I was pretty bummed out to leave Tallinn, which I liked so much, but the Estonian island of Saaremaa ended up being even better. We spent nearly the entire day there and then one night, which is a good amount of time to see some of the coolest places on the island.
There are no roads connecting mainland Estonia to Saaremaa so you have to take a ferry from Virtsu. The ferry comes around every 45 minutes, but you can check the timetable here. I do recommend planning according to the timetable because a long wait for another ferry sucks.
I had never driven onto a ferry so I was pretty delighted. After paying the entrance, which was around 17 euro for three of us and our car, we waited in line until it was time to drive on. The ferry ride is about 25 minutes. When you drive in, you go up to the passenger deck, which is pretty cushy. There’s a cafe with some basic snacks. After driving all the way from Tallinn, some salmon on bread and a coffee are perfect to tide you over before lunch.
Koguva Village on Muhu island
The ferry drops you off in Muhu, which is a small island before Saaremaa. Before continuing, you have to stop at Koguva Village. This is one of the oldest traditional towns in Estonia, with moss covered cottages and stone fences dating back to feudal times. Keeping in mind that people do live there, you should be respectful not to trespass onto anyone’s property as you walk around. Aside from traditional ships and straw-roofs on small stone cottages, the area has a couple of windmills.
If you want to do a bit more than just walk around the village, you can get a ticket for the Muhu Village Museum, which allows you to enter some of the structures and see some artifacts several centuries old.
Things to do in Saaremaa
Angla Windmill Park
This quick stop allows you to see more of the Saaremaa windmills of Estonia, including one Dutch-style windmill. You can visit them all along with some other cultural and agricultural tools that are part of the park’s exhibit. There’s also a friendly dog on the premises.
The most famous sight in Saaremaa is the Kaali Crater field, where you can see the impact of nine meteorites, one of the only meteorite impacts to occur in a densely populated area. The largest one is Kaali Crater. Getting there is fairly simple, because you can pretty much drive right up to it. The giant bowl-shaped crater has a path around the rim so you can walk around and even take some steps down into the bottom of the crater.
It is bigger than it looks in photos, giving you an impressive idea of the sheer power that a rock falling from space can have. The biggest downside about Kaali Crater is that the entire area smelled like pig shit. Not sure whether that’s due to the agriculture in the surrounding parts or if the standing water in the crater starts to reek after a couple of thousand years.
Sightseeing in Kuressaare
One of the biggest towns in Saaremaa is Kuressaare, which makes a great home base for exploring other parts of the island. The city is tiny but cute. The most impressive sight of the city is Kuressaare Castle, which is easily accessible on foot from city center. Past long bridges that cross the water around the castle, you can wander around the grounds and visit the Saaremaa Museum inside.
There isn’t a whole lot to do in city center, though it’s nice to just walk around Old Town, which is made up of a couple of major intersecting streets. For dinner, you can eat in a windmill at Saaremaa Veski. I know that sounds like a tourist trap, but the food was actually excellent. We had their home-brewed unpasteurized beer, Taluõlu. It was hazy and yeasty and delicious.
Go to a spa
For whatever reason, Saaremaa is known for its spas. Even though the city was mostly a ghost town, the jacuzzis and saunas at the Grand Rose Spa were buzzing until closing time at 10 pm.
A day pass is only 10 euros on weekdays, and the facilities are clean and luxurious. There are several pools of different temperatures, a handful of steam rooms, an aromatherapy room, and even an outdoor sauna on the terrace. It’s one of my favorite joys in life to step out of a 95 degree Celsius steam room and out into the cold air. But the best part? There’s a bar. So you can have a cocktail or a beer while you enjoy the hot tubs.
The perfect combination of activities in Saaremaa make this a stop not to be missed in Estonia.