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.
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 southeast - without getting a nosebleed. Lake Peipsi, on the Estonian-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 c oast 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.
1,408,556 (July 2003 est.)
45,226 sq km
Estonian 65.3%, Russian 28.1%, Ukrainian 2.5%, Belarusian 1.5%, Finn 1%, other 1.6% (1998)
Estonian (official), Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, other
Evangelical Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Estonian Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-Day
With the summer holidays just beginning and airports now bustling with holidaying families destined
With the summer holidays just beginning and airports now bustling with holidaying families destined for flights to Spain. However some tourists are now looking beyond traditional vacations with their sights set on some surprising new holiday destinations.
Estonia saw the biggest rise in interest compared to summer 2010, with a 54% increase in flight searches on the Skyscanner site. Tallinn’s status as this year’s European Capital of Culture, which includes a programme of events and exhibitions, has led to increased publicity and evidently attracted many more British tourists.
Madagascar followed closely behind with a 48% rise in flight searches, possibly a result of the recent BBC documentary series showcasing the diverse beauty of this island.
Iraq, for years only synonymous with war, appears to be carving a niche for tourism too. Since the last US troops pulled out last summer, there’s been a 37% rise in interest from UK travellers. In an attempt to bring back tourists, millions of pounds have been invested in Iraq’s tourism infrastructure, with 700 new hotels planned to open by 2014. Despite the FCO still advising against all but essential travel to most places in Iraq, there has been the inevitable interest from intrepid travellers keen to explore somewhere that so few others dare to tread.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was in fourth place, with interest in the city of Sarajevo growing by 36%. The bullet-scarred but beautiful hillside city was named by the Lonely Planet named as the 43rd best city in the world to visit in 2010, which has doubtless helped raise its profile.
Cape Verde, an archipelago of 10 islands off the coast of West Africa is also growing in popularity, with interest rising by 33% year on year.
Sam Baldwin, Skyscanner Travel Editor commented: “It’s great to see lesser-known spots receive well-deserved interest and Skyscanner’s data may be indicative of a growing trend to visit places off the beaten track. While the numbers searching for flights to Iraq are still small, it will be interesting to see how tourism grows there in the coming months.”
Top 10 Emerging Summer Destinations for British Travellers (from 100 most popular destinations) 1. Estonia +54% 2. Madagascar +48% 3. Iraq +37% 4. Bosnia & Herzegovina +36% 5. Cape Verde +33% 6. Malawi +30% 7. Bulgaria +26% 8. Thailand +23% 9. Bangladesh +21% 10. Philippines +20%
Data refers to UK flight searches made on the Skyscanner site since January for departures in July and August 2011 vs the same period last year.