Relaxing like a feudal ruler at Saka Manor, Estonia

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How we spent two gorgeous days on the Baltic sea coast, somewhere between Tallinn and Saint Petersburg

The time for our spring adventure in Estonia finally came after months of planning and waiting. We were very enthusiastic to reach this undiscovered for us Nordic country and explore the shores of the Baltic sea. So, just in the beginning of the summer season, we took a flight from Sofia to Warsaw and then to Tallinn, Estonia.

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Saka mois 59.437646, 27.179382

When you are in Estonia, the first and most important place to explore is the capital Tallinn. However, we had another plan and straight after landing we hired a car and took the beautiful and straight road from Tallinn to Narva, which eventually leads to Saint Petersburg, Russia. Just before the industrial town of Kothla-Jarve we left the main road and entered the Saka Manor – a piece of paradise some 150 km east from Tallinn.

Saka Manor is located almost in the middle of the way between Tallinn and St. Petersburg. It is a wonderful idea for rest if you are in the area, tired of a long trip.
The manor house at Saka Manor, Estonia
The manor house at Saka Manor, Estonia

Getting used to the white nights

For us, people from the Southern countries, it was really important to get used to the North. Despite Bulgaria and Estonia are in the same time zone, we felt in a different universe. Our visit in late May and early June was an opportunity to experience the so called white nights in Estonia. During the 7 days we spent in the country, it never really got dark outside. It was quite sunny from very early morning to almost midnight, and the rest of the time was twilight. At the end, we were so happy to see a real night at home.

And because we knew that Estonia will be very different to Bulgaria, we decided to start our journey with some rest on a calm place, just getting used to the situation. And it is not a secret that we spoiled ourselves with a lot of luxury and pleasures, feeling almost like the feudal rulers who once lived at Saka Manor.

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The history of Saka Manor

The manor was first established in the 17th century, when the area was still within the boundaries of Sweden. The King of Sweden Gustav II Adolf gave the surrounding lands to Jürgen (Jöran) Leslie of Aberdeen, Scotland in 1626. Leslie himself was the alderman of Narva from 1627 to 1649 and lived mainly on his feudal lands in Saka. After his death in 1651, Saka Manor was passed down to his inheritors, who kept it for another 120 years.

During my research I reached an amazing discovery – the actress Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones is actually an inheritor of the Aberdeen branch of the Leslie clan.
Ballroom at Saka Manor
Ballroom at Saka Manor

Saka mansion in the Russian empire

In the 18th century the area was a part of the Russian empire and the manor was bought by Katharina Margaretha von Wrangell of the famous Pufendorff family. Her father, Esaias von Pufendorff, was the chancellor of Sweden and a government advisor for Denmark. Saka Manor remained in the possession of the family until 1808. Then the property was acquired by Peter Fromhold von Löwis of Menar who was also the first in his hereditary line to live in Estonia, registering as a resident in the same year. Starting from 1783, only locally registered nobles could own manorial estates. 

The room with the fireplace at Saka Manor which can be hired for private dinners and gatherings
The room with the fireplace at Saka Manor which can be hired for private dinners and gatherings

So after this long story, we reach the moment when the current surviving structures of the manor were erected. Today’s manor house was built in 1862-1864. It is interesting that it looks quite different in style than other manors in Estonia. Saka manor’s style is more like an Italian renaissance villa, instead of following the Scottish influences which were traditional for that period. In the following decades several generations of the Menar family kept the estate until 1939 when it was acquired by the army. 

The manor house at Saka
The manor house at Saka

Saka during military years

Walking around the beautiful park of the manor, we see the remains of military buildings, bunkers among them. The location of Saka manor is not only beautiful but also a strategic place to defend the shore. So between 1939 and 1992 Saka manor was in possession of 3 different armies – the Estonian coast guard, Waffen SS and the Soviet army.

After the independence of Estonia in 1991, the Soviets withdrew and Saka manor was left without a landlord. Steps for its revival were made in the late 1990s when the local authorities decided to sell it at a series of auctions. However, it was only on the third auction when a buyer was found. Luckily, he was a person passionate to rebuild the manor and return its glory. So in 2001 the new landlord Tõnis Kaasik bought the estate and started rebuilding it from scratch. 

Remains of a bunker at Saka Manor
Remains of a bunker at Saka Manor
A carved stone that once belonged to the Soviet army and stood on the territory of the manor. It features a carving of the map of USSR and an inscription “The border of the Soviet Union is sacred and inviolable forever”. During Soviet times the area of the manor was a border zone
A carved stone that once belonged to the Soviet army and stood on the territory of the manor. It features a carving of the map of USSR and an inscription “The border of the Soviet Union is sacred and inviolable forever”. During Soviet times the area of the manor was a border zone

The current compound was opened gradually between 2004 and 2010. In 2004 first opened the hotel, on the site of old military barracks. In 2006 was renovated the watchtower, now a congress centre. And the pearl of the estate – the renovated manor house – was inaugurated in 2010. We had the unique chance to spend two nights in this historical house, furnished with British antiquities from the 19th century, but we will tell you about it below.

Andrey and Mimi at Saka manor

The beautiful manor house
The beautiful manor house

I know that the long history of the place might have made you impatient to read what is present there nowadays, but here we start. We stayed in a beautiful white room on the second floor of the manor house – the Mõisapreili Deluxe room. We immediately fell in love with the aristocratic atmosphere and furniture. 

Our beautoful room at the manor house – spacious and luxurious with 19th century furniture.
Our beautoful room at the manor house – spacious and luxurious with 19th century furniture.
Our beautiful and comfy sofa
Our beautiful and comfy sofa

If you prefer to travel by trailer or just love camping, Saka Manor is ready to welcome you, too. They have a spacious dedicated camping zone with electricity, toilets and showers. An of course you can try their wonderful restaurant.

If you feel difficulties with Estonian language, „mõis“ means “manor” and the Estonian name of the place is Saka mõis.
The pool area at Saka Manor
The pool area at Saka Manor

A walk through the Nordic rainforest

We had only one full day to spend in the manor so we carefully planned our time in order to visit all beauties around and to have some relax in the SPA centre as well. We had a great night sleep in the clean seaside air and were awakened by the songs of the birds. The weather was also wonderful – around 20 degrees, which is even hot for late May in the area. But we were obviously lucky and started the day with a walk around the manor park and surrounding cliffs.

As far as our eyes could see, there were green meadows, broadleaved forests looking like the Amazon jungle and lilacs, so many lilacs. Even the beach was hidden behind a deep green forest. 

The Nordic rainforest on the northers coast of Estonia in the Gulf of Finland
The Nordic rainforest on the northers coast of Estonia in the Gulf of Finland
The stairway leading to the beach
The stairway leading to the beach

First we climbed the watching tower which offers a nice panorama to the surrounding park. Then we followed one of the small trails across the park, leading eventually to the serene beach down the cliffs. An amazing staircase led us through a unique broadleaved forest, so-called Nordic rainforest. It really looks like a tropical jungle. In the area there is also a small waterfall.

The beach itself is also a place to admire for its beauty. Despite it was not time for sunbaths, we had a nice walk and returned by another interesting staircase up. Both stairways earned awards for their architect. 

Maria walking down the stairs to the beach which is some 50 m below the Saka manor level
Maria walking down the stairs to the beach which is some 50 m below the Saka manor level
The other amazing stairway to the beach at Saka cliffs
The other amazing stairway to the beach at Saka cliffs
234 stairs lead to the beach, Saka manor
234 stairs lead to the beach

SPA pleasures at Saka Manor

SPA pleasures are particularly popular in Estonia, especially sauna, like in any Nordic country. And Saka Manor also has its nice SPA centre, offering pleasures like pool, sauna, steam room and several different rooms for therapies. It is lovely that in the SPA centre you can find both relax and privacy. It is not too large but is only reserved for your group of people for a limited time, so you can enjoy it without being disturbed by anyone. We had a refreshing session of pool, sauna and steam room just after arrival to relieve all the tiredness from the long journey. 

The pool with 30 degrees warm water at Saka manor SPA centre
The pool with 30 degrees warm water at Saka manor SPA centre

Because we knew that we will need a lot of relax after the 14-hour trip from Sofia, we had reserved almost all the time at Saka Manor for SPA. This was our way to get ready for the following intensive 5 days in Tallinn.

Laziest day ever

On the first morning we started with a red wine therapy, including a body exfoliation, a mask and a massage. It was Andrey’s first time to have such therapies on him but he loved them and he no more thinks that they are girl-only stuff. It was great to get up from the massage bed so refreshed and relieved and to take a walk barefoot on the green meadow outside. 

Maria enjoying the green grass at Saka Manor
Maria enjoying the green grass at Saka Manor
Andrey relaxing in the pool
Andrey relaxing in the pool

The upper therapy and the amazing lunch that followed made us unbelievably lazy. We almost forgot about our scheduled salt room. However, it appeared not so difficult to walk a few steps from the hotel room to the salt room and keep relaxing on the beds there. The salt room was a cozy experience, private again, and it felt great to feel the crystals below your feet, almost like lying on the beach but on a salt beach. 

Maria enjoying her paraffin hand therapy
Maria enjoying her paraffin hand therapy

At the end of the day, after another round of pools and sauna, we finished with a warm paraffin hand therapy.

This was maybe our most intensive SPA day to now but it made miracles to our bodies.

The beach of Saka Manor

The beach below the mansion was incredibly beautiful on sunset. Because of the white nights period, I am not sure whether I can name it sunset because no real night followed. However, I took a wonderful walk around 22,30h down the beach and enjoyed the quietness and beauty of the sunset. 

Sunset near Saka Manor, sometime around 22.10 on 30 May 2018
Sunset near Saka Manor, sometime around 22.10 on 30 May 2018
The beautiful beach near the mansion, Saka manor
The beautiful beach near the mansion
It is still cold to bathe in the sea in early June but it is great for walks
It is still cold to bathe in the sea in early June but it is great for walks

The restaurant in Saka Manor

After we went to Tallinn we talked to many Estonians, explaining them how wonderful it was in Saka Manor (which is known also as the Saka Cliffs among Estonians). And everyone shared the same opinion – besides the manor is an amazing place itself, their restaurant is almost like another attraction and no-miss. The Saka Manor restaurant is famous in the whole area around for its fine food and many people called it the best restaurant in the area. After being spoiled for two days with their wonderful meals, we absolutely share this opinion.

As lovers of good food and wine, we were very curious to check what they have for us. Luckily, the menu was not too long and we tasted almost everything during our stay. 

The restaurant at Saka Manor in Estonia
The restaurant at Saka Manor in Estonia

First meeting – dinner at Saka Manor restaurant

Lunch in Italian-Estonian style

A light lunch with pasta and wonderful desserts. We had the Koorene pasta parmesani, sinihallitusjuustu, mozzarella ja basiilikuga (Pasta with Parmiggiano, blue cheese, mozzarella and basil) and Pasta kanafilee, päikesekuivatatud tomatite, pesto ja parmesaniga – Pasta with dried tomatoes, chicken, pesto and parmiggiano. And for dessert with coffee – Kookospiima vaniljetarrend passionivahuga (Coconut vanilla jelly with fruit foam) and Soe šokolaadifondant vaarikasorbeega – warm chocolate fondant with raspberry sorbet.
For Estonian restaurants it is typical to offer a really nice wine selection. We were actually most impressed by the variety of wines offered on glass, because we are not heavy drinkers and would rather enjoy a single glass of a good wine than a bottle of some average wine. And Estonia is not a famous wine producer, most of the wines in the country are imported.

Second dinner with local experiments

A short walk to Puhtitsa convent

On the second evening we made a small trip to the Russian Orthodox Pühtitsa Convent, some 40 km from Saka Manor. It is the only functioning Russian Orthodox nunnery in Estonia. The convent is situated by an ancient holy spring and there are many legends surrounding the area. A small Orthodox church was built on the site in the 16th century and the current convent was established in 1891.

The gate to Puhtitsa convent
The gate to Puhtitsa convent
The walls of the monastery complex
The walls of the monastery complex

Puhtitsa in the 20th century

Pühtitsa convent was able to survive all the tremors of the 20th century, despite this was not easy at all. In 1919, after Estonia became independent from Russia, the authorities confiscated the convent’s land and transferred it to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. Then during WW2 Germans made a concentration camp inside the monastery. After 1944 the monastery somehow survived in the hard co-existence with communist authorities. Since 1990 is under the authority of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.

Firewood at Puhtitsa convent
Firewood at Puhtitsa convent

Nowadays Pühtitsa is a place for pilgrimage for thousands of Russian Orthodox believers. The compound is an extremely beautiful and peaceful place, with its six churches, beautifully decorated parks and forests and numerous of well-kept residential buildings. We were very impressed by the architecture of the monastery buildings which belongs to famous Russian architect Michael Preobrazhensky. His other works include the St. Alexander Nevski in Tallinn, the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, France and the Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The best itinerary for a trip to Estonia

Our decision to stay in Saka Manor for 2 days in the beginning of our trip to Estonia was one of the best decisions regarding this journey. It is a great idea to have some rest and get used to the local climate and time after a long journey. We had left our home at 4am in the morning, then flew to Warsaw and then after a 4-hour transfer time we flew to Tallinn. Then we immediately rented a car and headed to Saka, which took us about 2 hours. So we finally arrived at 6pm and immediately understood how great decision we had made to come here, instead of settling in the beautiful but busy Tallinn.

And after this amazing time at Saka Manor, we will never forget our stay here. So if you someday have the opportunity to go there – do not miss it!

Of course we left the warmest feedback in the guest book. If you go there – try to find it! It is both in Bulgarian and English, signed by Maria and Andrey
Of course we left the warmest feedback in the guest book. If you go there – try to find it! It is both in Bulgarian and English, signed by Maria and Andrey
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