SAAREMAA AND MUHU ISLANDS
A strange force draws people to the islands in summer. And Saaremaa – the country’s biggest island – is famous for its unique natural environment, its ancient churches and of course its greatest tourist magnet, the Kaali meteorite crater. Thanks to the mild maritime climate, the plant and animal life on Saaremaa and the islands around it is very diverse. More than 200 species found on the island – from the ‘robirohu’ as it is known in Estonian (Rhinantus osiliensis) and more than 30 orchids to the ringed seal – are protected. The Viidumäe conservation area and Vilsandi National Park are two of almost a hundred such sites on the island, which incorporate parks, cliffs and bluffs, boulders and unique bogs and wetlands. Saaremaa is often depicted by its juniper thickets, typical stone fences and vistas of windmills on the horizon. Saaremaa’s famous windmills can be seen at Angla. There are four typical wooden windmills and a slightly taller Dutch-style windmill. On the north coast of Saaremaa the Panga cliffs rise up to 21 metres in height, giving fantastic views over the Baltic Sea. An ancient sacrificial site is located at the highest point. Mihkli farm museum on Saaremaa’s west coast is worth a short detour to learn more about historical farms and everyday items hand-crafted over the centuries. Almost all of the items on display have been made by the six generations of the family who lived here.The only town in the county is the capital, Kuressaare, which used to be called Arensburg. Its main drawcard for tourists is its 14th century castle – the only one of its kind still standing in the entire Baltic region. The castle has produced many legends, and these play a big part in the annual Castle Days and Opera Days.
Muhu Island is Estonia’s third largest island and one of few locations in the country where traditional windmills can still be found in full working order. The island’s St. Catherine’s church, one of the oldest in Estonia is notable for its historical frescoes and trapezium-shaped tombstones with pagan symbols. The most intricate tombstone depicts the pagan Tree of Life. At the southernmost tip of Muhu is Pädaste manor, a luxurious hotel, spa and restaurant which has received international acclaim. Koguva village is the best preserved 19th century village in Estonia. All of the buildings are architectural landmarks, most date from the 19th century though some from the 18th century can be found in the middle of the village.
Source: Kuressaare Town Government – Estonia Tourist Board – Visit Estonia
Here’s a sampling of major yearly recurring events in Saaremaa:
Kuressaare Maritime Festival
Kuressaare Maritime Festival is the most important event in the cultural calendar of Saaremaa. A program full of great events, shows, well-know performers, exciting sea-themed workshops and plenty of food and drink.
For more info visit the official website www.merepaevad.ee
Saaremaa Opera Days
This long-running opera festival began in 1999 in the courtyard of the medieval Episcopal Castle in Kuressaare, the capital of Saaremaa and is one of the biggest event in the island.
For more info visit the official website www.saaremaaopera.eu/en
Saaremaa Castle Days
The history-flavoured family festival takes place in the courtyard of Kuressaare castle.
Guests can watch spectacular shows inspired by historic events, explore the historic village, enjoy beautiful concerts and spirited performances, and try their hand in different workshops. Craftsmen will offer nature-friendly products and castle chefs will prepare food by ancient recipes.
For more info visit the official website www.saaremaamuuseum.ee/en/