Matsalu National Park was established in 1957. Many migratory birds nest on the coastal grasslands and reed beds surrounding the Matsalu Bay. Initially the park was called Matsalu Nature Reserve and it did not gain its current name until 2004.
Matsalu National Park is one of Europe’s richest areas for bird species with more than 270 different species. If you happen to go there during the spring or fall bird migration period, you will experience the unforgettable sight of large flocks.
Matsalu wetland is of international importance as some of the semi-natural landscapes that have become very rare in Europe are still found there. Different types of meadows can be found spanning its 9,700 hectares. The primary types of meadows found here are broad flood-meadows and coastal grasslands. There are also alvar grasslands, wooded meadows, plaudifying grasslands and dry boreonemoral grasslands. After the snow melts, several of these are flooded by the Kasari river – one of the longest and most voluminous rivers in Estonia – which runs through Matsalu National Park.
Matsalu National Park has been awarded with several recognitions:
- It is the only park in the Baltic States that has received the European Diploma of Protected Areas from the Council of Europe in recognition of its efforts to protect the area’s biological, geological and landscape diversity.
- The national park is a part of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Protected Areas.
- In 2015 Matsalu and its surrounding area was the only region in Estonia to receive the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, issued by the EUROPARC Federation.
You will find various interesting activities for the whole family at Matsalu National Park
There are three hiking trails of various lengths and six distinctive watchtowers on the premises of the park. Matsalu National Park Visitor Center, where you will find a fascinating display of local animals and birds as well as a lot of information about the national park, is situated in the historic Penijõe manor.
A 614 km RMK hiking route starts at Penijõe manor. It crosses six counties and ends by Lake Peipus, which forms part of Estonia’s eastern border. Estonian Nature Tours and Birding Haapsaluorganize bird watching trips in Matsalu National Park. Seikluspartner organizes various treks on canoes, standup paddleboards, bikes and snowshoes.
Ranna Ranch, a petting zoo where you can visit and pet 14 different domestic animal species (including birds), is the best place for a family vacation in the midst of animals.
When is a good time to visit Matsalu National Park?
The best time to visit Matsalu National Park is during the spring and fall bird migration period, when the park is the main gathering point for ducks, swans, geese and cranes on the Estonian. As Matsalu is on the eastern Atlantic migration route, over two million birds fly through annually. More than 230,000 birds stop in Matsalu for a time. In the Matsalu area, there are many local entrepreneurs happy to organize bird watching tours.
Matsalu National Park Visitor Centre
April 15th – September 30th: Monday-Friday 9-17 I Saturday-Sunday 10-18 I In other times open on pre-booking
October 1st – April 14th: Monday-Friday 9-17 I In other times open on pre-booking
At the Visitor Center you can watch 20-minute multi-media program “A Year at Matsalu: Life from Ice till Ice”, offering an overview of the inhabitants of the national park and their activities. There are different nature education possibilities with or without guiding. Penijõe hiking trail starts just outside from the centre and soon a new hiking road – Penijõe-Aegviidu-Kauksi – will be opened!
The protected area has several natural, historical and cultural heritage sites. More information can be found here.
Penijõe, Lääneranna vald, Pärnumaa
Tel: +372 472 4236