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Countries covered: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia & Ukraine

Home of the beautiful Baltic Sea coastline, the Curonian Spit (sand dunes), great forestry and lakes, the Hill of Crosses pilgrimage site and a convivial yet nevertheless contemporary capital, part of Lithuania’s allure is that it is still relatively undiscovered. Filled with art nouveaux and gothic redbrick architecture, as well as sociable beer gardens and amazing nightlife, the fairly contemporary commercial hub that is Riga is unmistakably Latvia’s greatest tourist draw, along with the white summer nights seen across the compact country. Best, but not solely known across Europe for its forward-thinking, charming, and well preserved medieval capital city Tallinn, the modern-day Baltic beauty that is Estonia is a quite popular destination in the region. Historically more so of Nordic influence than Russian occupation, Estonia’s smooth reintegration with Europe generally and Scandinavia especially almost seems inevitable. Estonia is truly a post-Soviet Union success story.

As the sheer size of the world’s geographically largest country suggests, Russia’s attractions are varied and quite abundant. Stylish and modern Moscow and the queen of the Baltic Sea Saint Petersburg attract sightseeing enthusiasts, while those seeking some rural life have numerous time-frozen wooden villages to choose from. There’s much more to Russia than its hardline politics, military development, cold weather, and vodka. Russia is also a land of world-renowned literary geniuses and chess players, proud Olympic achievements, outdoor attractions such as whitewater rafting and skiing, highly ornate Orthodox Christian monasteries, ancient fortresses, and opulent palaces.

The continent’s second largest country by land mass aspires to integrate with its Western neighbors politically, culturally and economically. Efforts are being made to improve the tourism industry, especially in the western portion of the country. Fortunately, Ukraine’s diverse attractions offer at least experienced travelers plenty of reason to visit. The urban sightseeing type should check out the ‘cradle of Slavic culture’ that is Kiev and especially Habsburg-influenced Lviv. Also of some architectural value are Chernivtsi and Odessa, the latter of which is equally known for its seasonal party scene. The country’s greatest draw for nature lovers are the Carpathian Mountains.

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