A short roadtrip through Estonia: Viljandi, Taagepera and Pärnu
January 1, 1970
Most tourists who visit Estonia, usually stay in or around Tallinn, and even though Tallinn is a beautiful city, they miss the chance of seeing our small towns, villages and beautiful nature. So, when we had to drive someone to Taagepera on the other side of Estonia, I saw it as a great opportunity for a short road-trip through my country. Because the distances between towns in Estonia aren’t long, I did the whole trip in a day and was back in Tallinn the same night. But of course, you can choose to spend a night (or few) in any of those places and take as long as you want. I started my trip in the morning from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and started driving towards our first stop, Viljandi. The drive to Viljandi takes about 2 hours or a bit less, depending on the road you choose to take. If you have some extra time and you wish to see more of Estonia, you can also make a stop in Paide or Türi, which are both towns situated in the center of Estonia. The drive itself is very scenic too – the nature varies a lot from season to season. In summer you can see a lot of beautiful green forests and yellow rapeseed fields. In winter all the trees and fields are white and covered with snow. On your way, you will also pass through plenty of cute small villages and if you have more time, you can explore, look around and discover some old churches and manors.
Viljandi is an adorable little town in southern Estonia. It is also the heart of Estonian folk music and Viljandi Folk festival is held there every year in July. One of the best times to visit Viljandi is during this festival. In Viljandi, you can also find the ruins of Viljandi castle, scenic views over the lake and a large lake beach and Viljandi’s famous suspension bridge. Viljandi also has a large student population from the Viljandi Culture Academy and many musicians live in the city. The Viljandi castle was built in the 13th century and is, therefore, one of the oldest stone fortresses in Estonia. Nowadays you can only see the ruins of the castle, but either way, it’s a nice sight.
You can walk around among the ruins of the castle, step into an old cellar and enjoy the beautiful view over the Viljandi lake. The suspension bridge is also right next to the castle.
The whole park with the ruins and the bridge is a beautiful place and you’ll most definitely get a lot of great photos there. After a walk to the ruins, we decided to grab lunch in a place called Rohelise Maja Pood ja Kohvik. It’s a lovely small cafe which serves delicious organic foods and also has a small shop, where you can buy all kinds of organic goods.
The interior of the cafe is very cozy and adorable and in the summertime, there’s also a nice terrace outside in the garden. To get to the cafe you need to walk through the old town of Viljandi, which has cute wooden architecture and plenty of antique shops. It’s a lovely walk through the medieval streets of the folk capital of Estonia.
The drive from Viljandi to Taagepera takes no more than 45 minutes. If you’re lucky enough, you can also buy some fresh strawberries or cucumbers from locals who have put up their small stands by the road. Taagepera is a really small village, so there isn’t much else to do there than just walk around, take a look at the nature around you, take a swim in the lake and enjoy the peace and quiet. The place to visit in Taagepera is the Taagepera castle. It’s a 16th-century castle which today is a popular place for weddings and events. The castle has been made into a hotel, so if you feel like spending a night in a castle, this is a great place for that. Or, if you’re into hunting, you can also have a hunt organized for you.
Despite being a very small village, Taagepera has another place to spend a few nights at – Kivimäe Turismitalu. It’s a very cozy place right next to the lake and is best known for its delicious homemade food. Or, if you’re into hiking and camping, there’s a 5,4km hiking trail in Taagepera, which starts and ends at a campfire site.
Pärnu is the fourth largest town in Estonia and is also considered our summer capital. With its large beach, restaurants, bars, spas, and hotels, it’s the ultimate summer holiday destination. Since I arrived in Pärnu quite late in the evening already, I just took a walk along the beach promenade and grabbed some coffee from Karuselli cafe, but many Estonians and visitors alike, enjoy spending a few days in Pärnu and just enjoy the summer. Pärnu is also nice in the winter for a relaxing weekend getaway, since there are numerous spas and hotels in the town. On the photo below there is one of the many spas in Pärnu, Hedon spa, which is built into the historical mudbaths building.
To my mind, however, the best time to visit Pärnu is during the Augustiunetus (Sleepless in August) festival, which takes place every August. During the festival, one of the main streets of Pärnu is closed down for traffic and filled with pedestrians, pop-up cafes, musicians, artists, etc. The festival attracts many visitors and during that one day, the whole town has a great chill vibe to it.
After a short walk around Pärnu, we drove straight back to Tallinn and got home just in time for bed. However, as I said before, you definitely don’t have to visit all those places in just one day and in fact I think it’s better if you just take your time and see everything that Estonia has to offer.