Kurrasaare castle and moat, Saarema, Estonia

Things to do in Saaremaa, Estonia (Complete Saaremaa Travel Guide)

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Saaremaa may not be a place that many are familiar with. But if you are travelling around Estonia, it would be unthinkable to miss out on visiting the largest island of Estonia. Many locals, as well as Finns, Swedes & Latvians will know Saaremaa as a holiday destination and popular spa location for their summer holidays.

But Saaremaa is one of the best places to go in Estonia. I discovered that there is a lot to see on this remote island and it is a great place to go and spend some time to unwind from the world.

Keep reading as I go through all of the best things to do in Saaremaa for your stay.

The 12 Best Things To Do In Saaremaa, Estonia

Visit the Kaali Crater

Where else on earth can you visit a meteor crater so readily?! This large crater is one of 9 in total that surround the village of Kaali in the centre of the island. The meteor was 10m across, weighed 20-80 tons and crashed into the ground at 20km per second 3500 years ago!

How they know all of that, I have no idea but I loved the feeling of being up close and personal to a cosmic event, seeing a hole in the ground 100m across now filled with water. In ancient times, the crater was used as a burial ground and considered sacred.

Nowadays there is plenty of information on signs around the area and a small museum close to the car park.

Kaali crater, Saarema, Estonia, Dan

Kaali museum, Saarema, Estonia
Kaali museum

Explore Kuressaare Castle

One of the best things to do in Kuressaare is to visit the castle. For just €12, you can have access  to a castle with an informative museum inside. Some areas feels like it has recently been renovated with shiny new floors and modern plumbing in the ground floor toilets, but head to the upper floors and it feels like you are still in a building from the 14th century.

The museum has sections on ancient history, the usage of the castle and Saaremaa in Soviet times and is well worth spending a couple of hours wandering around.

However, the standout attraction of the castle is the star shaped moat that looks incredible from the air. On the roof of the castle you can just about make out the outline but postcards in the gift shop show what it’s really about.

Kuressaare castle, Saarema, Estonia

Castle reflection, landscape, Saarema, Estonia
The reflection of one of the towers

Sõrve Lighthouse

At the very bottom of a peninsula off of a peninsula of Saaremaa lies Sõrve Lighthouse. It is quite a drive to get there but does have a museum close by that was unfortunately closed when I was staying on Saaremaa.

There is plenty to see on the drive down including plenty of disc golf courses and a monument to victims of the Soviets driving out German forces in World War 2.

There are plenty of lighthouses on Saaremaa including Kiipsaare mentioned below.

Panga Cliff

Head to Panga Cliff on the north of the island to see the dramatic cliffs and coastline of Saaremaa. At 20m high, these cliffs are the highest in this regon of Estonia and use to be used for sacrifical purposes, throwing humans off the cliffs in Pagan times.

Now there is a lookout tower, beautiful areas to walk around, a recreation area for picnics and a perfect spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset.

Dan on stone beach, Saarema, Estonia

Try local seafood

Being an island, seafood is plentiful on the island, as it is in the rest of Estonia. There are still fishing villages dotted around the island, with one of them I visited Tagaranna.

Traditionally, small fishing boats would depart from the small harbour here, returning with the fish they would trade with other food grown inland on the island in a vibrant local economy.

Angla Windmill Park

Saaremaa is known for its windmills. On every carton of milk or every beer you’ll purchase that has been made in Saaremaa, the label will have a windmill on them.

Although dotted around the island, one of the best place for an all in one hit is the Angla Windmill Park close to Leisi. With a small museum and the ability to walk around the small park surrounding the windmills, this would be good for kids to explore as well.

Although Saaremaa has its own style of windmill, one of these windmills is actually in the style of Dutch windmills. I hope you get to guess which one!

Windmills, Saarema, Estonia Dan
Getting a photo of the windmills…
Windmills, , Saarema, Estonia
…and the photo!

Craft beer and food

I actually first discovered and heard of Saaremaa whilst trying out a craft beer in Tallinn. The barman said the beer is from Saaremaa and that piqued my interest.

Since then I’ve tried plenty of craft beer from Saaremaa and confirm that it is very good. Nothing exceptional but just very well made lager or IPA style beer.

But is isn’t just beer that Saaremaa is known for. It seems that most milk in Estonia and a lot of dairy products come from this little island. Visiting some local restaurants on the island proves that so much of it is local produce.

Local beer, Saarema, Estonia
Enjoying a local beer in front of the fire

Spend time in Kuressaare

Kuressaare is the biggest town on Saaremaa and the only place that doesn’t make you feel like you are on a remote island. I loved walking around the streets with colourful buildings, popping down small laneways to tasty cafes or trying the aforementioned delicious food at La Perla, a restaurant recommended by locals.

There are a few museums, a shopping centre and some street art that will keep you occupied for a day or so.

There are also some good beaches close to the city. Near the harbour with local boats is a small beach that can be enjoyed in summer with a park and grassy area nearby. An excellent map of the area can be found clicking HERE.

Town hall, Kuressaare, Saarema, Estonia
Kuressaare town hall

Kiipsaare lighthouse

Known as the Leaning Tower of Saaremaa, this lighthouse is now out to sea after 100 years of waves and erosion has washed away its base that was originally 100m inland. A long way from anywhere else on the island but an interesting place to visit and another that is recommended by locals.

Lake Karujarve

In summer, this is the place to be in Saaremaa. The lake has a small beach area and is popular with locals exploring the island. There is also a small campsite close by if you did decide that passing through doesn’t allow enough time.

Muhu Island

If you drive to Saaremaa getting the ferry across from Kuivastu, you will actually drive through Muhu Island before you get to Saaremaa. Explore the 13th Century St Catherines Church, Muhu Museum, or if you really want to head somewhere unexpected, Muhu Ostrich Farm.

Visit one of the many beaches

Being an island, there are no shortage of beaches on Saaremaa. Of course these are best visited in summer where families picnic as kids swim in the clean fresh waters.

But even though I was there in winter, the Saaremaa beaches were lovely to walk around and provided and excellent place to watch sunset on more than one occasion.

The visit Saaremaa website has an excellent map of the beaches on the island which can be found HERE.

Purple sunset at beach, Saarema, Estonia

Dan sunset beach, Saarema, Estonia
With a sunset this good, I think you’ll guess I liked it!

What and where to eat and drink on Saaremaa

Unfortunately, Saaremaa doesn’t have endless fine dining options but there is still enough places to visit to keep your tastebuds satisfied. The restaurants in Kurressare have some good options for eating after a day of exploring, La Perla which was mentioned above, is a great choice recommended by locals.

Veski restaurant, located inside a windmill, is also popular with tourists that visit the island for a full Saaremaa experience. BÖNS Pagaristuudio has very good coffee and excellent pastries available and it just off the main square.

Bons coffee, Saarema, Estonia

My favourite place to eat on the island is the bakery in Karja, again another place recommended by locals which is close to the Angla Windmill park. Go early in the morning for the freshest food and get a Vastlakukkel (sweet bun with whipped cream) or a delicious loaf of bread.

Where to stay on Saaremaa

Saaremaa has an abundance of hotels and lodgings to stay in as you would expect on an island that is geared to tourists.

The island is known for its spa hotels and there are plenty in Kuressaare with the most popular being Arensburg right in the centre.

If you’re looking for a cabin in the woods (like I did!) then AirBnB will be your friend. You can also try posting on a Saaremaa facebook group – this is how we connected with our homeowners who don’t ordinarily rent in the off-season.

Hotel and spa, Saarema, Estonia
One of the many hotels and spas in Kuressaare

Getting to and from Saaremaa

There are a few options to get to Saarema from the rest of Estonia.

There are daily flights on very small planes from Tallinn into Kuressaare airport with fares being very reasonable starting from €39 per person one way. They can be booked HERE.

The most common way of getting to Saarema, is by car and using the Saarema ferry from Virtsu on the mainland to Kuivastu. In summer, it is recommended to book in advance, especially on weekends. However at all other times of year, it is possible to turn up and get on the next available ferry. During the day they run approximately every hour and the Saaremaa ferry is priced at €12 per car and €4 per person.

Boat to, Saarema, Estonia
Cutting through the ice on the boat to Saaremaa

Another way to get to Saaremaa is using public transport. Buses run from Tallinn using Lux Express and also stop at Orisaare.

Local buses do loops of the island, almost all of them going to or from Kuressaare. The further from the main town you are, the less frequent the buses with some buses only going past 3-4 times per day. To get the full experience of Saaremaa, I highly recommend hiring a car and exploring as much as you can see. I’ve read a blog of people going to Saaremaa with public transport and them not being able to see a lot of the things they wanted to because the bus timetable didn’t suit their plans.

From Kuressaare, there are some taxi’s however it isn’t something that I used so can’t comment on price or reliability.

Summing up visiting Saaremaa

Saaremaa should definitely be on your list of places to see in Estonia. It is a beautiful island that is mostly untouched by mass tourism, despite it being popular with local tourists.

Saaremaa is a place to explore nature, to take your time and to explore slowly. If you want to rush and tick off sites, don’t come. But relax, see what you should, explore deeply and learn to fall in love with this remote corner of Estonia.

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