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Klaudia Tiitsmaa’s family TOP places in South Estonia

We say that Estonia is small, and it is; yet, somehow, we keep finding new towns, villages, and places of natural beauty that we have not yet discovered. Isn’t it fascinating – a tiny country that contains so much?

As a family, we set our sights on South Estonia. To cover the whole of South Estonia would have taken us much more than just two days. However, we did get somewhere!

Since we are a family with two small children, we wanted our children to have a fond memory of being together with the family and exploring the country.

A day full of family fun

Our first visit was to Vudila. It’s a cool place that can truly be described as a ‘playground’ – once you step out of the ticket office, a land of opportunity stands before you!

Want to jump on the trampoline? Do you love heights and climbing? Do you like animals? Do you want to go horseback riding? Or maybe you’d rather pretend to be an aquatic animal – pools for kids, slides for the bigger members of the family and those with adventurous souls! A leisurely ride on a water bike or boat on a quiet lake, ice cream, barbecue… A classic from the 2000’s – retro burger and fries! Different race tracks, game consoles for gamers of different ages and interests. I’m afraid that I’m not even halfway through my list!

In addition to all of that – if you visit Vudila, it’s a good idea to rent a little hut there for the night, so you can start climbing, jumping, sunbathing and swimming again when the rooster crows at dawn.

It’s been two weeks since our trip, but the kids are still talking about wanting to go back to Vudila!

Vudila Playland. © Klaudia Tiitsmaa


A colourful life on the border between two worlds

How can one village take the form of a long and winding snake along the shore of Lake Peipus! Each household along the Onion Route is a landmark in its own right.

We ourselves own a country house in Altja, and Finnish, French, and Chinese tourists are constantly walking past our yard…. and watching us mow the lawn. Now we were the tourists!

So exciting! Different houses and courtyards. Some of the houses have paintings on them, others are painted all over. Some are simpler, others are more luxurious. Many households sell smoked fish, onions, boiled sugar for tea or just for crunching (instead of candy) by the roadside.

The Onion Route has its own museums and exhibitions, even summer cafés from time to time. You can rent a boat, with many also offering boat rides on Lake Peipus. If you take the time to make a few calls here and there, you can enjoy a really cool day in this tiny village! Many houses have a phone number on the door – as they provide boat rides, etc.

Next, we drove to the yard of the lovely family living at Kruusa Farm, where there were animals and birds and the owners told stories about their animals. Some of the animals they had planned to take home, such as the peafowls, but many of the animals had found their way to Kruusa with the help of benevolent guides.

The stories usually had a very sad beginning. So I listen and I listen, I look at this little animal and I wonder how the world has behaved in this way with you, my dear friend. But the story always ended with the hostess smiling generously, looking at her furry friend, patting its nose and saying: ‘…but then you were brought to us and now you are healthy and strong. A happy animal!’ And the animal was indeed happy! All of them! Sheep and goats, big animals, they were all so excited at the sight of guests, that they only wanted to be petted and cuddled.

Kruusa Farm. © Klaudia Tiitsmaa


As a mother, the story of a female highland cow who escaped on her way to the slaughterhouse really stuck with me. She ran away because she was pregnant. She survived the winter in the forest and then gave birth there in the spring. A little while later their path led them from there to Kruusa Farm, where they have since recovered nicely.

My eldest son was still a bit afraid when the sheep got too close or the dog started licking him, but then I told him: ‘Do you know… I’ve noticed… that when animals are running around the farmyard, they’re actually happy and joyful animals who have received a lot of love and attention and therefore want to share it.’

This feeling of love and emulation was offered to us by these animals and also by our hosts. It was a very lovely visit!

With warm hearts, we moved on to the Juhan Liiv Museum and its family farm atmosphere. The road took me there for the first time in my life many years ago, when Urmas Vadi invited me there together with Jaan Pehk, Aarne Soro, and Raivo E. Tamm to perform in the production of Kus sa oled, Juhan Liiv?

The Alatskivi area has become quite familiar to me during my time there, and somehow even feels a little bit like home. The restaurant and service at Alatskivi Castle is of an extremely high standard. In front of the castle there is a small area with a flea market – oh, how much there is to discover! There are really cool gadgets, furniture, books and vases, cups, jewellery, even clothes. If you’re interested in vintage stuff, this is not your ordinary flea market, but a well-stocked treasure trove of old riches.

This time the visit was a small tour of the Liiv Museum, where a number of updates have taken place compared to 5 years ago. In addition to everything else, Juhan Liiv had finally gotten his own castle! From sand to a great castle!

Luxury amidst birdsongs

I must admit that I don’t like sleeping outside. Every time I’ve pitched a tent somewhere for the night, by morning the tent is damp and there’s no air. In the corner of the tent there’s an earwig making noise, and what I really can’t stand – everything is on the ground. I’m sleeping on the ground and my bag is on the ground, my clothes are on the ground, my shoes and food are on the ground.

However, Torma Glamping offers LUXURY! It was a fantastic experience.

The place where the glamping site are located is so visually stunning, that wherever I looked, I felt my eyes coming to a rest there. The garden was varied, but at the same time lovingly and thoughtfully designed. In addition to being naturally beautiful.

‘But who said that exotic fish couldn’t swim in a pond in Estonia?’, the host asked through a light-hearted chuckle, as he showed us his pond, full of red and white fish whose name somehow escaped me. In addition to the exotic fish, there were also some familiar fish swimming in the pond. And they all went about their fishy business there in very visible harmony. There were also ducks and geese swimming on the pond! The farmer said that at first the geese didn’t swim, but when they saw that the ducks were swimming so enthusiastically they decided to follow their example. We could already see how they were all swimming together in unison, and when we threw the food, the fish, ducks and even the geese all came together at once!

Torma Glämping. © Klaudia Tiitsmaa


In addition to the natural beauty, Torma Glamping also offers a real gourmet experience – simple dishes, but so delicious that you can’t help but praise them.

At night we slept in beds, with only rugs on the ground. We were surrounded by an armchair and table, nightstand, table lamp, and most importantly fresh air and birdsongs… after all, we really were outdoors!

The beauty and charm of a pine-scented small town

Where to go when you want to enjoy the romance of a small town, swim in enchanting lakes, eat good food, move around, and feel like you’re not so busy all the time? To Elva!

Elva has a number of hiking trails – some for those who want to do a bit of walking, but there are also some that are designed for longer exploring and strolling about. After all, the surrounding nature is wonderful and there are also places where you can race up and down for a bit.

As for the food, I was in for a surprise, as Pub ÜksTeist served such delicious food for the kids that I would have happily ordered the same for myself. Unfortunately, we were full, but we still snacked on the children’s portions of fries and pasta. My spouse also noticed that there was a very cool server at the bar, who was able to communicate effortlessly with both adult customers and younger customers.

Elva. © Klaudia Tiitsmaa


Carrot resto is located at the Elva railway station. A super-cool interior and just the kind of place where you’d want to sit down and linger with your sweetheart or girlfriend…have a cup of tea, a bite to eat, and then order more pastries every now and then.

The beaches, along with the beautiful lakes, also have many different faces. If you find yourself walking around Elva this summer, I don’t believe that you will regret it.

Our family’s trip to South-Estonia was even cooler and more memorable than words can describe. It’s fortunate when you are finally able to set aside a few days for your family to really have fun, discover South Estonia, and spend quality time with each other. Find the time for those most precious to you and visit South Estonia with your family!

– Klaudia Tiitsmaa, actress and fan of South Estonia