Introducing Viljandi & Around
One of Estonia’s most charming towns, Viljandi, 90km east of Pärnu, is a relaxed place to stop for a day or more or to use as a base for exploring the country’s largest floodplain and bog area (no laughing!). The town itself, settled since the 12th century, has a gentle 19th-century flow to it. The tourist information office (433 0442; Vabaduse väljak 6; 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat & Sun) can help with accommodation and tours and has a computer terminal for free internet access.
A highlight is visiting Lossimäed (Castle Park), which sprawls out from behind the tourist information office. A picturesque green area with spectacular views over Lake Viljandi, here are the ruins of a 13th- to 15th-century castle founded by the German Knights of the Sword, open for all to muck about in. The excellent Kondase Keskus (433 3968; Pikk tänav 8; adult/student 15/5EEK; 10am-7pm Wed-Sun) is the country’s only art gallery devoted to art naïf.
Some 40km west of Viljandi is the Soomaa National Park (445 7164; www.soomaa.com), a rich land of bogs, marsh, crisscrossing rivers and iron-rich black pools of water, perfect for a quick summer dip. Much more interesting than what the word ‘bog’ implies, this 37,000-hectare park is full of quirky opportunities: from a walk through the unique landscape of swampland, to a single-trunk canoe trip down one of the rivers, or an unforgettable sauna atop a floating raft. Their summertime night canoe expeditions offer a mildly spooky way of exploring swampland.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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