Southern Estonia

Southern Estonia is rich in its magnificent landscapes and characteristic culture heritage. It has the highest hill and the longest river with the deepest lake in Estonia.

There are the biggest inland water bodies - Lake Peipsi and Võrtsjärv, lake-dotted landscapes of the Karula National Park and Haanja landscape reserve and huge wetland areas like Soomaa National Park. Many nature preservation areas in Southern Estonia protect local terrains, bogs, swamps, caves, rivers, primeval valleys, bats and ants.

The landscape of Southern Estonia was shaped by the Ice Age, which deepened the valleys in the region. The most beautiful is considered to be the Rõuge primeval valley. The largest valley is Ööbikuorg (Nightingale Valley), which was named after nightingales’ singing on spring nights and the most unique Hinni Canyon with a reddish Devonian sandstone denudation of about 400 million years.

The most famous of the denudations is Suur-Taevaskoda (“Heaven’s Chamber), with its good acoustics. It rises as a 20-meter-high palisade straight from the river. The caves and 150-year-old primeval forest have been the source of the several legends.

Cultural particularities of the region are Russian Old Believers communities on Peipsi lake and Seto culture on the south-eastern border. 


Otepää is the winter capital of Estonia and the best-known centre of winter sports in the Baltic States. 

Nestled in the hills of Southern Estonia, the suitable climatic conditions and necessary infrastructure enables you to enjoy here the winter pleasures, especially cross-country skiing, from December to April.  

On dark winter months the Estonian Olympic teams train on the Otepää ski- and toboggan illuminated runs. World Cup ski events and scores of the winter sports competition take place in Otepää and its skiing trails are graded according to their level of difficulty offering more than 50km of sky trails.

Description of Otepää countryside inspired famous French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to battle with the Soviet authorities to get the permission to visit Otepää and after some resistance succeeded. In addition, Alexander Solzhenitsyn recovered in Otepää from his Siberian imprisonment in Siberia and wrote the Gulag Archipelago in Otepää.

Nearby Pühajärv (Holy Lake) located on the hill is deemed to be the most beautiful body of water with its islands covered with forests and shoreline romantically jagged. Open-air concerts and festivals take place here.