UNESCO biosphere area

UNESCO biosphere area

SAAREMAA - part of the global UNESCO network

Estonia’s western islands have been included in the worldwide UNESCO Men and Biosphere network since 1990. The living environment here which has been preserved for centuries, its peculiar traditions, and the hard-working local people with their good sense of humour have gained special acknowledgment for being able to live in harmony with nature.

Saaremaa kuulub UNESCO biosfääri programmialale
Islanders have lived in harmony together with nature for centuries // Photo: Margit Kõrvits

The islanders live their daily lives like seafarers on a long journey

They must always keep an eye on the weather and the wind, and think about whether they have enough food and water. There must be supplies in one’s boat for getting the occupants out of any sorts of trouble. Nothing is ever simply thrown away if it can be reused. The life on a boat is sustainable and well-considered; every item in a boat must have its own place and meaning. When living on an island, one must be resourceful and be able to make use of what one has. One must also know the sea and respect it rather than being afraid of it. The islanders know when to go into the forest and when to head out to sea. Nothing happens here without a reason; everything is thought through and is based on experience of life today in a manner which ensures that there will still be enough resources left for tomorrow.

Today, the UNESCO Men and Biosphere programme is focused on guiding more and more people towards choosing sustainable lifestyles. In other words, towards choosing a way of life which would resemble being on a longer sea journey. It is up to every single one of use to ensure that we will be able to leave for future generations the same environment that we are enjoying today.


The UNESCO biosphere areas are unique areas around the world in which one can see pure nature, taste local, natural food, and enjoy art which is inspired by nature.



Lia Rosenberg

Biosphere area specialist

You can read more about our local traditions and culture, hard-working and innovative islanders and preserved environment from our travel magazine Visit Saaremaa here and here.

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