Five stunning national parks to visit in the Baltics
Europe is home to vast swaths of unspoiled natural land to explore, and the Baltics are no exception. Covering more than 67,000 square miles across three counties, the combined territory of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia abounds in natural beauty ranging from the shores of the Baltic Sea to heavily forested landscapes along the Russian and Belarusian borders. As you plan your next nature-focused European vacation, don’t miss these spectacular wildlife-filled reserves.
Curonian Spit National Park
Stretching some 60 miles across the Lithuanian-Russian border, the Curonian Spit is a particularly fascinating natural region to explore – and the aptly named Curonian Spit National Park provides ample opportunity to explore it. To do. This vast reserve is best known for its vast sand dunes, with the famous Parnidis dune being one of the most popular hiking destinations in the region. While the coastal scenery is incredible to take in, be sure to also keep an eye out for the native flora and fauna of the area. Mammals like moose, river otter, and red fox can all be spotted on land, while nearly 300 different varieties of birds have been recorded in the park over the decades.
Matsalu National Park
Bird watchers take note: Matsalu National Park in Estonia offers a level of avian biodiversity that is hard to find elsewhere in Europe. This wetland-rich landscape is perfectly perched along the Eastern Atlantic Flyway, ushering in a wide array of migratory species each spring. The bulk of these visitors are waterfowl – barnacle geese, tufted ducks and common mergansers, to name a few – while mammals like moose and golden jackals can also be spotted roaming in the swamp. During the fall, massive herds of common cranes descend on the park, using the area as a resting point before heading south for the winter.
Ķemeri National Park
Are you planning a trip to the charming Latvian capital of Riga? Don’t miss Ķemeri National Park, a sprawling reserve that lies less than an hour west of the city limits. While most of the park is dense forest, Ķemeri is best known for its pristine bogs, offering visitors the opportunity to get up close to some of Latvia’s native plant species. The Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk is a popular destination in the park, equipped with an elevated walkway about two miles long and an observation deck that offers great views of the surrounding landscape. For birdwatchers, Lake Kaņieris offers visitors a wide array of native shorebirds and passerines to discover.
Aukstaitija National Park
Deep in the eastern part of Lithuania, a pristine center for native flora and fauna exists in the form of Aukštaitija National Park. There are over a hundred lakes dotted around the reserve, making it a prime kayaking and swimming destination, as well as multiple watchtowers that offer visitors stunning views of the surrounding landscape. A paradise of plant biodiversity, Aukštaitija National Park is home to more than half of all plant species recorded in all of Lithuania, many of which provide much-needed nectar for bees in the region. For a little taste of how Lithuanians have lived in harmony with these insects over the centuries, head to Stripeikiai to explore the village’s main attraction, the Museum of Ancient Beekeeping.
Lahemaa National Park
Located about an hour east of the Estonian capital of Tallinn, Lahemaa National Park is the perfect outdoor escape for those who need a break from city life. With over 288 square miles to explore, Lahemaa is the country’s largest national park, and its vast forests provide refuge for a host of iconic European mammals, including brown bears, gray wolves and Eurasian lynx. While there are spectacular natural landscapes to explore throughout the park, Lahemaa is also known for the sumptuous historic mansions dotted around its grounds, including the charming, centuries-old Sagadi Mansion in the eastern part of the reserve. .