Years ago, during the Soviet period, the islands of Estonia were places with a restricted access or no access at all. To get to Saaremaa, one had to obtain a special permit. These days are over and everyone is welcome to the biggest island of Estonia either by a ferry or a plane. Around Saaremaa are many other smaller islands and islets that need to be discovered.
On the way to Saaremaa, people usually pass Muhu island without stopping. Still, this idyllic small island is worth exploring. It is said that Muhu is the island where time stops. On Muhu island you can meet girls wearing shoes with Muhu national ornaments, you can take a walk in the park of Pädaste manor, ride horseback or say hello to ostriches and the only zebra in Estonia.
Abruka is located just 4 km south of Kuressaare. On this island one can visit a grove forest that is under protection and special since it is the only forest of its kind in Europe to be located this far north. The brave ones can go the two neighbouring islets of Vahase and Kasselaid on foot through the sea or climb on the boulders that “travelled” here during the Ice Age. Information on the boat connection to Abruka is available here.
During summer months schooner Hoppet takes all the venturers to Abruka island. You can find schooner Hoppet at Raiekivi säär in Kuressaare, near Kuressaare park. You can find more information about Hoppet here and here.
Vilsandi national park
Vilsandi National Park is a separate archipelago, the biggest island of which is Vilsandi. The national park is a bird reserve with very beautiful wildlife. Vilsandi is said to have the cleanest air in Europe. The national park is loved by migrating birds and seals who have made the islets their beach for sunbathing.
Another special place is Ruhnu island that is not very easy to access but its seclusion and sense of difference can be felt once you’ve reached there. Here you can see the oldest timber building in Estonia, the Ruhnu wooden church from 1643, singing sands and a lighthouse designed by Gustave Eiffel.
It is especially fancy to rent an entire island. Right? This is also possible. Viirelaid is an 80 hectares land plot between Muhu and the mainland. The lighthouse complex is an ideal place to enjoy peace and quiet, to organize a spirited corporate event and to have a luxurious dinner. With these events Viirelaid has gained much popularity. Chefs from the mainland come here from time to time to organize themed dinners, which are usually all sold out long in advance. Viirelaid is named the best, but most difficult to access, restaurant in Estonia.
Did you know that Saaremaa, along with the other islands of West Estonia, is a member of UNESCO's ''Human and Biosphere'' program? This means that the islanders live in harmony with nature and can appreciate the local environment.