Põlva County is historically and naturally one of the most diverse regions in Estonia – ancient riverbeds and old forests, lakes and marshes. Põlva County, a border region for ages, is home to many of Estonian folk myths, legends and folktales. The setos (Seto people) living in Põlva County have luckily been able to preserve parts of their unique way of living, their language and habits.
Põlva County’s manors and castles have a long and interesting history.
Starting from the old valley of Ahja river, visit the valley’s nature protection reserve between Koorvere and Valgesoo mill.
Taevaskoja (trans. the ‘Chamber of Heaven’) is a well-known and legendary site all over Estonia with its amazing sand cliffs which are up to 400 million years old.
Another great site to visit is Ilumetsa (trans. the ‘Forest of Beauty’), with various meteorite craters with interesting historical names such as Kuradihaud (trans. Devil’s Grave), Põrguhaud – the biggest of all (trans. Hell’s Grave) and Sügavhaud (trans. Deep Grave). Compared to the most famous crater in Estonia, Kaali – situated on the island of Saaremaa –the craters of Ilumetsa are indeed smaller, but they are much older and are preserved in a better and original form. There are many local legends about Ilumetsa, for instance one shouldn’t say the word devil in Ilumetsa, which would led the one direct to the old devil himself… Many are supposed to have gone missing there.
There are a lot of beautiful lakes in Põlva County, like Kiidjärv, Jõksi, Palo, Pikajärve and also Nohipalu Valgejärv (white lake) and Mustjärv (black lake) with many hiking trails around the lakes. At Kiidjärve Lake visit the Otteni mill, where some of the scenes of the legendary movie “Viimne Reliikvia” (The Last Relict) were shot, on the Ahja River you can enjoy a canoe trip or visit the 200 years old manor park. You can have a good rest at the Jõksi Lake. Palojärv, which is very popular among both locals and visitors, is the Palojärv with sandy ground and clear water. At the valley of the Laanemägi (over 200m) you’ll find the Pikajärve Lake rich in fish. You should also visit the main building of the Pikajärve manor, nowadays more known as the Cantervilla castle. Valgejärv and Mustjärv are located next to each other, so you’ll find the clearest and darkest lake waters in Estonia there.
Piusa caves in Orava parish are a great sight on its own and well known as the biggest wintertime resort of bats in the Baltics.
Suur-Taevaskoja (trans. the Great Heaven’s Hall) with its natural sound hall and Emaläte (trans. Mother’s Headspring) is one of the most beautiful natural site and also known from the scenes of the “Viimne Reliikvia” movie.
Põlva County’s most notable towns are Põlva with its church and Intsikurmu open-air stage, Räpina – with Sillapää castle and famous, historical paper manufacture and Värska in Setomaa with it s popular spa.
The villages Põlva County have preserved their unique, old atmosphere and because of the closeness of the border water (the lakes Peipsi and Lämmijärv share the border with Russia) the whole region is diverse in its history and nature.
Make sure to visit Kanepi (Jaani church from 1877), Mikitamäe, where you must try the local onion, dried fish and the Seto cheese – sõir, Tonja, where you’ll experience a true feeling of Setos everyday life and the historical Võõpsu with its tsässona – the traditional sanctum of the Seto village community. In case of important events there are traditional hourly services (tsässovna) held there. Close by there’s the traditional village of Russian old believers – Beresje.