Vastseliina Episcopal Castle

Top choice in Southern Estonia

Strikingly set on a bluff above the Piusa River in western Setomaa, the photogenic ruins of one of Estonia's greatest medieval strongholds and places of pilgrimage are well worth seeking out. Basic entry allows you to explore the grounds and the walls and three towers that still stand, but a little extra opens access to the medieval theme park and pilgrim house, for activities, re-creations of medieval life and labour, and insights into the pains and pleasures of pilgrimage.

Founded in 1342 by the German Livonian knights on what was the border with Russia, Vastseliina (or Neuhausen, as it was then known) was once the strongest castle in Old Livonia. It prospered from its position on the Pihkva–Rīga trade route and as an important pilgrimage site due to the presence of a miraculous white cross that conveniently materialised in the chapel. The castle was finally destroyed after falling to the Russians in 1700, early in the Great Northern War.

Just outside the castle walls you can visit a small chapel and an old stone building housing a handicrafts store and tavern, open 10am to 6pm June to Augus and serving 'medieval-inspired' cuisine in a suitably rough-hewn wooden setting.

Vastseliina is also the starting point for a 15km hiking trail, which heads across country to the village of Lindora.

Buses head to Vana-Vastseliina from Võru (€2, one hour, four daily) and Obinitsa (€1, 20 minutes, three daily).

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