When the winter gets cold enough to create thick ice, all the official ice roads in Estonia can be opened. Together these provide a total of more than 80 km of ice roads. There are 7 official ice roads in Estonia connecting the mainland and various islands. These include the road between Hiiumaa and the mainland (approx. 25 km), between Hiiumaa and Saaremaa (approx. 15 km), between Vormsi and the mainland (approx. 12 km), between Kihnu and the mainland (approx. 15 km), between Haapsalu and Noarootsi (approx. 3 km) and between Laaksaar and Piirissaar (8 km).
The main goal of creating ice roads is not to provide a tourism attraction, but to make the lives of locals easier. However, that which may seem usual to Estonians may be surprising, novel, exciting and even shocking or unbelievable for someone from a different cultural space. And ice roads provide unforgettable travel experiences.
- The ice road of Haapsalu–Noarootsi provides a great opportunity to learn about what it's like to travel on an ice road and it leads to a lovely exploration of the Noarootsi peninsula.
- The Rohuküla–Vormsi ice road is best for advanced ice travellers. This road leads to the wintery island of Vormsi.
- The ice road of Hiiumaa is best for those who are ready for a longer journey – 25 km of ice road is quite an experience! In fact, this is the longest ice road currently used in Europe.
- The Saaremaa–Hiiumaa ice road is the fastest way of travelling between two of Estonia's largest islands.
- The Kihnu ice road (approx. 15 km) is also best suited for advanced travellers. It leads to the island of Kihnu, which belongs to the UNESCO world heritage list.
The longest known ice road originating from Estonia was located between Saaremaa and Lübeck in 1323. The longest ice road in Europe is the one between Hiiumaa and Rohuküla on the mainland (24–27 km depending on ice conditions and the exact route).
However, the largest number of cars has travelled via the Haapsalu–Noarootsi ice road. This happened in 2013 when the road was opened for 77 days and used by 19,979 vehicles during that time. The only year when all ice roads were open at the same time was 2011 when a total of 55,663 vehicles travelled across the ice roads.
The Haapsalu–Noarootsi ice road boasts the highest efficiency factor when taking into account the length of the journey, as it enables a route that is 10 km shorter than the route without an ice road.