Lahemaa National Park
Located in the very north of Estonia, Lahemaa National Park (Lahemaa Rahvuspark) covers the area of almost 726 square kilometres along the coast. It is about a one hour drive from Tallinn, approx. 70 kilometres eastwards.
The nature reserve, which was founded under the Soviet rule in 1971, consists of almost two thirds of wooded area and approx. one third of lakes.
After having been there, one will probably agree that protecting and preserving the north Estonian landscape, with its high trees, lakes and the soil, covered by rampant grasses and moss, is really important.
Lahemaa National Park is one of the last untouched places in the Baltic region. It is very enjoyable not only because of its diverse nature but also because of the mythic stories, passed on and cultivated by local people for generations.
Moreover, there are peninsulas that reach very far into the sea and some wonderful bays. These bays give the name to the park: Lahemaa means “the country of bays”. At the same time, eight splendid feudal manors give the landscape a kind of classy touch. Considering the huge amount of sights one should plan his tour in detail before. It would certainly be a shame to miss things worth seeing.
One may explore the park by taking a couple of one-day tours, by bike or on foot for example. There are several nice places to say for a night, e.g Palmse mõis, Sagadi mõis, Vihula mõis etc. The prices are reasonable (100 € or less, depending on where you stay).
There are well developed hiking and nature trails that will safely guide you through the park. Even through the densest parts of the great pine, spruce and birch woods that are called “virgin forest” in Lahemaa National Park.
While exploring the area you will certainly notice many strange, round stones, mostly covered with moss. These are boulders that characterise the north Estonian nature.
There must be thousands of these stones spread over the whole National Park. Some of them are really big, with the perimeter of up to 30 meters. Already in early times, there were exiting legends about these stones, which have been there since the Ice Age. Some are supposed to be petrified devils; others thrown by the Giant Kalevipoeg – a famous hero of the Estonian National Epic.
There is one very important rule: moving a boulder causes bad luck. If worst comes to worst people would rather build their fence around a boulder than move it. The same goes for oak trees: to fell one also brings bad luck; so, if you are lucky you can see a part of a house built around an oak tree.
1) The smaller western part of Lahemaa National Park lies in Harjumaa. Go to Kuusalu by highway no 1 and right behind it, in the north western direction, could be a starting point for exploring the huge Lahemaa National Park.
In the area of the small village Muuksi you will first of all find the ruins of a- thousand-year-old Estonian fortification that was supposed to – obviously not very successfully – defend that part of the country against the Swedish and Danish offensive attacks.
Apart from that there are a few dozens of stone graves nearby which are a proof of a much older settlement, probably from around 500 B.C.
A bit further in the direction of Kolga lies Viru Raised Bog (Viru raba). It can only be explored using a wooden footpath that is about 3.5 kilometres long. Peat has never been cut here. That is why today, the peat layer is supposed to be approx. six metres thick. From the look out you get the most beautiful view over the sparse bog landscape which is a must for all nature lovers.
One of Estonia’s most beautiful manors waits you in Kolga. It dates back to the year 1642 and was converted into classicist style in 1820. There are also some very classy adjoining buildings, which together with a large park make the complex an integral whole. A neighbouring hotel and a very good restaurant invite you to round trips that could last for several days. You may also visit the northernmost point of Estonia – the headland of Purekkari. Especially in midsummer the place is also great for swimming.
2) Coming from eastern direction via highway no. 1, the small village Viitna invites you to take a break and enjoy a tasty meal in its time-honoured restaurant dating back to the year 1880. Here, you can also plan your next days in detail. Northwest from here lies the other and larger part of Lahemaa National Park – the eastern one, situated in the district of Lääne-Virumaa.
Right next to the village, Lake Pikkjärv (in English: the Long Lake) waits for tourists, who look for freshening up on a warm summer day. It is one of Estonia’s most beautiful lakes. With a sunbathing area, a sandy beach and some small islands the lake is indeed a real eye-catcher. Other nice bathing facilities are to be found nearby.
Some kilometres in the north lies Palmse, which, from an architect’s point of view, is probably the area most worthy of seeing in the whole nature reserve. The manor-house was built in 1698 and is a small treasure indeed. The park administration is also here.
You will find numerous classy adjoining buildings, a beautiful park and a former distillery. Today it houses a restaurant and a bar that has lots of treats to offer, some of which containing strong alcohol.
- Next topic: Kurtna lakes