I recently googled “winter in Estonia”. Not that I need to know – I have lived in Estonia my whole life and I guess I’ve had enough experience to gain a pretty good understanding on the topic. But out of pure curiosity what do people say out there on the endless internet about our country? I was not disappointed. There are a lot of amusing findings about the weather in Estonia. Most Estonians keep whining about suffering under “continuous bad skiing weather in Estonia”, so maybe it’s time to find at least something enlightening about it. Let me present you with some of my favourite findings and share a few of my own thoughts as a local.
The average annual temperature in Estonia is 5.2°C (41°F)
Google, listen! You cannot just burst out something like that. It’s like a slap in the face. Nobody wants to come here when you paint Estonian summers and winters exactly the same. At least pick a more attractive temperature for that because 5°C (41°F) is probably the least appealing temperature of all. Just because the temperature at Christmas last year was 9°C (48°F) and rainy, and in June it was also 9°C (48°F) and rainy, it doesn’t mean it’s like that all the time. Yes, sometimes it can happen that even in summertime we get bad skiing weather in Estonia and I am forced to double check the calendar to be sure if I really am in the right month.
We do get sunny and hot days here.
And by hot, I mean at least 25°C (77°F, haha, I know). The highest ever recorded temperature in Estonia is 35.6°C (96°F). The beaches are packed, Estonians are fighting each other to catch the sun’s rays. All Estonians are suddenly on holiday to show their Instagram followers that we also have real hot summers (lasting all of about 2 weeks).
On hot days, all Estonians wake up, feel boosted by the sunshine and leave the cities. They head to the forest, to the beaches, to the islands, to visit friends in their summer cottages, and to visit numerous festivals and summer concerts. Estonians are much more active and filled with energy during the summer when the temperature is higher. It’s definitely more energizing to get out of the city and explore fishing villages, bogs, waterfalls and forests.
However, it can get exceptionally cold in Estonia.
The lowest ever recorded temperature in Estonia is -43.5°C (-46°F). With years of studying and field work experience I can share my professional opinion and say that after -10°C (14°F) it doesn’t really matter what temperature the thermometer shows – it feels equally cold.
Here’s a local’s tip for how to decipher Estonian weather – when your eyebrows, lashes and nose hair are frozen it’s probably around -20°C (-4°F). And then the miracle happens. Our rivers, lakes and in some years even the sea freezes up. Completely! So, it is possible to walk, ice-skate, fish, and even drive the car on the water like a modern-day Jesus.
22 hours of daylight in June vs four hours of daylight in December
First world problems in the summertime – it’s 11pm but I can’t go to sleep when the sun is still shining right in my face. Morning struggle in wintertime – it’s 9am and it’s still dark when I wake up. Sometimes we complain about it. In reality, the fact that there is such a drastic shift in day light hours throughout the year is an unbelievably great occurrence to witness. Those several hour sunsets in June are magical. You can truly take your time to enjoy those long-lasting moments. Pull an all-nighter, and observe that at 2am it’s already getting lighter again.
On the contrary, winters are dark and even during the daylight hours it’s mostly cloudy. I must admit, when I see a clear sky in December I’m rather surprised. Not surprisingly, 73% of Estonians are lacking vitamin D – the Sun vitamin. On the other hand, the dark and cold Nordic winter has its mystical way to stun you with its beauty. Like the Jägala waterfall, for example.
November is considered to be the Soul’s Month. At this time our ancestors waited for the Souls to come home and offered them food. Therefore, dark winter nights are a good time to look for ghosts in Tallinn Old Town (and we have a lot of them) or spot the lurking Guardian Spirit of the Wetlands in the bogs.
Small country with four seasons
Estonians are always very proud to say that we have four seasons in our small country. Usually in the end of March the first shy sprouts are raising their heads from the dark soil to see if it’s okay to come out. We collect birch sap, full of vitamins and enjoy the first warm rays of sunshine on our cheeks. Nature is waking up from the deep winter sleep.
In autumn the spectacular display of colours offers new discoveries every day. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds stop in Estonia, inviting bird lovers to witness the impressive show. In each of the four seasons the colours of nature are different, as are the sounds and wildlife. Visiting Estonia in December, March, June or October gives you a totally different experience of the country.
Rain, snow, slush, hail, mud, sand, ice, sun – you name it, we have it
You never know if it’s going to rain in January or snow in July. Estonian weather is unpredictable. If you come to Estonia in summer take your swimwear, flip-flops, bikinis, t-shirts but please don’t forget your umbrella, rain coat, wellies and winter jacket. In wintertime it’s mandatory to pack your rain coat, wellies, winter jacket and snow shoes. You can never be sure what to expect because every year is different.
Deal with it like a boss and be prepared for the unexpected. Welcome to Estonia!