The largest of Estonia’s national parks, 72,500-hectare Lahemaa lies an hour’s drive or bus ride from Tallinn. It stretches along the north coast, comprising lush forests, pristine lakes, and ruggedly beautiful coves and wetlands. The land is dotted with erratic rocks (giant boulders) left over from the last Ice Age and tiny villages throughout, while the forest is home to brown bears, wild boar, moose and lynx. The park is best explored by bicycle, as the villages are all connected by good paved roads. Parts of the park are doable as a day-trip, but you may well be charmed into staying longer.
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Exploring the park
Exploring the park
If you go with Tallinn’s City BikeTours, this is the day route that offers an excellent introduction to the park: start in the village of Palmse, where you can take in the grand German manor; and cycle 8.5km northeast to Sagadi Manor, a well-preserved eighteenth-century aristocratic home, before heading north for 3km to Oandu – the start of several nature trails. Just before the fishing village of Altja, 2km to the north, you’ll find the 1km Beaver Trail where you can see beavers building dams and stop for lunch at Altja Korts – an attractive tavern serving tasty fresh dishes, such as grilled salmon with grated potato pancakes. From Altja you can cycle around the coast of the Vergi peninsula, taking in the picturesque villages (17km) surrounded by pine forest, before ending up on the wide, clean, windswept beach in Võsu. A seaside trail heads north from Võsu for 6km before arriving at the attractive village of Käsmu which has a superb nautically-themed museum, started by a local collector many years ago; you’ll spot the giant sea mines in the front yard. If you have any energy left, you can then tackle the rugged cycle trails along the western half of the Käsmu peninsula before getting picked up. If you go it alone, you can take the once-daily morning bus from Tallinn to Käsmu, do the above trail in reverse and then cycle up from Palmse to Võsu (6km) for an overnight stay before catching a bus back to Tallinn the following day.