DESTINATION: SOOMAA NATIONAL PARK
Soomaa wetland area with ancient traditions
Soomaa is a landscape region in South-West of Estonia. In Estonian, the word ‘soomaa’ literally means ‘land of mires’ while the area is best known for having five unique seasons with the fifth season being the flooding season, when the water from melted snow or heavy rains inundates all the lower forests, roads and even yards.
The history of human activity in Soomaa dates back to the Stone Age. The ancient and charming nature of this place is reflected in the tradition of making expanded dugout boats (Estonian haabjas), a technique which is still being taught in Soomaa. Soomaa is probably the only place in Europe where the tradition of making such boats survived into the 21st centuries and in recent decades, a surge of interest in making dugouts has revitalized the ancient tradition.
Soomaa visitors can also take part in canoe trips, snowshoe hikes and animal viewing tours where beavers are the most popular focus, a key stopping point is the mysterious Tori Hell.
Throughout Estonia sauna bathing is a part of the people’s identity and it is sacrosanct for them and so it is in Soomaa. Sauna has always been an important ritual with many functions, it is at the same time a very practical and a spiritual environment and provides good relaxation for example when returning from a trip outdoors. So, after the long traditional sauna session, the mind-set of local people will become understandable.
In 1993 in the core area of Soomaa landscape region was designated Soomaa National Park, which incorporates an extensive wilderness area, containing large peatbogs and thick forests interwoven by numerous rivers and the floodplains that border them.