Top 10 EDEN nature tourism destinations in Estonia

Source: Uno Rootsmaa

Top 10 EDEN nature tourism destinations in Estonia

Author:

Annelil Haabu

West-Estonia Tourism

In 2007, the European Commission launched the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) competition in order to draw attention to the value and diversity of less-known tourism destinations and to introduce them better. These top 10 nature tourism destinations in Estonia have been selected from among the winners and nominees of the EDEN competitions in Estonia.

HAAPSALU – romantic old town, resort and sea mud, bird-watching capital

2013 winner in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Accessible tourism” 

This romantic town is often called the Venice of the North and the narrow streets of its Old Town, surrounded by wooden-laced houses, have not undergone any significant changes since the beginning of the 20th century and cosy walks thereon bring visitors back to the seaside time and again. Haapsalu along with its nearby areas is one of the best in-town bird-watching spots in Estonia.


HIIUMAA – lighthouses, UNESCO biosphere reserve, natural forest

2015 winner in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Food tourism destination”, lighthouses of Hiiumaa, nominee in 2011 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Tourism and restored sites”   

Hiiumaa with its wilderness and island lifestyle has been a part of the worldwide UNESCO programme Man and the Biosphere for nearly 30 years. A living environment that has been preserved for centuries, specific traditions and the hard-working and humorous island people have earned special recognition, as they have managed to live in harmony with nature.


MATSALU – bird-watching paradise, wooded meadows and flood-meadows

Nominee in 2009 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Tourism and protected areas”   

Matsalu has been listed in the Ramsar list as a wetland of international importance since 1976 and in addition to birds, it also protects semi-natural communities characteristic to western Estonia as well as the cultural heritage of the Väinameri Sea.


MUHU island – ancient fishing villages, islets and ancient culture

Nominee in 2010 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Water tourism” 

The traditions of Muhu island derive from the cargo and merchants passing through, as well as war parties, fortune seekers and workers. This is a place where time rests, because the nature and traditions have not changed much over time – village ambience and landscape, the culture of the coastal folk from the ancient times to modern day, ecological balance and natural approach invite to find refuge on the island.


VILSANDI NATIONAL PARK IN SAAREMAA – seals and orchids

Nominee in 2009 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Tourism and protected areas”  

Estonia’s most western inhabited island Vilsandi forms the centre of a national park where you can find seals, waterbirds and orchids. Two thirds of the national park comprises the sea along with over 150 islands, islets and reefs.


ROMANTIC COASTLINE – UNESCO World Heritage Site Kihnu island, 635 km of junipers and sandy beaches

Nominee in 2015 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Food tourism destination”  

 The Romantic Coastline runs along the coastline around the Pärnu Bay, through the junipers fields of Varbla to the Estonian-Latvian national border in Ikla. You can find traces of the long forgotten coastline of the Baltic Sea on the Coastline, or your soul might instead be called towards the inland along with its deep mysterious forests and bogs.


SOOMAA NATIONAL PARK – five seasons

2009 winner in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Tourism and protected areas”  

The fifth season is a time of great floods in Soomaa, you will only realise the great impact of the floods in shaping the surrounding nature after visiting the area. Over 185 different species of birds have found a great living environment here, you may also run into a lynx, wolf or a brown bear.


LAKE VÕRTSJÄRV – fishing villages and treasures of the nature, adventures on ancient waterways

2010 winner in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Water tourism”  

Lake Võrtsjärv, which is part of the Natura 2000 nature and bird protection area, is the natural habitat for various plants and fish, as well as a place of residence, employment and tourism. The area of the lake with a thousand faces offers possibilities for active holidays, visiting the lake museum, trying oven-warm smoked bream with fishermen, or taking a trip on the kaleboat around Tondisaare.

  • Wintertime Võrtsjärv enables to go skating, skiing or kicksledding;
  • springtime floods and bird migration offer a great spectacle;
  • summer is the best time for swimming and boating, step by the Tondisaare celebration;
  • the golden autumn is great for a trip around the lake, either by bicycle or motor vehicle; over one hundred kilometres of hiking trails in Elva and the Hellenurme watermill offer enjoyment of nature and cultural heritage.


SETOMAA – UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site, ancient forests and food traditions

Nominee in 2015 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Food tourism destination” 

Setomaa has remained at the borderline of the western and eastern culture for centuries. Thanks to maintaining their customs and traditions, Setos have preserved something that has been lost elsewhere in the world. For thousands of years, the Seto culture has been communicated through singing – the Seto Leelo was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009.

PEIPSIVEERE ONION ROUTE – border lake, three cultures, peaceful vacation

Nominee in 2010 in category “EDEN. Estonia’s hidden treasures. Water tourism”  

Lake Peipus, the border lake of the European Union that divides and connects Estonia and Russia, is an important influencer of the nature, way of life, as well as the traditions of the area. The lake has provided fertile ground for growing onions, it continues to be rich in fish, and during the winter, it offers activities for ice fishermen as well as seekers of unique experiences in the form of an ice safari. The three cultures of the lakeshore – Estonian peasant culture, Baltic-German manorial culture and the culture of Russian Old Believers – are open for visitors to discover through museums, meetings with locals and local taste sensations.

  • During wintertime, go participate in a thrilling karakatitsa safari and do some ice-fishing on the lake, enjoy the crisp air, peace and quiet;
  • during springtime, find a wild daffodil habitat, visit fishing events and events related to fish dishes;
  • during summer, visit local food events, fairs and food celebrations, visit the yards and gardens of Old Believers that are well worth discovering;
  • autumn is known for characteristic street villages lined with sellers of the local Peipsi onion; go for a pleasant nature hike on the Alatskivi hiking trail or in Välgi forests.
Last updated : 30.07.2019

In category: South Estonia, West Estonia, Islands, Nature & Wildlife

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