Sightseeing tour to western part of Estonia
This was a corporate trip by bus together with work colleagues to Estonian islands. It was a short weekend sightseeing tour to western part of Estonia just to relax, have some fun and look a bit around. Our destination was Saaremaa island, with a short stop in summer capital of Estonia – town Parnu.
Border between Latvia and Estonia
You may cross border between Latvia and Estonia using main road E67. However, there is an interesting alternative – turn left just before Estonian border to small town Latvian town Ainazi. Driving through the town you may get surprised that after short period of time you will see road sign showing hat you are passing state border. Just before the border there is a small parking place. If you stop there, you can go for a short walk to the old mole (it is located in Latvia just few hundred metres from Estonian border) and enjoy beautiful landscape.
Sea resort Parnu
The next stop we made was in Parnu (to be honest, there was nothing interesting before that point except some recreation areas near beach of Riga Gulf, still far away from E67). It was end of the weekend as well as end of the summer; town was very quiet. Most of cafes and restaurants closed or without visitors.
Parnu town itself is quit nice, especially old part of it – worth of wandering around a bit. If you go from Riga (Latvia) to Tallinn (Estonia), this is good place to take a short break and enjoy some coffee before driving another 130 kilometres (80 miles) to reach Tallinn. We did the same before continuing our trip to Estonian islands.
Saaremaa is the biggest Estonian island and there is regular ferry traffic between mainland and the island. Ferry terminal is in small village Virtsu and arrives in Kuivastu on Muhu island (Muhu island is located between mainland and Saaremaa island; to reach Saaremaa you should cross Muhu at first).
Journey lasts about 25 minutes – just enough to have some beer and snacks available on the board of ferry. Here is ferry timetable for this and another lines connecting Estonian mainland with islands. In general during business hours ferry departs every 35 minutes, two boats are operational on this route ships are about 97 metres long, 18 metres wide, draft of 4 m). Saaremaa island forms main barrier between the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea.
The highest point of the island is 54 metres above sea level. Old sagas talk about conflicts between islanders and Vikings. Saaremaa was among wealthiest counties of ancient Estonia and the home of Estonian pirates sometimes called the Eastern Vikings. Nowadays Saaremaa is known as a good recreation place with unique nature and a lot of sights. It has retained its uniqueness due to its location and insulation.
Cultural heritage of Muhu island
After arrival in Kuivastu on Muhu island you can find Koguva village, whish is located near Kuivastu – Kuressaare road. Koguva is best preserved village of 19th century in Estonia. Some of buildings date even from 18th century. You can observe traditional living style of Estonians as it was long time ago – living and farm houses, storehouses, saunas, barns and summer kitchens.
Saaremaa has area of 2700 square kilometres (about 1050 square miles) and its population is about 35 thousand people. In the villages there are still stone fences and houses with thatched roofs. The symbols of Saaremaa are windmills, junipers and home-brewed beer. Interesting site on island is Kaali meteorite craters formed after accident approximately in 650 – 700 BC (explored in 1937).
The largest of the craters measures 110 metres in diameter, mass of meteorites was from 20 to 80 tonnes. The main crater has dept about 22 metres. If driving in right direction you can easily find this site following road signs (it is located 18 kilometres from Kuressaare towards Kuivastu).
Capital of Saaremaa – Kuressaare
The last stop of our trip to Estonian islands wasKuresaare. There is only one town on Saaremaa island, which is Kuressaare – the capital of the island. The most important, and I would say the most exciting sight of Kuressaare, is the bishops castle.
The castle was built in the late 14th century, the basic plan of the building is a square with length of of each side about 43 metres. Among the medieval castles in the Baltic countries, this is the one that has survived very well.
A few words about Saaremaa hotels. Most of them are comfortable Spa hotels built very recently. You can expect to have access to pool, sauna, bar and other facilities. However, be aware that in early autumn there may not be heating operating in rooms and walls are extremely thin to both keep the rooms warm and silent.