Located in northern Estonia along the Baltic Sea, Lahemaa National Park is a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the Estonian capital of Tallinn. One of Europe’s largest national parks, it was also the first area to be designated a national park from the former Soviet Union.
I was fortunate enough to do a day trip to Lahemaa National Park from Tallinn, where the abundance of raw beauty delighted my nature loving senses.
Jägala Waterfall, located along the Jägala River, is Estonia’s highest waterfall with a height of eight meters – so not actually that tall! Half the waterfall was frozen when I visited in February, although in summer months the waterfall thaws and you can actually walk behind it. By standing on the bank of the river, you are able to get quite up close and personal with the waterfall – just make sure to not fall in!
Viru Bog and Lookout
Bogs, similar to marshlands, cover a fifth of the mainland of Estonia. Bogs are important in Estonian folk tales, as they are seen as places that are mysterious and peaceful. Bog walking is a common activity for Estonians, and you can even swim in some of the bogs – their waters are rich in compounds that tighten and soften skin.
In Lahemaa National Park, I visited the Viru Bog which was reached after a tranquil trail walk through the woodlands. The bog itself has a boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform where you can look out onto the bog and forest landscape. In the warmer months, an area near the look out is safe for swimming – but the chilly temperatures in February meant no getting in this time around!
While in a village in Lahemaa National Park, I was introduced to – and tried out! – Estonian swinging, also called kiiking. Kiiking is different than ordinary swinging because you stand rather than sit, and the swings are much larger. To move the swing, you have people on either side who bend their knees to propel the swing forward.
I went swinging along with others on the swing below, which doesn’t look intimidating but did get to be – especially since it was icy! Since you are standing, the higher you go, the more nerve wracking it gets to be face down seeing how far you are from the ground.
Kiiking is actually done competitively and is considered an extreme sport. To get a better idea of what it looks like in motion, take a look at the video below.
Hara Submarine Base
A fascinating place to visit in Lahemaa National Park was the Hara Submarine Base, which is a former Soviet Union submarine demagnetization site. The process of demagnetizing submarines was done by the Soviets because it meant they could avoid detection on enemy submarine radars, thereby giving them an advantage in warfare.
The base was once top-secret with only the few hundred military personnel who worked there being allowed to enter the facility. Residents of nearby villages were only allowed to enter the surrounding area if they had a permit. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the base was abandoned with those working there stripping it of its equipment. The concrete structure, however, remains and urban exploration of the base is allowed.
The stunning sunset backdrop of dusted pink clouds reflecting against the sea only added to my fascination with this hidden base.
Have you been to Lahemaa National Park? What would you be most interested to see?
Tour: I did the Lahemaa National Park tour with Tallinn Traveller Tours. The tour is 9 hours and departs from the Tallinn Tourist Information Center. The cost is €55.