Spend a night in Alutaguse National Park

There are three requirements for bear watching in Estonia—silence, patience, and a positive attitude. Here’s why;

Silence, because bears have very good hearing. Patience, because the forest is not a zoo. A positive attitude because you might not see a bear. Instead, you might see raccoon dogs, cranes, and wild boar; you might spot tracks, and you’ll likely hear birdsong. You’ll spend the night in the forest, and if you have a positive attitude, you will emerge from the hide feeling at one with nature.

Come face-to-face with this majestic mammal in the forests of Estonia.
Come face-to-face with this majestic mammal in the forests of Estonia. © Tarmo Sammal, Visit Estonia.

There are bears in Estonia?

Yes, quite a few! Current estimates put the bear population at around 1,000 animals, the highest number it’s been in the last 150 years. As a result, there has been an increasing number of bear sightings, which may be bad news for those with beehives in their backyards, but good news for those wanting to see bears in the wild.

What is a bear hide?

Simply put, a hide hides you. It is a simple cabin with basic bunkbeds, windows for taking photographs, an extended air vent to shunt human smells up and away from curious bear noses, and a dry toilet for doing your business without a noisy flush.

You’ll have to hike in, as placing a hide next to a parking lot would severely limit your chances of observing wildlife, well, in the wild. Don’t have sleeping bags? Tour companies usually offer them for rent. One more tip: pack lightly but pack warm — the forest is chilly at night.

Hunker down for the night in purpose-built bear-watching hide.
Hunker down for the night in purpose-built bear-watching hide. ©Priidu Saart, Visit Estonia

Where is the best place to see bears in Estonia?

Northeastern Estonia, especially in Ida-Viru County. This region is home to forests reminiscent of the taiga found to the east. These wild forests are prime bear habitat; the further south you go, the fewer bears there are.

Alutaguse National Park is where most hides are located. This national park is Estonia’s youngest, created in 2018 for the country’s centennial celebration. The park is unique because it is made up of several patches of land, rather than one large swath of forest. The geographical make-up of the park is fascinating as well, including extensive bogs, the Kurtna lakes system, and the sandy north shore of Lake Peipsi.

When should I go?

The best time for bear watching in Estonia is autumn, especially during the month of October. The bears are packing on the pounds in preparation for their long snooze, so they tend to roam less as they feast on ripe berries, making them easier to spot.


Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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