Estonian Birds and Mammals – Self-Guided Tour

8 Days

Estonia has about 10 000 Elk, 1000 Brown Bears, 200 Wolves, 500 Lynxes, and a great number of Roe Deer, Red Foxes, and Raccoon Dogs. It is also one of the last countries in Europe where it is possible to see Siberian Flying Squirrels. Besides being the best place in Northern Europe for spotting different mammals, Estonia is also the best country in the region for birdwatching. This self-guided tour will lead you to Alutaguse NP where you’ll get close-up views from a Brown Bear hide;  to world famous Matsalu NP on the western coast and taiga forests area Lahemaa NP. The best times for mammal and bird watching in Estonia are in spring (May-June) and in autumn (September-October).



Our self-guided tour (SGT), using a smart device, is designed for active, adventurous people who appreciate independence and flexibility. SGTs offer the opportunity to visit the same nature areas as on our guided trips. With SGT, you will be your own guide and you can decide where and how much time to spend enjoying nature. With SGT, you don’t have to do the research for the best birding areas in Estonia – you can choose from our described destinations and plan your own itinerary. All locations are carefully chosen and are visited annually by our guides to ensure you will have updated information.

At the beginning of May- Brown Bears are waking up and looking for food; migrating birds are coming from the south; Raccoon Dog, Red Fox, Roe Deer; Elks and Beavers are quite easy to see. Hazel Grouse and Capercaillies on the forest roads and Black Grouse lek.  Ural, Pygmy, Tengmalm’s Owls and White-backed, Three-Three-toed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers are still active.

End of May-first part of June: mating time for Brown Bears; Elk cows with calves in the meadows; Raccoon Dog, Red Fox, Roe Deer; late arrivals – Common Rosefinch, Blyth´s reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Orioles. Flora: early orchids: Lady´s Slipper, Military Orchid.

Middle of September: migrating Cranes, Brown Bears foraging hungrily before winter hibernation; Raccoon Dog, Red Fox, Roe Deer; Elk rut time is on; migration of waders and passerines; activity starts for woodpeckers, owls and grouses. Weather is mostly quite warm.

End of September – mid-October: Brown Bears gorging themselves in preparation for hibernation; woodpeckers, owls and grouses are active; massive arctic bird migration. Nice time for autumn colors.

Example tour for the beginning of May

Arrival to Tallinn, drive to Haapsalu. You could look around in Haapsalu which is known as the birding capital of Estonia. There is everything – reedbeds, lagoons, a promenade, a watching tower, small islets perfect for nesting, an old castle ruin, and town parks. The most famous breeder of Haapsalu is the Slavonian Grebe. You could also drive to Matsalu NP and look for owls or elk. Night in Haapsalu

Hotel in Haapsalu

Start the morning with Black Grouse lek, while also hoping to spot elk and other mammals on the way to lekking area. Later, heading to Nõva forests, drive slowly through a good area for spotting Capercaillies. And check out Dirhami, the best bird migration peninsula in Northern Europe.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel in Haapsalu

Silma reserve is a huge area of coastal meadows, lagoons and reed beds with lots of diving ducks, Red-necked Grebes, geese, cranes, terns, Little Hulls, Penduline- and Bearded Tits. Head out early towards Silma nature reserve. Roadsides could produce views of Roe Deer, Red Fox, Raccoon Dog, hare, Elk, and, if you’re lucky, Golden Jackal. You could spend the second part of the evening in Leidissoo forest, which is great for woodpeckers (White-backed WP, Grey-headed WP, and Black WP) and owls (Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl and Tengmalm’s Owl).

Hotel in Haapsalu

Whole day in Matsalu NP. The park has several towers which give you a great view over the flooded meadows, as well as to the coastal meadows. The habitats here are good for birds – ducks, waders. Also for elks: in springtime, young calves can be seen among the cows. In autumn during the rut time, bulls are running around the meadow hoping to get the cows’ attention.

An evening boat tour on the river takes you to the beavers’ world. Reed beds are good habitat for bats – you’ll see them hunting in the sunset’s glow.

Hotel in Haapsalu

Drive to N-E of Estonia to Alutaguse area with its huge bogs and forests. It is also a core area of brown bears in Estonia. The night will be spent in the brown bear hide. There’s also active bird life around the hide, as well as mammals: raccoon dogs, foxes, brown bears are quite easy to see; sometimes wild boars are visible.

Bear Hide

Come out from the brown bear hide in the morning, make a little circle on the surrounding forest roads to look for Capercaillies and other wildlife.

Day in Lahemaa NP, with its wealth of peninsulas and beaches – stony, sandy, reed beds, open sea; both old-growth and young forests are great habitats for birds and mammals. Lahemaa is probably the best location is Estonia for spotting the Three-toed Woodpecker and Hazel Grouse.  Walk around on one of Lahemaa´s several trails or drive along small forest roads.

Hotel in Lahemaa national park

Day 7: Lahemaa NP

Early morning drive in Lahemaa forest roads to look for mammals and birds: Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse or walk in one of the several manor parks Lahemaa has to offer. Lahemaa is also a great place for coastal birding. There are some migration hotspots for passing divers, geese, and, ducks, but also some great resting and feeding places for the birds. In the evening, look for owls in the vast coniferous forests. Night in Lahemaa

Night in the brown bear hide.


The drive from the Brown Bear hide to Tallinn takes about 2 hours. If you have enough time, you can visit some of the walking trails in the Alutaguse region, the Kõrvemaa nature reserve, or the Viidumäe nature reserve.


Price includes:

  • Smart-guided tour map
  • 6 nights in local hotels and guesthouses ( twin room with toilet and shower) with breakfast
  • Car rental for 8 days
  • A night in the Brown bear hide
  • Estonian road atlas
  • A representative of Natourest meeting you in the Tallinn airport
  • Phone assistance during the tour


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Estonian Birds and Mammals – Self-Guided Tour
From €980.00
/ Person in double room
From €1,140.00
/ Person in single room
  • February-November
  • 1-18 persons
  • Easy walking
  • Owls (Ural, Pygmy, Tengmalms)
    *Woodpeckers (White-backed, Middle-spotted, Grey-headed, Three-toed, Black)
    *Huge flocks of Cranes and Geese
    *Arctic Waterfowl
    *Black and Hazel Grouse, Capercaillie
    *Brown Bear