The small island of Piirissaar is located between Estonia and Russia at the confluence of Lake Peipus and Lake Lämmi in Tartu Parish. The whole island, with an area of 7.5 square kilometres, is a natural reserve: the swamps here have many species of frogs and toads that have been entered into the red list. Piirissaar also has many other protected amphibian species, as well as rare birds and plants.
There are three villages in Piirissaar – Piiri, Tooni and Saare. Piirissaar has a population of only 30 Estonian and Russian speakers who live there all year. During the summer, however, the population goes up to 200. Russian Old Believers form a large part of the inhabitants. A traditional Old Believer house of prayer in Saare village can be visited during regular service and during church holidays. Sightseeing attractions include three Old Believer cemeteries. The island also has an orthodox church that is no longer in use. This insular community is mostly involved in fishing and growing vegetables, especially onions.
One of the peculiarities of Piirissaar is the north-south canal built across the island and can be traversed by boat. The southern part of the canal is navigable and the harbour is located in the middle of the island.
Travelling to Piirissaar
The Laaksaare harbour is located 67 km from Tartu. The easiest way to reach it is through Võnnu. It is inconvenient to travel by car on the island, so it is better to leave your vehicle in the paid parking lot at Laaksaare harbour and walk or ride a bicycle on Piirissaar. Kihnu Veeteed operates the shipping line between Laaksaare and Piirisaar. Crossing onboard the Koidula takes about 45–60 minutes, depending on weather conditions and cargo.
It is best to visit Piirissaar during the summer when a regular line is in service, organised trips are available and the island is also accessible by private watercraft. During the winter you must contact the local border guard station and ask about the ice conditions.
Recommendations for visitors to Piirissaar
One day is enough to acquaint yourself with the unique local culture and the island’s unspoiled nature, but you are always welcome to enjoy the island for longer. The island has both a store (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) and a bar, so an empty stomach will not hinder your adventures. In the summer you can buy ice cream and use the toilet at the tourist information centre.
You can set up your own tent either at the Piirissaar airfield or ask for permission from a local inhabitant to use their backyard. You can also plan other accommodation by pre-booking (in Estonian only).
It is mandatory to take your garbage back to the mainland when you leave.
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