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Saaremaa, Estonia

Kiipsaare Lighthouse

Once standing on solid ground, this slender beacon is a victim of the very shoreline it was charged with announcing. 

The slender beacon off the coast of the Estonian island of Saaremaa casually leans to one side, continually beaten by the waves of the Baltic Sea.

When the lighthouse was built, in 1933, it stood on solid ground, more than 80 feet (25 meters) in from the coast. But over the course of the later 20th century, as erosion took its toll, the tower was set out to sea.

The concrete structure has kept moving farther into the sea (or, rather, the sea has kept chomping away at the shoreline), with the waves and currents causing its famous Pisa-like tilt. At its worst it slumped 15 degrees out of plumb, but as those same waves and currents have shifted again, the underlying foundation has straightened up significantly. Still, from a certain angle it looks like the whole thing will topple over. 

Standing 82 feet tall, the history of the Kiipsaare leaning lighthouse goes back further than its construction. A station has been on this spot since 1879, guiding ships through the dangerous and shifting shores of Estonia. Over the course of the 80-plus years since this one was built, the lonely lighthouse has become a victim of the very coastline it was charged with announcing. Today, it is surrounded by water, and has been inactive since 1992. It’s not clear what is ultimately in store for the Kiipsaare lighthouse. The options are as wide open as the Baltic Sea.

Know Before You Go

The lighthouse is off the northwest coast of Estonia's Saaremaa island, and you will need your own transportation to visit. It is located in the Vilsandi National Park nature reserve. You can leave the car in the parking area and walk the trail for the last 3 miles (5 km) to the beach. Be prepared for an hour hike (one way). Officially the lighthouse is closed, but the outside door is long gone and if you are able to heave yourself up, you can take the stairs all the way to the top.