Most tourists visit Estonia during a one-day stop on a cruise ship holiday. Those that have the luxury to explore deeper can seek out a day of adventure that even James Bond would find alluring.
The cities of Rummu and Ämari offer travelers the chance to feel like secret agents in some off-the-beaten-path experiences. Come see what’s behind the barbed wire, DO NOT ENTER signs, and concrete walls at the Rummu Underwater Prison.
What to Do in Estonia
There are so many things to see and do in and out of the city. For example, some of our favorite recommended guided excursions are listed below!
- 3-Hour Estonian Food Tour
- 1 Hour Romantic Photo Tour
- Lahemaa National Park Day Trip
- Day Trip to Paldiski and the Coastal Cliffs of Northwest Estonia (includes Rummu Prison!)
- Tallinn Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
- Best of Tallinn 2-Hour Bike Tour
Where to Stay in Tallinn, Estonia
The best places to stay in Tallinn are near the city center and Old Town. From these two locations, travelers arriving by ferry will appreciate the short distance from the port. Also, the city is known for having many apartments to rent. Use booking.com to make sure you’re getting the best price!
Budget: Draper Startup House for Entrepreneurs (hostel) or Citybox Tallinn or Fabulous Location Apartments
Mid-Range: Revelton Suites (studio suites) or Centennial Hotel Tallinn (buffet breakfast)
Luxury: Hestia Hotel Kentmanni (wellness center) or Schlössle Hotel (dreamy)
Rummu Underwater Prison
Just outside the small town of Rummu, lies the ruins of the old Soviet Prison with a very dark past. In the 1940s, this limestone quarry served as an active labor camp.
The prisoners were forced to toil on the land as the guards watched on from the buildings and towers. During that time, the underground springs seeped water that needed to be continuously pumped to keep the quarry bed dry.
When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, many of the Soviet institutions were vacated, including the Rummu Prison. With no one to clear the accumulating water, a lake quickly formed, swallowing much of the machinery, concrete barriers, and buildings located near the spring.
Today the remaining buildings are dilapidated and graffiti-laced. However, the site is truly mesmerizing with the dramatic limestone dunes and clear, turquoise water. Some of the beachfront buildings even feature some cheerful artwork, helping to calm your nerves if you’re exploring this eerie place all alone.
The Rummu Underwater Prison is a prime diving location due to the great visibility of the natural groundwater. Divers enjoy exploring the sunken ruins and watching for wildlife, like frogs and fish. In the summer, locals turn it into an adventurous beach destination.
Rummu Prison Travel Tips
As you arrive at the entrance, you will see the gates covered with barb wire and DO NOT ENTER signs. It can be quite intimidating. However, seeing the Rummu Prison listed on TripAdvisor encouraged us to go in. There are photos of sunbathers, repellers, and crazy teenagers jumping into the lake from the ruins. For more information and to get a peek inside, check out our travel vlog below. We show you exactly where to get into the compound safely and easily.
Ämari Air Base and Soviet Cemetery
While touring this part of Estonia, we witnessed a lot of military activity. For example, there were tanks on the road, helicopters circling overhead, and fighter jets whizzing by. Also, we learned that Ämari Air Base is located near the Underwater Prison. Furthermore, this is an active NATO base that carries out Baltic Air Policing patrols.
Nearby, there’s an interesting travel oddity tucked away in the forest. In this case, an old historic cemetery holds the remains of several pilots who flew under the Estonia Soviet regime.
What makes this place unlike any other historic cemetery are the unique grave markers. For instance, the plots of the Soviet military pilots are topped with the actual fins from their very own Russian aircraft. Hence, it’s an eye-catching sight from the road and worth a quick stop for a look.