Cities and villages
The territory of Saaremaa has been inhabited for about eight thousand years. The people of Saaremaa have seen many battles and been ruled over by Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Russia.
Saaremaa has retained its uniqueness due to its location and isolation. In the villages there are still stone fences and houses with thatched roofs. Dolomite, windmills and the famous local home-brewed beer are the symbols of Saaremaa. Saaremaa is famous for its music and its own culture, e.g. Saaremaa waltz.
The islanders' life has always been bound to the sea and the resilience of their womenfolk, kept busy toiling the land while their men were at sea.
The people of Saaremaa love jokes - especially the ones which are about their neighbours - the people of Hiiumaa. The jokes of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa folk may be lost on other Estonians, just as is British humour is sometimes not appreciated "on the continent".
- Tourist Information Centre, Tallinna 2 (in Kuressaare), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
Besides the following, also the city of Kuressaare has several sights.
- Loode Oak Forest, Kaarma vald, Saare maakond. Loode oak forest is one of the few extant naturally growing park-like forests. Rare flora can be found there (including orchids). The forest is equipped with a bird watching platform.
- 1 Angla Windmills. The only remaining group of windmills on Saaremaa is located in Angla, at the 32 kilometre mark on the Upa-Leisi road.
- Asva Fortified Settlement, Asva, Saaremaa. The tiny village of Asva is located at the 33 kilometre mark on the Kuivastu - Laimjala - Kuressaare road. There, behind the village on a low-lying hayfield is located one of the most archaeologically important Bronze-Age sites in Northern Europe. Asva has given its name to an entire culture.
- Jämaja church. Jämaja church is located on the western shore of Sõrve peninsula, at the 21 kilometre mark on the Kaugatuma - Sääre road. Although the present reconstruction dates to 1864, there has been a church here since the Middle Ages.
- 2 The Kaali meteorite craters. Located 18km from Kuressaare towards Kuivastu. The most probable age of the Kaali craters is 7500-7600 years. Kaali lake is considered to be the most unique geological object in Estonia. Known as Holy Lake it also has an important place in tradition. There is archaeological evidence that it was a place of offering for many centuries.
- Kaarma Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Is located on the Laadjala - Kaarma - Karja road at the six kilometer mark. The church was probably built after the 1261 rebellion. There is a medieval; baptismal font (13th century) and a wooden sculpture of St. Simon of Cyrene (mid-15th century) standing under the pulpit. The pulpit, dating from 1645, is also worth noting. The present Neo-Gothic altarpiece depicts a painting by O. von Moeller of Christ on the Cross. The Kaarma ring fort is located about 100m east of Kaarma church.
- Karja Church of Saint Catherine. It's approximately 3 kilometers from Angla, towards Koikla. It is the smallest church in Saaremaa that dates from the Middle Ages, built in the 13th and 14th centuries. There is no separate bell-tower. The church is famous for its many from Romanesque to Gothic and High Gothic style stone sculptures. Karja Church has more decorations, than any other country church in the Baltic countries.
Some fragments of the wall frescoes can be seen. The baptismal font is from 14th century. The pulpit is from 1638. On the choir vaults, in the ceiling, there are several magical symbols, such as the three-legged triskelion, a devil that looks between its legs, and the pentagram, among others. There is a small entrance fee, for the tiny parish of 70 people.
- Karujärv (Bear Lake). The lake is located close to the town of Kärla, going towards Pidula. It is the oldest lake on Saaremaa, it appeared here almost 8000 years ago. The shores on the southern side of the lake are low and muddy. The northern shore is higher and there the shores are of gravel or sandy. The bottom of the lake is mostly sand. On the shores of the lake there is Karujärve Camping where cabins can be rented. There are an outdoor café and playing fields plus water bicycles can be rented.
- 3 Panga cliff. The Panga cliff is located on the northern shore of Saaremaa, at the end of the Kuressaare - Võhma road, close to Panga village. It is the highest of the Saaremaa and Muhu cliffs, reaching to a maximum of 21.3 metres. The entire cliff is approximately 2.5 km long. Folk tradition cites Panga cliff as a place of worship and sacrifice for the ancient Saarlanders. The last animal sacrifice took place during the 1960s.
- Pidula Manor. Approximately 11 kilometres from Kihelkonna towards Muistjala. Because of its well thought out proportions and tasteful details, art historians consider this to be one of Estonia's most attractive baroque manor houses. It is believed that the building dates to the mid-18th century.
- Pühatu springs. Saaremaa's largest and most well-known sacrificial springs are on the Kuressaare-Võhma road, at the five kilometre mark, behind Pähkla village on a low field, in a little thicket of trees. The spring is deep green in colour.
- Kihelkonna Church of Saint Michael. Built in the middle of 14th century, one of the biggest country churches in Estonia with several valuable works of art from 16-17th centuries: oldest Renaissance altarpiece in Estonia "Last Supper" from 1591, pulpit from 1604 and organ from 1805. Slim neogothic tower built 1897-1899 rises 60 m above sea level and has served as a landmark for seafarers for more than 100 years. It operated as a lighthouse in the second half of the 20th century. There is a marvellous view from the top of the tower. Just next to the church there is a medieval campanile, bell-tower standing on the hillside (built 1638, renovated in 2009). Numerous sailors from far away countries as well as local ship builders and writers, barons and other outstanding people have found their last rest at Kihelkonna cemetery - one of the biggest on Saaremaa.
- Cobble stone road and Papissaari Harbour. A historic cobble stone road of 3 km leads you to Papissaare Harbour – a former shipyard. 36 big sailing ships were built here in the 19th century till the last war 1940. Hydroplane hangars date back to 1913–14 and are among the oldest monolite concrete buildings in the world. Nowadays smoked flat fish can be bought from here during the season and boats to Vilsandi Island depart from here.
- Vilsandi Island. Vilsandi Island has given its name to the second oldest nature reserve in Europe – nowadays Vilsandi National Park (1910) – Silurian cliffs and fossils, birds, 36 species of wild orchids, butterflies, grey seals are only some of the highlights here.
- Loona Manor. The centre of Vilsandi National Park lies 3 km from the central village of Kihelkonna. The complex houses fossil museum, information centre, hotel, tenting area, restaurant, tourism services.
- Other sights in Kihelkonna parish: Odalätsi Springs, Kihelkonna Stronghold, site of Estonian's first mud bath (1824), Mihkli Farm Museum from 18th century etc.
There are many peninsulas, bluffs, lakes and villages worth visiting both in Saaremaa and the nearby islands and islets. The most notable places are Koguva village, on Muhu Island, which is Estonia's best preserved village, and Sõrve peninsula.
Vilsandi National Park is located on the western coast of Saaremaa and counts within its territory nearly a hundred little islets and their surrounding sea. It's a well known place by bird watchers.
- 3 Pidula Forell, ☎ . From €10.
- Hiiumaa – The second largest Estonian island. Popular for its lighthouses, ancient churches, historical values and the sense of humour of its inhabitants, but scarcely populated. In winter, it can sometimes be reached by car via an ice bridge on the Baltic Sea.
- Muhu – The third largest Estonian island, and a rural municipality connected to the nearby Saaremaa by an artificial embankment, where ferries to the harbour of Virtsu arrive. Has an open air museum, and its locals are known for still sewing woollen clothes. Sleepy fishing villages, working windmills, thatched cottages, plenty of deer, moose and birds.
- Pärnu – Estonia's 4th largest city and the summer capital of Estonia, popular for its balneo-therapy complexes and spa centres, surrounded by numerous beaches.
- Vilsandi National Park – Rich in marine fauna, and international bird sanctuary with over 250 recorded bird species, on the west coast of Saaremaa.