geographic region
Europe > Baltic states > Estonia > South Estonia

The South of Estonia is a diverse region with unique cultures, ski resorts and Tartu (an interesting student town).


Map of South Estonia
  • 1 Tartu – a museum-rich Hanseatic city on the banks of the Emajõgi River. Also, Estonia's second-largest and oldest city, intellectual hub famous for its universities, and a lively student city.
  • 2 Kallaste – a beach town hear Alatskivi Castle and the Zwiebelberg
  • 3 Otepää – a small town set in the hills of south Estonia and best known winter sports centre in the Baltics, and the Winter Capital of Estonia. Surrounded by lakes, hills and ski jump towers
  • 4 Põltsamaa – the centre of Estonian winery and wine production
  • 5 Setomaa – a region south of Lake Peipus inhabited by the ethnic Seto minority in the border region of Estonia and Russia, including the settlements of the Värska, Obinitsa, and Meremäe. The museum in Võru has comprehensive information on the topic
  • 6 Valga – a town on the border with Latvia, where it literally grows into the Latvian town of Valka
  • 7 Viljandi – a beautiful, ancient and hilly city, known for its annual Viljandi Folk Music Festival, beautiful old town and overwhelming and picturesque park around the old castle
  • 8 Võru – a picturesque town not far from the highest hill in the Baltic states, Suur Munamägi. The birthplace of the writer Kreutzwald and the dialect of the Estonian language
  • 9 Elva   – a small town, located on the river Emajõgi and lakes Verevi and Arbi with several sights
  • 10 Tõrva   – the second largest city of Valga County after Valga. Popular for its caves, the ruins of a medieval castle, several interesting manors, and the fully authentic mausoleum of Barclay de Tolly
  • 11 Piirissaar   – a small island with 3 villages and under 100 inhabitants. Settled in 17th century by a group of Orthodox Old Believers seeking to escape the religious reforms. Nowadays various old architecture can be seen, esp. in the Saare village.

Other destinations

Morning mist reveals a boardwalk in Meenikunno Nature Reserve
  • 1 Karula National Park – the hilly landscapes of Southern Estonia. Estonian’s smallest national park between Valga and Võru
  • 2 Soomaa National Park – the second largest national park in Estonia, famous for its "fifth season". A peat bog formed from a glacier melt from around 11,000 years ago
  • 3 Meenikunno Nature Reserve (Meenikunno matkarada), +372 6767122, . A 5-km hike and wooden trail with an observation platform in the middle of the swamps.    
  • 4 Suur Munamägi, Haanja village (15 km south of Võru). The highest location in the Baltic countries, about 15 km south of Võru. At 318 m, it will hardly impress visitors from Nepal or even Norway, but you will still get a good overview of the landscape from the 29-m-high observation tower. Entrance to the observation tower: Stairs €4, lift €6.    


Main building of the University of Tartu

Geographically, South Estonia covers seven counties: Tartumaa, Jõgevamaa, Põlvamaa, Valgamaa, Võrumaa and Viljandimaa.

The region has the second largest city in Estonia, the university town Tartu. The region is full of hills, contrary to the rest of the country. Here you can also find the highest mountain of Estonia, Suur-Munamägi.

Get in


The easiest way is a bus into Tartu or Viljandi, and then onwards from there.

It is also possible to take a train from Tallinn to almost any city in Southern Estonia, but not Otepää.

Riga has 2 daily trains to Valga, 1 of which connects to train to Tartu.

Tartu Airport (TAY IATA) has just 1 daily flight from Helsinki

Get around


Bus and train schedules are easily available online – read more under Estonia#Get around.

By bus


Most villages, towns and cities are connected by regular bus services. Smaller places are often only served in the morning or noon, and late afternoon (17:00-18:00). Cities generally have buses up to 21:00. Make sure, you do not miss the last bus.

By train


There are also trains connecting towns along the ValgaTartu and ValgaVõru route.

Sangaste Castle

Paju Manor, 7 km north of Valga, was the site of one of the most important battles of the War of Independence in 1919. Also near Valga is Hummuli Manor, a two-storey manor house, built around 1860 in the neo-Gothic style., and Sangaste Castle, built in the 19th century, inspired by Windsor and Baltimore Castle in England.

The ruins of the unique Põltsamaa Castle, which was destroyed in 1941, have not yet been fully conserved.

Alatskivi Castle near Kallaste, is a 17th-century Neo-Gothic castle that was rebuilt in the late 19th century. Zwiebelberg, also near Kallaste, is a hill where people grow and sell onions. Enjoy the weird scenery, and maybe buy some for a healthy meal.

  • 1 Suur Taevaskoda (Taevaskoja) (near Taevaska village, a few kilometers north of Põlva). Outcrops of sandstone in the forest along the Ahja River. The rocks reach 20 m in height. The shore is cut by various caves and very idyllic. A little upstream, there is a reservoir, ending with a nice rural gas station from the early 50s. If you go downstream, you will find an old stone bridge.
  • Visit the Vastseliina Episcopal Castle Ruins from Võru.
  • 2 Helme caves (Helme koopad), Helme (inside of the Helme castle park). A man made tunnel in sandstone. A little spooky. Bring a flashlight. Look out for Friedrich Schiller. Some say, it is only worth a visit if you are close anyhow.
The shores of Lake Peipus, the fifth-largest lake in Europe, near the town of Kallaste



Go next

  • East Estonia – Beautiful north coast of Lake Peipsi, and gateway to Russia through the border city Narva. More people speak Russian than Eesti here.
  • North Estonia – Coastal region with the picturesque Baltic Sea, and the commercial centre of Estonia, Tallinn.
  • West Estonia and Islands – Islands, Baltic Sea, beaches, and wild life habitat for birds moving towards the south in fall.
  • Latvia – Similar to Estonia, but less commercialised, with its beautiful capital Riga, the Baltic sea resorts Jūrmala and Ventspils. As well as the Vidzeme region next to South Estonia with the picturesque Sigulda (Latvian Switzerland) and Cēsis, and Valmiera with the only professional theatre in this region of Latvia, castle ruins, a medieval church, a famous brewery and the start of the Gauja National Park.
  • Pskov – old Russian city with the architectural and cultural legacy of the medieval Pskov Republic, 160 km from Tartu and 50 km from the border.

This region travel guide to South Estonia is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.