For those looking to get off the beaten path in the Baltics and are interested in visiting the Estonian islands, you will be happy to hear that there are many things to do in Saaremaa that will keep you occupied for a few days.
Though many visitors to Estonia set their sights on Tallinn and look no further, there is so much to see in this beautiful country beyond the capital. For vibrant Tartu to beachy Parnu, the Estonian mainland does have a lot to offer. However, there are also countless islands to visit on the islands, as well, including the largest island of Saaremaa.
Saaremaa is no secret amongst locals and it is a popular summertime destination for very good reason – it is peaceful, beautiful, has wonderful beaches and an excellent laid-back vibe. The island is also easy to get to and there are so many things to do in Saaremaa that you will certainly never be bored when visiting.
So if you’re after an off-the-radar destination in Estonia, then make sure to add Saaremaa onto your itinerary.
Getting To & Around Saaremaa
It’s understood that it can feel daunting to reach Saaremaa, especially since it is an island not connected to the mainland via a bridge. Therefore, the only way to reach Saaremaa overland is via ferry.
Ferries to Saaremaa leave from the port town of Virtsu on the southern coast of Estonia and arrive onto the island of Muhu. Muhu Island is connected to Saaremaa via a bridge. The ferry ride is about 27 minutes and is incredibly pleasant.
The Virtsu to Muhu ferry does accommodate cars and that is how most people use this boat. You can book tickets for the ferry online (there are plenty of departure times each day), but you do need to have your license plate details on hand if you do.
This is because the entry is digitally linked, so you don’t need to stop and show anyone your ticket. It’s helpful to know that you can also take any sailing time, even if you’ve booked for a particular boat, given there is enough space.
On the boat, there is ample seating (both indoor and outdoor) and there is also quite an inviting buffet serving Estonian specialities. You can even get a local craft beer and some other Saaremaa food products!
Once in Saaremaa, it’s easiest to get around by using your own car. The town of Kuressaare is walkable, however, to reach the majority of the sites and things to do in Saaremaa, having a car is going to be the easiest.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can reach Saaremaa via bus from most major cities in Estonia. And once you’re on the island, there are some local buses that you can hop on to get around and visit some places that are outside of Kuressaare. You just won’t have the flexibility or freedom that having your own car will grant you.
For those that do decide to hire a car for their visit to Saaremaa, we suggest browsing Rentalcars.com in order to compare prices across a number of different rental companies.
12 Best Things To Do In Saaremaa
See the Kaali Crater
One of the top things to do in Saaremaa is to visit the Kaali Crater. This meteorite crater is located in the centre of the island and the impact is believed to have happened around 3,500 years ago.
Though this crater isn’t as impressive as the ones that can be found in Iceland or Crater Lake in Oregon, USA, the Kaali Crater is still worth visiting.
Entry to the crater is free and there is a small car park nearby (along with a small restaurant and some people selling local handicrafts). The crater itself is not too large and there is a pathway so you can walk all the way around it (it will take 5-10 minutes) and you can go down the staircase to the bottom of the crater, as well.
Set in a lovely wooded area, the crater has a small pond with beautiful lilypads upon it, so it is simply a pleasant place to visit and something you must do when visiting Saaremaa.
Visit the Kuressaare Castle
As the capital and main city of Saaremaa, there are a number of things to do in Kuressaare. However, the one thing you absolutely cannot miss in this lovely little city is the Kuressaare Castle.
One of the best things about visiting the smaller places in Estonia is the accessibility of historic buildings, and the Kuressaare Castle is no different. Surrounded by a beautiful moat and a lush, green park, there is no entrance fee to the castle and you are free to explore and climb around it however you wish.
Because this is also a relatively off-the-beaten-path place for visitors from outside of the region, you won’t be contending with large tour groups – or even many other tourists at all. The castle dates back to the 14th Century and is steeped in history and is an absolute joy to visit and explore.
Admire the Sõrve Lighthouse
If you fancy a bit of a drive down to the southernmost point of Saaremaa, one of the best things to do on this island is to visit the Sõrve Lighthouse.
Located in the town of Saare on the eponymous peninsula about a 45-minute drive from Kuressaare, the Sõrve Lighthouse is striking and a major landmark on the island.
A lighthouse has stood in this spot since the middle of the 17th Century, however, the current lighthouse has only been standing since its construction in 1949. While the lighthouse is no longer active (it ceased operation in the 1960s), you can still visit it and, if you want to get great views and work up a sweat, you can even climb up to the top.
There is also a lovely, stony beach to enjoy near the lighthouse and a couple of cafes where you can get a snack and cold drink if you desire. Parking and viewing the lighthouse is free of charge, but there is a fee to climb to the top.
Enjoy Local Seafood
One of the best things about visiting a Baltic island is the sheer amount of fresh, local seafood there is. And that’s why enjoying some local fish is one of the best things to do on Saaremaa.
If you’re looking for a great restaurant where you can enjoy fresh, local specialities, then make sure to head to Ku-Kuu Fish House. Situated with a prime view of the Kuressaare Castle, this is one of the top places for fresh fish in Saaremaa’s main city.
If you’re looking for another local speciality, then you should definitely sample some smoked fish. If you want to get freshly smoked fish directly from the source, then drive a short distance from Kuressaare to Suitsukala Smoked Fish.
This is a local smokery where you can purchase some fish (at a great price) for takeaway. They also sometimes have a restaurant open if you would like to eat there!
Take in the Panga Cliff
Though Kuressaare is absolutely charming, the real draw of Saaremaa is its beautiful coast and printing nature. And one of the best places to admire the stunning beauty of this island is at the Panga Cliff. Saaremaa is a pretty flat island, but these cliffs are at the highest part and cascade a few metres above sea level.
There is a large car park near the cliffs and a number of well-defined trails that you can take along the cliffside. It’s worth noting that these cliffs aren’t massive nor particularly dramatic, but they are absolutely lovely in their own right and very much worth exploring.
Located on the north of the island, the Panga Cliff is about a 35-minute drive from Kuressaare.
Relax at Tuhkana Beach
Saaremaa is known for its peaceful coastline and one of the best places to enjoy it is at the gorgeous Tuhkana Beach. Situated in a secluded area on the north of the island, Tuhkana Beach is one of the nicest beaches on the island. Easy to loop into a visit to the Panga Cliff, the beach is located only about twenty minutes from there.
To get to the beach’s car park, there is a short (well-maintained) dirt road that you must drive on for about a kilometre once turning off the main road. You can then park in the main car park (it is labelled and free) and walk about 500 metres through the woods before reaching the beach.
The beach itself is strikingly beautiful and a bit wilder than some other beaches and it is the perfect place to visit if you simply want to enjoy the windswept beauty of this Estonian island.
Head to the Angla Windmill Park
When exploring Saaremaa, you will notice classic wooden windmills throughout the island that add a certain amount of charm to this beautiful place.
However, if you want to visit some of these windmills all in one place (especially if you’re travelling with children), then make sure to head to the Angla Windmill Park.
This open-air museum has a handful of wooden windmills (of which you can go inside) and also an enclosure with some adorable bunnies, ducks, goats and geese that are sure to delight all animal lovers, no matter their age.
There is a fee to enter the park, however, you can also see all of the windmills from the road if you’re not too interested in heading inside.
Sip Locally Brewed Craft Beer
If you’re a craft beer fan, Estonia is going to be heaven for you as pretty much every restaurant and cafe in the country has at least a few local brews on their menu. Saaremaa is no different and there are a couple of microbreweries on the island that can be worth visiting if you’re keen to have a beer.
If you want to visit a brewery, the Phitla Brewery located about fifteen minutes from Kuressaare is an excellent choice. They have a rustic taproom with their brews available and you can drink to your heart’s content (provided you’re not the one driving!).
You can also find other beers on tap and in supermarkets throughout the island should you not want to visit this taproom. Another popular microbrewery on Saaremaa is Pöide, with its brewery located in Kuressaare. All in all, sampling some local craft beer is one of the best things to do in Saaremaa.
Shop for Soaps at GoodKaarma
There are plenty of local artisans on the island where you can get unique souvenirs to take home with you. And if you’re looking for something in particular, we recommend heading to GoodKaarma soaps.
This soap shop is located in the small town of Kaarma in the centre of the island (you will have to drive a few kilometres on a well-maintained dirt road to get there) and the owner makes beautiful soaps with local ingredients.
You can also get other handicrafts here and some essential oils, should you wish. The owner is friendly and the location is idyllic and a stop here is an excellent place to get a locally made souvenir from Saaremaa.
While there are so many things to do in Saaremaa outside of the main town, there is no denying that exploring Kuressaare is something that cannot be missed when visiting this island.
As the largest town on the island, this is where most of the “action” happens. The main focal point of Kuressaare is, obviously, the castle, but the town has a lot more to offer, as well.
There is a charming main square that is lovely to take in, there are plenty of cafes to enjoy and a number of cute shops to browse. The houses are beautiful and you can let yourself get lost while wandering through cobbled streets.
Kuressaare also has its own small beach area, which isn’t as stunning as some of the other beaches but is still a great place for a mellow swim or to soak up some sunshine. If you choose to walk along the harbour, you can’t miss the statue of Suur Tõll and Piret, who are the mythical heroes of Saaremaa.
If you’re visiting the island, make sure to block out enough time to be able to really enjoy Kuressaare because you certainly won’t regret it.
Sample Local Juniper Products
If there is one flavour and product that Saaremaa is well-known for, it is juniper and you can find it in many different things on the island. If you’re looking for some juniper products to take home with you, then make sure to head to Orbu Farm in the southwest of the island.
Here you can sample and purchase an array of juniper syrups, berries and jams that are made on the farm from local juniper. These make for excellent keepsakes from your trip to Saaremaa.
Admire the Beautiful Coastline
No trip to this beautiful island is complete without enjoying its coastal areas, and spending time at the beach and on some of the rocky banks is one of the best things to do in Saaremaa.
Though the island is large and there is a lot of beautiful, wooded area to enjoy, the coastline can definitely be the main draw.
If you take the time to pull away from the main road, you will be greeted with countless beaches boasting soft white sand and beautiful lookouts with smooth stones.
One of the best places to enjoy some gorgeous coastal views is the Ohessaare Bank, where you can enjoy a peaceful seaside view, add to the countless stacks of rocks, and even enjoy a beverage or snack at the cafe.
Where to Stay in Saaremaa
Saaremaa is Estonia’s largest island and there are lots of little villages to stay in around the island, however, the town of Kuressaare makes for the best base. There are plenty of restaurants and amenities here and it’s easy to get almost everywhere around from there are well. If you’re looking for a place to stay, have a look at these suggestions:
Ekesparre Boutique Hotel – For those looking for a plush place to rest your head in Saaremaa, then this boutique hotel is an excellent option for you. Located in the centre of Kuressaare, this is considered to be the island’s oldest hotel. They have a range of beautiful rooms on offer and is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Click here to see their availability
Stuudio 17 – If you’d like to have your own apartment while visiting Saaremaa, then you’re sure to love this one-bedroom flat in Kuressaare. Centrally located on a quiet street, it is fully furnished and comfortable – perfect for a couple exploring the island! Click here to see their availability
Guesthouse Laurits – This cosy guesthouse is an excellent place to stay if you’re after a good, budget-friendly option on Saaremaa. Situated in Kuressaare, they have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, are pet friendly and have a shared kitchen where you can prepare your own meals should you wish. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Saaremaa hotels!
Though it is a bit off the beaten path for many visitors to Estonia, there are so many things to do in Saaremaa that make it a worthwhile stop on any visit to this Baltic country. Boasting beautiful beaches, charming towns, geographical anomalies and so much more, Saaremaa is certainly a lovely place to visit in Estonia.
Are you planning a trip to Saaremaa? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!