Alutaguse Lowland

On the western bank of the Narva River, in the Mustjõgi River catchment area in the east and south-east of the Pandivere Upland lies an extensive limestone plateau which is very gently inclined towards Lake Peipsi and the Narva River. This bedrock has led to the development of a unique Alutaguse landscape that is rich in forests and mires and has a very sparse human population.

Since this area is generally lower than the surrounding territory (only 30–40 m above sea level) it was flooded at the end of the ice age by the waters of the melting glaciers. This explains a soil pattern dominated by large expanses of level, gently undulating sand and varved clay, covered mainly with peat. In stark contrast to this, are the heaped glacial deposits — esker ridges, kame fields, terminal moraines, and drumlins — that can appear quite unexpectedly in the landscape.

Kuremägi Hill is a compound terminal moraine surface feature with a complex structure; it has a central moraine elevation, which rises above the adjoining shoulders (to a height of 92 m above sea level). Perched on top is the Russian Orthodox Pühtitsa Convent. The slopes of the hill are home to quite a rare species-rich dry boreo-nemoral grassland. There is a barrow complex lying due south of Kuremägi, in Kivinõmme Forest, one part of which is known as the grave of the legendary Fenno-Ugric hero, Kalevipoeg.

The Iisaku–Jõuga–Illuka esker range is one of the largest glacial deposit land forms in Alutaguse. The 21 km long series of ridges, which lies in a NE–SW direction, has a complex pattern. The higher south-western end culminates in Tärivere Hill (94 m above sea level). Near Jõuga the range splits into several parallel ridges, separated by the deep and beautiful Jõuga lakes. Here, on the crest and side of an esker, lies Estonia's largest barrow complex, which dates from the 11th century and marks the location of a former Votian territory. In the north-east the esker range gives way to Kurtna Kame Field.

On the eastern foot of the Ahtme bedrock elevation, which is part of the North Estonian limestone plateau, there is a 50 m deep, notch-shaped valley cut into the limestone and opening into the Gulf of Finland depression (Vasavere buried primeval valley). The valley is imperceptible on ground level since it has been filled by sediments deposited by later melt water. During the last ice age it was a serious obstacle in the path of the receding glaciers; this resulted in the formation of a large isolated ice field on this spot. The sediments left by the melting ice filled Vasavere primeval valley and were moulded by the melting ice banks into the Kurtna Kame Field — a series of hummocks mainly of fine quartz-rich sand (69 m above sea level). The hummocks are covered in pine forest. Between the hummocks, glacial karst hollows have given rise to Estonia's largest cluster of lakes.

The northern coast of Peipsi is fringed with Estonia's most impressive mainland dunes in an almost unbroken line. Dunes can also be found to the north of Peipsi on the lake's old shore banks and other elongated glacial surface features, so-called grivas, as far as the Kurtna Kame Field.

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