Parishes and strongholds

Parishes and strongholds

The items of heritage from the times of long past can be found in Saaremaa yet today. Ancient strongholds are among the most interesting representatives of those.


Not many of the strongholds that sheltered and protected people in ancient times have survived in their original way. Still, the sites of a number of these strongholds are accessible and high ramparts evidence the large scale of the fortifications that once were.


The biggest of the strongholds, Lihulinn, is located right in the middle of Saaremaa. The only stronghold with some ruins of former buildings is in Maasi near Orissaare in the eastern part of Saaremaa. Valjala and Kaarma strongholds are among the most visited ones. Examining the fortified settlements of the Bronze and pre-Roman Iron ages in Estonia started at Asva settlement in the southern part of Saaremaa and therefore the period of history has got its name after this settlement.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Saaremaa was divided into 12 parishes. Currently, their former borders can be traced by the brown location signs by the roadsides. The folk costumes with their distinguished patterns, still favoured and worn today, are also known by the names of their parishes of origin.

As already said the folk costumes are also known by the names of their parishes of origin. Up until today the folk costumes are inherited to the next generation and folk costumes are worn on festive events and special occasions. You can read more about tanu (bonnet) from the travel magazine Visit Saaremaa in the article "There is no walking indoors without wearing an apron and there is no walking outdoors without wearing a bonnet" on pages 94-97.


Islanders value their traditions, folklore, legacy but also the environment we live in. Saaremaa with other West-Estonia islands has been part of the UNESCO biosphere program area since 1990. This means that islanders live in harmony together with nature and are keeping to do so. Islanders respect the environmement they live in and they hope that their guests will do the same.

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