Lahemaa National Park on the north coast of Estonia provides a good overview of the natural and heritage landscapes characteristic of Estonia. Here you can find stony and sandy beaches meandering along peninsulas, picturesque bogs, very special plant communities on the klint – alvars –, rapid rivers and geological, historical and architectural monuments. Lahemaa is one of Europe’s most important forest protection areas, with plenty of large mammals living in its unique forests. The four large manor complexes of Lahemaa are also remarkable.
Matsalu National Park in western Estonia is an important stopover and feeding site for migratory birds on their journey between the Arctic and Western Europe. An exceptionally large variety of bird species stops and nests in both the shallow coastal waters and on coastal meadows and pastures. Matsalu is a true birdwatchers’ paradise.
Soomaa National Park in central Estonia is rich in bogs and mires, where slow rivers meander. It is a great place for bog hikes and canoe trips. The most exciting time of year in Soomaa is the flood period or the fifth season, when all the lower woods, roads and even yards are flooded. During this season, there is a large area in Soomaa where people can only get around by boat.
Vilsandi National Park on the west coast of Saaremaa awaits those who love the sea, seals, shifting sands, birds and orchids. It has the largest resting sites of grey seals in Estonia and paradise for sea birds. Limestone terraces with numerous fossils also await discovery.
The hillocks of Karula National Park in southern Estonia were created by the uneven melting of continental ice. These hillocks, covered with forests, fields and meadows, conceal around 40 lakes. Cultural landscapes add substantial value to Karula. It is one of the smallest national parks in Estonia and its residents stand out thanks to their strong connection with the land and nature.
Among Estonia’s protected areas, some of the best-known are Kõrvemaa Landscape Conservation Area, where large forests alternate with bogs; Endla Nature Reserve with its plentiful bogs and springs; and Estonia's largest delta mire — the Emajõe-Suursoo (Great Mire of the Emajõgi) — by Lake Peipus.
In Estonia you are free to roam on private land from sunrise to sunset, if you want to admire protected natural sites. This is provided by what is known as everyman’s right, as established in the Nature Conservation Act.