I think I’m extremely pleased to inform all the non-Estonians that just a week days ago a brand new long distance hiking trail was opened. It’s a massive (for Estonia) 627km long and takes you from Aegviidu in Northern Estonia to the southernmost point of the country and then some more to end at Ähijärve in the Karula National Park. Unfortunately there is no internet information about it in English so I have taken the liberty to translate the Estonian text. I hope that some official prints will be available soon.
For me personally this news means that I would have a very simple planning task for some summer if you get my meaning. It would make sense to combine the most interesting part of the first trail from Oandu to Aegviidu and from there continue towards Ähijärve. I personally would add even more distance so I could start from the sea.
Most of the text is translated directly from the text given in RMK homepage. I’ve added some remarks in bold and translations in captions. Placenames tend have a lot of hills and rivers and so on in them therefore I’ll add a little dictionary in the beginning.
mägi, mäe – hill (technically we don’t have mountains in Estonia, although we like to think like that)
jõgi, jõe – river
järv, järve – lake
soo – swamp, mire
saar, saare – island
RMK – National Forest Management Center – maintain, creates the trails, campsites, huts.
The maps don’t go exactly with the stages and aren’t probably suitable for printing, but you can download all the files in *.pdf format in here to get better maps.
translation from RMK homepage
The idea for a hiking path was born in 2000 and the idea was to join the existing trails and resting areas under one name, preparing a guide and also creating additional camping areas. As the first part of the trail a 70 km long section from Oandu to Aegviidu was created and is known as Kõrve Trail.
In 2012 the first trail going through Estonia the RMK hiking trail was officially opened. The 375km long trail begins in Lahemaa National Park in Northern-Estonia, ventures through tense forests of Kõrvemaa and across one of the mightiest swamp areas in Europe – Soomaa (Swampland) National Park. After that the trail goes through the forests of Pärnumaa and reaches the coastal villages and beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Riga. The hiking trail covers 6 counties, 2 national parks and 9 protected areas and ends at the Estonian-Latvian border. Trail is marked with distance markings, white-red-white markings and guideposts to aid navigation. Information boards tell about forest management and heritage, culture and recreation. (The northern section is by far the most interesting and beautiful part to walk, mainly because the southern part is just plain boring endless gravel roads. Still plenty of people seem to like it. Personally I would choose my bike for this trail. The current standing speed record for the whole 375 km is under 24h) In 2013 another branch was added to the existing Oandu-Ikla trail that goes from Ageviidu to Ähijärve. As is the first trail, this too combines the existing trails and rest areas into one Trail.
The trail between Aegviidu and Ähijärve goes through 8 counties, a number of protected areas and exhibits plenty of the amazing landscapes of Estonia on it’s 627 km course: beautiful grain fields in Järvamaa; impressing wetlands in Endla and Emajõe Suursoo; tall pine forests in Põlvamaa. The trail also passes well-known sandstone formations by the Ahja river known as the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda; Härma and Make wall by the Piusa river. Lots of “the greatest/biggest/tallest” places are also visited – Piusa caves, where sand to make bottles was excavated, deepest lake in Rõuge, tallest hill Suur Munamägi; Vällamägi – biggest ascent on a hill; Piusa river – biggest drop on a river; Härma wall – the highest sandstone outcrop; Naha village – southernmost point of Estonia and Karula National Park – the smallest in Estonia.
Take a look at the teaser
I section Aegviidu – Koeru (length 96 km)
Aegviidu is a great place to start or end the hike. One can arrive with car, bus or train and resupply in grocery shops.
Starting from the Aegviidu naturecenter the trail gollows the Oandu-Ikla trail for the first 30km. While ascending to Matsimäe esker the two trail part by the Rabav hikers cottage, where the Lõunarada (SouthTrail) heads south. After crossing the Seli swamp the trail reaches Simisalu and from there onwards to Vargamäe and reaches Järva-Madise after crossing the Kodru bog. From that point the forest trail ends for a while to follow the roads, mostly bordered by fields and ,meadows, across Järvamaa. Populated places like Järva-Madise, Aravete, Järva-Jaani and Koeru are good places to resupply, enjoy civilization or to start or end the hike. RMK camping places on this section include Nikerjärve camp site, Mägede, Kalajärve, Noku, Napu Matsimäe quarry, Simisalu, Kurisoo, Rava and Tamme campfire sites.
II section Koeru – Elistvere (length 87 km)
Koeru is suitable for starting or finishing the hike. It’s possible to resupply or go take a lok at the church. Village is passed along the main street and after exiting the treail goes onward to the Norra springs. The gravel roads in the western part of Endla Nature Reserve are used for the trail. The trail continues on gravel between forests and meadows until the Hundissaare campfire site and onwards through a forests until Jõgeva-Põltsamaa road to reach the Siimusti campfire site after some smaller paths. Trail goes through Siimusti and to Härjanurme to cross the Pedja river and continue through fields and forests until Tartu-Jõgeva highway and railway, which is crossed through a tunnel. Kassinurme campfire site is suitable for a resting place to enjoy the view from another esker, which are plentiful in the area and have also given a name to it – Vooremaa (Eskerland). Trail passes Raigastver lake and reaches Elistvere Nature Center where you can resupply on water and ask around about the area. There is also a parking lot for cars and buses and therefore a good place to end or begin the hike.
III section Elistvere – Kiidjärve (length 118 km)
A stretch of tarmac leads to Maarja village and onto gravel to reach the Papi campfire site in a beautiful pine forest by the lake Saare. Again on tarmac until Kaiu lakes, where there are five camping sites to choose from. Trail continues on forest roads across the Kaiu kame field ja Selgise hills until Kukemetsa forest hut. On gravel the trail goes to Tähemaa campfire site and Kantsi campfire site by the Emajõgi. One can cross the river in Kavastu by ferry or by boat if travelling on foot. Once across the river the trail goes through forests and later fields to Võnnu and with campsites in Ahja and Valgesoo. Kiidjärve Nature Center is in a village by the same name by the picturesque river Ahja. The center is suitable to end or begin the hike and if open to resupply on water and get information about the area.
IV section Kiidjärve – Pähni (length 224 km)
Following the river Ahja the trail goes from Kiidjärve to Taevaskoda and to Otten forest hut. It passes the locations of one the most popular Estonian movie “Viimne reliikvia”. After that one walks through the city of Põlva and Peri, Leevi and Paidra villages to Meenikunno Nature Protection Area. Located close to each other are one of clearest lakes in Estonia – Valgejärv (Whitelake) and one of the European most brown watered (?) lakes – Mustjärv (Blacklake). After arriving in Värska, the trail continues through a former Värska Southcamp to the Piusa caves and after that head towards Võrumaa. One could describe this section with superlatives – biggest drop on a river Piusa, highest sandstone outcrop – the Härma wall, highest hill – Suur Munamägi and deepest lake – Rõuge Suurjärv (Great Lake). After crossing the Luhasoo landscape protection area the trail eraches Pähni village, where an RMK Nature Center is situated. It’s also a suitable place to end or start the village. (although the public transportation is not that great in there) If the center is open one can resupply on water and get some information on the area.
V section Pähni – Ähijärve (length 102 km)
Characteristic to this section are curvy village and forest roads, hilly and open fields, lots of lakes and abundance of berries and mushrooms during the season. Continuing from Pähni the trail soon arrives in Paganamaa (Pagansland), which is full of legends, with especially nice chain of lakes in Piirioja (Borderstream). The Estonian-Latvian border runs across those lakes. Bikers and walkers are directed to a little bit different paths as the walking trail heads to a wilder forest (off-trail for adventurous bikers!) and bikers can follow a little bit easier roads to Matsavenna (forestbrother, partisan) campfire site. There is a shop and a farm open to tourist, where one can learn and participate in the life of Estonian partisans. After that the trail goes through the Naha village to the southernmost point of Estonia and then heads back north towards Tellingumäe observation tower, which offers views over the everglade of the river Mustjõgi (Blackriver). Tall pines of Koiva and forested Karula National Park take the traveler finally to Ähijärve, which is the end or beginning of the Lõunarada or some other adventure (Latvia anybody?). When open one can resupply on water and information. It is possible to spend the night in a lodging near the Visitors Center.
end of translation
There is a lot of walking on gravel roads, but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying to discover the beautiful nature of Estonia. After all – a country isn’t all about the nature, but also the locals, culture and so on. I haven’t walked or biked the trail myself yet, but probably will at some point. Nevertheless I can get you some information – just ask, or you can inquire directly from RKM. They should be helpful; and Estonian hiking-forum has plenty of people who have done parts of the trail