Matsalu National Park

Western Estonia & the Islands

A twitcher’s paradise, Matsalu is a prime migration and breeding ground for the Baltic and Europe generally: some 282 bird species have been counted here. Encompassing 486 sq km of wetlands (including 20km-long Matsalu Bay), it was first protected as a reserve in 1957, entered on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 1976, and declared a national park in 2004. Its headquarters are 3km north of the Tallinn–Virtsu road at Penijõe, an early-18th-century manor house near Lihula.

Comprising coastal meadows and woodland, over 50 islands in the Väinameri Sea and the most extensive reed-bed in the Baltics, it's home to 49 species of fish, 47 species of mammal and 772 species of vascular plants. But it's the birds people come to see.

Spring migration peaks in April/May, but swans arrive as early as March. Autumn migration begins in July and can last until November. Birdwatching towers, with extensive views of resting sites over various terrain, have been built at Haeska, Keemu, Suitsu, Penijõe and Kloostri. There are also marked nature trails at Penijõe (3.2km to 7km), Salevere (1.5km) and Suitsu (1km). Bring reliable footwear as the ground is generally boggy, except during summer dry spells.

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