Saaremaa is the largest Estonian island, situated on the west coast of Estonia. It's also relatively inexpensive to visit. The capital (and only city) in Saaremaa is Kuressaare, covered in a separate article.
Windmills in Angla, Saaremaa
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.
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".
A lot of the attractions on Saaremaa are located in the city of Kuressaare.
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.
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.
The Kaali meteorite craters. Located 18km from Kuressaare towards Kuivastu. The most probable age of the Kaali crates 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.
The portal of Karja Church
Karja Church. It's approximately three kilometers from Angla, towards Koikla. It is Saaremaa's smallest church that dates from the Middle Ages. The church is famous for its decorative elements. Some wall frescoes still remain. On the ceiling there are several mysterious, magical symbols, such as the three - legged triskele, a devil that looks between its legs, and the pentagram, among others.
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.
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 1960's.
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 (14.c) is one of the biggest country churches of Estonia with several valuables - organ 1805, altarpiece "Last Supper"1596. Slim neogothic tower rises 60 m above the sea level and works already more than 100 years as a light house and landmark for sea farers. No light house any more the re, but one can have a marvellous view from the top of the tower. Jusy next to the church there is a medieval campanile standing on the hillside (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.
An historic cobble stone road of 3 km leads you to Papissaare harbour - former sail ship building site. 36 big sail ships were built there before the last war. Hydro plane angares date back to 1913- 14 and belong among the worlds oldest monolite concrete buildings.Nowadays smoked flat fish could be bought from there during the season and boats to Vilsandi island depart from here.
Vilsandi island has given its name to the 2nd oldest nature reserve of Europe- nowadays Vilsandi National Park (1910)- silurian cliffs and fossils, birds, 36 species of wild orchids, butterfies, gray seals are only some of the highlights there.
Loona manor - the centre of Vilsandi National Park lies 3kms from the central village of Kihelkonna. The complex houses fossil museum, information centre, hotel, tenting area, restautant, toursim services.
Other sights in Kihelkonna parish: Odalätsi springs, Kihelkonna stronghold, site of Estonian first mud bath (1824), Mihkli farm museum 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.