Estonia, a destination reachable by plane in around three hours from even the furthest of European capitals, is a country half covered by forest, has five national parks (each with their very own distinct personality), has a selection of wonderful beaches and several notable lakes. The tap water is pure, much of the food is natural and unprocessed and they really know how to host a sauna party.
The Estonians themselves are very proud of their pure and natural land, and have long known the health benefits that come from being in such stunning, natural surroundings. But there's a small problem for them, there really aren't that many of them; the Estonian population currently stands at a mere 1,305,310 (as at Friday 18th August 2017, based on UN estimates), with 65.7% of this figure living in urban areas. The Estonians have space, they want to show off their beautiful country, and they want to show it to you.
A new study carried out amongst Norwegian adults suggests that a quarter of Norwegians reported feeling stressed four days a week or more, with significantly more women feeling anxious than men, in fact well over 50%. The results also showed a substantial drop in stress levels of the over 50s, with the 30-39 age group suffering the most.
Similar studies from around the world echoed these figures. Germany's leading health insurer TK Die Techniker recently published a study which showed that 61% of people said they 'often' or 'sometimes' felt stressed, when questioned. The remaining 39% answered either 'rarely', 'no' or 'don't know'.
In the light of this trend much research has been done about the links between being in nature and a notable reduction of stress. Dr Mathew White, a social and environmental psychologist at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at Exeter University, UK stated, "Our data suggests that visiting a natural environment that has as few human elements as possible (including sounds) as little as once a week for 30 minutes is associated with significantly better health. Two or three such visits a week have increased benefits. All activities seem to be good, walking, cycling, fishing; sitting on a bench."
With that in mind here are the top five recreational activities that can be enjoyed in Estonia that really get you face to face with nature.
The Estonians love to hike, as do many people around the world, but not all may have as developed a hiking network as they do in Estonia. The most impressive of which takes in stunning scenery, has a range of cottages and camping options and is 870km long! Those who enjoy being around water will enjoy what's known as 'the fifth season', a time in early spring when the river basins overflow, flooding the meadows and forests of the Soomaa National Park to create an almost otherworldly canoeing experience.