How to reach the area
Tallinn has flight connections with many European cities. Coming from Helsinki, there are also daily ships: Tallink and Silja (www.tallinksilja.com) crossing the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn in about 4 hours.
From Tallinn bus station Tallinn Express buses take you to Tartu in about 2 ½ hours, some buses also directly to Otepää. There also are buses from Tartu Central Bus Station to Otepää. For bus schedules and online buying see www.bussireisid.ee .
The train ride (www.edel.ee) from Tallinn to Tartu lasts also about 2 ½ hours. From Tartu railway station take city bus No. 6 to the central bus station (the bus schedules are available here http://buss.tartu.ee/bi2/bi2?language=eng)
After the race, to travel to Helsinki check the timetables www.tallinksilja.com Ships arrive at the Skatudd terminal situated a short walk of 200 m from the Helsinki Eurohostel (see Advice about Finlandia hiihto).
Otepää where the Tartu Maraton starts is about equidistant between Riga and Tallinn. The distance from Riga is 230 km and from Tallinn is 250 km. There are many international flights to Riga. From the airport you can either:
- Rent a car and drive to Tartu, Elva or Otepää via Valmiera and Valga.
- Travel by bus to Tartu. From the airport take bus # 22 or # 22A to the bus station in the city. There are a few daily buses to Tartu (www.ecolines.ee , www.eurolines.ee). The trip takes about 4 hours
If you have a rental car, then you may want to stay in Võru that is a good alternative for lodging (www.visitvoru.ee). It is about 50 km from Otepää and has good connections both to Tallinn and Riga and is the best place for finding snow in Estonia if the conditions are marginal.
[The section about travel from Riga was provided by Anno Aedmaa].
Tartu or Otepää are the usual choices. The organizers offer a bus transport from Tartu to the start (Otepää) on the morning of the race day, and transport from the finish to Tartu and Otepää. The travel agent mentioned on the Tartu Maraton leaflet, Kaleva Travel, is very competent and helpful for arranging your travels and reservations according to your wishes. They can send the time tables of the buses, give a list of accommodations and reserve a taxi transport which is the fastest solution. The hotels in Tartu have prices approaching those of big cities in western Europe. If you come by bus from Tallinn, a good choice is Hotell Tartu, cheap and conveniently located 50m from the bus terminal, close to race day bus departures, close to city center and having a good massage service after the race (to be reserved in advance). If you wish a cheap accommodation in Otepää then you can stay in private houses: they are in a very calm environment, can offer half pension and are located close to the start of the race. If you wish to combine Tartu Open Track with the Tartu Maraton, these are ideal accommodations. You can contact Anne Niit (email@example.com)at Kaleva Travel, she has been very helpful in the past.
You can go to their web site and register using a credit card. The online registration is available since fall 2006.
Skiing before the race
If you are staying in Tartu, then you can ski in the park by the Marathon registration office. However, you probably want to ski on the course, which is at least 30 km from Tartu. The most convenient way of doing that is to rent a car so that you are free to try different parts of the course. If you are staying in Otepää or Elva or any of the very small villages along the course, then you have easier access to the course, but you still want to be able to get to Tartu to pick up the race material and possible for the Master’s reception. So all in all, a rental car looks like a great option.
The start for the 63 km race is in Otepää at 9 a.m. Even if you have a car you don’t want to take it since traffic and parking is difficult and the finish is in Elva which is about 20 km away. It is much more convenient to use the bus services that the race organizers provide. Their information brochure provides time tables for the buses and you can always ask at the registration desk. For the race there is a reasonable seeding system that provides multiple waves but all the waves start at the same time. Although there are no clear bottlenecks in the beginning of the race, the sheer amount of skiers cause congestion and if you are not in the beginning you may have trouble skiing at a pace that is comfortable to you. We think it is time for the Tartu organizers to consider starting the waves at some reasonable time intervals. Since each wave is not more than 500 skiers, it may be sufficient to use a 5 minute time interval. The organizers should consult with the Birkebeiner organization that has an excellent wave start arrangement. The course itself runs through a typical “Scandinavian” forest and is very pleasant. There are many hills but they are never so steep that they cause problems for a classical race. It is the kind of undulating course that most classical skiers love. The highest point of the race is after 17 km but it is still a moderate climb.
The 31 km race starts in Arula at noon and joins the long course after only a few kilometers and the two courses are then the same until the finish. The points where they join is a choke point and it is not very nice for the long course skiers that have not gone past it when the new skiers join or for any of the short course skiers. Towards the end of the race the course gets flatter and most skiers will double pole most of the time.
In short it is a very nice course, it is sufficiently wide along it’s entire length but the skiers should not be started at the same time since this provides an unnecessary congestion.
The finish is at Elva. There is limited indoor facilities at this place. They have a tent for the Worldloppet people to stamp passports and for getting your diploma. One of the buildings includes a sauna open to participants after the race. It is very crowded but definitely an excellent experience just after completion of your race. There is also a warm tent for changing into dry clothing (recommended) although it may not be obvious where it is. The meal they provide for the participants is at outside tables. This can certainly be a problem in very cold weather. There is bus transport from Elva to Tartu and Otepää and other places and there is always a bus waiting so that you can get out of the cold if this is a problem.
The web site of the race is www.tartumaraton.ee.