East Estonia or Ida-Viru county is in north-eastern Estonia, on the border with Russia. This region includes the far east of Estonia between the shores of the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipsi. There is the city of Narva which houses several monuments including the castle of Hermann which faces the Russian border. There are relatively few historic sights here, but, unusually for Estonia, there are many Soviet architectural and industrial remains in varying degrees of abandonment.
- 1 Narva – Estonia's eastern-most and third largest city, on the Narva River, which is the border with Russia. Famous for the Hermann castle, right opposite of the Ivangorod's castle, and the Kreenholm factories. Even though it might seem grey and dull.
- 2 Jõhvi – The capital of the county, but rather uninteresting from a travellers point of view.
- 3 Kiviõli – Famous for the Kiviõli ash hills, created by the oil shale industry, that rise to 138 m and 135 m — among the highest artificial mountains in the Baltics.
- 4 Kohtla-Järve – A large concentration of industrial settlements with Soviet architecture, and inter-war architecture of the independent Estonia. Also, a quite unique Orthodox church of the 1930s, in the style of Cubism, and a shale mine and museum in the nearby Kukruse village.
- 5 Kuremäe – Contains the famous Pukhitsa convent/nunnery, the only Orthodox monastery in the whole of Estonia.
- 6 Mustvee – A cozy fishing village at Lake Peipsi.
- 7 Narva-Jõesuu – The beach side town on the Narva River near Narva.
- 8 Püssi – A poor but now recovering town with an interesting artificial mountain made of ash from its oil shale power plant, which has been depositing ash in the location since the 1930s.
- 9 Sillamäe – A beautiful coastal town in the east and formerly closed city with the best ensemble of Stalinist architecture in the entire Baltics. Built after the war with an uranium processing plant, successfully redesigned after Estonia's independence.
- 10 Toila – A small coastal and historic resort town.
- 1 Alutaguse National Park – Estonia's newest national park
- 2 Kurtna (south-east of Jõhvi). A lake district with a pre-revolution manor in Kurtna village, and east of it a forest and lake area with well done touristy hiking trails.
- 3 Northern coast of Lake Peipsi. Quiet and remote. Optimal in summer when the Baltic Sea is overrun by tourists.
East Estonia corresponds to the Ida-Viru county. This region includes the far eastern Estonia between the shores of the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipsi. Ethnic Russians make up 71% of the population and Estonians 20%.
Lake Peipsi is located between Russia and Estonia, and the fourth largest lake in Europe. It is nice for swimming at the beautiful dune beaches on its northern side. The rest of the lake is mostly a swamp. The tourism of the lake's northern side is relatively developed – free campsites, very well maintained, and overlooking the beach. On weekends in summer, many Estonians put up their campsites around the lake.
From Tallinn, the region is a little over an hour by car, and 2-3 hr by bus or train. Buses from Tallinn to Narva go on average every hour and usually make intermediate stops in Kohtla-Järve, Jõhvi, Sillamäe.
Travelling from Saint Petersburg, this will be the first region of Estonia you will arrive in.
Trains are infrequent – between Tallinn and Narva the trains run twice a day, making stops in Kiviõli, Püssi, Jõhvi and at Kohtla-Nõmme station.
Bus and train schedules are easily available online – read more under Estonia#Get around.
Most villages, towns and cities are connected by regular bus services. Smaller places are often only served in the morning or noon, and late afternoon (17:00-18:00). Cities generally have buses up to 21:00. Make sure that you do not miss the last bus.
- Ida-Viru Public Transport Centre. Public transport authority in East Estonia.
- The Valaste Waterfall in Kohtla-Järve along the Ontika cliff around 10 km north from Jõhvi. The Valaste waterfall is most impressive in early spring; then, the winter snow is melting and volume of cascading water is greatest. During winter the waterfall freezes and forms fairy-tale like ice sculptures.
History and museums
- The Shale mines and museum in Kohtla-Järve has an interesting exhibition about the origin of the oil shale, the history of its extraction and its modern use.
- The Ash Mountain near Kiviõli is the highest ash mountain in the Baltic. The ash is from a oil shale power plant, which has been depositing ash here since the 1930s. Nowadays, the mountain is used for motocross.
- The grave of Kalevipoeg, 7 km south of Kuremäe: the legendary hero of the Estonian epic poetry fought somewhere in these local forests. Thee actual grave is probably lost forever, so a symbolic stone has been placed.
Castles and manors
- There are several castles and manors near Kiviõli. Purtse Castle, built in 1421, has been fully restored. Maidla Manor was erected between 1764-1767. Erra Manor was built in 1547, but only ruins remain. Püssi Manor has a small museum dedicated to the history of its educational background.
- South of Jõhvi, on the way to Tartu, you'll find Iluka Manor, a large and beautiful manor house of the late 19th-century with neo-Gothic elements, Pagari Manor, a pretty and preserved manor house mainly of wood, and Mäetaguse Manor, a classic manor house of the late 18th century turned into a country spa hotel.
- Kukruse Manor and Järve Castle near Kohtla-Järve.
- Beaches and resort towns of the northern coast of Lake Peipus and at the Baltic Sea
- The Aidu Water Sports Centre, south of Kiviõli, is a former shale quarry that has been transformed into an active recreation centre on the water, which includes a rowing channel for paid canoeing, independent rowing and diving.
- Mäetaguse Manor Spa, 19 km south of Jõhvi, offers massages, body treatments, a spa area, saunas, disc golf, kick bikes and a children’s adventure track.
- Explore Viivikonna, a near-ghost town southwest of Sillamäe.
Accommodations in the region worth mentioning and outside of the above covered cities, towns, and parks:
- 1 Remniku Holiday Centre (Lake Peipus central north coast), ☏ . Great location at Lake Peipus. Dorm from €12.
- 2 Niinsaare Recreation Center (Niinsaare puhkekeskus), Konsu küla, Illuka Vald, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Highly rated sport complex accommodation with sauna and other convenient amenities. Single from €20, tent place from €5.
- 3 Raja Country House (5 km north of Iisaku), ☏ . If you prefer a stop on the way between Tartu and Narva, or if Mustvee is full. Holiday home for 1 person from €15.
The region is known for industrialisation, but also poverty, unemployment and abandoned properties, and a larger Russian population. Hence, keep track of your property, do not walk alone at night, and do not behave in any provocative way. Crime has increased slightly in the past.
- North Estonia – Famous for the financial centre of the country, Tallinn, and the Lahemaa National Park.
- South Estonia – Famous for the intellectual hub, ancient city and university town Tartu, and many picturesque town like Viljandi.
- Russia – Organised boat trips without visa into Saint Petersburg for up to three days are possible.