The small hilltop town of Otepää, 44km south of Tartu, is the centre of a picturesque area of forests, lakes and rivers. The district is beloved by Estonians for its natural beauty and its many possibilities for hiking, biking and swimming in summer, and cross-country skiing in winter.
In the far southeast of Estonia lies the politically unrecognised area of Setomaa, stretching over the border into Russia. Culturally it's quite distinct from the rest of Estonia, making it an interesting place for a short stop. Värska, the biggest town in Estonian Setomaa (population 1170), has been inhabited for 5000 years.
If you thought that Narva’s central-city border crossing was odd, wait until you see Valga. This town was the only place that was seriously contended between Estonia and Latvia after WWI. A British mediator had to be called in to settle the dispute and suggested the current border, splitting the town in two.
This sleepy little town, 35km north of Tartu, is a major drawcard for Estonian tourists due to its role as the setting for Oskar Luts' coming-of-age novel Kevade (Spring) and, even more so, as the location for the 1969 movie adaptation of the same. Trotted out every year for a television re-run at Christmas, it's unquestionably the nation's favourite family flick.
Karula National Park
Fairies, ghosts and witches abound in the 123 sq km of wooded hills, small lakes and ancient stone burial mounds that form Karula National Park, at least according to local folklore. At its centre is Ähijärv, a beautiful lake ringed with trees and reeds which has been considered holy since pagan times.