Otepaa and South Estonia


OTEPÄÄ AND SOUTH ESTONIA

Southern Estonia’s idyllic hilly landscape, the area around Haanja, Otepää and Karula, features rounded hills and river valleys in the country’s most extensive upland region, alternating with blue lakes and dotted with castles, manor houses and ancient villages. Estonia’s ‘winter capital’ is the small town of Otepää, 44 kilometres south of Tartu. Winter activities include cross-country skiing on marked trails and in the summer the area is popular for hiking, biking and swimming. For a fun couple of hours the Otepää Adventure Park, located at Tehvandi sports centre has five routes of varying height and difficulty comprising of suspended log walks, rope ladders, tightropes and suspension bridges. A stone’s throw from Otepää is Pühajärv lake, which many consider to be Estonia’s most beautiful, notably for its charming small wooded islands. Big Egg Hill (Suur Munamägi), rising 318 metres above sea level, is the highest point in the Baltics. On the world scale, it is not very high, but by Estonian standards it’s almost a mountain! The 30-metre high observation tower at the top has an amazing view stretching 50 kilometres in all directions. The most scenic valley in the Haanja area is Ööbikuorg (‘Nightingale Valley’). In the spring this natural echo chamber comes to life with the incessant calls of nightingales. The same county is the site of Estonia’s deepest lake, Rõuge Suurjärv. Small in size, but with a depth of 38 metres. Estonia’s biggest tree, the Tamme-Lauri oak, grows in Urvaste. Estimated to be 680 years old, the giant’s trunk measures about 8.5 metres in circumference. It takes six adults to join hands around the tree. The beautiful late 19th century castle of Sangaste is considered one of Estonia’s most elegant manors and is similar in style to Britain’s Windsor Castle. The majestic mansion consists of 1.5 million locally made bricks and now houses a hotel. In the same county is found the mausoleum of military leader Barclay de Tolly, a famous figure from the Napoleonic Wars, which emanates an atmosphere of royalty, and Taagepera castle, Estonia’s most outstanding piece of Art Nouveau architecture Back to South to Karula National Park, Estonia’s smallest national park. It’s a region of fens, lakes, bogs, meadows, flora and fauna, offering a choice of hiking trails. Information can be found at the Ahijärv visitor centre. Less than two kilometres from the Latvian border is a farm, formerly owned by members of the renowned freedom fighters known as the ‘Forest Brothers’, a group of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian guerrillas who waged warfare against Soviet rule during and after World War II. The farm offers a look at how they lived in hidden bunkers and offers the option to spend a night underground.

Source: Estonia Tourist Board – Visit Estonia

Here’s a sampling of major yearly recurring events in the region:

Valga Military History Festival

The Valga Military History Festival has a unique programme: from introducing the authorities, military marches and re-enactments of famous battles to special exhibitions, antiquities fair and a range of concerts.
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.isamaalinemuuseum.ee

Võru Folklore Festival

Võru Folklore Festival – this means lovely summer days in a small and tranquil Võru town with many splendid dancers, singers and musicians. This is the time of lively events: open-air concerts, handicraft fair, competition for accordion players, theatre performances, church concerts, folk evenings, workshops and parties.
Period: July
For more info visit the official website www.vorufolkloor.ee

Võru Town Days

The town celebrates its anniversary with a lot of music and art.
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.voru.ee