Southern Estonia

According to legend, 3.5km-long, 8.5m-deep Pühajärv (Holy Lake) was formed from the tears of the mothers who lost their sons in a battle of the Kalevipoeg epic. Its five islands are said to be their burial mounds. Pagan associations linger, with major midsummer festivities held here every year. The popular sandy beach on the northeastern shore has water slides, a swimming pontoon, a cafe and lifeguards in summer.

The lake was blessed by the Dalai Lama when he came to Tartu in 1991; a wheel-shaped monument near the beach commemorates his visit.

A 13km trail encircles the lake, but much of it follows the road, so it's not the most interesting walk. Much more worthwhile is the 3.5km Murrumetsa walking trail, which starts near the Pühajärve Spa Hotel and loops counterclockwise along the lakeshore, through a marshy meadow and then into a blissful stand of birch, alder and spruce forest.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

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1. Beach

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The popular sandy beach on the northeastern shore of Pühajärv has waterslides, a swimming pontoon, a cafe and lifeguards in summer.

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