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Saaremaa in Estonia - the island of windmills

Ösel in Estonia is an island in the Baltic Sea the size of Gotland, famous for its windmills. The island also has an interesting Swedish history and has several exciting sights - from a medieval castle to a meteorite crater.


Saaremaa in Estonia

Saaremaa in Estonia, or Saaremaa as the island and county are called in Estonian, is the largest of the Estonian islands. There are of course plenty of gems to see and discover, but since we had limited time, we rolled towards the main sights. Join us!

By ferry to Saaremaa

We travelled by ferry to Saaremaa from Virtsu on the mainland. The ferry actually stops first on the island of Moon (Muhu), but from here you continue by car to the main island of Saaremaa. The Estonian ferries are comfortable, usually with a shop and some food service on board, and now the weather had also improved.

Till Ösel i Estland

Prettiest mansion on Moon Island

Located on Moon (Muhu) Island, Pädaste Manor is the only five-star hotel in Estonia outside Tallinn. Guests can enjoy a spa, horseback riding on the beach, a sunset boat ride, a picnic on Love Island or 'doing nothing'.

In the summer, you can also visit the park for a fee. We arrived here outside of opening hours, so we had to settle for a photo of the mansion before moving on.

Pädaste herrgård

Kuressaare Castle

Kuressaare Castle (or Kuressaare Fortress or Kuressaare Bishop's Castle) is one of the best preserved fortresses in Estonia. Built between the 14th and 19th centuries, the fortress is a truly impressive building with towers, massive walls and a moat filled with water.

Slottet Kuressaare på Ösel i Estland

Before entering the castle, we had the chance to try archery. I (Helena) am sure that I would shoot the worst, and excused myself with "someone has to take pictures". Peter did well!

Bågskytte på Ösel i Estland
Bågskytte på Ösel i Estland

The legend of the walled knight

According to legend, an architect who was designing a monastery building in 1785 found a walled-in room with a table, a chair and a skeleton. The skeleton would have belonged to a knight who was walled in alive in the 16th century.

The knight's promise of celibacy was tested by sending a blonde young woman to him. He fell in love, and when they were discovered, the woman was sent to a convent. The knight tried to rescue her from the monastery, but this attempt resulted in him being walled up alive.

Inmurad på Ösel i Estland
Slott Kuressaare på Ösel i Estland
Nunna på Ösel i Estland

Museum in Kuressaare Castle

Inside the castle there is also a large museum. There are exhibitions about animals and nature, but above all about the history of different eras. At the top there is also a small café.


You can also go out to various viewpoints. I (Helena) took photos from a beguiling height distance ...
Ösel i Estland

Kaali meteorite crater

About 7500 years ago, a meteorite fell on the island of Saaremaa in Estonia. The meteorite split into smaller pieces, with the largest forming a crater 110 metres wide and 22 metres deep. Eight smaller craters were also formed. The island of Saaremaa was already inhabited at the time and the damage has been compared to the explosion of a small atomic bomb.

Kaali meteoritkrater

Angla windmill hill

Saaremaa is the island of windmills, and seeing Angla Windmill Hill, or Angla Windmill Park as the area is known, is almost a must. There are five windmills on this site. Four of them are typical "stump mills" from Saaremaa and in the middle is a Dutch-type cap mill from 1927. After checking out the windmills, we went for ice cream. Like the ice cream here in Estonia!

Väderkvarnar Ösel
Väderkvarnar Saaremaa

Panga Pank

Panga Pank, or Panga Cliffs as the area is known in English, is Saaremaa's highest cliff. This limestone cliff has a maximum height of 21.3 metres and extends for about 2.5 kilometres. At the highest point, there is also an ancient sacrificial site, where sacrifices were made to the sea long ago.

Panga Pank
Panga pank

I (Helena) am afraid of heights, and I can't say that I am love to walk near steep cliffs with warning signs, but despite this I managed to pose for a selfie with a smile! (Or well, almost in any case).

Panga Pank
Selfie Panha Pank

Camping on Saaremaa in Estonia

We have free-camped a lot in Estonia, because it is allowed, feels safe and because there is a lot of beautiful nature to free-camp in. On the island of Saaremaa in Estonia, we chose to stop at a campsite to empty and fill our tanks, and to take a much-needed shower.

The campsite is located in Lõunaranna harbour on Moon (Muhu) Island, with a nice view of a small marina. We paid 20 euros for a campsite with electricity. If you want, you can pay extra for a sauna and/or breakfast.

Camping på Ösel i Estland

Video from Saaremaa

All our top tips for Estonia. Click on the image!

Facts about Saaremaa in Estonia

  • Country: Estonia
  • Landscape: Saaremaa, which also includes the islands of Runö and Moon.
  • Municipality: Municipality of Saaremaa (including the islands of Vilsandi and Abrö)
  • Size: 2673 square kilometres
  • Population: 31 000 (2017)
  • The name Ösel: The Vikings travelled to Saaremaa in 972 and named the island 'Eysysla', which roughly means 'island' and 'district' or 'administrative area'.
  • Industries: Agriculture and fish processing industry

Things to see and do on Saaremaa

  • Locations: Kuressaare (main town), Nasva, Salme, Kudjape, Kärla, Aste, Valjala, Leisi, Orissaare
  • National Park: Vilsandi National Park
  • Attractions: Kuressaare Castle, Angla Windmill Park, Karja Catherine Church, Panga Pank, Kaali Crater, Muhu Museum in the village of Koguva, Pädaste Manor and Loona Manor.
  • Prices: We paid €8 per person to visit Kuressaare Castle and €4 per person to visit the Angla weathervane hill.

The people of Saaremaa

  • Famous people: Jakob Mändmets (author), Louis Kahn (architect), Eugène Dücker (artist), Ivo Linna (singer) and Arnold Rüütel (third President of Estonia).
  • Estonian Swedes: Saaremaa used to have an Estonian-Swedish population, but this has disappeared or been mixed with the Estonian population. The names Suur-Rootsi (Big Sweden), Väike-Rootsi (Little Sweden) and Rootsiküla (Sweden Village) are reminders of the Estonian-Swedish history.

The history of Saaremaa

  • 10 000 years ago: The very oldest remains of settlements on Saaremaa date back 10,000 years.
  • Viking Age: Both in Snorri Sturlasson's The Ynglinga Saga and in historical Norway tells of the sword king Yngvar who ravaged Estonia and tried to take Saaremaa. Esther of Saaremaa, for her part, ravaged Blekinge in the 13th century, destroying a church and capturing slaves. At this time, Saaremaa had a thunder god called Tarapita, who was similar to Thor in many ways.
  • Various gentlemen: For a long time, Germans, Danes and Swedes took turns to rule over Saaremaa. The castle in Kuressaare (Kuressaare Bishop's Castle) was first built by the Danish king Valdemar Sejr during a crusade in 1206. In 1227 the island was conquered by German crusaders under Albert of Riga, who took the opportunity to forcibly Christianise the population. In 1345 the Teutonic Order built the castle of Soneburg. The island became Danish again in 1559, and at the Peace of Brömsebro in 1645 Ösel became Swedish. In 1710, the island fell to Russia and became part of the Governorate of Livonia. During both the First and Second World Wars, German and Russian armies fought over the island.
  • The Soviet era: The island was closed during the Soviet era and could only be visited by those with a visa or specially issued internal passport. The island had limited immigration from other parts of the Soviet Union, and less than 3 per cent of the population is now Russian-speaking.

Travelling to Saaremaa in Estonia

  • Ferry from the mainland: Ferries run to Saaremaa (Muhu and Saaremaa) from Virtsu on the mainland. It takes just under an hour to drive from Pärnu to Virtsu. It takes 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive from Tallinn to Virtsu. You can check the current ferry timetable at
  • Ferry from Dagö: It is also possible to get to Saaremaa in Estonia by ferry from Sõru on Dagö to Triigi on Saaremaa. These ferries run less frequently and are more likely to be full. Book in advance at (only a certain percentage of tickets can be booked) or arrive in time for the ferry.

Programme "Promoting Estonia as a Tourism Destination" is supported by European Union Regional Development Fund.

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