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By the way, we would recommend you to combine your visit to Saaremaa with other popular and interesting places of Estonia, for example: Pärnu, Kuressaare, Tallinn, Haapsalu, Tartu, Narva, etc.
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Hotels of Saaremaa
A hotel on Saaremaa is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger on Saaremaa hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms on Saaremaa are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Saaremaa hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Saaremaa hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels on Saaremaa have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:
Upscale luxury hotels on Saaremaa
An upscale full service hotel facility on Saaremaa that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Saaremaa hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.
Full service hotels on Saaremaa
Full service Saaremaa hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.
Historic inns and boutique hotels on Saaremaa
Boutique hotels of Saaremaa are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Saaremaa boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels on Saaremaa may be classified as luxury hotels.
Focused or select service hotels on Saaremaa
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Saaremaa travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Saaremaa focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.
Economy and limited service hotels on Saaremaa
Small to medium-sized Saaremaa hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Saaremaa traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Saaremaa hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.
Guest houses and B&Bs on Saaremaa
A bed and breakfast on Saaremaa is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Saaremaa bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Saaremaa B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.
Hostels on Saaremaa
Saaremaa hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Saaremaa hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.
Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels on Saaremaa
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Saaremaa hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels on Saaremaa lack an on-site restaurant.
Timeshare and destination clubs on Saaremaa
Saaremaa timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts on Saaremaa often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Saaremaa on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.
Motels on Saaremaa
A Saaremaa motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Saaremaa for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Saaremaa motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.
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This article is about the island. For other uses, see Saaremaa (disambiguation).
Location of Saaremaa in Estonia.
/ 58.417; 22.500 / 58.417; 22.500
West Estonian archipelago
2,673 km (1,032 sq mi)
11.6 /km (30 /sq mi)
Saaremaa (Estonian pronunciation: [ˈsɑːremɑː]; Danish: Øsel; English (esp. traditionally): Osel; Finnish: Saarenmaa; Swedish & German: Ösel) is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km (1,032 sq mi). The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago. The capital of the island is Kuressaare, which has about 15,000 inhabitants; the whole island has over 30,966 inhabitants.
The island is called Saaremaa in Estonian, and in Finnish Saarenmaa - literally "isle land" or "island land". In old Scandinavian sagas, Saaremaa is called Eysysla and in the Icelandic Sagas Eysýsla, which means exactly the same as the name of the island in Estonian: "the district (land) of island". This is the origin of the island's name in Danish Øsel, German and Swedish, Ösel, Gutnish Oysl, and in Latin, Osilia. The name Eysysla appears sometimes together with Adalsysla, "the big land", perhaps 'Suuremaa' or 'Suur Maa' in Estonian, which refers to mainland Estonia. In Latvian, the island is called Sāmsala, which means "the island of Saami".
Main article: History of Estonia
See also: Oeselians
Old Coat of arms of Danish Saaremaa (Øsel).
According to archaeological finds, the territory of Saaremaa has been inhabited from at least 5,000 years BCE. Pre-Viking age Salme ship burials have been found in Sõrve Peninsula. Sagas talk about numerous skirmishes between islanders and Vikings. Saaremaa was the wealthiest county of ancient Estonia and the home of notorious Estonian pirates, sometimes called the Eastern Vikings. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a fleet of sixteen ships and five hundred Osilians ravaging the area that is now southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. In 1206, King Valdemar II of Denmark built a fortress on the island but found no volunteers to man it. The Danes burned it themselves and left.
Probably around 1000, Gunnar Hámundarson from Iceland took part in a Viking raid at Eysýsla (Saaremaa). There he obtained his famous atgeir, by taking it from a man named Hallgrímur. Njáls saga tells the following:
Thence they held on south to Denmark and thence east to Smálönd and had victory wherever they went. They did not come back in autumn. The next summer they held on to Rafala (Tallinn) and fell in there with sea-rovers, and fought at once, and won the fight. After that they steered east to Eysýsla (Saaremaa) and lay there somewhile under a ness. There they saw a man coming down from the ness above them; Gunnar went on shore to meet the man, and they had a talk. Gunnar asked him his name, and he said it was Tófi. Gunnar asked again what he wanted.
"Thee I want to see," says the man. "Two warships lie on the other side under the ness, and I will tell thee who command them: two brothers are the captains - one's name is Hallgrímur, and the other's Kolskeggur. I know them to be mighty men of war; and I know too that they have such good weapons that the like are not to be had. Hallgrímur has an atgeir which he had made by seething-spells; and this is what the spells say, that no weapon shall give him his death-blow save that atgeir. That thing follows it too that it is known at once when a man is to be slain with that atgeir, for something sings in it so loudly that it may be heard a long way off - such a strong nature has that atgeir in it.
Kuressaare Castle (Arensburg)
In 1227, Saaremaa was conquered by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword during the Livonian Crusade but remained a hotbed of Estonian resistance. The crusaders founded the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek there. When the Order was defeated by the Lithuanian army in the Battle of Saule in 1236, the Saaremaa islanders rebelled. The conflict was ended by a treaty that was signed by the Osilians and the Master of the Order. In the following year, the Sword-Brothers were absorbed into the Teutonic Order. As the crusaders' hold on Saaremaa got stronger, Christianity also became more established on the island, and to this day Saaremaa has a unique set of medieval churches in Kaarma, Karja, Kihelkonna, Muhu, Pöide, Püha and Valjala churches. The crusader's fortress Kuressaare Castle, known in German as Schloss Arensburg, was built by the Teutonic Order, beginning in 1380, for the bishops of Ösel-Wieck (Estonian: Saare-Lääne). It is one of the most well-preserved medieval castles in Estonia and bears testimony to the late Medieval Age.
During the 14th–16th centuries, and possibly earlier, local inhabitants started to expand across the Baltic Sea into surrounding areas thus establishing villages at Livonian coast.
Most of Saaremaa was ruled directly by the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, while some parts were enfeoffed to the Livonian Order. In 1559, the bishopric and Saaremaa were sold to Denmark, becoming part of Danish Estonia. From 1570 until 1645 the entire island was under Danish possession.
In 1645, Saaremaa was ceded from Denmark to Sweden by the Treaty of Brömsebro. In 1721, along with the rest of Livonia, Saaremaa (then known by its Swedish name of Ösel) was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Treaty of Nystad, becoming a part of the Governorate of Livonia.
In 1840 the first spa opened in Kuressaare (then known as Arensburg), and the town experienced renaissance and became a resort for Russians and Baltic Germans.
In World War I, the Estonian islands were conquered by Imperial German Army in October 1917 and remained occupied (Operation Albion) until the end of hostilities. Estonia became independent after the October Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire. As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the new state was incorporated into the Soviet Union in June 1940 as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Most of the Baltic German population of the island was evacuated to Germany following the Pact. The island was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941 (Operation Beowulf); German troops remained there until expelled by the Red Army in the Moonzund Landing Operation in October and November 1944. In 1946, Saaremaa was declared a restricted zone, closed to foreigners and to most mainland Estonians. It remained a restricted area until 1989.
Estonian independence was regained on 20 August 1991, in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The island forms the main barrier between the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. To the south of it is the main passage out of the gulf, the Irbe Strait, next to Sõrve Peninsula, the southernmost portion of the island. In Medieval times islanders crossed the strait to form fishing villages on the Livonian coast, notably Pitrags. In those days it was easier and quicker to cross the strait towards nearby Kolka, Saunags or Mazirbe, than travel by horse large distances inland. The highest point on the island is 54 m above sea level. One particularly interesting feature found on the island is the Kaali crater. The island has lots of forested terrain. One of the symbols of the island is the juniper.
Shore of Saaremaa, by Estonian artist Konrad Mägi (1913-1914).
More than 10,000 years ago the first parts of Saaremaa arose from the Baltic Ice Lake. The uplift of the Earth's crust is continuing even today, at 2 millimetres (0.079 in) per year. The West Estonian islands are lowlying plains resting on limestone, their average elevation being about 15 metres (49 ft) above sea level. Limestone has become denuded in a great number of places, resulting in cliffs, limestone pits and quarries at Mustjala, Ninase, Pulli, Üügu and Kaugatuma. Because of its mild maritime climate and a variety of soils, Saaremaa has a rich flora, illustrated by the fact that 80% of the plant species found in Estonia are represented here. Altogether 1200 species of vascular plants can be found in Saaremaa. About 120 of the local plant species are rare ones which have received special protection status. The most famous endemic species is Rhinanthus osiliensis, a rare little flower growing mostly in spring fens. Rare and beautiful flowers are widespread; out of the 36 species found in Estonia, 35 of them are found on Saaremaa and neighbouring islands. Over 40% of Saaremaa is covered with forests. They are mostly mixed forests but in some areas one can also find broad-leaved (deciduous) trees, which are relict plant communities of former milder climatic periods. Wooded meadows were still common in Saaremaa before World War II, but many of these unique natural complexes have gradually become overgrown and thus turned into the ordinary forest. The same is true for alvars (limestone areas covered with thin soil and stunted vegetation). Once a typical and exclusive landscape element in Saaremaa alvars are now in decline. Nature conservation planning for Saaremaa now includes protection of the largest and most unusual alvar areas.
Saaremaa has a wide variety of rare wildlife species, ranging from insects to seals. The smallest protected wildlife species include Cloude Apolle butterflies and Roman snails.
The coastal areas of Saaremaa are famous seal habitats. The gray seal which is common here can be found in three large permanent resting areas on the islets off the coast in the western and southern parts of Saaremaa. The local population of grey seal is slightly increasing. Ringed seals can also be encountered everywhere in the coastal waters of Saaremaa, but because of their timidity it has not been possible to make an estimation of their number. The islands lie within the East - Atlantic flyway, which is the migration path of waterfowl. This "bird road" connects northeastern Europe with Arctic regions and each year hundreds of thousands of migratory birds visit Saaremaa in spring and autumn. The barnacle goose, mute swan, whooper swan, eider, shelduck and a great many other bird species have been given protection status. But on the whole, the islands are somewhat poorer in wildlife species than the mainland. Neither mole, mink, nor otter can be found here, the lynx and the brown bear are but infrequent guests.
Saaremaa: Kaali Meteorite
The nearly circular main Kaali meteorite crater
Main article: Kaali crater
Kaali is a small group of nine unique meteorite craters on Saaremaa. The largest of the craters measures 110 metres (360 ft) in diameter and contains a small lake, known as Kaali järv ("Lake Kaali"). The meteor cluster had an impact velocity of 10–20 kilometres per second (6–12 mi/s) and a mass of 20–80 tons. At the altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3–6 mi) the meteor broke into pieces. The largest fragment produced the main crater with a depth of 22 metres (72 ft). Eight smaller craters with diameters ranging from 12 to 40 metres (39 to 131 ft) and depths varying from 1 to 4 metres (3 to 13 ft) are all within 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of the main crater. The age estimates of the crater vary, with 4000 ± 1000 BCE being a commonly accepted estimate, though other estimates suggest the explosion was as recent as 660 ± 85 BCE. The energy of the impact - about 80 TJ (20 kilotons of TNT), comparable with the Hiroshima bomb) - burned forests within a radius of 6 kilometres (3.7 mi). There are numerous legends related to the crater; these are summarized by Lennart Meri in his book Hõbevalge.
Dolomite, limestone, curative mud, mineral water, sand and gravel, ceramic clay are the major local minerals. Of these local resources the dolomite is perhaps the most famous above all.
Mihkli Farm Museum in Viki village.
The majority of the population is Estonian (97%). The biggest minority nationality is Russian, comprising 2% of the inhabitants. Compared to the Republic of Estonia on the whole, the population of Saare County and particularly of Kuressaare town is younger, whereas the number of the retired people is considerably smaller. Saaremaa is located in the centre of the Baltic region with the most rapidly growing market in Europe containing 70 million consumers. Gates to the West include not only the newly reconstructed Kuressaare Airport and Roomassaare Port, the operation of modern ferries between Saaremaa and the mainland but also the rapid development of the telecommunications, highly important for the island. Saaremaa is a tourist destination, revisited by 35% of foreign and 95% of domestic tourists. Saaremaa has an entrepreneur-friendly, safe, and strain-free economic environment.
A typical road on Western Saaremaa
Saaremaa is reached by ferry from Virtsu on the Estonian mainland to Kuivastu on Muhu island, which is itself connected to Saaremaa by a causeway, the Väinatamm. Saaremaa can also be reached by ferry from Sõru on the island of Hiiumaa to Triigi. Both these routes are operated by TS Laevad. There are also passenger services from Roomassaare to the smaller island of Abruka. During many winters it is possible to drive to Saaremaa by an ice road between the mainland and Muhu or between Saaremaa and the island of Hiiumaa.
There are regular bus services from Tallinn, Pärnu and Tartu on the mainland, which use the ferry from Virtsu to Muhu.
There is an airport at Kuressaare with regular flights to Tallinn operated by Transaviabaltika. In the summer season there are regular servicee to Ruhnu and Pärnu operated by Luftverkehr Friesland Harle, and a twice weekly service to Stockholm operated by Estonian Air.
Historically there was a Soviet air base at Aste during the Cold War. Plans to connect Saaremaa to the mainland either by the Saaremaa Bridge or Saaremaa Tunnel are being studied.
FC Kuressaare once competed in the first tier of Estonian football, the Meistriliiga, it now competes in the third Esiliiga B. Saaremaa competes in the biannual Island Games.
There are three main international traditional sport events in Saaremaa:
Saaremaa Rally takes place every year in October and attracts thousands of rally fans. The first rally was an amateur competition and it took place in 1974. The first professional competition took place in 1975 and from 1993 the rally has been international.
Saaremaa Velotuur is a group race of road cyclists that is oldest in the Nordic countries (held since 1957) and the only international one in the Baltic states.
Saaremaa 3-day running marathon takes place on the roads around Kuressaare town and Sõrve peninsula. Main race consist of three different runs, which are held on three sequential days (10+16,195+16=42,195 km). The first marathon was held in 1974.
Hannibal Sehested (1609–1666), Danish diplomat.
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (1778–1852) lead of the second expedition to successfully cross the Antarctic Circle and likely first to see continent of Antarctica.
Louis Isadore Kahn (1901–1974) was born on Saaremaa to Leopold and Bertha Kahn. One of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century,
Saaremaa has more spas than anywhere else in Estonia.
The cliffs near the village of Panga on the north coast of Saaremaa
Women in traditional Saaremaa dress performing a folk dance
Monument to the mythological giant Suur Tõll and his wife Piret in Kuressaare
Kuressaare Castle, Saaremaa
Soviet World War II memorial, Tehumardi, Saaremaa
Historic buildings near the center of Kuressaare
Farmhouse in Järveküla
Tagalaht Bay panorama
Kihelkonna St. Michael's Church
Karja Church in the village of Linnaka
Angla windmills in Leisi Parish
Kiipsaare leaning lighthouse
Lighthouse at Sõrve Peninsula
Kaarma ring fort
Red deer in winter in Leisi Parish
Saaremaa: See also
List of islands of Estonia
List of islands in the Baltic Sea
Extreme points of Europe
Œsel – Œsel (Œselia), ancient Estonian independent eldership in the present territory of Saare County
4163 Saaremaa, asteroid
Rand McNally and Company's Enlarged Business Atlas and Shippers Guide. Rand McNally and Company. 1893.
Official Web page of Saaremaa
Toomse, Liine. "10 Estonian Islands You Should Visit." http://www.traveller.ee/blog/tallinn/10-estonian-islands-you-should-visit. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
Saaremaa County – nature
"Kaalijärv". Earth Impact Database. University of New Brunswick. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
Veski, Siim; Heinsalu, Atko; Kirsimäe, Kalle; Poska, Anneli; Saarse, Leili (2001). "Ecological catastrophe in connection with the impact of the Kaali meteorite about 800–400 B.C. on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia" (PDF). Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 36 (3): 1367–1375. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2001.tb01830.x.
Saaremaa County – resources
Saaremaa County – population
Saaremaa Rally homepage http://www.saaremaarally.eu
Saaremaa Velotuur homepage http://www.saaremaavelotuur.ee/
Saaremaa 3-day running marathon homepage http://www.saaremaajooks.ee/