National parks

Biggest and best known national parks in the Baltics and what do they offer

Lahemaa National Park

Estonian largest national park, Lahemaa (649 sq), is famous for its rich nature, cultural heritage and beautiful sights. The National Park is located at approximately one hour's drive from Tallinn The main attractions of Lahemaa are sandy beaches, enormous erratic boulders, mossy pine forests, over 200 species of birds and almost 900 different plants. In the park there are several well-restored manor houses which allow tourists to get a superb outline of the Estonian 18-19th century manorial architecture. In contrast to manorial - fishermen's mode of life in the past can be observed in a small fishing village.

Palmse manor. Since 17th century the manor belonged to von Pahlen family and was nationalised in 1920. The building dates back to 1697 and in 1720 after a big fire it was completely rebuilt to its present version. In 1970 the manor went into the possession of Lahemaa national park and became the center of the national park.  Facilities: informattion centre, restaurant,  cafe, wine cellar, souvenir and handicraft shop.

Sagadi manor. Since 18th century Sagadi has belonged to Fock family. The present building dates back to 18th century and is in clasissist style. The manor is completely renovated and furnished and today belongs to the museum of forestry. Hotel, guest house, seminar rooms, museum.

Kolga manor. In 1581 the Swedish king Johan III gave Kolga and lands surrounding it to the Swedish general Pontus de la Gardie. In 1658 the manor went into the hands of the Stenbock family who owned it till nationalisation in 1940. In 1642 the first Baroque building was built and in 1820s the whole building was transformed into impressive classicist palace. Today the manor complex belongs again to Stenbock family but as the complex is very big the renovation will probably take years. Facilities: guest house, restaurant, seminar room.

Vihula manor. Vihula manor, situated in the North Estonia on the banks of a picturesque Mustoja River consists of 26 buildings dating mostly from the 19th century. The oldest building in the manor is so called Tagamõis (Back Manor), built in the second half of the 18th century (nowadays Guesthouse). Since 1.7.1991 the manor is owned and managed by a joint-stock company Vihula Mõis (Vihula manor). Facilities: Restaurant, hotel, spa, function rooms.

 

Soomaa National Park

Soomaa National Park,  created in 1993, is one of the youngest in Estonia, but its area, 390 km², places it second after the Lahemaa National Park. The national park, situated in Transitional Estonia, has been created to protect large raised bogs, flood plain grasslands, paludified forests and meandering rivers. The territory of the national park is mostly covered with large mires, separated from each other by the rivers of the Pärnu River basin —  Navesti, Halliste, Raudna and Lemmjõgi rivers.

 Life in Soomaa depends more on climate than anywhere else in Estonia. When vast amounts of water run down the Sakala Upland, the rivers of Soomaa cannot contain it all. The water flows over flood plain grasslands and forests, and covers roads, disrupting connection with the outer world. In some years the spring floods have risen by a meter a day for 3–4 days. The Riisa flood area is formed in such a way; with a surface area covering 175 square kilometres at its largest it is the biggest flood area in Estonia. At the maximum flood level the water-covered area can be 7–8 km across. Steep-sloped, raised bogs stand as islands in the water. The flood has been called the "fifth season" in Soomaa.

Soomaa National Park belongs to a network of 11  certified  European PAN Parks  - large well-managed areas with a special wilderness area  providing a unique experience for visitors and benefits for local communities. These certified parks all include a significant wilderness area in their core.

There are great oprtunities for canoeing and bog walking in Soomaa.

 

Kõrvemaa National Park

The park is located at 45 minutes drive from Tallinn. The main characteristic of the park is hilly landscape with forests and lakes. The park covers 130 km2. Already historically the territory has been scarcely populated and the soviet military polygon created in 1950 destroyed all habitation completely. The polygon changed the nature completely that has partly created an entirely untypical landscape covered with heather.

The national park was created in 1991 when Estonia regained independence. The park is covered with hiking tracks and is accessible during all seasons.

 

Naissaar Landscape Reserve

The largest  island of North Estonia, Naissaar (area 18, 6 km2), is situated in the Gulf of Finland about 10 km north of Tallinn.

Naissaar belongs to the landscape region of the North-Estonian Coastal Lowland and to the corresponding geo-botanical region of the northern maritime Estonia. Naissaar is forest-rich island, with different forest types and several rare plants.

Naissaar has been designated as a military island for the defence of Tallinn and St. Petersburg for a long time. Military constructions notably changed the nature of the island. The fascinating history of the island shows in its numerous ruins of fortifications, dating as far as the 18th century.

Nowadays the landscape of Naissaar is diverse and the majority of the ecosystems are quite close to the original natural habitat. Naissaar Landscape Reserve was formed in 1995.

Access to island

By ship Monika max 100 pax or by smaller sailing boats or launches. Average time of trip one way 45 minutes.

 

Matsalu National Park

The Matsalu National Park   is one of the most famous reserve and oldest Ramsar wetland site in Estonia. At times of peak passage over a million diving ducks have been estimated along the coast here, whilst counts of wild swans and Barnacle Geese regularly number tens of thousands. But Matsalu is much more than just an avian motorway service station and among the 170 breeding birds recorded from the reserve are species such as Red-necked Grebe, Bittern, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern. We will climb observation towers to scan over the marshes and also take a boat trip through the vast reed-beds, the largest expanse on the Baltic coast. Although the reserve is designed for birds, the avifauna cannot be considered separately from the protection of their roosting, feeding and nesting areas. Open communities, especially meadows, belong to the most valuable parts of Matsalu landscapes. Unlike many other reserves in Estonia, the landscapes are strongly influenced by human impact here. Semi-natural communities need annual management (grazing, mowing) and will be preserved thereby. We will see Purple Milk-vetch and Crested Cow-wheat here in June-July, also various orchid species – Lady´s Slipper, Fly, Military, Musk, Geater Butterfly Orchids.

 

Gauja National park in Latvia

Gauja National Park was founded in 1973, and it was the first national park in the territory of Latvia at that time. Its territory of 91745 ha. The park includes the primeval valley of the Gauja River and together with its tributaries it forms a particularly original landscape. On the banks of the Gauja, Amata, Brasla, many smaller rivers and brooks there are the biggest Devonian outcrops in Latvia – sandstone cliffs, rocks and caves. Forests cover 47% of the park's territory. About 900 plant, 149 bird and 48 mammal species inhabit the territory of the Gauja NP.

The territory of the Gauja NP comprises more than 500 monuments of history and culture – castle mounds, castles, churches, manors, water and windmills as well as numerous archaeological and art monuments. Nowadays the main tourist attractions are Sigulda and Cēsis towns

 

Trakai National Historic Park

The Trakai Historical National Park is extremely close to the city of Vilnius and is a one among the total of five national parks that Lithuania has and is the smallest among them. The park has a total area of eight thousand two hundred hectares and around thirty two lakes that occupy a total area of around one thousand four hundred hectares. The park is situated at an elevation of between hundred to two hundred and thirty meters above sea level. There is also an area called Dzukija that is a wooded lake and lies right in the centre of the town of Trakai.

On the hills and in valleys, shady forests and between clear lakes there are numerous places of archaeological, historical and architectural interest. Thirty-two lakes of various shapes and size account for almost one fifth of the Park's territory. The most impressive are the lakes of Skaistis and Galvė and the islands connected with other lakes by channels and straits. In the centre of the Park there are two castles and Trakai Old City. The whole castle island is occupied by the only water-surrounded castle and palace in Lithuania. There is a history museum and an exhibition of applied art in the restored palace. The town of Trakai and its surroundings as the centre of the state started to form in 13th century. Chronicles say that the Grand Duke Gediminas during his hunt found this beautiful place not far from the capital of that time, Kernavė, and decided to build a castle here. A town grew by the castle and so the new capital Trakai was born. It was first mentioned in the 1337 German chronicles. This date is considered the official date of Trakai foundation.

 

Neringa National park

More than 5000 years ago the waves and winds of the Baltic Sea formed this unique and unusual place called the Curonian Spit. At first a barren strip of sand gradually separated the lagoon from the sea. The sand travelled towards the east and was deposited in the lagoon, thus forming the Curonian Spit. It is 97 kilometres long. Neringa is the longest town in Lithuania, 50 kilometres in lenght. At the widest it is 4 km, and in the narrowest place the Baltic sea is separated from the Curonian Bay by only 400 metres.

Distinctive Curonian Spit's landscape is composed characteristic sand dunes and prevailing forest, which covers over 70 percent of the peninsula. The forest consists mainly of pines and hill-pines, most of which are man planted. Elks, roe, boars, foxes, and hares may be seen here. 900 plant species are found at the Curonian Spit, 27 of which belong to the Lithuania's Red Book. The old buildings found at the Curonian Spit are also noteworthy. Their unique architecture reflects the inner world of the peninsula's inhabitants, which were largely isolated from the continental Europe in the past. Reed- and red-tile roofs prevail in the settlements. The elaborately patterned weathercocks and the little spinning horses are found only here and reflect the main occupation of the local residents - fishing.

The most-visited and the most breath-natural sight of Neringa is for sure the Great Dune Aka Parnidis Dune. A dune, more than 60 meters high seperates the Baltic Sea and the Curotian Lagoon. This is where sand and wind cooperated and created one of the most beautiful and perfect places in the world.

Altja beach in Lahemaa
Altja beach in Lahemaa
Altja village in Lahemaa
Altja village in Lahemaa
Viru bog
Viru bog
Marshland in autumn
Marshland in autumn
Kaali meteorite crater in Saaremaa
Kaali meteorite crater in Saaremaa
Muhu beach
Muhu beach
Brown bear
Brown bear
Soomaa national park
Soomaa national park
Matsalu reserve
Matsalu reserve
Winter in forest
Winter in forest
Valaste waterfall
Valaste waterfall
Ontika beach
Ontika beach
Jurmala
Jurmala
Sigulda
Sigulda
Autumn in the country
Autumn in the country
NIDA - sandy dunes
NIDA - sandy dunes
The Curonian Spit
The Curonian Spit
Neringa
Neringa
Winter forest
Winter forest
Fift season in Soomaa
Fift season in Soomaa


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