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Lahemaa National Park, Estonia – Culture, Nature and Soviet Ruins

The Lahemaa National Park protects a whole portion of the northern coast of Estonia, deeply cut into capes and bays. If there are numerous landscapes and untouched environments to be preserved in the area, Lahemaa has some additional features.

National Parks in Estonia are not all about nature. Lahemaa is more like a generally preserved region with various points of interest dispatched in nature and the countryside. These spots tell the History of Estonia, with the long succession of independent periods and Soviet domination periods.

The park can definitely be visited on your own with a rented car, but sometimes it is also interesting to join a small tour group and get all the interesting insight from the guide to truly appreciate the places you are visiting. And that’s exactly what I did!

This tour was an interesting mix of Historical places, Soviet-era ruins (I particularly enjoyed the old submarine base!), and beautiful nature when we got to cross the Viru Bog.

I will split this article following the stops inside the park.

Quick Info

Best way to go: Tour from Tallinn

Price of the tour: 55 Euros per person

Duration of the tour: 9 hours

Link: Lahemaa Day Trip (I am not affiliated with them in any way and paid for my tour).

Lahemaa National Park Video

Lahemaa National Park Itinerary

Stop at the Jägala Waterfall

On the way to the national park, the roads pass by the highest natural waterfall in Estonia. It would be too bad not to stop! It has a grand height of… 8 meters (26 feet). Yes, Estonia is a pretty flat country. But its width makes up for it, it is more than 50 m (164 ft) wide!

On the day of my visit, the flow of the waterfall was really quite impressive. As a matter of fact, the guide told us he had never seen it with so much water! We had the time to walk down the falls and take a few pictures before getting back on the van to Lahemaa National Park.


This is the first stop in the national park. It is also the first ruins that we saw for the day, like an introduction to the much bigger ruins that we will see later at the submarine base.

It all starts with a nice little walk in the woods, along the river. Here again, the flow of the river was quite big and it was certainly not the time to be clumsy and fall in the water.

The abandoned facilities that we found in the forest used to be a power plant, supplying power to a paper factory in the 1930s. This was during the first period of independence of Estonia. Unfortunately, the factory burnt down in the 1950s.

This was a rather quick visit and there aren’t many ruins but it was still fun to see and explore.

Sagadi Manor

Welcome to the Sagadi Manor, one of the best-preserved manors in Estonia. It dates back to the 18th century and has belonged to various Baltic German families.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Sagadi Manor

Go around the pretty Sagadi Manor and its gardens (2 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

The Baltic Germans were a class of nobles and landowners that settled outside of Germany, an elite ruling over the rural local people. When World War I and the Russian Revolution occurred, the Baltic Germans got pushed away and fled back to Germany.

Nowadays, the Sagadi Manor houses a hotel.


As the morning was coming to an end and stomachs were getting noisy, it was time for lunch. It is in the peaceful Käsmu that we had a meal all together around a large table.

Next to the house, an observation tower enabled me to capture this panorama offering a general view of the place.


See an aerial view of Käsmu from an observation tower (1 panorama).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

Käsmu also has its History. It used to be a training ground for Soviet border guards. Evidence of this is a concrete slab under a tree, that you would totally miss if the guide wasn’t there to show it to you.

One of the very first lessons of the budding border guards was to learn how to recognize different footprints. Thus, on this concrete slab can be found a whole series of footprints – humans with boots, humans barefoot, wolves, bear,s and other kinds of animals.

As the guide put it, the story doesn’t say how they convinced the bear to leave its footprint in the fresh cement. In any case, it shows how highly they were thinking of their newly recruited guards!

It’s really amazing and funny that someone actually thought that the recruits would never be able to differentiate a human footprint from a bear footprint without this concrete slab!

Hara Submarine Base

The long-awaited stop has finally arrived! The Hara Soviet Submarine Base was definitely a highlight of this tour and a really fun exploration.

I have never practiced urbex before but after this modest introduction to visiting an abandoned building, I think I would really enjoy that activity.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Hara Submarine Base

Explore the ruins of the Hara Submarine Base from the Soviet era (3 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

The Hara base was a demagnetizing submarine base during the Soviet occupation of Estonia. It was abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991.

The concept is a little complicated but I will try to summarize it for you. Submarines are made of steel, which is a magnetic material. The problem with being magnetic is that it makes the submarine detectable, which is obviously not great for a submarine. As a result, submarines need to be regularly demagnetized.

The technique that was used is first lifting the submarine out of the water with a crane and coiling a copper cable all around it. By sending an electrical current through the cable, they neutralize the magnetic signature of the submarine. It is then ready to be put back into the water.

From the abandoned base, the panoramic view of Hara Bay is wonderful. As your attention is caught by the submarine base, it’s easy to just forget to look at this beautiful area of Lahemaa National Park.

Viru Bog

Let’s now get to the nature part of this day. After all, it’s a national park we are visiting!

After my awesome adventure in the Soomaa National Park, I was delighted to get immersed once again in this very special peat bog environment (even if there are no bog shoes here).

The 3.5 km (2.2 mi) boardwalk crosses the whole bog and features an observation tower. I found the succession of pools that come after the tower (last panorama) particularly beautiful.


Follow the boardwalk across the beautiful Viru Bog a typical natural landscape of Estonia (6 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

I really like the style of the boardwalks they build in Estonia – so many times around the world I have seen gorgeous natural spaces disfigured by bulky concrete structures.

Here at least, they build wooden, minimalist, and light structures that have a very minimal impact on the environment and respect the natural atmosphere of the place. And it doesn’t make them less efficient to get you into the heart of the landscape. In addition, the boardwalk is even accessible to wheelchairs.

TRAVEL MAP – Lahemaa National Park

Visualize on the map the precise locations of panoramas in the virtual tour and places of interest to help you prepare for your trip to Lahemaa National Park.

Click Here to View The Map

The map opens in a lightbox. Zoom in to explore!

Wrapping Up

This tour is a convenient and complete way to discover the multifaceted nature of Lahemaa National Park, and a great opportunity to learn more about the History of Estonia.

Armed with this knowledge, I would be happy to go back to the places I liked most (the Viru Bog and the abandoned submarine base in Hara) on my own with a rented car.

I hope that this page will inspire you to visit Lahemaa National Park and help you decide whether to go on your own or take a tour from Tallinn. In any case, a nice day is awaiting you no matter what you do!


  • Elaine J Masters
    Posted December 31, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Great tour! It’s fascinating to see all the Soviet era remains. Amazing too about demagnetizing submarines! Makes sense. Thanks for all the details and cool 360 degree shots.

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Elaine! I also had never heard of demagnetizing submarines before that tour 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Nathalie Caty
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 12:36 am

    This is great. I had no idea that Estonia had these parks. I think my favorite would be the Jägala Waterfall. It reminds me of the waterfalls in Iceland. Are you able to hike in the parks?

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      Hey Nathalie, you could visit by yourself these places by renting a car, and you could hike following the boardwalk in the bog.

  • Kate
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 11:22 am

    This is amazing and I’m really impressed by all the photography and cinematography you did for the virtual tours. I particularly enjoyed the inside of the submarine base and the Viru Bog. I really didn’t know anything about Estonia so this was a nice introduction to pique my interest.

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Thank you very much Kate, the submarine base and the bog were also my favorites. Estonia is a very underrated country, you should definitely consider it for a next trip!

  • Mei and Kerstin
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    We’ve never been to Estonia, but when we do we might consider visiting Lahemaa National Park too. I think it’s a good place too to learn about the country’s history and all the things about the submarine base. As for the nature part of the park, it reminds us of the forest just behind our backyard here in Luxembourg. haha.. They’ve also installed wooden boardwalks, where we have a stroll every day. lol Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures! 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you for the comment! Wooden boardwalks seem to become trendy in natural areas, they are a good way to explore! Lahemaa NP is interesting and should definitely be included in your future Estonia trip.

  • Claire
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    You’re right, Viru Bog is beautiful! (Never thought I’d say that about a bog, I imagined lots of mud and smelly water.) The abandoned submarine base sounds fascinating too, it hadn’t occurred to me that submarines had to be de-magnetized but I guess it makes sense, you learn something new every day!

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Hey Claire, bogs are indeed much more interesting that they look! I also had no idea about de-magnetizing submarines before going for this tour.

  • Kerri
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 6:16 am

    This is such a beautiful area. Estonia has long been a place I want to visit, mainly because of Tallin, but after seeing this, it reminds me a lot of Slovenia and it looks like a superb place to spend some time. Your images and video are brilliant and really celebrate the beauty of this area. I’d be happy to go wherever here but the submarine base would be of particular interest to us.

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      Hey Kerri, it’s true that most people only think of Tallinn, but Estonia is really full of culture, history and nature to explore all over the country!

  • Rhonda Albom
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

    We have never been to Estonia, but Tallin has been on my list for a while. This park looks lovely, especially the waterfall. I love the idea of seeing all footprints. Even the bog was attractive.

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks Rhonda, glad it made you want to visit more than Tallinn when you go to Estonia 🙂

  • Paige
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    I’ve just started planning out an upcoming trip to Estonia, but hadn’t found Lahemaa National Park yet! It looks absolutely amazing! The Submarine base seems really interesting to visit. I’m all about hitting the trails, and I know my husband will be too.

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      That’s great Paige! You made a good decision to go to Estonia, it’s a very interesting country. Glad I could contribute to your itinerary 🙂

  • Kate
    Posted January 3, 2018 at 12:20 am

    I really enjoyed this post. The panorama photos are great and I like having a map to understand where everything is plus a great video.
    I didn’t know anything about this place and very little actually about Estonia. The footprint distinction on the concrete slab between human and bear is funny. I really like the idea of exploring abandoned places so I would have also found the submarine base a highlight. The walkways and waterfall look cool and I would definitely hike there

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you Kate! Estonia is not a country we usually know a lot about, it’s too bad because it has a lot to offer! I also enjoy abandoned places a lot and loved the submarine base.

  • Megan Jerrard
    Posted January 3, 2018 at 12:25 am

    It’s very cool that national parks in Estonia also include regions of important history, as opposed to just focusing on the environment and landscapes. Lahemaa National Park sounds fabulous, and Jägala Waterfall would definitely have to be on the itinerary. How lucky that you went on a day of heavy flow!

    The abandoned facilities that you found throughout the forest are so cool – I love discovering stuff like that! But I can definitely see how Hara Soviet Submarine Base was a highlight of your tour. Thanks for including the virtual 360 photos – was a really cool way to experience what you saw!

    • Post Author
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Thank you Megan! It was indeed lucky to see that waterfall with so much flow, and that submarine base was really awesome to explore!


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