Seli Bog. Photo: loodusegakoos.ee
Reede, 16 Juuli 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 28 2021 - Vincent Teetsov
When considering any kind of travel to Estonia, it's appropriate that at least part of a trip would include some time to go hiking.
Why? Hiking is a great way to keep fit. It works your lower body. It gets the blood pumping and is beneficial for your cardiovascular health. At the same time, it's a low impact activity for your joints, especially on grass and natural trail surfaces. There are a lot of those in Estonia, and the vast lengths you can cover by foot across the country are impressive.
Here are two major trails you can take. The first one is recommended by RMK—Riigimetsa Majandamise Keskus
(the State Forest Management Centre). The second one is suggested by Visit Estonia.
The first is the Peraküla-Aegviidu-Ähijärve trail ( https://loodusegakoos.ee/where-to-go/hiking-route/perakula-aegviidu-ahijarve-hiking-route
). It goes from the extreme northwest shores of the Baltic Sea to Võrumaa in the south east. At 820 kilometres long, there is around 90 hours of hiking time for you to get under your boots. You'll see sandstone outcrops and the Endla bog. Landmarks include the glacial drumlins of Jõgeva County that look like a basket of eggs, and Estonia's sole operating cable ferry at Kavastu. Shops can be found at certain points along the route so that you can restock your food and water supplies. GPS and Google Earth files for navigation can be accessed from the RMK site.
The second excursion takes you on the Taevaskoda nature trail in Põlvamaa ( https://www.visitestonia.com/en/taevaskoda-nature-trail
). You can see imposing cliffs hovering above the Ahja River. The river percolates with the legends of mermaids, elusive tunnels, and more. Kingfisher birds with brilliant blue feathers fly above the trails. Ahja Manor is also in the vicinity. The hiking here is definitely more abbreviated, and has a shorter section that is wheelchair accessible.
Then again, if you're getting around Estonia by car, you can identify points along any longer trails, park your car, and go for smaller day hikes. It may be necessary to double back to get to your vehicle. When you plan any of these routes, be sure to look at the latest updates on the web pages above, so you have the latest info on trail quality and potential diversions.
Hiking has minimal costs, apart from a good pair of shoes, food supplies, and water. There is also the cost of getting to Estonia by plane, of course. But things like lodging can be affordable.
Accommodation along the way isn't too expensive. For example, an overnight stay at a hut in Põlva County may cost 45 euros per person, per night. There would be parking, a wood burning stove, firewood, and sleeping space for six people. You would need to bring your own bedding and water. Cheaper and even more spartan options exist in terms of lodging.
If you're on more of a budget or want to be fully immersed in these landscapes, wild camping is legal in Estonia, which broadens your options. However, keep the following points in mind. You won't be able to set up your tent on private land, including farmland, or in the city (you may have to go to Japan for this privilege, as the film Kintaro Walks Japan
). Each stay should be one night long, or two nights long at most. Don't leave garbage where you go. Dig and cover over holes when you use the bathroom. Stick to marked trails. And if you build a campfire, call 1524 on your phone to check if it's currently allowed in your area, relative to the risk of wildfires.
The trails listed above are just the beginning! You could make many more trips out of these passages. For instance, the Baltic Coastal Hiking route (known as Ranniku matkarada
in Estonian) takes you all the way around Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania's coastlines. The entire Estonian portion alone is 622 kilometres long, which would require 30 days to walk fully.
One inspiring source of info about hiking in Estonia when the weather is warmer is Maiu Lünekund from Maiu Takes a Hike
). She regularly posts practical content on how to make the most of hiking in Estonia, what you can expect, and also a bit about her off-season activity—her hikes are accompanied by scenic paintings. In the winter, she is a dog sled guide!
Finally, hiking is a meditative sport. When you do a lot of külastamine
(“visiting”) with family and friends in Estonia, no doubt you'll need some time to be quiet and soak everything up.
For all those who are able to do hiking, let's not take for granted the immense benefits it provides physically, mentally, and in the pursuit of seeing the world. You'll see it more slowly and closely. That pays back dividends when the fun experience of travelling in Estonia often flies past you and ends before you know what happened.
Written by Vincent Teetsov