GNF - Partner Region Estonia

Estonia - Lake Võrtsjärv and Lake Peipsi


Lake Peipsi and Lake Võrtsjärv are large shallow lakes situated in Northern Europe. The two lakes are connected by the Emajögi River which drains from Lake Võrtsjärv to Lake Peipsi.

Lake Võrtsjarv is the largest lake within the boundaries of Estonia (270 sq. km). 35 fish species occur in the lake which is also an important habitat for nesting birds. Lake Võrtsjärv is mainly used for industrial fishery, recreation and tourism. The fast expansion of reed thickets and the deterioration of biological diversity are a clear evidence of the eutrophication of the lake during the last decades. In future, even higher phosphorus and nitrate loads from agricultural sources are expected. Non-purified or only unsatisfactory treated wastewater runs into the lake.

Lake Peipsi is the largest trans-boundary water body in Europe and the fourth largest lake in Europe. The area of Lake Peipsi is 3,555 sq. km, of which 44 % belong to the Republic of Estonia and 56 % to the Russian Federation. Up to one million migratory birds use Lake Peipsi as a resting place every year. The major threat to the lake water quality is eutrophication, caused by the high nutrient load. Agriculture is the main source of nutrient water pollution and the oil-shale industry has big influence to the outlet from Lake Peipsi – the Narva River. The lake is a most important commercial fishing ground in Europe with a total catch of 8,000 - 11,000 tons/year and a popular recreational area. 



The Living Lakes Partner organisations of the Estonian double partnership are on the one hand ELF, the Estonian Fund for Nature (NGO Partner at Lake Võrtsjärv) in cooperation with the Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation and the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Scieces of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and on the other hand CTC, the Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation (NGO partner at Lake Peipsi).


Activities and model projects

The aim of the project at Lake Võrtsjärv and Lake Peipsi is to establish sustainable tourism development in lake regions.

Both lakes are situated in rural areas with little tourism development up to now. Local population, and the regional administrations are expecting new sources of income from tourism and a considerable amount of finances from EU Structural Funds will be invested to create tourism infrastructure. The regions around Lake Võrtsjärv and Lake Peipsi have high potential for nature tourism. Due to the realization of the model project, criteria for sustainable tourism development will be elaborated and implemented as well training provided for local tourist guides and tourist entrepreneurs.

Because of lack of infrastructure for visitor management, the creation of an Information Centre at Lake Võrtsjärv will be supported. The Kallaste Tourist Information Center is situated on the shore line of Lake Peipsi and operating since two years. Within the model project an information brochure and other promotion material will be produced to improve the awareness of the visitors.

Pilot activities in this strategy comprise
  • Analysis of strengths and weaknesses for both lake regions regarding tourism development. Elaboration of guidelines regarding environmental and social quality of tourism development in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders.
  • Training course and study tour for local tourist guides and tourism entrepreneurs on the local tourism situation and development aspects, elaboration of tourism packages, networking, customer service and environmental impacts of tourism around lakes, wetland and nature reserves.
  • Realization of a training programme for owners/managers of hotels, campsites and other tourism infrastructure with the aim of the elaboration and implementation of an environmental management system in orientation to EMAS and adapted to the needs and possibilities of the tourism sector in the region.
  • Installation of an Information Centre at Lake Võrtsjärv in a building of the Limnological Institute. Elaboration and dissemination of information brochure about Lake Peipsi.


  • Elaboration of guidelines based on results of analyses and feasibility studies: September 2006 - December 2006
  • Training course and programme for tourist guides and entrepreneurs: January 2007 - March 2007
  • Study tour for tourist guides and entrepreneurs to Müritz Lakes: May 2007
  • Exhibition and brochure Lake Võrtsjärv Information Centre: January 2006 - September 2006
  • Equipment for seminar rooms: February 2006 – July 2006
  • Study tour for tourist guides and entrepreneurs to Lake Constance: September 2007
  • Finalisation and reporting of the project: October 2007 - December 2007