Rich history, untouched nature, delicious food and welcoming islanders
Why visit Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the biggest island of Estonia and is surrounded by many smaller islands. People who visit, often say that it is an island where time stops. Here you will find untouched nature, rich history, long traditions, delicious food and innovation.
Saaremaa with other West-Estonia islands are part of UNESCO biosphere program area “Man and Biosphere” – islanders have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. A green holiday in Saaremaa is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers. You will find eight spa hotels and high quality restaurants.
Saaremaa with its surrounding islands are the pearls in the Baltic Sea.
Saaremaa is an island where you will find untouched nature and unique traditions. Saaremaa with other West-Estonia islands are part of UNESCO biosphere program area “Man and Biosphere”. This means that islanders have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.
Saaremaa, Muhu, Ruhnu, Vilsandi and Abruka islands attract visitors with their unique nature, traditions and culture. Smoked fish and home made beer has been made at islanders homes for centuries, and you have to taste those when visiting Saaremaa. Local restaurants cooperate with local farmers and fishermen – many local restaurants use products from the islands. Here is a lot more to discover.
Culture & Local Life
Saaremaa has a rich history; here you have a chance to visit seven churches that are from the middle age and wander in the halls of Kuressaare castle that was built in the 14th century. During summer, local folk dance groups perform in the city centre where you can see the beauty of local folk clothes and folk dance. You can also attend free guided tours in Kuressaare to learn more about the city’s history and hidden gems.
One thing that you have to do is eat fish, dark bread and try home-made beer. Here is a long tradition of smoking fish, baking bread and brewing beer at home.
Photo © Kristina Mägi
Kuressaare (capital city of Saaremaa) has a good bus connection with Tallinn (capital city of Estonia). Prices are between 12-16€ and one part of the journey includes ferry ride. The journey takes all together 4 hours. It is good to know that one ferry that operates between the islands and the mainland is a hybrid ferry. You can also drive here by car, sail with your yacht or take a 30 minutes flight from Tallinn to Kuressaare.
A green holiday in Saaremaa will be perfect especially for those who loves cycling because it has an advantageous landscape for cycling; land is flat, distances are short, here are 30 kilometers of cycling roads around Kuressaare and the traffic on the car roads is light. You can rent a bike from many places, eg. from the local Tourist Information Centre. Local public transport is free of charge for everyone and public transport is green – 80% of the busses use compressed natural gas.
Nature & Wildlife
Saaremaa offers untouched nature and scenic views. Hike on 35 different hiking trails, one of the most interesting is 4 km long trail to the leaning lighthouse of Kiipsaare or hike through water from Saaremaa to Vilsandi islands. In spring you will get a chance to see 34 species of orchids that grow in the wild in Saarema.
If you are a bird lover, spring and autumn are the times to visit the islands. Birds stop on their way to or back from south around Sõrve peninsula area. When going around the islands keep your eyes open as here you will see elks, red deers and wild boars.
Photo © Margit Kõrvits
Saaremaa is the must sustainable municipality in Estonia in 2020. When in Saaremaa you can see holistic view of sustainability – green transportation, sustainable events, unique nature, long traditions, welcoming islanders. Saaremaa is also part of UNESCO biosphere program area “Man and Biosphere” and Natura 2000 program. Local transportation uses compressed natural gas, one ferry is a hybrid ferry.
Health and Safety
Population density is low here – 11,5 citizens per km2 – it is quite easy to be distanced from others. Hand sanitizers are available at every public venue. Outside of Kuressaare hospital is a drive-in Covid 19 testing tent. At national level it is strongly suggested that people were face masks at public venues and keep 2 meters distance with others who are not family members. On the picture it says “Be nice, wear a mask!”. Please pay attention to it when you are going on your green holiday in Saaremaa.
Good Practice Story
I Land Sound is a 4-day camping-based greenfield festival that takes place in Estonia, on the picturesque islet of Illiku. I Land Sound music festival is held in harmony with nature and they have developed the I Land Green program. They make signs of industrial leftovers; plastic plates and cutlery are banned on festival sites, instead they have ceramic alternatives; every caterer has to have at least one vegan option in menu, well-known soft drinks are not allowed to sell, only locally produced beverages. This is a good practice story that every music festival should strive towards.
Good places in Saaremaa
We recommend these places because they are committed to responsible tourism, checked and certified by independent auditors and ecolabel programs: Green Key and EHE, Genuine and Interesting Estonia.
Travel tips from our editors
Mysterious seafront location
Saaremaa has always been a mysterious seafront location due to its isolation and location. Let the beautiful nature, windmills and stonewalls surprise you. Take one of the many hiking trails through the wonderful nature and get acquainted with the wildlife of Saaremaa and enjoy your adventure in peace. Vilsandi National Park area is particularly rich in hiking trails. Hike for example the trail to the famous Kiipsaare lighthouse in the sea, which is located on the Harilaid peninsula.
Cycling in Saaremaa and Muhu Island
Saaremaa and Muhu islands are perfect for cycling. Distances are quite short, approximately 30 kilometers of bicycle roads around Kuressaare and traffic on the car-roads are light, so it is convenient to cycle also on the car roads. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can rent it from several places in Kuressaare. You can also take the bicycle and enjoy the most famous landmarks such as Kaali Crater, Angla Windmills, Panga Cliff and Järve Dunes.
Smoked fish, black bread and home made beer are the tings that one must try in Saaremaa. Islanders have a long tradition of baking bread at home, smoking fish and brewing beer. If you are going on a green holiday in Saaremaa during summer, you can find catch-of-the-day from many restaurants’ menus.
Wonderful hiking trails
Many wonderful nature and hiking trails allow you to get acquainted with the wildlife of Saaremaa and enjoy your adventure in peace. Here you will find 35 different hiking trails that differ in lengths, all together here are 234 kilometers of hiking trails. When spending time in the nature on spring, keep your eyes open as here are 34 speeches of orchids that grow in the nature. In summer take a basket with you and pick berries such as blueberries and lingonberries, also mushrooms. A completely different sight opens in bog. Fo example go to Koigi bog – enjoy true peace and tranquility on a four-kilometer-long hiking trail. There you can hear your own steps and the wild animal’s noises in the distance. You can take in the beauty of the sillering bog lake from the platform on the edge of the lake and from the observation tower by the trail.
Hike and bike in Saaremaa
Saaremaa is an island of just the right size for taking trips by bike. In the vicinity of Kuressaare, there are 30 km of cycle tracks for biking around. There are also Euro Velo and Esto Velo routes in Saaremaa, respective signs are by the roadside. Not all the roads in Saaremaa are asphalt-paved; many of them are earth roads. As the villages of Saaremaa are small and dining places cannot be found everywhere, it may be useful to take along your own picnic basket and why not use local food to fill it.
Saaremaa got 2nd place in the Baltic Sea Region Sustainable Tourism Award