Rolling Estonia: a wilderness adventure in fairytale forests

John Gimlette and family lose themselves in the haunting wintry wilderness of lacy-white swamps and forests, before seeking refuge in restored pastel palaces. Plus five more European wilderness holidays

Sometimes it helps to get a bit lost. In Estonia, that’s easily done. It’s more than twice the size of Wales, with a population (1.3 million) that would barely fill a few London boroughs, and almost two-thirds of the country is covered with forest. We got lost the very first time we stepped into the trees, and never found the thing we were looking for (the sea). But deep in the larch, we found Hansel-and-Gretel farmhouses, a frozen millpond, a colony of beavers, and a loo built over a stream. It felt as if we’d blundered into an earlier age.

Curious about this county’s great wild hinterlands, we’d come for a week in January. The national parks would be at their wintry best (a sparkling -8C), and we planned to tour two of them (Lahemaa and Soomaa), staying in artfully restored mansions.

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