You can start you trip directly at the shores of Peipsi lake, in Tartu County which is full of surprises and natural beauty, from romantic fishermen villages, over Emajõe Suursoo (trans. Big Swamp) until the center of South-Estonia – Tartu. You’ll find something interesting all the year round.
The centre of the historical Old-Livonia is filled with fantastic manor experience, amongst Tartu County’s manor’s you’ll find some of Estonia’s and Baltic’s finest masterpieces and the wonderful natural surrounding only adds to the value.
On the other hand you can visit interesting museums, enjoy picturesque natural scenes, cities and lakes.
If you like hiking, go to Lake Pangodi on the Valides Vapramäe – Vellavere – Vitipalu route, you’ll find various hiking trails and resting places there.
Visit Elva, a small lovely city full of green not far from Tartu and known as a popular holiday destination. Hellenurme water mill close by is an over century old erected by the von Middendorffs, where you can observe old traditions of corn production.
Tõravere has the Tartu Observatory, located 21km south of Tartu and it offers lots of interesting experience to both young and old interested in astronomy.
Vooremaa landscape reserve is naturally diverse this both in flora and fauna, lots of lakes and landscape forms, many interesting hiking trails. Kallaste cliff-bank which is the longest Devonian sandstone outcrop, is an amazing sight. Make sure to visit the Aruküla and its caves.
As for manors, a must is Alatskivi. The Alatskivi castle dates from the 2nd half of the 19th century and was built by Arved von Nolcken in style of Scottish baron-manors, which was in fashion back then. As the manor is preserved in its original form, it’s considered to be the best example of neo-gothic architecture in the Baltics.
Luke, Kukulinna, Uderna, Ülenurme (location of Tartu airport), Mehikoorma, Saadjärve, Kodijärve and many other manors are interesting discoveries. From medieval times you can visit the ruins of the Kärkna monastery and Rõngu vassal-fortress. You’ll find the lighthouse of Mehikoorma your way back to Lake Peipsi. It’s a construction from the 1930-s and the tallest at the lake Peipsi measuring 15m.
Regarding churches in Tartu County, visit the St. Laurentsius church in Nõo (1159), Varnja old-believers’ church, Kambja church (from 1330the largest countryside church in South-Estonia), the monumental Alatskivi church by the von Stackelbergs from the 17th century or the Elva church.
Don’t forget Piirissaare (trans. the Border Island) – the only island of Tartu County and of the Estonian part of lake Peipsi – its special atmosphere and their old-believers church.
Having reached Tartu, take a day or better several days to discover this wonderful city, known as an old university city and famous for its classical-style old city center, many monuments, university etc. You can see the impressive cathedral ruins on Toomemägi hill, the St. Johns church (Jaani kirik) with the unique terracotta sculptures making it one of the finest examples of its kind, the botanical garden, Estonian National Museum, Emajõgi River, observatory and so on and so on. You will be amazed!