Sightseeing around Estonia's hills and valleys

Source: Sven Zacek

Sightseeing around Estonia's hills and valleys

Estonians tend to live near the sea on flat terrain, but they definitely know how to enjoy the hills and valleys of their nation. The Otepää Uplands and the lowlands of South Estonia offer spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes and ample opportunities to relax and reconnect while contemplating nature.

Estonia is a rather flat country. Western Estonia and Estonia's many islands tend to be especially low, reaching only a couple dozen meters above sea level, but the country has an absolute height of about 50 m above sea level in most places. With around 40% of Estonia located between 50–100 m above sea level, a rather small portion – just 10% – reaches a little higher than 100 m.

The view from the hilltops

Those seeking out the country's hills and valleys should head to South Estonia. A visit to Otepää, Karula, or Haanja – the region sometimes jokingly referred to by locals as "the Estonian mountains", are beautiful spots to take in nature or  hike at one of Estonia's two highest spots: Suur Munamägi (the Great Egg Hill, 318 m) in the Haanja highlands, or Vällamägi in Võru County (304 m).

The viewing tower of Suur Munamägi offers a great view of the Haanja highlands, and Vällamägi's spiritually inspiring hiking trail gives a sense of pristine and holiness in its primeval woods – Vällamägi is an ancient sacred grove. A short jaunt away, the hilly landscape of Karula National park, filled of countless lakes, is another breath-taking view.

Scenic landscapes

South Estonia is a popular landscape for painters and artists to draw inspiration from.  

Photo by: Visit Estonia

The Otepää Hill Fort also offers a unique view of the surrounding countryside marked by one of the 21 yellow National Geographic frames in South Estonia. From atop the hill, you can imagine what it might have been like 800 years ago when it was a stone stronghold. In fact, the oldest firearm in the world was found here.

Where else to enjoy a view from on high

If you'd like a bird's eye view of Estonia, you can also check out the numerous observation platforms and viewing towers scattered about the country. While there may not be natural peaks to climb for a view of the landscape, many hiking trails have observation towers that let you look out over the countryside below. Many islands and coastal areas also have lighthouses to climb, offering picturesque views of the sea below.

Meandering through the lowlands and valleys

The true beauty of nature lies in its duality, hilled reaches come with the splendour of valleys. As with the nation's hills, the most beautiful valleys of Estonia can be found in the south. The dramatic nature of the Rõuge primeval valley, the beauty of Ööbikuorg (Nightingale Valley), or the Kütiorg hiking trails (Hunter Valley) and the Hinni canyon are all worth a visit.

Canoers, fishermen, hikers, and lovers of silence will find another paradise in the primeval valley of the Võhandu River. Up to 30 m deep in some places, it shows off Devonian sandstone banks and rich meadows of flowers and butterflies. Likewise, the primeval valley of Ahja river, home to the magical place of Taevaskoja, and the banks of Suur Emajõgi (the Great Mother River) are quiet, peaceful places to reconnect with your roots and find stillness.

Discovering the secret corners of Estonia

Many natural landscapes are only accessible by boat.

Photo by: Visit Estonia

Where else to enjoy the sounds of silence in South Estonia

South Estonia has many other interesting opportunities for introspection and meditation. Visit the forest megaphones near Pähni Nature Centre; you can sit inside giant wooden megaphones and listen to the sounds of the forest. Trees hold a special place in the heart of many Estonians, and South Estonia is home to the country's largest oak tree, the Tamme-Lauri oak. Or take a detour and visit the Mustahamba oak tree. This particular one is marked with crosses for those buried in the nearby graveyard. The smoke sauna tradition is also unique to South Estonia; try out this spiritual experience while you're in the area.     

Last updated : 20.06.2022

In category: South Estonia, Nature & Wildlife