Estonia is still a destination that is often overlooked by travelers. It’s a place that conjures up images of castles, mythology, and the best parts of the Baltic states. What most people may not realize is the impressive balance between nature and technology when it comes to Estonian culture.
Estonians are very modern in the fact that their country is considered one of the most technologically connected nations in the world. Most everything in daily life can be done online, even when it comes to political elections and healthcare. Instead of technology making Estonia a vacant population that has all eyes glued to a screen, they have somehow managed to find a balance with nature as well.
Regardless of its major technological advances and connectivity, Estonia is a place that is still easy to go off the grid and get lost in nature. There are many hidden gems throughout the country that are just waiting to be discovered. The availability of Estonia’s untouched side speaks volumes to how much locals love nature nearby and staying true to their roots.
Their appreciation of folklore also says a lot about their love of accessible outdoor adventures and storytelling. The characters that are so deeply entrenched in Estonian folklore reflect Estonian culture and way of life in this part of the world.
There’s Mistek, the Elf of the Forests, who can appear as an animal, bird, or tree. Hiid, Hero of the Holy Forests, a giant and sociable elf who can be found in sacred groves. Soovana is the Guardian Spirit of the Wetlands, preferring to appear as a stream, tree, or bog turf to hikers.
Murumemm, the Mother of the Meadows, is the elf of the fields and meadows and she can usually be found near farms. And then there’s Saarevaht, Keeper of the Islands who cares about the environment and sharing the beauty of nature with others. These are just a few of the characters you may come across from stories told by locals, or if you’re lucky, from your own experiences of getting lost in Estonian nature.
Without further ado, these are my picks for the most untouched and wildly beautiful spots around Estonia. The question now is, are you ready for the adventure?
Lahemaa National Park
Only an hour from the capital, Tallinn, Lahemaa National Park offers bogs, forests, rivers, waterfalls and plenty of hiking options. This is a large park at 725 sq km with a lot to discover so make sure to give yourself a whole day. You may even come across Baltic German houses left over from centuries back and forgotten Soviet submarine bases.
Regardless of how you spend your day, you’re guaranteed to enjoy an unspoiled and rural part of Estonia that still has an untouched feel to it.
Home to a unique Estonian culture, locals speak their own language here and the island itself was formed by a meteorite. The island is known for its lighthouses and untouched wild beauty. This spot is also the most forested county in Estonia.
Spend a decent amount of time on the island and give into the peaceful nature you’re bound to find. It’s not unusual to drive across the island and not come across another living person. If there’s one place you have to visit while on the island it’s Kalbaldi Sands. It’s a ten-hectare beach in the middle of the forest where nothing grows. Some of the locals on the island don’t even know about it.
Right on the Estonian-Russian border, Lake Peipsi is one of the largest lakes in Europe. Its natural beauty, uncrowded beaches, and border history make it an interesting off-the-beaten-path destination not to miss.
You may come across the community of Old Believers that still live near the lake as well. They settled on the shores of Estonia in the 17th century after rejecting the Russian Orthodox Church. Similar to the Amish in the US, Old Believers seem like they’re from another era in terms of dress and way of life.
Järvselja Ancient Forest
You’ve probably started to sense a theme with Estonia, there are a lot of forests here! One of the most intriguing and peaceful ones to visit is the Järvselja Ancient Forest in southern Estonia. This sacred spot has aged throughout the years with minimal human contact. It has a 360-year old Kuningamänd pine tree to see as well!
Haanja Nature Park
A protected area of Estonia just south of Võru, Haanja Nature Park encompasses 105 square miles of arguably some of the best scenery in the country. You’ll come across more thick forests, glittering lakes, and rivers during your time in the park. Go hiking in the summer or cross country skiing in the winter, this park is stunning at any time of the year.
The springs around the Pandivere Uplands are magical greenish blue bodies of water that have been unmoved by time. The serene forests that surround these springs only add to the unspoiled feeling of this place.
A few springs that are recommended are Äntu lakes, Norra springs, and Oostriku spring lake. Sopa spring is Estonia’s deepest spring, and its limestone water has preserved centuries old tree trunks. Go on a treasure hunt and see if you can discover some of the springs around the Pandivere Uplands for yourself.
Have you been to Estonia before? Where would you love to get lost in nature in this Baltic country?
Note: This post was sponsored by Visit Estonia.
*Cover photo via Flickr
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