Thursday, 21.09.2017

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Valga county


Valga County is Estonia’s gate to the south bordering with Põlva, Tartu, Võru and Viljandi counties and in South-West to Latvia. Ancient summits of Old-Livonia took place in Valga centuries ago – when Latvia and Estonia got independent, the importance of the city lead to the event that colonel Tallents from Great Britain arbitrarily divided the city into two halves between Estonia and Latvia. It’s like this until nowadays with Valga’s Latvian ‘sister-city’ being Valka.


You’ll find numerous natural and historic sites. For instance the so-called Love Wellspring (Armuallikas) or the Blood’s Headspring (Veriläte), the most well-known of Pühajärve’s (transl. Holy Lake) springs, with special water said to have healing powers and to cure the ill. The Helme undercroft on the narrow edge of the Helme Order’s castle was supposedly dug already before the ancient Freedom War of the 13th century.


Karula national park, which Valga County shares with Võru count, offers various opportunities for wandering, hiking and resting. The hillocked landscape covers the whole reserve, it has a quite specific type of forest, a lot of meadows, swamps and lakes. You’ll enjoy the great view on Otepää and Haanja regions form the Tornimäe viewing tower.


Don’t miss Otepää, which old residents still often by its old historical name – Nuustaku. Otepää is not only famous as the Estonian winter and skiing capital, but is a really historical site of the old, mighty Bishop’s Fortress. Today you can admire impressive ruins, which once used to be the first stone fortress in Estonia. The Estonian national flag was inaugurated in Otepää’s Maarja church. You may also visit the memorial statue of the dead of the Estonian Freedom War and the energy column next Apteekrimägi (transl. Pharmacist’s Hill), symbolizing the existence of energy fields in Otepää.


Pühajärv (trans. the Holy Lake) is a very popular holiday destination and undoubtedly one f the most beautiful lakes in Estonia with 5 islands and waters rich in fish. There are a lot of local legends about the lake as well.


Further, the town Tõrva is located at the river Õhne. The tavern building is considered to be the finest building of the city and its true symbol. At the western end of the city in Tikste valley, visit the Helme church-manor, the Õhne river valley and flood plain, different sand outcrops, springs and high fir forests.


There are a lot of manors and castles in Valga County, e.g. the Hellenurme manor with its baroque main building. You’ll find several well-preserved side buildings as well. The family cemetery and chapel of the famous aristocrat family of von Middendorffs is located around 1km away from the manor. Hellenurme impounded lake and the cobble stone water mill at its shore is a nice place to go to as well.


The ruins of the Helme Order’s castle date back to 14th century and are pretty impressive, down in the valley you’ll find the ‘victim’s spring’ (ohvriallikas) which is told to have healing  powers against 7 diseases.


Don’t miss out on visiting the magnificent Sangaste and Taagepera castles. Sangaste is a grand manor of red brick stone and dating back from 1881, it’s one of the best examples of historicism in the Baltics. See the ponds and the manor park with rare species. Taagepera castle and park were erected in the beginning of the 20th century, so the castle has a slightly archaic appearance. The castle park is one of the richest in species in Estonia and if you are already there, you must visit the Taagepera castle hotel.