In Lahemaa (Land of Bays), located on the northern coast of Estonia, you will find stony and sandy seashores, picturesque bogs, pine forests, old-growth forests, cliff forests, alvars and rivers that have cut into the limestone cliff. You will also find many geological, historical and architectural monuments. There are many erratic boulders, which were brought over from Finland by continental ice. Plenty of legends and stories are connected to these boulders.
The national park, established in 1971, was the first national park in Estonia and indeed anywhere in the former Soviet Union. The sea makes up almost a third of it; two-thirds of the land is covered by forest. There are four large peninsulas in Lahemaa and the northernmost point of continental Estonia – Cape Purekkari – is located on one of them – Pärispea Peninsula.
Lahemaa is one of Europe’s most important forest conservation areas, where many large mammals live. South of the national park are the large Kõrvemaa areas covered by mires and forests, which expand the living space of moose, boars, brown bears, lynxes, and foxes even more. You can find out about the lives of beavers on the beaver trail, located in a picturesque valley between the Oandu and Altja Rivers. Among the common birds seen here are the Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) and Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius); the Common Crane (Grus grus) comes to feed on the fields around Sagadi in autumn.
Natural and cultural heritage are intertwined in Lahemaa
Just like 4000 years ago, you can find historical villages on the limestone cliff that runs through Lahemaa. On the cliff, you will also find special plant communities or alvars, which only exist in Estonia and Sweden and where snowdrop anemones bloom in spring. Below the cliff, you can see rare forests where perennial honesty grows.
The shoreline and cultural heritage of Lahemaa are intertwined – from here, fishermen went to the islands of Finland to catch fish and seals; the sea was used for friendly trade as well as for the smuggling of salt and spirits. The most famous fishing villages here are the captains’ village of Käsmu, the fishermen’s village of Altja and the village of spirit smugglers, Viinistu – now the location of an art museum.
Lahemaa has many pine forests, and shipbuilding used to be popular here. In olden days, ships made of Lahemaa pine sailed the seven seas. There are also four large historic manor complexes in the area, three of which have been renovated: Palmse, Sagadi and Vihula.
Lahemaa National Park is only an hour’s drive from Tallinn. The visitor centre is located in Palmse; in Sagadi you can take a look at the forest museum, and in Oandu you can take part in the activities of the nature school. The former resort area Võsu is excellent for beach holidays.
Be sure to look into the opportunities of Lahemaa’s nature trails! If you want to and have the chance, explore the national park on a bicycle – that way you will find fascinating places you could never access by car.
Listen to the sounds of Lahemaa National Park: