Estonia’s biggest national park covers 72,500 hectares of wetlands, pine forests and seashore on the Baltic Sea. The crenellated coastline wends its way around horseshoe-shaped bays and finger-like peninsulas, while inland forest, lakes, waterfalls and peat bogs are interspersed with tracts of rocky soil scattered with erratic boulders dumped at the end of the last Ice Age.
Much of Lahemaa has been protected from development as it was classed as military land during Russian occupation of Estonia; there are abandoned Soviet submarine stations still to be seen across the park, slowly falling into dilapidation. Today tourism is king and accommodation in the park varies from campsites to historic manor houses found along the 40 km (25 miles) of cycling and hiking trails. Thanks to the lack of development in the area, Lahemaa is home to many species of birds, including cranes, storks and dippers, and several mammals very rarely seen in Europe, such as beavers, moose and even the occasional – but very elusive – lynx, wolf or brown bear.
Lahemaa is 70 km (44 miles) east of Tallinn on the E20 road. The Visitor Center at Palmse is open daily late-Mar–mid-Sept 9am–7pm; late Sept–mid-March 9am–5pm. Some zones are closed during the bird-breeding season between April and July.