National Parks in Estonia

Lahemaa National Park

Estonia is a country located in Northern Europe. According to Countryaah, Estonia is one of the very countries with name starting with letter E.

Lahemaa National Park

Lahemaa National Park

Lahemaa National Park is located on the north coast of Estonia, around 40 kilometers east of Tallinn. Lahemaa means something like “land of bays” – and that doesn’t promise too much. The coastline is characterized by countless small bays, lonely beaches, boulder fields and dreamy fishing villages. The limestone coast makes up about a third of the national park area. Further inland, raised bogs, lonely pine forests and beautifully prepared manors are waiting to be explored.

The Lahemaa National Park was founded in 1971, making it the oldest national park in Estonia and the whole of the Soviet Union. The coastline was little affected by human hands, it was a restricted area. For example, old military buildings can still be found on the northernmost tip of the Käsmu peninsula.

There are four large peninsulas in total: Juminda, Vergi, Pärispea and Käsmu. It looks like the fingers of one hand are sticking out into the sea. They were created by the last ice age. Glaciers from this Ice Age also brought the innumerable boulders from Scandinavia, which are scattered in abundance on the beach and in the forests. Most of them can be found on Käsmu. The largest chunks, scattered all over the park, reach heights of seven meters and circumferences of over 30 meters!

The lonely forests in Lahemaa National Park are home to many mammals. If you are lucky, you can meet elk, beaver, wild boar, lynx and even bears. So-called alvars are a typical form of landscape: only a thin layer of soil and vegetation can form on the barren limestone subsoil. A very special flora and fauna occur on this poor soil. Juniper and heather are typical plants, and the anemone blooms here.

A visit to the fishing village of Altja in the east of the park is definitely recommended. Time has stood still here. A small path leads along the coast, a nice walk. A similar dreamy atmosphere prevails in the captain’s village Käsmu: Pretty wooden houses, well-tended gardens, everything embedded in the unique coastal landscape – that pleases!

The visitor center of the Lahemaa National Park is located in a building of the Palmse Manor. Here you can get detailed information about the cultural and natural landscape. A stroll through the park’s park is definitely worth it. The estate has been wonderfully restored, a hotel has been set up in an outbuilding, and the old schnapps distillery is now a recommended, rustic restaurant. All in all, Palmse is a worthwhile excursion.

In addition to the Palmse manor, there are other manors worth seeing in the Lahemaa National Park, such as that of Sagadi or the manor of Kolga, which is now a guest house with an attached restaurant. The Sagadi manor was first mentioned in the 15th century, the baroque building was built in the 18th and 19th centuries. A hotel has also been set up here today.

It is especially nice to experience the national park by bike. Signposted cycle paths lead across the Käsmu peninsula, for example. But the streets are also relatively seldom used and therefore easy to use by bike. Hiking trails are also marked.

Soomaa National Park

Swamps and moors are the defining form of the landscape in Soomaa National Park, Soomaa also means “the land of moors”. The untouched nature and the landscape mix of forests, raised bogs, flooded meadows, river meadows and wooded meadows allow a fascinating insight into the natural landscape of Central Estonia.

The national park is located in the southwest of the country, near the city of Pärnu. The visitor center is located in Körtsi-Töramaa. Soomaa is known for the “fifth season”. This time, the transition from winter to spring, brings with it heavy flooding. Then the park may only be accessible to a limited extent, Töramaa, for example, can then only be reached by car from the direction of Köpu (coming from the south).

Beavers, elk, lynx, but also wolves and bears are the mammal species that can be found in the park. As is so often the case in Estonia, there are also numerous species of birds: red grouse, golden eagle, capercaillie, black grouse and blackcock, all of which can be discovered by visitors interested in ornithology.

A beautiful educational trail leads from Karuskose to the north. It goes through quarry forest, over open moorland, past deep black moor lakes – a wonderful walk for about one to two hours. An observation tower allows a panoramic view. Caution: The road to Karukose or to the starting point of the tour is a narrow, paved forest path. Oncoming traffic, wetness and not entirely unequivocal signage can complicate the approach.

Vilsandi National Park

The Vilsandi National Park is located on Saaremaa, in the far west of the island. The coast makes up a large part of the park. Accordingly, sea birds (e.g. eider, sea eagle, barnacle goose) are among the most dominant groups of animals that can be observed. The flora awaits with 30 species of orchids. The rare Saaremaa rattle pot also blooms here, which thrives mainly in damp lowlands.

The national park’s visitor center is located in the Loona manor complex. Here an exhibition provides information about the marine flora and fauna, fossils can be viewed, and there are organized hikes in summer.

Matsalu National Park

Meadows and coastal meadows, reed beds, forests and of course the coast are the typical landscapes of the Matsalu National Park. This and the brackish and shallow bay of Matsalu and the adjacent lake Väinameri are the ideal resting place for migratory birds. The area is one of the largest and most important resting areas for migratory birds on their autumn journey. 275 species of birds were counted here – a paradise for those interested in ornithology! Geese, dippers, swans, diving ducks, pond moorhens can be seen here. The observation towers built for this purpose, which are located in Haeska, Penijõe, Kloostri and Keemu, are helpful. The park’s visitor center is located on the Penijõe manor in the south of the national park.

Interesting: The Matsalu International Nature Film Festival takes place every autumn in the nearby town of Lihula.