A Day in Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

When I told my husband I’d planned a bog walk for the day, he literally burst out laughing in my face. Why on earth would we spend our holiday doing that?, he said. But I used my powers of persuasion (I’d booked adventure golf, curry and beer for the evening as a bribe) and he agreed we could go. And so begins the final day to conclude my series of posts from my Baltics Road Trip across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Lahemaa National Park lies around 45 minutes outside of the capital of Estonia, Tallinn. It’s easily reachable by car, and we drove directly along the E20 to reach said bog. In actual fact, 8% of Estonia’s entire land mass is covered by bog, and almost 25% is covered by mires. It’s a bit of a wet country! And whilst Estonia is about 5x smaller than the UK, its population is only 1.5 million people vs the UKs 68 million (madness). So there’s lots of forest and water and completely uninterrupted nature here.

So to the bog we go.

Deep in the bog

We made a quick pit stop at Jรคgala Waterfall on the way, which was actually right by the roadside and is the highest waterfall in Estonia – though don’t expect Niagara Falls as it’s only 8m high, but beautiful none the less.

At the waterfall

As we drove from the waterfall to the start of the bog walk, the heavens opened and it started pouring. Oh good, said my husband. We pulled up at the Viru Bog car park, from where you have two options – a 3km hike or a 6km hike around the bog. We chose the 6km option.

You start the trail walking from the carpark through the forest area filled with pine trees, until you reach the start of a board walk. Unfortunately in this section there were a lot of mosquitoes. I’ve been bitten 5 times, declared the increasingly miserable husband.

The bog trail board walk is actually beautiful, and it’s quite wide and really easy to navigate so no need for wellies to traipse through the bog. There are also really informative boards along the trail, covering the nature and history of Estonia and its bogs. This development (board walks and information boards) has all recently been established to encourage people to visit and get in touch with nature – I thought it had been really beautifully done. They have even put a little tower in half way round which you can climb to get views out across the bog.

View from the tower
More tower views

The bog is the oldest organic landscape in Estonia, reaching in some cases up to 10,000 years old! The first bogs formed in Estonia right after the last ice age. As the 1km thick glacier ice sheet was melting towards the North pole, the melted water was collected in depressions previously created by the glacier ice. Over the next thousands of years, plants grew and died within the shallow pools and as a result, the dead plant material didnโ€™t decompose but instead created ever-lasting peat (up to 8m deep in some places).

A moody view from the trail

Estonians folklore quite understandably has many stories about the bogs, and associating them with monsters and creatures, so historically society has been scared of the bogs. But now it seems, they are a national treasure.

Part of this is because in 1940 Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union (did you think I could go a whole Baltics post without mentioning a negative impact of occupation?!). With its heavy machinery and the need for resources, the Soviet regime decided to start large-scale draining in the wetlands to create more farmland and roughly 2/3 of the bogs in Estonia were destroyed or damaged. It meant that the Estonian people started to protest against this damage to their landscape, and ultimately felt pride in protecting it – raising awareness and popularity of these wetlands.

Beautiful bogs

Today it is said you will find more people visiting the bogs than shopping at a weekend (!) – I’m not sure this is true because we had the entire trail to ourselves! Whilst we saw no people, we did see some wildlife – some grouse and some beautiful big cranes – and it’s also common for moose to live in bog areas as they like the habitat. In the autumn time, the trail also comes alive with berries ready for picking. You can also swim in the bogs and drink the water but I thought my husband might stab me if I suggested we take a dip!

It’s actually quite beautiful he surprisingly declared as we arrived back at our car, wet and covered in mosquito bites but converted to bogs none the less. Time to head home, what a wonderful 2 week road trip.

Heading back to the car


What do you think of the Estonian bog? Would you want to visit? Thank you for reading; stay safe and happy travelling!

And if you’ve missed any of my Baltics series from 2022, or want to re-cap on my adventures in the series:

40 Comments

  1. A bog walk? Yes! Love the natural setting, and the Jรคgala Waterfall is beautiful. The walk does look wonderful, as seen from the tower views. Interesting details youโ€™ve shared, also, about peat and historical data. Thumbs up for the Estonian bog walk, Hannah ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Aw thanks John, it really was just beautiful and we had it all to ourselves ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh that’s amazing, I really hope you can fit it in as it’s an amazing city well worth a visit.

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  2. I had no idea that bogs existed in Estonia! But then again, given how wet the country is, it isnโ€™t a surprise! Haha, I feel for your poor husband, especially when it comes to mosquitos and walks in the rainโ€ฆglad he was a trooper, though! Thanks for taking us along your whirlwind of a time in the Baltics; I look forward to reading about your next adventure, wherever it may be!

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    1. He was definitely a trooper, the poor guy gets dragged everywhere by me when he just wants a relaxing holiday given how much travel he does for work! So glad you enjoyed the Baltics series and thanks for following along – South France is up next following my visit in the Summer ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Estonian bogs are some of the most unique places anyone could explore as itโ€™s the type of landscape that will enchant you with its silence and natural beauty. Even though the name bog may not evoke images of natural beauty in your mind, youโ€˜d be surprised to find out that they are just that. Instead of the smelly marshland, you might expect, an Estonian bog is a harmoniously balanced ecosystem! The many small water holes and forest patches create an absolutely fascinating landscape. We had a chance to visit a few smaller bogs in Estonia this summer โ€“ as my husband is a keen photographer, we were up at 3 am to drive to the bog in order to catch a sunrise. Thanks for sharing and have a good day ๐Ÿ™‚ Aiva xx

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  4. How beautiful! I think I would have reacted like your husband initially but quickly changed my mind when seeing the landscape! It is such a nice idea to put board walks, towers and informative panels around to encourage people to get more in touch with nature! I also admire your willingness to walk 6km under a pouring rain โ€“ but it seems like it was worth it!

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    1. Aw thank you, I’m glad to be able to show you somewhere a bit different. 6km was a trek in the rain that’s for sure, it felt hard work!! But it was beautiful so worth it ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Hehe yes I totally agree – we could have done without the rain and mosquitoes that’s for sure. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the series, really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Give me a boardwalk through a national park any day! Your pictures are so beautiful, and the moody skies just seem to add to the mystic effect of the bog. Glad you bribed your husband into going so that you could share this place with us ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. What a beautiful landscape and a great place for a walk. Mind, I think I’d draw the line at having a dip in the bog, although I’d be intrigued to see people at it!

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