Lahemaa National Park in Estonia: a closer look
Lahemaa was founded on July 1, 1971 (it was the first national park in the USSR) to protect unique coastal landscapes and develop recreation. It is located about 50 km away from Tallinn. The information center is in Viitna, which is located 75 km east of Tallinn (Tallinn-Narva highway).
The area of the park is 72.5 thousand hectares (47.4 thousand hectares of land and 25.1 thousand hectares of sea). Many picturesque bays, karst landscapes, areas of old agricultural development. Nõmmeveske waterfall, Viru bog and other interesting objects can be found here. Lahemaa is a center of mass tourism and recreation, and has appropriate services and facilities for this purpose.
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Lahemaa National Park – detailed description
Lahemaa is an Estonian national park that adjoins the coast of the Gulf of Finland. Lahemaa National Park is the largest national park in Estonia, with an area of 747 square kilometers. It was founded in 1971 and was the first national park in the USSR. The park was created to protect and explore the unique natural and cultural landscapes. There are many beautiful bays, swamps, karst landscapes, rocky forests, boulders, rivers, waterfalls, and other beauties of northern nature, as well as animals and birds such as bears, lynx, moose, wild boars, and foxes. The park has more than 100 km of educational and hiking trails. In the national park there are objects such as the captains’ village, manors with forest parks and alleys, a fishing village and a museum. Lahemaa is equipped for a comfortable stay in it – all information about this can be obtained directly from the park’s info point.
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Lahemaa National Park (Estonia) – landmarks
In the territory occupied by Lahemaa National Park, there are many attractions that will be of interest to tourists. Among the main ones we can list the following:
The Viru Swamp belongs to the natural objects of the park. It is a small expanse of water, flanked by a pine forest. Although it is called a swamp, its water is clean enough for swimming. On the eastern side of the swamp is an observation deck in the form of a tower from which you can view the entire reserve and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
There is a lot to admire and experience in Estonia’s Lahemaa Nature Park, with its stunning nature and collection of ancient sights. In Lahemma, you can find yourself in the forest, on the seashore or by the marsh at the same time, and enjoy the life of peasants and the nobility from the 18th and 19th centuries.
How to get there?
The best way to get to Lahemaa National Park is to take a bus from Tallinn to the Ulliallika stop.
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The 7 km trail is located on the western edge of Lahemaa National Park, in the central part of the Juminda Peninsula. The trail begins at the parking lot on the Hara-Juminda road that runs along the eastern side of the peninsula. A boardwalk makes up 2 km of the total length of the eight-shaped trail. The educational trail is marked with white and green signs on the trees, and there are 3 large and 9 small information boards along the trail.
The trail runs along the upland central part of the Juminda Peninsula, where the intersection of old coastal berms and sand dunes, forest and marshland strips form a one-of-a-kind diverse landscape. On the trail is the third largest boulder in Estonia, called Mayakivi.
Traveling through the park, you can see boulders of gigantic proportions. The largest of them is over 20 meters in diameter and is called Käsmu. Almost all of the huge stone giants have names that are carefully written on the park’s maps. But the park is not only famous for its natural beauty.
Jägala Waterfall is a waterfall on the lower course of the river Jägala, about 4 km before the river flows into the Gulf of Finland. The waterfall is about 8 meters high and more than 50 meters wide. It is the widest natural waterfall in Estonia. The river flowing in a rocky canyon, the wooded banks, the noise of the waterfall falling from 8 meters high attracts nature lovers. The waterfall is also unique in winter, when the water mass, frozen by frost, turns into a glittering wall of ice with large icicles. Between the ice hanging from the edge of the waterfall and the wall of the waterfall can form a tunnel, bounded on both sides by ice.
For your information, the lower reach of the Jägala River from the waterfall to the estuary is one of the richest places in Estonia in terms of trout and salmon stocks.
Turiekeldri Falls is the fourth-largest waterfall in Lahemaa National Park: the water falls from a height of four metres.
Over time, water and ice have formed a cave, which from a distance looks like a large vaulted cellar. Tourier Cave got its name after the family of the same name that lived on the cliff above the cave. Usually the waterfall is not characterized by much water, except during the spring ice and snow melt.
There are legends about the Turia Cave, they say that once there was a wine cellar of the Evil One himself, and instead of water, vodka fell from the ledge, which was sold by beautiful sorceresses.
Now it is worth bearing in mind that the local water has no spring origin and comes from household water from the surface of the cliff, so you should not drink it.
Altja fishing village
The fishing village of Altja is first mentioned in written sources in 1465. It is a typical seaside settlement with houses standing along a single street. The fishermen lived not only by fishing, but also by smuggling alcohol to Finland.
Uustalu and Toomarahwa farmsteads, restored by Lahemaa National Park workers in Altja, now look like ordinary seaside farmsteads. At Altja Cape, you can see the net storage barns, which have also been rebuilt from the photographs and memories of the villagers. The village also has a playground with swings and the Altja tavern, where you can taste the national cuisine.
“Captains’ village” Käsmu
Käsmu village was first mentioned in historical charters in 1453. There was a seamen’s school in Käsmu, and almost every family had a captain or navigator. More than 150 captains came out of this small settlement, which is why they called Käsmu “Captains’ Village”.
Today Käsmu is a popular place for summer holidays, various events are often organized here.
The Maritime Museum is also interesting. Its collection consists of fishing gear and various maps, ancient anchors and textbooks on nautical engineering, and even old bottles of various shapes and forms. Exhibitions at the Käsmu Maritime Museum present the history of Käsmu and the maritime achievements of the men who grew up here.
Kuradisaar (Devil’s Island) is located near the village of Käsmu. It can be reached on foot, but hardly without getting your feet wet. The zig-zag journey over the boulders can excite everyone, being a slightly extreme, but usually safe journey.
Vihula Manor .
Vihula Manor is one of the oldest in the Lahemaa Nature Reserve. The first mention of the manor dates back to the 16th century, but of the 27 surviving buildings, most belong to the 19th century. The first written mention of Violl Manor, as it used to be called, dates back to 1501. Then the owner of the estate was Danish Baron Hans von Lode. The Danish von Lode family is one of the oldest noble families in Estonia.
It is believed that the manor was founded 300 years before it was first mentioned in written records in 1501. There is a document from the 16th century preserved in the archives, signed by the Tallinn bishop, which states that the ancestor of the von Lode family, the Danish knight Odvard, accompanied the Danish king in his campaign against the Estonian pagans in 1197. For his service he was given lands in the surroundings of Vihula and at the end of the 12th century he established an estate there.
In 1531 Vihula manor was passed to Vekhebrod family who owned it for more than 2 centuries. The manor suffered the greatest destruction during the Great Northern War, when in 1703 most of the buildings were ruined and burned.
The oldest preserved building of Vihula Manor is the so-called Far Manor, which was built in the second half of the 18th century. At that time, it was the only building built of stone, all other structures were wooden.
In 1809 the manor was sold at auction, due to the difficult economic situation of the owners of the manor. The new owner of Vihula manor became Alexander von Schubert, who rebuilt the manor in 1820-1840.
Today the total area of all buildings is 8 thousand m2. Around the central buildings is a beautiful park. At the entrance to Vihula manor there are stone columns with the coat of arms of von Schubert family.
In the restored manor house is now a luxury spa hotel and restaurant. Concerts are often organized here.
On its territory there are several noble estates, which belonged to the ancient knightly families, which in the XVIII-XX centuries faithfully served the Russian crown. We will see the noble Sagadi estate and visit the Palms estate which belonged to the Palen family.
After lunch in a real fishermen’s tavern we will drive back to Tallinn, taking with us picturesque photos and unforgettable impressions of this beautiful place in Estonia – Lahemaa.
Palmse Manor is located in the heart of Lahemaa National Park. This manor differs from Vihula Manor, where everything, if I may say so, is homely and rustic. But Palmse, for all its beauty, reeks of the landowner’s snobbery, the desire not to deviate one iota from the rules of good manners.
In 1677, the von der Palen family acquired the Palms estate, which they kept until 1925. Among this family were those who went down in history as heroes, but there were also those who left a bad memory of themselves. For instance, Carl Magnus became a major general at the age of 36; his portrait graces the gallery of Heroes of the War of 1812 in the Hermitage. Whereas Peter Ludwig von der Palen, known to us as Peter Alexeevich Palen, who initially enjoyed the great trust of Emperor Paul I, later became a participant in the attempt on that emperor’s life.
The lord’s house that we see today was built at the end of the XVII century and was rebuilt in 1785. After passing through the main manor gate, you will get to the central manor square. On either side of the main building are the stable – carriage barn and barn. The main building made of stone is two-storey, according to tradition, it was divided into two halves: male and female. There were about 20 buildings on the estate, the most luxurious being the greenhouse, which was very fashionable in the XIX century.
The mansion has been restored to its period furnishings, and there is also an exhibition devoted to the history of the manor and the von Palen family. In the Palase Manor there is a souvenir store in the restored Cavalier’s House, a greenhouse with a collection of plants, and a hotel with conference rooms located in a building that once housed a wine factory. You can also visit one of several restaurants and a wine cellar that offers an excellent selection of noble drinks.
A visit to the automobile museum at Palmse Manor includes Alexandra Kollontai’s black executive car. You can also take a walk in the park, the paths of which stretch for 12 km and pass waterfalls and magnificent scenery. In one of the rooms of the main house there is a collection of antique clothes, which you can not just touch with your hands, but also put on and even walk around in them.
There are still piles of stones on the grounds of Palmse Manor. During a bad harvest, the local landlords helped their peasants by offering them grain for food. The peasants, in gratitude, decided to clear the landlords’ fields of stones. This is how these stone piles were formed. Also, in the farmstead there are 13 boulders, measuring 10 meters in diameter. According to legend, they are petrified devils, who were afraid of the nuns who came to these places. However, in fact, the stones were moved here by the mainland ice from the neighborhood of Vyborg.
The gem of the national park is the Sagadi Manor, which is unique in that it is perfectly preserved in its original form. The history of the estate goes back over 500 years. The first written mention of the estate dates back to 1469. In 1687 the manor was given to the Swedish Adjutant General von Fok. The buildings of the manor were wooden till 1749; since then works on building of the stone manor began. The Von Foks lived in their manor until 1939. However in 1919 it was nationalized and a school was opened in the main building, which functioned there until 1974. Then restoration works began and lasted until 1987.
The manor house is located on a hill among the fields and surrounded by a beautiful park. The main building of the manor is built in the style of early classicism with decorative elements of rococo. The interiors of the mansion have been restored. There is furniture and furnishings of that period. The yard that surrounds the buildings is in perfect condition, with numerous flowerbeds, lawns and paths.
One of the attractions of the Sagadi estate is a wine cellar, where you will be offered to taste the firm Viru Valge, Laua Viin, Saaremaa Viin, natural Estonian alcohol and original tinctures on birch buds, mint, garlic, wormwood and onions.
Of great interest is the hunting lounge, which amazes with its original furnishings. It is decorated with wooden tables and chairs, whose legs and backs are made of branching horns. A collection of hunting weapons dating back to the 18th century is also on display.
Behind the lord’s house begins the garden, walking along its central avenue, you will find yourself at an unusually shaped pond. It is made in the form of an infinity sign, which was once a symbol of the eternal love of the owner of the manor for his wife. In autumn, large flocks of cranes stop here when they migrate south.
Nowadays the estate is open to visitors. A forest museum was opened here in 1987, where you can learn about the trees and herbs found in Estonia, as well as the birds and animals that live here.
Today the main building is rented for various events: weddings, banquets. The manor also houses a hotel and a restaurant.