The Haanja Upland

The Haanja Upland is the most ‘mountainous’ area of Estonia. It is situated in southeastern Estonia and extends to Latvia in the south and to Russia in the east. The area in Latvia is also known as the Aluksne Upland or the East Vidzeme Upland. The most elevated parts lie in the central and northern part of the upland, in the territory of Estonia, but a height of 250 meters and more above sea level can be found over quite a large area. Here the highest elevation of the Baltic countries — Suur-Munamägi (317 m) located, and nearby stands another hill reaching higher than 300 m — Vällamägi (304 m). The latter is also the natural relief element of Estonia of the largest relative height, its top rising 88 m from its foot by Lake Perajärv. The hills of Kerekunnu (296 m) and Tsälbamägi (293 m) are the third and the fourth highest hills in Estonia.

The Haanja Upland has a notably distinctive border in the northwest and north, where it rises sharply from the outwash plain of the Hargla Depression and its eastern elongation, the Võru Vale, towards the south and southeast. The line of its base is less pronounced in the west, where the southern edge of the Hargla Depression separates the Haanja and Karula Uplands from each other. A relatively lower territory, Paganamaa, dissected by deep depressions, lies in this area. The length of the upland from north to south at the Latvian border is 30 kilometres, and from west to east at the Russian border it covers about 40 kilometres.

The overview of the Haanja Upland differs greatly in different parts. The long-distance view towards the “peaks” of the upland opens from the northern slope of the Võru Vale. The highest hillocks and the largest ridges which are, in their turn, surrounded by a belt of lower hillocks, lie in the central part of the upland, around the village of Haanja that has lent its name to the entire area. The latter part is cut by deep valleys — Kütiorg and the Piusa primeval valley, beginning in the centre of the upland and descending towards the north. The Hinsa hillocks, situated between these two valleys, are of geological interest, as they lie on the bedrock elevation covered with the Upper Devonian carbonate rocks.

The Vana–Saaluse–Vastseliina vale is located south of the Hinsa hillocks. The vale has formed above a buried valley (the bottom of this valley lies up to 60 m below sea level). The Vale is filled by an outwash plain, and at the middle reaches of the Piusa River, the relief is quite even. To the south of the valley, between the villages of Vastseliina and Ruusmäe, and in the southeast up to Luhamaa Village the relief is much varied with depressions and hillocks of medium height. In the western and southeastern part of the upland there is a distinctive hillocky area cut by valleys, extending from Trumbipalu up to Krabi Village in Paganamaa.

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