First a brief geographical overview! The only town is Kuressaare which is the capital of the island of Saaremaa, situated approximately 200 kilometers south-west of Tallinn (the capital of Estonia). Saaremaa which is around 2700 km² and has a population of around 35,000 inhabitants is the largest of Estonia’s islands. Although there are various alternative routes listed further below the ‘easiest’ way to get to the island of Saaremaa is via Tallinn. The other possibilities are for example, sail by yacht directly to Kuressaare yacht harbor or come by motorbike at Saaremaa, that are discussed in separate articles.
STEP 1 Getting to Tallinn
If you travel from Stockholm there are possibilities to skip STEP 1 and catch direct flight to Kuressaare. Read more here!
Thanks in particular to the budget airlines there are now daily flights to Tallinn from a large number of airports including the following:
St Petersburg – British Airways – if you do choose this route though be careful to sort out the visa early!
Stockholm www.ryanair.com followed by an Estonia Air or SAS flight to Tallinn ( or a long ferry journey this time!)
STEP 2 Getting to Saaremaa (Kuressaare)
The bad news is that this is actually the most tricky part! The transfer time by road from Tallinn to the island of Saaremaa is around 4 hours. Although there is a flight from Tallinn airport directly to Kuressaare http://www.eeke.ee/ this cannot be booked long in advance and as they operate with very small planes (7 -18 seaters) the service is sometimes suspended due to high winds. The other options we would recommend are therefore:
By car – If you are interested in hiring a car you can let know about that one of travel agencies , as they may be able to get preferential rates. Car hire can be arranged through the following companies at Tallinn airport (Budget, Hertz, Avis, Europcar, R Rent, Evision Rent). However, it is much more economical to take the bus from Tallinn to Kuressaare and to pre-book car hire on Saaremaa as prices there are much lower than on the mainland. About car hire at Saaremaa you can find out here .
The trip from the mainland of Estonia passes through some of the country's most beautiful scenery. In particular the stretch from Muhu onto Saaremaa makes the journey more than worthwhile!
By normal bus service – there is a regular bus service (departures every 2 hours) Tallinn –Kuressaare to and from Tallinn bus station which is ten minutes by taxi from the Tallinn airport (www.bussireisid.ee/index.html). The price of the bus ticket is around 250 EEK.
Once negotiating your way out of Tallinn the journey is quite simple. You travel south-west towards Virtsu and take the short (30 min) ferry ride to the island of Muhu, which is linked by a bridge to Saaremaa. The car and passenger ferry from the mainland port of Virtsu operates hourly to Kuivastu in the summer and every two hours during the rest of the year. Exact schedules for the ferry can be checked on the Saaremaa Laevakompanii web-site www.laevakompanii.ee Read notes about ferryes and schedule here . Estonian roads, once outside Tallinn are very quiet and a joy to drive along – you should look out for the mooses (who are not known for their intelligence and tend to wander onto roads) and the other abundant wildlife in Estonia. (The car with minister of defence of Estonia crashed with bear recently (16.04.2008), but bears aren't option at road to Saaremaa.) Once on the island of Saaremaa you follow the signposts for Kuressaare or for your destination.