Saturday, 15 December 2012

Estonia's Ice Roads

With the coming of winter comes the opportunity to do something in Estonia which you can't do everyday - travel along the country's ice roads.There are six official ice roads in Estonia connecting the mainland to the islands of Hiiumaa, Vormsi, Muhu and Kihnu across the Baltic Sea. There are also ice roads between the islands of Saaremaa and Hiumaa and between Haapsalu and Noarootsi. The longest ice road in Europe is the 26.5 km journey to Hiiumaa from the mainland.

For centuries people have taken advantage of the ice season to get across to the islands. In the 13th Century Teutonic knights used to thunder across the ice on horseback to conquer the isles but today people use the ice roads as a cheaper and more convenient method of travel, compared to paying for passage on a vehicle ferry.

There are certain road rules you must be aware of before venturing out onto the ice roads in Estonia. Ice roads open once the ice reaches a minimum thickness of 22cm and in March they can still be half a metre thick.

To ensure your journey is a safe and happy one, please keep these road rules in mind.

* Ice roads can only be used in daylight, no driving allowed after sunset.
* No vehicle heavier than 2.5t is permitted.
* The recommended speed is below 25km/h or between 40-70km/h.
* No driving is allowed between 25km/h and 40km/h. The vibrations in this speed range can be dangerous and create cracks beneath the surface.
* Vehicles travelling in the same direction must be at least 250m apart.
* Vehicles must enter the ice in three minute intervals.
* No seltbelts are to be worn when travelling across the ice in case you need to make a quick exit.