Võru County, Estonia
Modern Võru County (Võru County) looks almost like a rectangle stretched along the east-west axis measuring 70×51 km. The area of the county is 2,305 sq km or 5.1% of the total territory of the Republic of Estonia. Võru County borders Russia in the east and Latvia in the south. Võru County borders Põlva County in the north and northeast and Valga County in the west.
Võru County makes locals and visitors happy with its rolling hills, dense forests and beautiful lakes. Many rivers flowing into Lake Peipsi, Lake Pskov, the Gulf of Riga and Lake Võrtsjärv originate in Võru County. The Piusa River flows from here with the highest gradient in Estonia (212 m). Võhandu, the longest river in Estonia (162 km), flows through Võru County. Beautiful rivers attract hundreds of kayakers and fishermen every year, and numerous lakes offer swimming and boating. The Haanja Uplands are all in Võru County. Nineteen mountains here are over 280 metres above sea level, including Suur Munamägi, at 318 metres above sea level. Haanja Nature Park aims to protect a unique lake landscape and the fast-flowing Piusa River, surrounded by sandstone outcrops and ancient valleys. Lake Rõuge Suurjärv (38 m), the deepest lake in Estonia, is located in Võru County.
Võru County, Estonia
In the southern part of Võru County is Suur Munamägi (318 m), the highest point in the Baltic States. Võru County has its own special dialect that today is spoken by about 70,000 locals. The Tamme-Lauri Oak at Urvaste in Võru County is the thickest tree in the country, 8 meters in circumference. Võru County has the deepest ancient valley in Estonia – Kütiorg, 4.7 km long and 250-600 m wide.
The observation tower on Suur Munamägi Mountain offers a magnificent view of the Estonian countryside. The tower was built in 1939. Its height is 29.1 meters. In 2005 during the repair of the tower was added elevator. From the top of the tower 347 meters you can enjoy a panorama of 50 km in radius.
Lake Rõuge Suurjärv emerged at the end of the glacial period as a result of the impact of glacial waters on the soil. It is the deepest lake in Estonia – 38 meters. Many springs flow into the lake and therefore it is prohibited to swim in it.
Võru County, Estonia
Hinni Canyon is a valley with steep slopes of 15-20 m deep and 300 m long. The Anni Stream flows through the bottom of the canyon and creates a deep channel in the limestone. On the steep slopes of the canyon you can see about 200 meters of exposed sandstone, which forms a steep wall height of 5 – 6 meters. The sandstone varies in color from white to several shades of yellow. This is the only canyon of its kind in Estonia.
The water tower with a gallery at Lasva is a peculiar structure with interesting elements: a piano staircase that makes sounds, a barrel gallery, a light shaft and an observation deck. Not far from the tower there is a family zoo.
The Bishop’s Castle in Vastseliina was built in 1342 and was one of the most impregnable border bastions on Estonian territory. As a result of the Great Northern War, the castle lost its former importance. To this day the north, south-east and north-east towers and the south wall of the pre-bridge fortification have survived. Visitors can climb the 500 year old cannon tower and its loopholes offer a breathtaking view over the Haanjaamaa hills and towards Pskov.
Võru County, Estonia
VP.BY about tourism
Do you love medieval legends, mysterious coincidences and ghost stories? And walks in the woods, campsites and tents? And endless fields, baths and freshness? If yes, then vp.by knows exactly where you will love it if you want to rest in Estonia! Võru County, located on the border with Russia to the east and Latvia to the south, with its center in Võru, is a perfect place to enjoy new impressions from the seemingly simple things. Why visit Võru County?
You can swim in the lake, climb to the top of Suur Munamägi (318m above sea level), climb the observation tower 30m above, taste authentic home-made cheeses, go to the black sauna, swim in the deepest lake in Estonia – Ryuge Suurjärv or the longest river Võhandu and see the oldest oak tree Tamme-Lauri in Urvaste parish (it’s 700 years old!)? Easily!
The travel portal of Belarus VP.BY during the trip to South Estonia organized by the South Estonia Tourism Center has visited the greenest region, listened to the stories in the Vastseilin bishop’s fortress and shares its impressions and useful information.
The mysterious fortress of Vana-Vastseliina and its uneasy fate
Vastseliina bishop’s fortress in South Estonia is an option for those who love the Middle Ages, folklore, history and legends. During our trip we visited the castle, which was considered the key to Tartu. But about everything in order.
- Read about: sights and museums in Tartu
Vastseliina bishop’s castle was built on the land of Tartu bishop in 1342 to defend the surrounding land from Russia, but history has decided otherwise. Whom the castle has not belonged for 7 centuries – the Swedes, Russians and Poles, and up to the Northern War, it retained its defensive functions. But alas, Peter I got angry at being mistreated on his way to Amsterdam and during the war ordered all the castles in South Estonia to be blown up. In 1702 the same fate befell the fortress of Vasteliina, which has remained in ruins to this day. Today here is a large-scale reconstruction, but you should definitely see the ruins and get acquainted with the medieval life, household items, and the history of the fortress, you can change into medieval clothes and taste homemade wine in the restored tavern – House Neuhausen.
We were lucky enough to have a guided tour around the castle and Neuhausen House by castle master Ivar Traagel who introduced us to the history as well as to the chilling legends and mysteries of the castle, tower, holy place and chapel.
For example, bees have been living in the tower for three centuries. No matter how hard they tried to “exorcise” them, they still came back. But the honey that bees produce in Vastseliina Castle is considered medicinal. There is a quest: you have to climb the tower to see the surrounding area and the attached territory with picturesque ruins. But if someone gets stung by a bee, it means that the person has sinned.
In the chapel, legend has it, the cross miraculously heals souls, and everyone inside begins to cry for some inexplicable reason. And if these are more or less not scary stories, there are others. For example, if a girl stands in the middle of a holy place (there was a Catholic miracle-working chapel there in the fourteenth century), she will get a headache. And if you want to be healed of illnesses, you have to embrace a birch, but here’s the problem – the birches are dying there, and over the precipice there are only a couple of pieces. And there is also a girl immured in the tower – such was the custom in the Middle Ages. And sometimes you can hear some sort of crying or moaning. At night in the house you can hear the monks talking and many other stories, which you can hear if you plan a trip to South Estonia and visit Võru County.
In addition to sightseeing and historical activities, it is also possible to book medieval dinners and banquets, celebrate weddings and birthdays in Vastseliina. Crafts classes, drawing courses and educational excursions are offered for children. In summer, there are festivals of medieval music and even a folk band Stary Olsa has visited the castle several times.
- Read more about: Southern Estonia cuisine + 8 delicious places to eat
Entrance fees: Tour of the castle ruins: 1 € for all D om Neuhausen: Adult ticket 4 €, concession ticket 3 €, family ticket 12 €. Dinner and party bookings: email@example.com
Distance from Vastseliina Fortress to Võru: 25 km. From Vastseliina to Tartu: 100 km.
GPS: N:57°43΄44˝ E:27°21΄40˝
What to see in Võru?
Top 10 sights to see in Võru:
Where else is a must-see and what to try in Võru County?
Võru County is a paradise for lovers of eco-tourism and outdoor activities. There are more than 36,000 hectares of protected areas and parks and 51 sites are part of the Natura 2000 network. The largest national nature parks are Karula and Haanja. On Haanja Hill there is another nature reserve with Devonian deposits – Kütiorg (previous ones we saw on the shore of Lake Peipsi in Kallaste ).
Another region of Võru County is excellent for holidays with children. Here you can entertain your kids in Pokmaa Theme Park, Alaveski Zoo, learn more about birds in Jaaniraotu Park, visit Piusa Cave Museum, teach your kids to be active on bike tours and much more.
As for the adults, Võru County has prepared the most pleasant thing of all – the black sauna. The black sauna is a national treasure of Estonians and it was included in the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage. Did you know that there is no smoke and smells in a properly heated steam room? The air here is very clean, light and even fresh! That’s because Estonians start heating up the steam room at lunchtime to get the right steam in the evening. In August, there is even a Black Bath Week in Haanjaamaa, when everyone interested can take a steam bath, listen to the secrets, and try smoked meat (this year it’s August 11-14, so you can plan your trip to Estonia in time).
Visit Meelis Myttusu at his farm Metsavenna on the Latvian border and try sauna in the black. Apart from the bathhouse, the owner will offer you a glass or two of moonshine and some cheese made on the farm. And be sure to try the milk here!
There are more than 20 farmsteads and farmsteads in the region of Võru County where you can try the tradition of the black sauna and enjoy a pure and soulful rest in nature.
What to take home from Võru County?
First of all, these are natural and organic products, ceramics, jewelry and accessories. And also here our Belarusian flax is very appreciated, from which the charming Piret Pilberg sews clothes and things to order. We were in her store in Võru and were surprised by the craftsmanship and original solutions. Be sure to visit and maybe you will have an Estonian dress made of Belarusian linen
Where to stay in Võru?
In Võru there are two great options for business trips, for couples and for families with children. There are also apartments for a day and a few hostels. In any case, all options here are more than decent and decent, because Estonians treat guests and property with care and attention.
The first option in Võru is the 4-star Georgi Hotell, which is also worthy of a 5* category (the hotel is applying for a 4* in the near future, but on booking.com it already has a 4* and an average score of 9.4. The same score is awarded to another hotel in Tallinn). Imagine a hotel where all the technology and electronics are controlled on a single tablet? And each guest has a special application that allows you to control the temperature, lighting and humidity in the rooms. This is the first smart hotel in Estonia.
Here you can choose one of 18 rooms for 65 euros per night (double room), learn its legends and miracle of restoration, go to the sauna, spa or beauty salon and have dinner at the restaurant POSTMARK, which is located on the 1st floor.
The second option for accommodation in Võru is Tamula Hotell, which has 29 rooms with prices starting from 65 euros for a double room. There is a sauna, a large conference room, tennis court, yacht club. The hotel also has two suites with a bath and air conditioning. All rooms have shower, toilet, telephone, TV and free wi-fi.
The hotel is located on the site of a former lifeguard station, so Lake Tamula is within easy reach. The rooms have a beautiful view of the promenade and the lake. Therefore the first shoreline is 10 meters from the room door to the edge of the lake. For children on the shore there is a landscaped playground, trainers and swings. Everyone can rent a bicycle and ride around the town. Tamula Hotell website
Search for other lodging options here.
South Estonia is a place to relax mind, body and eye. The greenery, hills, hiking trails, eco-parks, bathhouses, lakes and much more create a pleasant environment and an atmosphere of comfort, safety and tranquillity. What else does one need to be happy?
The author would like to thank the South Estonia Tourism Foundation and the Tourism Development Centre of the Enterprise Estonia Foundation for organizing an interesting and fulfilling trip!