Attractions Nearby Tartu, Day Trips and Excursions
(Tartu, Tartumaa, Estonia)
Traditional Estonian attractions may be plentiful within Tartu, but there is much to see outside of the city's boundaries, with many appealing towns just a short drive away. Also well-connected by public transport from Tartu, the main attractions within Elva are based around its lakes, while nearby Otepaa is a thriving winter resort and best visited after a snowfall.
The island of Piirisaar lies within Lake Peipsi and extremely close to the Russian border, some 50 km / 31 miles east of Tartu. Other popular day trips include the town of Voru and its lakeside attractions, while a little further and more suitable for weekend breaks or longer excursions are the spreading cities of Narva
, and also the sandy beaches resort of Parnu.
One of the most appealing cities in the whole of Europe and a one not to miss, the attractions of Tallinn are roughly 190 km / 118 miles to the north-west, meaning that this really is a little too far for a day trip. However, Tallinn is perfect to a short break and is very much a mix of old and new, with winding cobblestone alleyways and 14th-century churches, along with lively restaurants and buzzing nightspots, together with some remains of its Soviet days. Old Town Tallinn is where many of the oldest and most significant attractions are located and is now a World Heritage Site, a spot full of medieval character.
The small and charming town of Elva is located around 26 km / 16 miles to the south-west of Tartu and makes for a popular day trip. Featuring a hilly and rather densely wooded landscaped, Elva is to be found between two large and scenic lakes, named the Arbi and the Vitipalu. Many attractions are based around Elva's lakes and include a nature reserve and walking trails. Also worth looking out for are the folklore exhibits at the Tartumaa Museum, the restaurants along the central Kesk Street, and the south-westerly Elva Vitipalu Reserve.
Otepaa is situated just 42 km / 26 miles to the south-west of Tartu and is amongst the very best winter resorts in southern Estonia. During the country's snowy winter months, Otepaa soon begins to fill up and features downhill slopes suitable for both skiing and snowboarding, along with cross-country skiing trails and also an exciting ski jump. There are plenty of stores providing rental equipment for those wishing to join in the recreational activities and attractions, and those looking for a real adrenaline fix will find a bobsled run measuring more than 1,000 metres / 3,280 feet in length.
Close to Tartu, Piirisaar was once home to many young men, who lived here to dodge conscription into Russian armies in the early part of the 20th century. Today, the island is home to around 100 residents, spread around three individual villages. Each Thursday, the Polaris hydrofoil connects Tartu with the attractions of Piirisaar, departing from the river port and cruising along the River Emajogi. Look out for the border guard station, which features a tall observation tower with excellent views from the top.
The town of Voru can be reached in just over one hour and lies approximately 70 km / 43 miles to the south of Tartu, on the easterly coast of Lake Tamula. Voru was officially founded in 1784 and offers an especially rural feeling, boasting a series of green parklands, pretty churches and many buildings from the 19th-century. However, it is the sandy coastline of Voru that is its main attraction and this lakeside stretch is always busy during the summer months. Other attractions in Voru include the 18th-century Lutheran Church, the Russian Orthodox Jekateriina Church, the Vorumaa Regional Museum and even winter snow safaris.