Islands

Estonia can be proud of having 1500 islands - an amount that is quite rare in other countries. Estonian biggest islands are Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhu and Vormsi.

Most of the islands are small and uninhabited with untouched nature and therefore those paradises of tranquillity and natural intactness are a perfect place to find equilibrium and inner-peace.

Estonian small islands that lay on the migratory route offer a suitable resting place for numerous birds in spring and in autumn. You can also spot some protected species like swans, barnacle geese and eiders among many others.

Saaremaa featured some of the most feared Viking communities of the Baltic Sea.

Estonian beautiful islands have been home to the coastal Swedes who have created their settlements here between the 13th and 15th century.

Small islands in the Gulf of Finland like Pedassaare and Mohni are just breath-takingly beautiful and some of them like Aegna and Naissaar, propose a captivating mixture of the military past and unspoilt nature as the Russian tsar Peter the Great wanted to create a fortified naval base there.

The island of Naissaare is just 40 minutes from Tallinn and features also the Omar’s barn where exclusive cultural events, theatre plays and performances take place.

Estonian islands offer a true rustic beach experience and Ruhnu island is especially known for its most beautiful beaches.

Check out our Estonian Escape and Estonian Discovery packages

 

Saaremaa

The largest Estonian island, Saaremaa, is for the Estonians the dreamland of summer-time holidays, for the Scandinavians the land of ancient gods and for the wider world known as the home of Fabian G. von Bellingshausen, the discoverer of the Antarctic.

Saaremaa is famous for its unique natural environment, ancient churches, windmills, typical stone fences, juniper thickets, 14th century medieval castle, meteorite crater and many top-class spas. Needless to say the cutting-edge spas and health centres on Saaremaa are no longer just a collection of mud baths: they offer world-class accommodation facilities, catering and full spa services, from a wide variety of saunas to diverse health, water, beauty and massage treatments.  It is also a beloved destinated for sailors.  During summertime, its nice harbour gets crowded with international and local sailing boats and motorboats.

Kuressaare, the capital city of Saaremaa boasts a lovely medieval fortress built during 13th-14th century that is one of the few remaining authentic castles in the Baltics. The castle was designed to provide a meeting place for Saaremaa’s nobles and served for many centuries as Episcopal residence, prison and sanctuary. Other landmarks include the Baroque Town Hall of Kuressaare that was completed in the 17th century under the nobleman De la Gardie.

No other country is so densely covered with the meteorite craters as Estonia. Six cosmic rocks have fallen to the country’s that territory is only 45,227 square-kilometres. Kaali field of meteorite crater in Saaremaa was formed 7500 years ago and is considered the most eminent and most studied crater in the Eurasian continent. The collision of the meteorite and the widespread destruction in the area, could be compared with the explosion of a small atomic bomb. We can find evidence of the meteorite in legends and folklore of many peoples, among others also in the records of Ancient Rome.

Saaremaa in included in Estonian Escape and Estonian Discovery packages.

 

Hiiumaa

Hiiumaa (the Land of Giant) is the second largest island.

This paradise with its intact nature, deep forests, and private sandy beaches is known for its characteristic lighthouses and a particular sense of humour of its inhabitants.

Kõpu Lighthouse is the symbol of the Hiiumaa. The lighthouse was constructed in the 15th century to protect Hanseatic League ships collapsing in the Hiiu shallows. It is the oldest and the tallest lighthouse on the Baltic shores and the second-oldest lighthouse in the world that has constantly burning light.  In 1900, Kõpu’s obsolete fire basket was replaced with a new mirror lantern that was purchased from the Paris World Expo.

Hiiumaa is a perfect place for sailing, hiking and relaxing holidays offering also many festivals in summer.  

Muhumaa

Muhumaa is picture-postcard island with its lovely juniper alvars, heavenly fishing villages, working windmills and level limestone bedrocks that form low hillocks with thatched cottages - a great holiday destination or those who value nature and culture, luxury and relaxation, harmony and tranquillity.

One of the most picturesque examples of Muhumaa characteristic villages is the Koguva Village. This historical fisherman village is remarkable for the integrity of its village ensemble with winding and cross-crossing village streets being surrounded by breast-high dry-stone walls. 

The traditional dresses locals wear express their fondness to attractive patterns and bright colours. The famous Muhu patterns are a refined expression of folk-art as are the popular souvenirs made of aromatic juniper wood.

In the middle of the island there is a striking architectural landmark - Muhu St. Catherine’s church that is one of the oldest churches in Estonia and has pagan tombstones.

Linnuse village where the Muhu hill fort stands was an important place for ancient Estonians. A bloody battle between the Knights of the Sword Order and Muhu habitants took place in 1227. The knights plundered the surrounding areas and then assaulted the hill fort until all of the secured sites were surrendered.

The Neo-Gothic Pädaste manor house hosts today a luxirous hotel and an award-winning restaurant and is unique for its openness to the sea - the long square in front of the main building ends with a gate to the scenic beach. The atmosphere is made even more captivating with a number of stylish stone and dolomite buildings like two-storey granary, a cheese factory, a smithy, stable-coach house and other surrounding the manor house. 

During the summertime Muhu is easily accessible from the mainland Virtsu port by ferry boat, while during the cold winters an ice road is inaugurated between the island and the mainland.

Each midsummer a popular jazz music festival is held in Muhu, highlighting also famous international musicians and attracting many jazz fans.

 

Muhumaa
Muhumaa
Muhumaa
Muhumaa
 

Vormsi

Vormsi comes from a Swedish name "Ormsö" (meaning "snake island").

Historically Vormsi was inhabited by coastal Swedes who arrived here in the 13th to 15th century.

Before World War II more than 2500 people lived on the island, most of them returned to Sweden before the war. During the Soviet occupation Vormsi was a closed border-zone, where visitors needed governmental permission to access and where it was strictly forbidden, even for the local fishermen, to go to sea.

The Swedish settlement has left a characteristic legacy to the place names. The permanent population of the island amounts to about 330 who are mostly settlers from the mainland.

Juniper fields, seaside meadows, erratic boulders and lighthouses are characteristic to Vormsi island. Visitors can enjoy coastal grasslands, reed beds, alvars, forests, bays and lagoons that support numerous plant and bird species. To protect the habitat for rare species the Vormsi Landscape Reserve was formed in 2000.

One of the main sights is the St Olaf church, dedicated to the king of Norway.

Next to the church there is the world’s biggest cemetery featuring more than 300 solar crosses that were used in the 17th-20th centuries. Each family on the island had its family sign used to mark fishing gear and household appliances. Therefore, the crosses contain more information recorded by means of the signs than by means of letters. The standstone of which the crosses were made is not found in Vormsi, but being brought from Gotland.

Kihnu

Kihnu has 3000 years of history of hunters and fisherman. Its cultural identity consisting of old traditions in the everyday life and individuality is mainly due to the island’s isolation from the outer world and the mainland.

Today it is no longer a problem to get to the island as there is both a boat line and an air link, and therefore the welfare of the Kihnu people does not depend on the sea alone any more - the world has come to Kihnu and the other way around.

As the individuality of Kihnu and preservation of its unique cultural traditions needs protection, UNESCO has declared the Kihnu cultural space intangible and spiritual heritage of humanity.

Nowhere else in Estonia the traditional costumes are worn so widely as in Kihnu. In Kihnu a visitor will be greeted by a Kihnu woman in a traditional clothing driving by on a characteristic “Kihnu bike”-motorcycle, where a sidecar has been replaced by a wooden fish crate or on a tractor.

Although the former important men' activities like sailing and sealing, have remained in the past, the sea still provides livelihood. As fishing is still the only opportunity to earn living for many, it is still a respectful occupation.

Kihnu is also known as a matriarchal society where brave women run the whole household on the island. They are capable of doing all the men’s work and guard the cultural heritage of characteristic handicrafts, dances, games and music of this tiny island.

Self-taught Kihnu naïve painters depicting themes of navigation and sea have been exposed in Kihnu Museum and in many galleries and museum overseas. 

Ruhnu

Ruhnu, “the pearl of the Baltic” is the most southern island, quite near Latvia.

In 1944, the indigenous Swedish speaking population left for Sweden and the island remained deserted. Later people settled from Kihnu and also mainland.

Now there is a population of about 60 habitants with its own communal government, post office, port, lighthouse, border guard post, medical service, airport and weather station.

The main landmark in Ruhnu is its ancient St Magdalene’s wooden church being the oldest extant wooden building in Estonia

There is also a characteristic lighthouse at the Haudjerre hill, designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Tired hikers might particularly enjoy the salty, curative water from one of Estonia’s deepest wells.

Ruhnu’s forest is home to particular and protected plant species.

Ruhnu is also popular among hikers and swimmers, the best beach for swimming is Limo beach, with its "singing" sands.