Viivikonna: Exploring an alleged Ghost Town in Estonia

Viivikonna is a former mining town in Estonia quite close to the Russian border. I visited Viivikonna ghost town on the second day during my Estonia trip. Early morning, I picked up my pre-booked car from the Sixt office near the hotel and drove off.

A brief history of Viivikonna

Whenever I visit a lost place I try to find out a little bit about its history. What I discovered about Viivikonna was that the town was built during the Soviet times during and after World War II by German prisoners with its origins dating back to the 1920s.

Viivikonna was home for a few thousand people who worked in a nearby oil shale mine. After the Soviet Union crumbled and the Oil Shale Mine dried, inhabitants moved away to find other places to work. Some destroyed their homes, taking everything that could be sold like wood and metal to afford being able a new life somewhere else.

Getting to Viivikonna

Generally, I prefer using Google Maps over in-car navigational systems.

On numerous occasions, Google Maps has proven to be more accurate and more reliable than built-in navigational systems. So I use my iPhone as a navigational system with a Joby Griptight Auto Vent Amazon Link mount to attach iPhone inside a car. This little thingie is ultra portable and perfect if you're traveling with carry on luggage.

You can even remove the Griptight mount itself and use it as a tripod mount for iPhone.


I took me a little more than two hours to get to Viivikonna, mainly because of the speed limit on Estonian Roads which is between 55 mph and 58 mph. I was warned that it can get quite expensive if I'd go faster.

For the last few miles Google Maps told me to leave the main road and go on a dirt road right through the surrounding woods. Man, that „road“ was in a really bad condition. On the other hand, would you expect to find a well paved road to a ghost town?

Arriving in Viivikonna

After 20 minutes or so I saw the first three residential houses; well, the remains of them to be exact. I parked the car and walked around through the high gras between those houses to take photos.

Resident House in Viivikonna

Collapsed residential house in Viivikonna

Ruin in Viivikonna

But before we continue, let‘s define the term „Ghost Town“ together. I believe we can agree on the following criteria:

  1. Most important, a ghost town is usually abandoned like no one lives there anymore.
  2. Buildings are usually decayed; some even collapsed. Metal structures are rusted.
  3. Nature has taken back the place. I‘d expect high grass everywhere and trees growing near, in or on top of old buildings and structures.

So, after I took the first set of photos, I drove further into the town. To photograph old storage units, I parked my car near something that looked like an old bus stop.

Suspicious Lock in Viivikonna

After looking closely, I saw something suspicious on this photo. Can you spot it too? Look at the lock on the first gate. That lock on the first gate looks quite new! I thought that this was a little strange but didn‘t investigate further and walked back to my car. You remember that I parked it near something that looked like a bus stop, right? It was a bus stop and an old man with a plastic bag sat there. Once he saw me, he walked up to me and I used Bing Translator to explain what I‘m doing here. He just smiled. I still wonder if he smiled because I used a translation app on an iPhone or because of the translation.

Next, I drove a little further into the city. And again, I encountered something suspicious. Look at the lawn! That‘s not something you‘d expect in a ghost town, do you?

Maintained lawn in Viivikonna

A few seconds later, I saw a kid on his bike. Another few moments later I spotted a parked car between the houses and even more moments later, a pickup truck with four people came down the road. They didn‘t care much about me either.

Driving even further into the town, I saw more ruins but also well maintained houses. Some with gardens, some with a (modern) parked car in front. WTF? Why is this placed called a Ghost Town? There are still people living here! And not just one or two, it seemed like dozens of people still inhabit this „ghost town“.

I drove along a few more streets and encountered the same situation everywhere. Ruins, decayed buildings, but a well maintained house with a parked car now and then. The only thing I didn’t see in Viivikonna was any kind of store or shop.

In respect of the inhabitants I left the town and on my way out I spotted a ruin right near the city limits of Viivikonna. I‘ve no idea what this place was. There‘s a beaten path right near this building that takes you past it and revealed two more ruins. Be careful if you walk inside that former four-storied building. Some of the upper floors have already collapsed and the debris can be found on the ground floor.

Large ruin in Viivikonna

Inside one of there decayed buildings in Viivikonna

Side building ruin in Viivikonna

So, Viivikonna is clearly not a ghost town. It’s still inhabited. Allegedly around 50-90 people, mostly elderly, still live there. I can‘t image how living in a 90% decayed city is.

So if you plan to go to Viivikonna, show respect to the people that still (have to) live there. If a house and the surrounding area looks well maintained, stay away. There‘s most likely still someone living in there.

The best places to see and photograph decayed buildings in Viivikonna are near the city limits.

And don't forget to drop by Kolga Manor on your way back to Tallinn.

And finally, here's some of the stuff and gear I use to explore and photograph in lost places like this one.

Chris Feichtner

In 2012, I ditched my cumbersome DSLR in favor of an iPhone to document my travels.

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Liechtensteinklamm: A photo spot behind each ledge