As part of my preparation for a through-hike, I started taking shorter day hikes in the months leading up to the big thing. Many of the local, smaller trails are really short (for example 3 km, 5km, 7km and so on), but since I wanted a trail that was a little bit longer, I found one that goes around Lake Pühajärv. It's located in the southern part of Estonia, near the small town Otepää (the winter capital). For me, this is a region largely unexplored, although it is a very popular holiday destination.
The trail is around 12km long (the site says it's 14, the link says it's 13 and the information boards along the trail say it's 12...). Took me about 3.5 hours to circle the lake, occasional stops included.
You can hike the trail in whichever direction you like. It is marked, but it's highly recommended to bring with you a map. The maps are available online and at the Otepää Nature Center where the trail begins. The trail is marked in some places very well and is easy to follow. but in other places it's not so obvious. The map itself was well made and easy to read. However I would suggest you hike the trail first heading west (and having the lake on your left hand), because along the trail you will find a 220-step staircase and in my opinion it is much more fun to climb than descend!
Along the trail you will find many resting places (I counted 4 at least...). where you have fire pits, benches and firewood. I saw several swings at one site and a shelter in the other. So it's a perfect trail to hike with your family - frequent stops, beautiful scenery, interesting landscape, stretches that are flat and stretches where you have to climb. The lake is shallow and sandy so in the summer time, you can go swimming. I also saw a lot of boardwalks on the trail, most of which have recently been reconstructed and are in very good shape.
There is also at least one freshwater spring on the trail.
The trail is freely accessible year round, however in the winter time the boardwalks can be slippery and some of the trail may be flooded (also in spring and autumn). I did my hike of this trail in April and for me, it was perfect. There were no people on the trail, it only had a few muddy places and everything was in good condition. In the summer, it can be expected to be crowded and the campsites full of people (in the weekends and in good weather). So my personal suggestion is to come off season if you want to have it all to yourself. But if you don't mind fellow hikers and vacationers, then I'm sure it'll be a great to visit in the summer as well.
I should also mention that for a few kilometers the trail goes on paved roads (really small ones, though), but it's worth the steps to get back to the forest and the lake.
Have you visited this trail? Or do you have any specific questions? Feel free to comment below!