The Viru Bog Trail: Estonia’s beautiful bogs
The Viru bog trail is one of the many hiking trails in Estonia. Estonia is a land of forests, bogs, mires and wetlands. Viru Bog is located in Lahemaa National Park, one of the oldest and largest national parks in the country.
Lahemaa National Park is only 1 hour away from Tallinn and the Viru Bog trail is an easy hike of 6 kilometers. This makes it a perfect day trip and nature get away from the capital.
History of Viru Bog in Estonia
Viru bog is only one of the many bogs in Estonia. Bogs are the oldest landscapes in the country and some are up to 10000 years old.
They formed in the last ice age when glacial melt water collected in depressions. Dead plant materials accumulated into layers of peat. In most bogs in Estonia the layer of peat can be up to 7 meters thick.
Bogs in Estonia are shrouded in myths and legends. People used to be afraid of the bogs and they were associated with supernatural events.
Hunters did venture into the bogs to hunt moose and beavers, but most stayed away and feared the spirits living there. Among them Eksitaja who made people get lost in the bogs or the water spirit of Nakk that appears as a human or animal.
Things changed in the 13th century when the Swedes, Germans and Danes tried to conquer the country. People now used the bogs as a place to hide.
Foreign powers had less respect for the bogs. The Soviets started large scale draining of the wetlands and extraction of the peat. Luckily, activists called for protection of the bogs to preserve its fragile ecosystem.
Bogs and Climate Change
In recent years there is more attention for the protection of bogs, because of their important role in preventing climate change and water regulation.
We know, for example, that bogs act as carbon sinks. They store large amounts of carbon in the form of dead plant material that accumulates over centuries. The water in the bogs slow down the decomposition of organic matter, leading to the accumulation of carbon in the soil.
Bogs also act as natural sponges, absorbing and holding water. This helps regulate water flow, reducing the risk of flooding and storing water during dry periods.
Viru Bog Wildlife
The bog’s unique wetland ecosystem supports diverse wildlife and is therefore home to a variety of unique plant and animal species. Plants are adapted to the acidic and waterlogged conditions with lots of mosses and lichens, like sundews and cotton grass.
While large mammals are less common, bogs are rich in insects and birds. Viru Bog is therefore a great place for birdwatching.
To make the bogs accessible for visitors there are a number of well marked trails in the country. Most use boardwalks so you can see this unique landscape without damaging the bogs.
Why visit Viru bog
So why visit Viru bog of all bogs in Estonia? For me this was mostly a practical decision. It is the only one accessible by public transport from Tallinn.
Most other bog trails are better explored when you have your own transport. Something I plan to do for my next trip to Estonia. I was quite impressed by the natural beauty and would love to visit more off the beaten path bogs in the country.
Because of its easy accessibility from Tallinn, Viru bog is one of the most popular bog trails in Estonia. On weekends the parking is full and the boardwalks crowded. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the quiet and peaceful experience you might expect.
I visited Viru bog during the week in winter so there weren’t that many people. It was a cold day and the bog was covered in a white layer of snow.
In this case it was an advantage that there were at least some other people around. Otherwise it might have been easy to get lost. Even the boardwalk was completely covered in snow and we had to follow the footsteps of the people that went before us.
The Viru bog trail
The Viru bog trail is thus an easy way to get to see the bogs of Estonia as an independent budget traveller. There is no need of having your own car or going on an expensive tour.
The Viru bog trail is an easy and worthwhile day trip from Tallinn. The full Viru bog trail is a loop of 6 kilometers. With a lunch break in between it took me about 3 hours to hike from start to finish.
The Viru bog trail is marked and in between there are information boards about the flora and fauna of the bog.
Step 1: Getting to the start of Viru bog trail.
The nearest bus stop from the start of the hike is Loksa Tee. From there it is only 600 meters to the parking lot where the Viru Bog trail starts.
Sebe bus 151 is the most convenient bus to take and runs from Balti jaam (train and bus station near the old town) to Loksa tee. There are not many, but there is one in the morning and two buses that return in the afternoon. Check Google for the current schedule.
There are a few other options that require a change of buses or that stop at the Tallinn bus station on the outskirts of the city.
Step 2: Hiking to Viru bog watchtower
The first part of the trail is even accessible to wheelchairs. The trail starts in the forest and after about 500 meters you enter the boardwalks over the bog.
This part of the trail is most crowded as well and ends after 1.5 kilometers at a watchtower. Here you have beautiful views over Viru Bog.
From the watchtower you can decide to walk the same way back or continue through the bogs.
Step 3: Viru bog
After the watchtower the boardwalk continues through the Viru bog. I don’t know if it was because of winter, but many people only visited the watchtower.
After the watchtower the trail became more quiet and it was just us and lots of snow. Because of all the snow we couldn’t really see much of the bogs.
Everything was covered in a white layer of snow. Even the narrow boardwalks that were sometimes difficult to follow. A few times I almost stepped too much to the side and got my feet wet.
Luckily my hiking shoes were waterproof indeed. After about 3 kilometers we made it back to the forest and walked back to the parking lot and bus station.
Viru bog travel tips
Where to stay
There are no hotels or guesthouses near Viru Bog. It is best to stay in Tallinn. I stayed in Hestia hotel Il Marine where I could get a good winter deal.
Where to eat
There are no places to eat in or near the Viru bog so bring enough drinking water and food with you.
The Balti jaam market in Tallinn is a great place to do so. Meie Gruusia sells delicious Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) that makes a perfect picnic lunch on the trail
When to visit
There is no wrong time to visit the Viru bog and it makes for a great day trip any time of the year. Estonia experiences a Northern European climate with distinct seasons. Basically every season has its own charm.
Spring (April to June): Spring is a great time to visit Viru Bog as nature awakens from winter. During this time, you can witness the bog coming to life with the emergence of new plant growth and the return of migratory birds. The weather is generally mild, and the bog is not as crowded as it can be in the summer.
Summer (July to August): Summer is the peak tourist season. The weather is typically warm and dry. However, it can be crowded during this time, so if you prefer a quieter experience, try visiting in the early morning or late afternoon.
Autumn (September to November): Autumn brings a beautiful transformation to Viru Bog as the surrounding trees change color. It’s also a great time for birdwatching as some species migrate through the area.
Winter (December to February): Winter offers a unique experience in Viru Bog, especially if you enjoy snow-covered landscapes. I did the Viru bog trail in winter and I thought it was absolutely spectacular. There was a thick layer of snow, the bogs were frozen and it was a magical winter wonderland. In short, it was a very cold, but also a magical winter wonderland. When you visit in winter I can recommend to dress warm and bring a thermos of tea.
What to pack
Sturdy shoes: because most of the walk is on board walks there is no need for professional hiking boots. The trail is flat and easy. In winter I was happy with my waterproof hiking boots though.
Mosquito repellent: in summer there will be lots of mosquitoes at Viru bog. Bring a strong mosquito repellent.
Sunscreen: once you are in the bogs there is little shade. Use enough sunscreen on a sunny day, even in winter.
Sustainable travel to Viru Bog
Like in many Scandinavian countries, such as Swedish Lapland, there is free access to nature. Estonia’s national parks, including Viru bog, do not charge any entrance fees. You are free to wander in nature and pick berries and mushrooms as you like.
The bogs are fragile though. Traveling sustainably to Viru Bog is essential to minimize your environmental impact and preserve the area’s natural beauty for future generations.
Leave no trace principle: When hiking the Viru bog trail stick to the boardwalks and don’t go off them to prevent damaging the ecosystem.
I encourage you to take all your trash back with you and dispose of it responsibly. In other words, leave no trace of your visit. Even better is when you bring something to pick up any of the trash that other people left behind.
To avoid single-use plastics, invest in reusable items. For example, you can bring your own water bottle with a filter.
Bog shoes: It is possible to walk through the bogs with bog shoes, but only do this on a guided tour. The guide will know where you can go without disturbing nature.
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