Matsalu national park

The park includes the Matsalu Bay and its coastline, the Kasari River delta, and nearly 50 islands and islets, along with the surrounding Väinameri Sea. One of Europe's most important waterfowl resting areas between the Arctic and Western Europe, it is a true paradise for bird lovers.

In addition to birds, the Matsalu National Park also protects the semi-natural habitats (coastal and flood meadows, alvars and wooded meadows, reed beds, small islands) characteristic of West Estonia and the cultural heritage of Väinameri Sea. 

Matsalu is home to 4,000 hectares of Kasari meadow, Europe's largest preserved flat meadow, which is an important nesting site for corn crake, spotted crake and great snipe. More than 2 million waterfowl fly through the national park each year, of which more than 230,000 remain for shorter or longer stays.

The largest of its kind near the Baltic Sea is the reed bed of Kasari delta, covering nearly 3,000 hectares, where you can hear warblers, the best known of which is the Eurasian bittern. Matsalu coastal meadows are some of the largest in Europe and important for nesting waders (for example, shanks and tattlers, Northern lapwing, whimblers and the Eurasian curlew) because of their low vegetation and reed-free waterline. Beef cattle help maintain the meadows. The white-tailed eagle and the Southern dunlin can also be encountered. Of the animals, it is the elk that is most likely to be seen from the Kloostri observation tower.

Plant enthusiasts can find numerous Orchidaceae growing among the oak and hazel trees in the species-rich wooded meadows. The diversity of the West Coast's flat landscapes is enhanced by the coastal scarps consisting of carbonate rock, formed from the coral reefs during the Silurian period. Some of the old thatched-roofed hay barns and fishing huts have been restored to preserve the cultural heritage.

The Visitor Centre of Matsalu National Park is housed in the Penijõe Manor; its permanent exhibition gives an overview of the nature, history and cultural heritage of the protected area,with a 20-minute slide programme “Matsalu aasta. Elu Matsalus jääst jääni“ (Year in Matsalu. Life in Matsalu from winter to winter) available. Explore exciting nature vacation packages for the best experience! Nature experience is also provided by several observation towers and hiking trails.

Recognitions:

  • The national park has a European Diploma for Protected Areas (only one among the Baltic countries that has it), which recognises the protected area’s diversity in regard to biology, geology and landscape. 
  • The national park is part of the Väinameri protected area of HELCOM. 
  • In 2007, the European Commission launched the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) competition, and Matsalu was nominated in 2009 in the category “EDEN. Estonian undiscovered treasures. Tourism and protected areas”.
  • In 2015, the national park was the first in Estonia to be awarded the Sustainable Tourism Certificate issued by the EUROPARC Federation.
  • Matsalu is listed as a wetland of international importance in the Ramsar list.
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