spaces and relaxed pace of life compared to its European neighbors.

Estonia’s strategic location on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland has made it a desirable piece of real estate for historically competing nations Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Poland and Russia. Shortly after establishing its own independence, the fledgling country fell under Soviet Rule that lasted 50 years. In 1991, Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” peacefully ended Soviet Reign, and Estonia again stood on her own two feet.

Those interested in Soviet history will see plenty of authentic artifacts still driving down the streets and housing the people, businesses, and cultural institutions of Estonia. However, in every other way Estonia has fully embraced Western culture. It shares many cultural practices with neighboring Finland, from their similar languages to their love of the sauna.

Europeans have discovered Estonia as an ideal travel destination for a midsummer getaway, taking advantage of the relatively sparse population and the laid back spirit and accessible solitude of the country’s 1,500 islands.

Of those islands, the largest and most visited, Saaremaa is replete with recreation and relaxation opportunities. It’s tinier neighbor Muhu offers excellent dining opportunities and an even more remote ambiance.

Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, has all the charm of other well-preserved European capitals, but without the crushing crowds and tourist prices. You can truly dine, shop and stroll like a local through the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town, and catch a great panoramic from the top of Kiek in de Kök, the city’s 15th century defensive tower.

For those looking to take their journey beyond the expected, Tallinn is easily accessible from Stockholm and Helsinki, making Estonia an ideal addition to your Scandinavian tour.