Estonia is already establishing a reputation as a place to rival Prague for weekend breaks. But it has now found a spot on the school travel map through Club Europe, which has just added the country to its list of destinations. The company specialises in educational group travel and will be offering music tours to Estonia for the first time in spring 2004.
The five-day tour includes visits to Tallinn and the seaside spa town of Haapsalu.
The Baltic state of 1.4 million people, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, hosts the renowned All-Estonian Song Festival, which attracts more than a third of the population to its capital, Tallinn, and has been running since 1869. It features 24,000 singers on an open-air stage.
Tim Johnson, managing director of Club Europe, became aware of Estonia as a schools destination when he got glowing reviews from a visiting school. "I travelled to Tallinn, Parnu and Haapsalu and was captivated by the country.
It is more expensive than trips to mainland Europe, but Estonia has a huge musical heritage and it gives you a flavour of Eastern Europe, which is unique. It is fascinating," he says.
In the summer of 2002, Adam Baum, head of music at Bishop's Stortford high school, Hertfordshire, organised an independent tour of the country with 27 students and three staff. The group, which included clarinet and guitar ensembles and vocalists, played four concerts in four locations. "The tour was fantastic," he says. "The concerts were well-attended, we felt safe, and it was comfortable."
Prices for Club Europe musical tours to Estonia start from pound;453 for a five-day trip, with departures from late March until early September. Tel: 0800 496 4996; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.club-europe.co.uk