Estonia’s winter capital: Otepää

Merje Aus | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Estonians love to divide their country into small capitals. If the summers are spent on the seaside in the summer capital of Pä[rnu](, then the winter vacations are always spent in the winter capital, Otepää.

Otepää is a small town, a little over 200 km away from the capital, Tallinn. Quiet and 'sleepy' during the summer, Otepää comes to life in the winter. The reason for that is that Otepää is the highest point in the Baltics – 318 meters above sea level, which makes it the perfect spot for winter sports or just a romantic getaway in the hills.

Winter wonderland

Southern Estonia, where Otepää is located, is known for its snowy winters. Even driving there will make you feel as if you were in a winter wonderland. Estonia is generally a flat country, but in Otepää you feel as if you were abroad. The best place to see all of Otepää is on the observation tower on Suur Munamägi hill. It is a small hike up the mountain, but if you do not feel up to walking the stairs, you can take the elevator up to the tower. And it is worth it - you will stand 318 meters above the sea level. The view over the deep forests is breathtaking, more so in the winter, when the spruces are covered in thick white snow. Leaving, do not forget to step in the souvenir shop if it is open – it is a sight itself. It is almost impossible to leave without buying some of the Estonian authentic and beautiful handicrafts.  

© iStock/Raukas

Spend an active vacation in Otepää

Otepää is all about a healthy, active vacation. The city offers the best ski resorts in the country; the best of them is the Kuutsemäe resort. It is suitable for everyone – sportsmen or even kids who want to try skis or snowboards for the first time. You can rent a small holiday house (or, of course, a room) to spend a beautiful vacation with your family and friends in the snowy hills.

Warm up in the traditional 'smoke sauna'

It is no surprise, Estonians love their sauna. In southern Estonia, the sauna traditions are slightly different than in the north. The popular southern 'smoke sauna' is a special sauna, built without a chimney. So before entering the sauna, the door is opened so that the smoke could leave. The main difference is this unique smell that will leave you smelling, well... like a smoked ham. But the experience is definitely worth trying. You can visit a smoke sauna on the Kakulaane tourism farm, where you can even take a swim in the pond next to the sauna.

© iStock/Malkovstock

Estonia’s winter capital Otepää is known for its ski resorts and offers excellent options to spend an active vacation with your family and friends. On the tallest point in the Baltics, you can see endless forests from the observation deck, try skiing like a pro, and in the evening, warm up in the traditional smoke sauna that will freshen up your body and soul.

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