Walking a whole country on the trail across Estonia

Oandu - Ikla trail in Estonia.

Walking is one of the easiest, yet most rewarding activities that come to mind as I write these lines. Surprisingly, and unfortunately, it is something the human race does less and less with our busy lives and all the machinery that revolves around them. In Estonia, one can walk across the whole country in a trail that has been set up delightfully, yet almost no one does it. Let me introduce to you the trail from Oandu to Ikla.

Estonia is a small country with a bit over 45 thousand square kilometres, yet is bigger than Switzerland, the Netherlands or Belgium, yet you can walk from one end to another of it relatively easily. That’s due to the fact that is almost completely flat and has little population, making it easy to avoid urban areas. Actually, the population is so low, that as I’ll tell you later, it may become a problem for the hikers.

The trail from Oandu to Ikla was arranged by the RMK, the Riigimetsa Majandamise Keskus, or in English, the State Forest Management Center. This organisation is in charge of maintaining, growing and managing the forests of the country, which make more than half of the country’s territory.

On it’s 100th anniversary, the RMK decided to give a special gift to Estonia and all of its visitors: a network of hiking trails that, once finished in 2018, will pretty much connect the country from West to East and North to South in a manner hard to imagine in the so-called developed world.

The shortest of the hikes, from Oandu to Ikla, has a total length of 377 km (even if this number is never exact because modifications and improvements keep on getting done). And allows you to go from Oandu, in the National Park of Lahemaa, which is essentially by the north coast of Estonia, to Ikla, a bordering village on the South-West corner of the country, right before entering Latvia.

Separated in seven sections of no more than 74 kilometres, this trail has clearly been arranged so that one could, at the very least split these sections between weekends, for instance. Apart from the Lahemaa park, it also goes through Kõrvemaa Landscape Reserve and Soomaa National Park before ending on the coast.

RMK has done a terrific job making sure that you don’t need to be an expert hiker to enjoy this trail. How? With the exception of a couple stages between 20 and 30 kilometres, all of the route has a separation no longer than 20 kilometres between one camping area and another. Add to this the fact that, as I mentioned before, Estonia is flat, and you have an easy task ahead of you, as long as the weather allows it.

Tellingumäe recreation area.
Tellingumäe recreation area.

Keep in mind, though, that, as I know thanks to a fellow World Wide Travellers’ member, the trail does not necessarily go past many villages, thus it would be wise to do some planning to be aware of the load of food you may need to carry at a given time. Water is less of a struggle with the wetlands of Estonia and all the rivers, as long as you have purifiers or boil it to avoid any parasite spoiling your route.

Wildlife may be spotted, which is a rarity, I can affirm, after more than a hundred visits to the National Park of Lahemaa having just spotted a deer once. It’s the joy of being in the middle of nature from early in the morning. In fact, take my advice and don’t leave any food under your pillow, lest you’ll be awaken by a hungry bear in the middle of a darkness-free summer night.

Nature is essencial to regain energy, strength and somehow going back to the basics, the fundamentals of what we are as human beings. And in the trail form Oandu to Ikla you may find yourself in the perfect place to do so. This trail, despite how well arrange it is, suffers like the rest of Estonia outside of the old town of Tallinn from very little interest of visitors. That’s just perfect. 370+ kilometres to find yourself again and to be able to brag because, well, you just crossed a whole country on foot.

Note: The featured picture in this article is copyright © 2013 Tiit Hallas CC BY-SA 3.0. The picture of the Tellingumäe recreation area is copyright © 2013 Ivo Kruusamägi CC BY-SA 4.0.

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