- POPULATION 30,000
- SIZE 1,032 square miles
Until the end of the Cold War, Saaremaa was off-limits to ordinary tourists, home to a top-secret Soviet military base where rockets were targeted at the West. Ever since. Estonians have targeted their holiday plans at Saaremaa to find out what they were missing: a quiet island where lighthouses watch out over the Baltic coast and windmills rise over forests of pine and spruce.
The port of disembarkation is Kuressaare, a handsome town home to a giant medieval castle (pictured) and spas that make use of the local mineral-rich sea mud. Freshly exfoliated daytrippers from Kuressaare find the rest of the island rewards idle exploration, with medieval churches, tumbledown farms and – rather unexpectedly – the 100-metre-wide Kaali Crater, with its lake at the centre, formed by a violent meteorite impact a few thousand years ago; proof if ever it was needed of Saaremaa s powers of attraction.
- GETTINGTHERE Fly to Estonia’s capital Tallinn on Turkish Airlines (Singapore) or KLM (Kuala Lumpur) with one stopover each. Kuressaare is a 45-minute flight from Tallinn.