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Valga County and Otepää – pearls of South-Estonia

BERLIN 1055 km

On the map of the world Estonia is an almost unnoticeable piece of northern forests, sea and land. Winding rivers, thousands of lakes, meadows and fields adorn this country rich in mysterious woodlands, marshes and bogs. More than a half of the country’s land is covered in forests and a quarter of its entire territory is protected under nature conservation laws. The bog landscapes here, which can no longer be found anywhere else in Europe, are the jewel in the crown of Estonian nature. A sparse population means that every traveller can find space and time to themselves. The four distinct seasons add to the diversity: spring is crisp and bright, summer warm with white nights, autumn colourful and winter snowy. Estonia is full of surprises and nature here is just like the people – closed and contrary at first, but ready to open up to friends and followers.

Nature is always close!

CONTENTS NATIONAL PARKS ...................................... 4 FORESTS AND PARKS ............................... 5 HIKING TRAILS............................................ 6 HILLS.............................................................. 7 RIVERS AND LAKES.................................... 8 OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.............................. 9 WINTER........................................................10 FOOD FROM NATURE.............................11

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Valga County, shaped like a triangle, is a small county in the southern part of Estonia. It borders Latvia to the south and south-west. The nature in Valga County is picturesque and eye-catching. The flat fields, the untouched forests, the beautiful rolling hills of Otepää and Karula, the protected areas and the lakes and rivers brimming with fish are a testament to ancient nature, valuable communities and endless opportunities. There are more than 200 lakes in this tiny county – more than in any other region of Estonia! The beautiful landscapes of Valga County have made it a popular centre of tourism and sport, which has an abundance of opportunities for those who love nature, silence, hiking and sports. The people of Valga County know how to look after their rich nature and history. You’re welcome to hike and relax in the lap of our ancient landscapes!

National parks ISIT!


Karula national park OTEPÄÄ NATURE PARK

WORTH A LOOK: Koiva puisniidud Otepää hill fort. Make sure you climb up to Otepää fort hill if you’re hiking in the Otepää area, as you’ll find the ruins of the oldest brick stronghold and episcopal castle in Estonia and enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding areas. Otepää (meaning “bear’s head” in Estonian) was named after this fort hill, which resembles the head of a bear. Energy column. Otepää radiates positive energy! Psychics have found fields of positive energy here and their existence is marked by a wooden monument. Rubina nature reserve

The biggest nature reserves in Valga County are Otepää Nature Park, Karula National Park and Koiva-Mustjõe Landscape Protection Area. The nature park in Otepää is the largest in Estonia and also the most beautiful, most popular and best known holiday area around Lake Pühajärv. It attracts numerous researchers, ramblers, romantics and active holidaymakers. There are many marked hiking, nature, skiing and rollerblading tracks and trails in the surrounding hills. Come on over and get to know the hills of Otepää! The rapid, sometimes treacherous and always beautiful Koiva River holds centre stage in the Koiva-Mustjõe Landscape Protection Area. At the point where the river guards the border between Estonia and Latvia, you can see natural European spindle or meet the rare European Roller, sunbathe on the sand dunes or hike on the marked trails. Koiva wooded meadow is one of the most unique in Estonia, with extremely rich and rare flora and fauna. All South-Estonian forest types are represented in Karula National Park. Osprey, lynx and otters have all found great nesting places here. And there are also bears – the name of the national park comes from the Estonian word karu, which means ‘bear’. Can you believe that there are almost 300 different plant species in this small park, and 40 lakes hiding among the hills? Tornimäe viewing tower, many marked hiking trails (the longest of which is 38 km) and numerous bonfire and campsites await you.

Forests and parks Estonia is exceptionally rich in woodlands and around 90 tree species grow in our forests. We boast a uniquely high density of large predators (wolves, lynx and bears) and many exciting bird species. The variegated landscapes are home to stands of pine, birch, aspen and mysterious broad-leaved forests, bog forests with stunted, gnarled trees, rare klint forests and spooky riparian and swamp forests. Pack your backpack, bring a tent or stay in one of the forest huts covered by everyman’s right and spend a great day hiking and a lovely evening by the fire by yourself or with your family and friends. Forests are fascinating places year-round!



Pühajärve park – take a walk on the shores of Lake Pühajärv, a place always loved by holidaymakers. Pühajärve beach attracts many people in summer. You can hire various vessels to go out on the lake or play ball games on its shores. Sangaste manor park – the mysterious Sangaste Forest Park is rich in species and forms a landscape complex with the main building of Sangaste Manor. There are walking and hiking trails and a bonfire site in the park. Taagepera manor park Helme manor park


Taagepera park

Lake Pühajärv Park

The State Forest Management Centre has created various ways you can spend time in the lap of nature. Bonfire site by lake Tündre Oore campsite

BE SURE TO VISIT! PÜHAJÄRVE NATURE TRAIL. There are many things you can do on the trail – work out the height of trees, have fun in the jumping box and admire the natural diversity around you. TOUR DE LATEST – cycling route Tour de LatEst that runs through Northern Latvia and Southern Estonia. The total length of the route is 1,296 km. The landscape surrounding the route is visually and informatively diverse. The route gives you the opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of Latvians and Estonians, the most popular tourist sites and the daily lives of local people. The route runs through several protected areas of pan-European importance – national and nature parks, landscape areas and biosphere reserves.

Hiking trails Hiking is enjoyable – it reduces stress and helps broaden your senses. Valga County has many hiking trails for true lovers of nature, giving hikers and roamers the chance to experience the wilderness. The breathtakingly beautiful hilly landscape, the national parks and nature reserves rich in species, numerous rivers and lakes – you’ll find everything here! Valga County is small, which means that you can cram lots of experiences and activities into just a couple of days.


WE RECOMMEND: Pühajärve Hiking Trail Murrumetsa Hiking Trail Kekkonen Hiking Trail Apteekrimäe Forest Trail Karula Long (38 km) and Short (16 km) Cycling Trail Rebäse Hiking Trail Peräjärve Forest Trail Ähijärve Path Soontaga Hiking Trail

Apteekrimäe forest track

Ähijärve nature trail

Hills Southern Estonia, especially the Otepää region, is the hilliest part of the country. Those who are not afraid of ‘heights’ are welcome to explore the hills around here – the highest ‘mountain’ in Valga County is Kuutsemägi (217 m). The unique hilly landscape is a great example of a landscape shaped by the continental ice sheets – it is the result of the uneven melting of the ice.

Viewing platform of Tehvandi ski-jump hill

Harimägi Lookout Tower

BE SURE TO VISIT! Tehvandi viewing platform and the highest outdoor climbing wall in Estonia. The viewing platform stands at 34 metres, with a height above sea level of 218 metres – making it the secondtallest viewing tower in Southern Estonia after Suur Munamägi. Harimägi viewing tower. The height of Harimägi is 211 metres above sea level. You will find a 28-metre wooden viewing tower on the hill, which offers breathtaking views of the Otepää hills and Karula Highlands across the valley of the Väike Emajõgi River. Tellingumägi viewing tower. This tower offers magnificent views of the beautiful landscape and the winding Mustjõgi river.

WE RECOMMEND: Kuutsemäe Väike-Munamägi

Rivers and lakes ISIT!


Koiva river and wooded meadows. You’ll find one of the most beautiful wooded meadows in Estonia here, which is home to several rare plants. Mustjõe floodplain is on the list of internationally important bird protection areas. There are several bonfire and campsites by the river and many hiking trails start here.

You can get to know the rivers and lakes of Valga County by canoe, raft or various types of boats. Pühajärv is the largest natural lake and the Väike Emajõgi River starts flowing from its southern tip. According to legend the lake appeared from the tears of a grieving mother mourning her five sons killed in war, with their graves forming the five islands in the lake. The beautiful former manor by the lake is now a hotel and spa centre. Koorküla Valgjärv is a lake located in the Koorküla conservation area. The lake is famous for the remains of an ancient building (1300-1400 years old) situated on its bed. The building is believed to have been the fortified home of an ancient Estonian nobleman. According to legend a manor sank into the lake, church bells can still be heard and there are ghosts in the lake who keep inviting fishermen to join them.

Lake Aheru is one of the region’s best fishing lakes. Visitors can use the holiday huts, bonfire sites and piers at the Oore rest site by the lake.


Koiva river area

Lake Aheru


Outdoor activities Valga County offers many exciting outdoor activities. These include golf, archery, cycling, fishing, horseback riding, safaris, team games, hunting and more. Of course, there are extreme sports, as well! And this is by no means a full list of all the activities Valga County has to offer. Valga County due to its natural opportunities, this disdrict has become a highly appreciated sports centre. This hilly landscape with it peaks beautiful valleys and lakes is the symbol of South-Estonia for many people. The variable landscape offers lots of joy of discovery for everybody interested in nature and is a source of inspiration for creative people. Those who have once been enchanted by the charms of Valga County will find a way back again and again.

Otepää adventure park. The slogan ‘Adventures between the earth and sky’ characterises the adventure park well, because most of your time there is spent high above the ground. Snowshoe hike. Snowshoes make walking on snow much easier and they also carry you safely across sinking swamps when there is no snow. If you are looking for a real adventure and want to get close to nature, choose snowshoe hiking in a bog. Photo hunt. Photo hunts are a mixture of orienteering with a difference and fun challenges, which require participants to be creative, brave and team players. The more absurd it is, the more fun the participants can have! Forest safari. Extreme trips on jeeps that give you the opportunity to discover the beauty of Estonia and have a great time in nature.

WE RECOMMEND: Snowshoe hike

Forest safari

Safari, dendrological park

Winter ISIT! BE SURE TO V Kuutsemäe holiday centre. We have seven different slopes with differing degrees of difficulty for downhill skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Tehvandi. Training tracks of different lengths and a 10 km hiking trail are open in winter. The 3.75 km ski track is lit until 9.00 pm every night. A lit sledging hill is open at Neljakasemägi. The latest addition, the Disc Golf Park, is becoming increasingly popular.

Valga County is a winter paradise. You can see kilometres of untouched snow and frost-covered trees and bushes, and enjoy ancient silence. Winter entertainment includes skiing and sledging, ice fishing and sauna evenings where you can jump from the hot sauna into icy water outside, or roll around in the fresh snow. The main trademark of Valga County in winter is Otepää – Estonia’s winter capital and the heart of winter sports. Otepää is known all over the world as a centre of winter sports and a venue of major competitions. As the highest town in Estonia, Otepää is the heart of the surrounding tourist area, which is bursting with life all year round. Tartu Ski Marathon, which forms part of the Worldloppet series, has been the most important event in Tartu and Estonia for decades and has earned itself the name of the ‘winter song festival’.

WE RECOMMEND: Kicksled hike Snowmobile hike Snowtube Kuutsemäe Väike-Munamägi


Barrel sauna

Food from nature People in Valga County treasure local and homemade food and are grateful for the gifts offered by nature. Local food comes from people’s gardens and fields as well as forests and lakes. The food tastes clean and real, just like the food cooked by our grannies when we were children. Cooking your own food improves your skills and knowledge, and it is always great when you manage to make something yourself. Traditional wild berries – strawberries, blueberries, cloudberries, cowberries and cranberries – are irreplaceable in winter. Wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, porcini, russula and milk caps also end up on the dinner table.

YOU CAN TRY ESTONIAN CUISINE AT THESE PLACES: Tammuri Farm Restaurant offers food that is rooted in the traditions of our ancestors and favours local ingredients. Their approach to cooking is creative and open to the world. This famous one-man restaurant, which has made it onto the ‘Top 50 Restaurants in Estonia’ list, offers its fresh flavours in an old barn hidden in the middle of the woods. Pühajärve Spa & Holiday Centre offers organic group menus. Nakatu Tourist Farm. Game


Rukkimaja rye bread

Tammuri Farm Restaurant

Products of Hellenurme water mill Aakre jams We recommend to visitors that they take some local food home with them so they can surprise their families and friends with the wonderful flavours Valga County. Share the experiences you had here with others!

Valga Conty most beautiful, protected and loved secret in South-Estonia.

VALGA TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE Kesk 11, Valga Telephone: +372 766 1699

OTEPÄÄ TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE Tartu mnt 1, Otepää Telephone: +372 766 1200

Composed by: SA Valgamaa Arenguagentuur • Design by: GBF Design • Published by: SA Valgamaa Arenguagentuur • Translation: Luisa tõlkebüroo • Photos by: EAS fotopank, Valgamaa fotopank, GMP Clubhotel

Valga County and Otepää - pearls of South-Estonia  

Valga County and Otepää - pearls of South-Estonia

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