Soomaa National Park
Soomaa national park, situated in South West Estonia, has been created to protect large raised bogs, flood plain grasslands, paludified forests and meandering rivers.
Established: 8 December 1993. Soomaa national park has been listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance since 1997. In 2009 Soomaa National Park became officially a certified PAN Park, joining a network dedicated for conserving European Wilderness. This national park also received an EDEN (European Destinations of Excellence) award from the European Commission in 2009 for promoting sustainable tourism in and around a protected area.
The territory of the national park is mostly covered with large mires, separated from each other by the rivers of the Pärnu River basin — the Navesti, Halliste, Raudna and Lemmjõgi rivers.
On the eastern margin of the national park lie the highest dunes on the Estonian mainland, situated some 50 kilometres off the contemporary coastline.
Flora and fauna
Soomaa is home to, and a breeding zone for, rare European mammals including roe deer, elk, wild boars, beavers, lynx, wolves and brown bears. Soomaa bog is also a breeding ground for several rare bird species, including golden eagles, black storks, black grouse and capercaillies. It is a habitat for some rare plants as Iris Sibirica, Gladiolus imbricatus, and some orchids as well.
What makes Soomaa unique is the so called "fifth season" - the spring flood, which can raise the water level five metres above the low-water level! Everywhere floods - meadows, fields, forests, roads and sometimes even houses.
There is a public bus from Pärnu to Riisa village (inside national park) two times a day : at 06.05 am and 14.30 pm. Private operators have pickup service from hotels of Pärnu at 9 am. The visiting centre of the Soomaa National Park is located in Tõramaa, which is 4 km from Riisa bus stop.
There is no fee to enter a national park and no fees for using walking trails and visiting National Park's Visitor Center. There are fees for guided services, canoeing on the rivers and walking on bogs and forests.
Soomaa has few roads, getting around by bicycle is an option. One can also follow the many hiking trails on foot. There are wooden board-walks in peat bogs. Canoeing is one of the best ways to explore the watery wilderness of Soomaa and several canoe tour companies operate in the area.
The State Forest Centre provides a Visitor Centre, located at Tõramaa that provides information, including leaflets and brochures, about Soomaa’s habitats, wildlife and history, as well as about the various services and hiking trails that are available for visitors.
Canoeing is one popular activity and a good way to get to know Soomaa national park. Guided canoe trips are available, and rental of canoes as well.
Some local souvenirs are on sale in Visitor Center, as well as on local guesthouses.
No restaurant is located inside the park. Around national park you can find local pubs in Jõesuu village and Suure-Jaani village. Guesthouses provide meals for their guests.
There are no restaurants in the park. Around national park you can find local pubs in Jõesuu village and Suure-Jaani village.
The official Estonian tourism website provides an extensive list of options for accommodation.
There are guesthouses around Soomaa National Park.
In national park are two types of camping sites: those provided by State Forest Centre are free of charge to use, those located on private land can be hired at a fee.