Ida-Viru County


Ida-Viru County (Ida-Virumaa), or Eastern-Virumaa is Estonia’s eastern-most county. The Ontika Cliffs are certainly a sight to behold, located roughly halfway between Rakvere and Narva. The limestone escarpment is known as the Baltic Klint, forming cliffs up to 54 metres high. From the Valaste viewing platform, you can admire Estonia’s highest waterfall (up to 30 metres) from the metal stairs. Depending on the month, the waterfall can be frozen or flowing, offering great photo ops.

For a glimpse of Stalinist neoclassical architecture, a stop in the coastal town of Sillamäe is a must. The quiet town seems stuck in its Soviet past, as buildings and statues have not changed too much. After WWII, a uranium processing and nuclear chemical factory, as well as the town itself, were quickly built (by political prisoners mostly) after the discovery that oil shale contains small amounts of extractable uranium. The city was off-limits to visitors after 1946 and was often left off of Soviet-era maps. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were plans of processing nuclear reactor-ready uranium in the eery abandoned buildings that stand on the city’s western border. Production ceased in 1989 and Estonia’s environment was saved. Today, the plant in Sillamäe is the world’s main producer of niobium and tantalum, rare metals that are used in the manufacturing of medical and electronic equipment.

Narva River naturally separates Estonia’s easternmost city, Narva from Ivangorod on the Russian side. The majority of the city’s residents are of Russian descent. Narva’s main sight is the 13th century castle that houses a fascinating museum and one of the last remaining statues of Lenin in Estonia can be seen on the castle’s grounds. Most of Narva’s original architecture was destroyed in WWII, but it’s baroque Old Town Hall still stands.

Further along the Narva River sits Kreenholm Island. The famous
Kreenholm Textile Factory was built in the 19th century and was the largest factory of the Russian Empire at the time. At its peak, it employed more that ten thousand workers. In addition to the red brick factory there is a hospital, worker’s quarters, houses for the directors and Kreenholm Park.

Further north, you’ll find the resort town of Narva-Jõesuu (meaning literally, the mouth of the Narva River). In the 19th century it was a popular spa destination and was known for its long sandy beach and lush pine forests. There are several impressive examples of early 20th century wooden houses and villas, many which have been restored, along with a handful of spa hotels.

Moving back down the Narva River, you’ll find Pühtitsa Convent in Kuremäe. You’ll know it by its 5 green onion-domed towers that make up the main part of the orthodox church. Built between 1885 and 1895, it is home to a small community of self-sufficient Russian Orthodox nuns. If you are modestly dressed, you are more than welcome to take a tour of the grounds and the church.

Along with its Soviet history and stunning seaside, Ida-Virumaa is also known for adventure. Some of the retired mines have been repurposed for extreme sports, during winter for skiing and in summer, for bike trails, zip lines and more!

Kiviõli Adventure Centre is located on the slopes of an old ash hill, which has been divided into downhill ski trails, a snowboard park and snow tube run. In summer, there is a 700-metre-long zip line and tracks for mountain biking.

Alutaguse Adventure Park is located by the Kurtna Lakes. It’s packed full of exciting tracks and obstacles for every level and the tubing track is open all year round. It also boasts the longest zip line in Estonia, reaching 400 metres.

Learn what it was like to be a miner at the Estonian Mining Museum in Kohtla-Nõmme by putting on your boots, a warm coat and a lamp. Learn about oil shale, how energy is produced and what’s in store for the energy sector in the future.

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