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Discover the incredible region of Setomaa in Estonia



In the south easternmost corner of Estonia, a small fragment of people known as the Setos have clung to their own customs, traditional costumes and language to this day. The Setos are also known for their singing traditions. Their songs, following a thousand year old tradition, are called leelos. The Seto Farm Museum, with its re-created 19thcentury farmhouse complex, and the Obinitsa museum provide an opportunity to discover the traditional Seto way of life, handicrafts and everyday items used by this Slavic-influenced people. In Seto Tsäimaja is a restaurant where Seto cuisine is served. The town of Värska is known for its picturesque stone church, its curative mud and its mineral rich water which is sold all over Estonia. Visitors can also bathe in the mineral water at the spa a couple kilometres down the road. Estonia is the most meteorite-cratered place on earth. One of the six known areas of meteorite craters in the county can be seen near Ilumetsa. Estimated to have landed about 6,600 years ago, the asteroid created a total of five craters here. The largest and best-known is the 80-metre wide, 12-metre deep Põrguhaud (Hell’s grave). A couple of hundred metres away are two other craters. According to legend, these “graves” are a direct route to hell. Southern Estonia is known for its orangey/red Devonian sandstone outcrops, such as in the picturesque Ahja river valley. At Taevaskoda on the river Ahja the sandstone cliffs rise to a height of 24 metres above the river. Just a couple of kilometres before the shore of Lake Peipus in Tartu County is the fairy-tale Alatskivi castle. Built between 1880 and 1885 is it the most beautiful neo-Gothic style building in the Baltics with its snow-white towers. The mansion was modelled after Balmoral in Scotland The route alongside the Shore of Peipsi Lake follows the old Russian tradition of having only one street, which means villages blend organically with each other. Here can be found some of the world’s few villages still populated by the ‘Old Believers’. These are the descendants of a highly religious, ethnic Russian minority who came across the lake in the 17th and 18th centuries to seek sanctuary from persecution after they resisted reforms in the Orthodox Church. The area is known for smoked and dried fish, cucumbers, golden onions and pickles sold by the local villagers. A feel for the strictly religious community, where electricity is disallowed, can be found in Raja villa church, lit only by beeswax candles.

Source: Estonia Tourist Board – Visit Estonia

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

Seto Easter

Visitors will be able to engage in traditional Seto Easter activities such as egg rolls, other games, and listening to Seto leelo. We kindly ask visitors to attend in small groups and to respect local customs. As usual, the games will be preceded by a play performed in the Seto Studio Gallery. The festivities get under way at 12 noon.
Period: May
For more info visit the official website www.setomaa.ee

Jüripäiv or St. George’s Day

The most important church holiday in the Värska area of the Seto region. The day begins with a worship service, a visit to graves and a kirmas (Seto party) continues on the village green. We kindly ask visitors to attend in small groups and to respect local customs.
Period: May
For more info visit the official website www.visitsetomaa.ee

Whitsunday handcraft and country fair

The keywords for this fair are crafts, country products, Seto food, seedlings and cultural fare. It’s a good chance to learn more about Seto crafts and local businesses, and see and hear Seto leelo choirs, folk dancers and musicians.
Period: May
For more info visit the official website www.verska.ee/kalender/

Seto Leelo Day

Setomaa’s song festival – Leelopäev – is a big day in the world of Seto singing. The Setos’ leelo folk song, which has been recognized by UNESCO as part of humankind’s intangible heritage, will be performed by choirs from both sides of the Estonian Russian border. Each choir will have to come up with the words to fit this year’s theme. This year’s festival will be rich in new songs. The Leelopäev fair will be a sight to be seen, with Seto crafts on sale and culinary delicacies also featured. As in years past, the day will conclude with a traditional party of dancing and singing.
Period: June
For more info visit the official website www.setomaa.ee

Open Farms Day, various places along the Seto Külävüü touring route

Stop in at various farms in Estonia on this day. The farms have opened their doors to show what they are up to and the charms of rural life. A number of places along the Seto Külävüü can be visited: for example, Nopri farm dairy in the village of Kärinä, Väike-Avi Farm in the village of Voki, and more.
Period: July
For more info visit the official website www.avatudatalud.ee

Seto Kingdom Day

On this important day, the people of Setomaa decide who will be the earthly representative of the mythical King Peko for the next 12 months – the ülemsootska. The festival day features pageantry and sticks to a traditional format: the Seto anthem is sung, the people choose the best artisans and the new ülemsootska, participants compete in oral verse and folk dance, Seto food and crafts are enjoyed, and the Seto “military” is out in full array. In the evening, visitors are invited to a village festival with music, leelo song and dance.
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.setomaa.ee

Night of Ancient Fires

The idea behind the Night of Ancient Fires is to celebrate the unity and cooperation between Baltic Sea peoples, and also the end of summer. In Värska municipality, the night will be marked at Lobotka harbour on the shores of Värska Bay, with live music and local refreshments.
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.verska.ee/kalender/

Seto Christmasland

Seto Jõulumaa (Seto Christmasland) is a fairy-tale world for big and small, where you can make merry with elves and meet Santa. We’ll do crafts, make drawings, play games, sing songs, look for an elf’s cap, ride in Santa’s taxi cab. You can mail letters to Santa and a Christmas cafe will be in operation.
Period: December and January
For more info visit the official website www.mikitamae.ee