Welcome to Lake Peipsi
On the northeastern corner of the lake is Vasknarva, an isolated fishing village with about 100 residents and an evocative Orthodox monastery that, according to some, once held a KGB radio surveillance centre. The Narva River starts here, draining the lake and forming the border with Russia as it rushes to the Baltic. Also in Vasknarva, the scant ruins of a 1349 Teutonic Order castle stand by the shore.
The village of Alajõe has the area’s main Orthodox church. Kauksi, where the main road from the north reaches the lake, has the most beautiful and popular beach.
With a population of 1320, Mustvee is the largest lakeside town, with a little harbour and a sandy beach. A little further south along the lake a forlorn WWII memorial, The Grieving Girl (1973), stands by the shore with her head bowed. It commemorates the 264 Red Army soldiers buried here in a mass grave. There's also a pretty Old Believers church nearby, dating from 1927.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Russian Old Believers (Starovyery) – a breakaway Orthodox sect who were persecuted for refusing to accept liturgical reforms carried out in 1666 – took refuge on the western shores of the lake. This intriguing community survives in several coastal villages which they founded, the largest of which is Kallaste.
A settlement of Old Believers has existed in Kallaste since 1720, when the area was known as Krasniye Gori (Red Mountains) because of the red sandstone cliffs, up to 11m high, that surround the town. Most of its 819 inhabitants are Russian-speaking. It's worth stopping to visit the Old Believers’ cemetery at the southern end of town, and the sandy beach with small caves.
Kolkja is a village of Russian Old Believers with a dainty, green wooden church and a tiny Old Believers’ Museum in what seems like a private house. Other places settled by the Old Believers include Kasepää, Varnja and the island of Piirissaar.