With its ease of travel, Europe is the best place to travel from city to city. However, every now and then you want a break from the hustle and bustle of cities. You get a little bored and want something other than looking at the countless churches (I think I’m allergic to them I’ve seen so many), visiting museums, and going on one of the many walking tours that feel like a marathon sometimes.
Relaxation and exploration in nature is often a great alternative and Lahemma National Park, 70km east of Tallinn, Estonia, is the perfect destination for such a break.
The Park covers a staggering 725km² and is a fairytale paradise that is home to bears, moose, boars, lynx, and deer. The park is well known by Estonians but its popularity amongst travellers is only just starting to take hold – while there I often cycled for Kilometres on end without seeing another tourist. Go soon before this starts to change!
Where to stay
I only found out about Lahemaa National Park after seeing a poster for Projekt Kodu on the wall of my hostel in Tallinn. Projekt Kodu is a Eco Resort/hostel nestled in the middle of Lahemaa, 5km from the town of Loksa, and a perfect base from which to explore the park.
At the hostel there are so many unique things that make it just perfect for your stay in Lahemaa. During the morning you can take part in complimentary yoga and eat a filling organic breakfast. In the evening, after you get back from exploring Lahemma on the free to use bikes, you can doze in one of the many hammocks, heat up in the wood fired sauna, and enjoy a delicious veggie dinner for €10. I very rarely have a meal without meat, but I was pleasantly surprised with the food, so meat lovers don’t fret 😉. At night you can look up at the stars in one of the fire heated cast iron bath tubs, then retire for the night into your spacious bell tent.
Lahemaa National Park stretches along the coast of the Baltic and due to its natural beauty and lack of a human presence, has some stunning beaches. Most of the shoreline has beautiful dunes and reeds along its length which give way to white sandy beaches which are narrow but stunningly natural. The waters are extremely shallow and you can walk out to about 150m with the water still only up to your waist – this allows for some pretty epic photos. The shallowness is a blessing though as the water heats up during the summer months to provide a refreshing dip after a long days cycling or laying on the beach.
Cycling and walking
If you stay at Project Kodu then you will have access to the bikes which are essential if you don’t have a car. The bikes are a little quirky; all of them seem to have something slightly wrong with them but most are fully ridable, even if your butt is on fire after 3 days of cycling. The roads in the area have very few cars travelling along them and the landscape is pretty flat so its perfect for a relaxing cycle. You can cycle to many walking trail heads in the park and leave you bike at the start. The most famous of these trails is the Viru swamp trail where you can walk over the swamps on wooden planks laid out by the park authorities and admire the nature around you. Another great walk through swamps that is closer to the ocean is the Majakivi trail which we went on…
The northern most tip of Estonia is also in Lahemaa and is about 15km north of Loksa. Here you will be further north than Moscow as well as the northern most part of Scotland!
Abandoned village and submarine base.
One of the main attractions in Lahemaa National Park is the abandoned Hara submarine base. To enter it’s €3 for students and €5 for adults. The base is pretty cool to see as it’s truly crumbling and there is pretty cool graffiti covering it. However, there’s something much cooler hidden only a few hundred meters away.
The concrete road that turns off the main road and leads directly to the submarine base is 800m long. Along this road there are 3 little-known paths that lead off to the right. If you follow these paths you will enter what was the military village connected to the sub base. Hidden in the forest are dozens of buildings that are crumbling and succumbing to the advance of nature.
We explored for around 3 hours and during the whole time, we didn’t see another soul. The whole village isn’t known to anyone apart from a few locals. There are shower blocks, accommodation blocks, bunkers, a swimming pool, and canteens all just begging to be explored. Some of the buildings are unstable so be sensible with which buildings you enter – I don’t want you blaming me if you fall through some floor boards. I’m going to compose and extended photo post on the village soon!
As mentioned in the intro, Lahemaa is home to a wide selection of relatively big mammals. They’re extremely illusive and you’ll be lucky to see them. However, the owner of Project Kodu, Jim, has seen a family of bears walking through the field next to the hostel. While I was there other guests spotted dear roaming through the field and if you search really hard you can spot boars in the swamps. Moose are probably the hardest to find, but they are there – good luck!
If you’re travelling to Estonia or through the Baltic countries then Lahemaa National Park is a must for you to visit. Using Projekt Kodu as your base, you can explore the wonders that the park has to offer. These include the beautiful beaches, stunning cycling and walking routes, abandoned buildings from the Soviet era, captivating wildlife, and most importantly a unique break from the cities of Europe. Just make sure you stay there atleast 2 nights!