Yes, Tallinn is a pretty city. But I think that to really have an idea of the beauty of Estonia, you have to get out of the old capital. The small Baltic country is almost 50% forested and a third of these forests are in protected territory. The country is also known for its many wetlands, while swamps and peatlands account for about one-fifth of its surface. And what better way to enjoy this than to visit the largest national park in the country, Lahemaa.
It is possible to travel to Lahemaa using public transport from Tallinn, but we decided to take a guided tour with Traveller, a company that offers expeditions from Tallinn to small groups. The advantage of taking a guided tour: the opportunity to see several points of interest and hear local anecdotes and stories.
We made a short stop before arriving in Lahemaa National Park. Our guide wanted to show us what many Estonians call “the Niagara Falls of Estonia”. Well, the Jägala Falls are far to look like the impressive Niagara Falls, but at a height of eight metres they are the highest in the country.
After this small detour, we headed for Lahemaa. Lahemaa National Park covers an area of 725 square kilometres, making it not only the largest national park in the country, but also one of the largest in Europe.
The national park is bordered to the north by the Baltic Sea and is covered at 70% by forests. There are also several imposing mansions, fishing villages, as well as former Soviet military bases. A day was not enough to discover it all, but we had a glimpse of a bit of everything.
And the highlight of the tour happened at the end of the day. Our guide led us to the Viru Bog and let us explore the trails by ourselves.
The Viru peat bog is undoubtedly one of the most accessible (and well known) in Estonia. A 3.5 km trail, dotted with some interpretive paintings, allows you to discover it. There is also an observation tower to better enjoy the scenery.
Although the place is well appreciated by locals and tourists, the trails were curiously quite deserted when we visited it. However, we did meet some locals who were bathing in the icy water of the peat bog.
It must be said that peat bogs are of great importance in the history of Estonia. In ancient times, Estonians believed that they were a portal to the sky and to the Gods. They therefore made many offerings in the bogs. More recently, during the troubled times of the country’s history, many Estonians took refuge in peat bogs. Only those who knew perfectly the topography of the land could venture there without fear of being swallowed up in the peat bog.
The peat bogs still look a bit mysterious today. And on this beautiful sunny day of July, I almost wanted to do like the locals and dive into the bottomless waters too… Yeah, ok, maybe not.
I recommend to everyone who wants to discover Estonia not to forget to explore the natural landscapes of this country!