Description and photos of views from the observation tower on the highest hill of the Baltic states - Suur Munamägi

Sangaste castle or manor house with green plantation on the back side The highest observation point in the Baltic states is to be found on Great Munamägi hill. From there you can get a good views of South-Eastern Estonia landscape in around 30-40 km distance to all directions.

It's "the neighbours thing"

As the highest hill in the Baltic states, Suur Munamägi is an important symbol not only for Estonia, but also, for example, for their southern neighbours Latvians who often views it with a touch of envy - Latvia's highest hill Gaiziņš is just about 6 metres lower. Someone from real highlands would find it amusing because we are talking about 317 and 311 metres here, respectively. But still - the phrase in one of the all-time most popular Latvian movies "Limuzīns Jāņu nakts krāsā" ("The Limousine in the color of Midsummer night"), said by a flirty young girl to both of hers two worshippers (the middle aged father and his son): "Take me to the Munamägi!" - has became a popular folklore in Latvia, kinda symbolizing Latvians' desire to keep up with their bit more succesful Northern neighbours. No wonder there has been jokes about the necessity to bring soil to the summit of Gaiziņš and heap it up for those damn 6 metres, especially in 2013 when new LIDAR measurements showed that Suur Munamägi could be around 0,7 metres lower than previously thought...

Highest observation point in Baltic states

Latvians could start with the construction of a decent observation tower on their highest hill at first - because there is none since the controlled demolition of the old tower back in 2013. Whereas Munamägi observation tower with it's 29 metres height makes it the highest observation point in the Baltic states (total absolute height together with the hill is 346,7 metres).

The story of Munamägi observation tower is an interesting one. There have been five other towers before and the construction of them has always been like a man's fight against nature - the necessity for a new, higher tower almost each time has resulted from the continuously growing trees which
LOCATION Estonia, Võru County
RATING (7,7/10)
outgrew the towers and started to block the view from them. The legend goes that the first tower has been built here already in Napoleon times - in 1812, by Russian soldiers. It's been said the tower was brought down because... it confused the sailors in the sea. Well, this detail makes the whole story unbelievable because the closest sea coast to Munamägi is 190 kilometres away! But probably the huge lake Peipus was meant by the word "sea"? Who knows...

The next tower came a few years later (1816) and was built for triangulation purposes - it was exactly the year when German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve started his ambitious Struve Geodetic Arc project (to measure exact size and shape of the Earth) which is now included in UNESCO World Heritage list. In 1870, a new, 8 metres high tower appeared on the hill - it was built by a witty local pub owner who realized the importance of providing a good view as a good additional value for his customers - beer and vodka drinkers (hopefully noone fell down from the tower while being drunk up there!). Soon it was replaced by another, 12 metres high tower.

When Estonia gained it's independence, it started to deal with Munamägi tower case on a national scale. The first attempt in 1925 wasn't a long-term success - the 17 metres high wooden tower was soon again overwhelmed by trees... Finally, the current, reinforced concrete and brick tower was started to build in 1930ies. More than 36 000 bricks and 80 tons of cement was brought up to the hill - now that's a serious approach. Later, in 1960ies, the tower was heightened by constructing an additional floor to it.

Hills in the Baltics: the beauty of minimalism

The quality of scenery from Suur Munamägi observation tower is nice (although not spectacular). Munamägi surroundings mostly consists of forests but there are some view-diversifying perspectives. One of them is the second highest hill in Estonia (and the highest one of the relative height - 84 metres) - Vällamägi hill - which is located just about 2 kilometres to North from Munamägi (Munamägi relative height is much lower, just about 60 metres). There are also few other interesting visual perspectives (see them in photos) - the uneven, mildly hillish scenery of whole Haanja Upland which surrounds it's king; the view with the nearby Vaskna lake, which appears like a blue stretches of water in between the green swaths of forests; also some meadows and rural country houses refreshes the composition. In the distance it's possible to spot also Võru town rooftops but it's too far (about 15 km) to get a meaningful view of it.

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