The original Seto culture developed from Eastern and Western cultures (katõ ilma veere pääl - "on the border of two worlds"). The estimated population of Setos in Estonia is 10,000 - 13,000, of which ca 3,000 - 4,000 live on their indigenous land.
Their borderland status has also given Setos a chance to preserve their language, lifestyle, food and unique folk costumes.
Setos are very religious people. Every household has its own icon corner (pühäsenulk) and almost every village has its own small chapel (Tsässon). As a rule, the chapels are locked and the key is held by the village elder or chapel master/mistress. An opportunity to visit a Seto chapel may come on village holidays when it’s opened for public prayer.
The chapel traditions are sacred to Orthodox Setos. During church holidays people gather to honour the souls of their ancestors. In the morning a service is held, followed by a procession around the chapel. Afterwards people go to their ancestors’ graves, where they eat and drink. Some food is often left for the souls of the dead.
If you want to hear the archaic Seto language, find an opportunity to listen to a Seto Leelo choir. Leelo is the Seto folk song, where the singer improvises the words and the choir then repeats. Most famous singers were able to sing up to 10,000–20,000 rhymes and they earned the title of "Seto Mother of Songs."
You should also certainly see traditional Seto villages. Closed cluster-villages in Setomaa are built in a way that you cannot peek into a neighbour’s yard. A typical Seto homestead is a closed inner courtyard surrounded by buildings, high gates and partition fences - a "castle homestead."
Setumaa will appeal to anybody interested in different cultures, religion and traditions - plus with its beautiful nature Setumaa is well worth a visit.
It is particularly memorable to visit Setomaa during the various Seto traditional holidays or festivities: Kirmask, Seto Kingdom days, Seto Leelo days, Easter, and church holidays .