Tips for nature wanderer: itinerary

Source: Siiri Kumari

Tips for nature wanderer: itinerary

Written by:

Piret Saar

Anytime of the year is a perfect time to explore the landscapes of the ancient marshlands of Estonia. Here you might even run into a fairy diving through the fresh, clean waters, and carefully listen to the whispers of the nearby forests, a playground for young bear cubs and bright-eyed wolf pups.

About half of Estonia's territory is covered in forest, which is about 2 million hectares of pine, birch and spruce. A big draw all year round are the many wetland areas. Ethereal and spiritual in character, Estonia's marshes and mires carry a sense of otherworldly magic and there are many folk tales mystifying the local wilderness. It goes without saying that Estonians are as deeply rooted in the nature as are the tallest, widest and oldest of trees.

Whether or not you have a chest full of scout badges, it's never too late to become a nature wanderer. Let down your hair, pick up a warm woollen jumper with cute local patterns, a pair of trusty walking shoes and catch the next coach deep into the nature.

Itinerary no. 2

Holiday like a mother nature's child

Embrace the nature

Estonian forests are full of berries, mushrooms, wild flowers and plants used in seasonal dishes and herbal remedies.

Photo by: Siiri Kumari, Visit Estonia

Destination: Soomaa national park and surrounding areas

Soomaa national park is made up of 4 vast peat bogs, Kuresoo is the largest of the many, located at the heart of the park.
Springtime is particularly peculiar in Soomaa national park. The snow withdraws causing a flood in the national park. Known as the fifth season, this is the perfect time for canoeing along paths and through villagers' front yards. Local people are well prepared for the floods and anticipate their arrival like a visit of a rich relative. The fifth season is also known for romance, as according to local myths, this is the time when two old time lovers meet, the river spirit and the marsh spirit. According to these legends, the river and the marshland are a home to their many sons and daughters, wandering in the forests or hiding in the water.

Exploring the myths and legends

Estonians are eager songwriters and storytellers, so it's no wonder that with every wondrous natural spectacle comes a fable. Stories of the marshland can often be mystical, even eerie. It's best to capture the real nature of the marshland in the dusk, as the fog slowly glides across the dark pools of water.

"Marsh ogre" is the head spirit of the marshland, often disguised as an old, grey-haired and bearded man, an elk or a wild boar. He is the protector of the marshes, proud to welcome nature wanderers into his enchanting home, but is known to play tricks on those who mistreat his hospitality.

Another story goes that once upon a time there was a fisherman who caught a maiden. Taken by her pure charm, the fisherman decided to become her spouse with many wonderful years to follow. As they were rowing along the river one day, the man repeatedly said to his loved one: "I have never told you where I found you." Then maiden finally replied: "You found me from this river," and turned the boat, both disappearing into the river. Maidens are known in Estonian folk tales to be able to present themselves as fishes, otters and swans. So better keep your wits about you.

The mist and lights naturally occurring in the marshes are told to make some people lose their mind. Eksitaja ("Misleader") is a daughter of the marsh spirit. Also known as will-o'-the-wisp, the atmospheric lights are marvelled by people at night. It is believed that a will-o'-the-wisp marks the location of a treasure hidden so deep in the ground that it can only be found when guided to the lights. A challenge accepted?

Where to eat and sleep?

An exciting part of a visit to Soomaa is definitely the relaxing rest after a day in the fresh air. Here you will find a number of forest houses, such as Riisa ranch, Põnka holiday farm and Klaara-Manni holiday house. Make sure to ask for warm, home cooked food sourced from the local fields and forests. After a hearty feast, it's definitely a good time to jump into a hot sauna and then cool yourself off outside. Feel steam evaporate from your body as you breathe as one with the night forest.

Outdoor activities

Bog walking has to be one of the funnest activities in Estonia. Bogshoes have been used to walk on wetlands throughout the times, allowing access to many places where it is hard or even impossible to reach by foot. Bog shoeing is also one of these universal activities that you can practice all through the year, as Estonia's wilderness sheds its coat in every coming season.

Soomaa's many lakes are also perfect for a refreshing swim. While the temperatures might be slightly colder than in the rest of the country, the water is definitely purer and is known to do wonders for the skin. If you happen to shop around in Estonia's design and cosmetic stores, you're bound to find what look like little bottles of magic. Bottled marsh water and peat masks are often described as the secret of eternal youth.

Brown bears, wolves, elks and wild boars are just some of the many animals living side by side with Soomaa's large spirit population. Howling with the wolves and bear watching are both "must do" experiences to tick off your bucket list for life. 

More destinations for nature lovers:

Do you see yourself more as a historical merchant or an urban dweller? Find your story below. 

Last updated : 03.11.2020

In category: Nature & Wildlife