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The New Nordic: Estonia
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Stanley Chen Xi / Getty Images8/8

The New Nordic: Estonia

Even if Estonia isn't Scandinavian, it's Nordic in the literal sense: Tallinn, its immaculately preserved medieval capital, is farther north than Copenhagen and Stockholm, and it shares far more culturally and genetically with Finland than with Latvia, to its south. What this means for travelers is a country that has most of the advantages of Scandinavia (amazing food, beautiful people, endless summer days) and less of the downside.

The adventures are surreal, from swimming in an impossibly clear limestone quarry with a half-sunk prison to ice yachting in winter. On Muhu, one of the country's 1,500 islands, you can visit a church built in the 13th century that's next to a decaying Soviet rocket base.

On the flip side, Estonia is one of the world's most forward-thinking countries: Skype was created by Estonians, and the internet was declared a fundamental right in 2000.

Estonians are notorious for taking advantage of their easy access to nature — the country is half forest — and the spring floods are seen less as a burden than an opportunity to canoe through a landscape full of lynx, elk, and wild boars. In summer, you can hike the primeval forests of Soomaa National Park and by sundown be eating a five-star meal in Tallinn's cobblestoned Old Town. Now that's progressive.

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