Kihnu Island might be small, but it has a strong cultural heritage. In 2003 its traditions were listed with UNESCO, and it has since become a bit of an icon of Estonian folk culture. Fishing, sealing hunting, music and handicrafts are all engrained in Kihnu life and although the island is embracing modernity, traditions are still being maintained.
If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday that’s off the beaten track, Kihnu is a pretty idyllic spot. Walking, fishing, cycling are the most popular recreational activities, but if none of that sounds appealing you can hang out with the locals, help them out on their daily chores, or join them for a traditional sauna session. To sum it up, it's the kind of place where you eat a fish and then meet the fisherman who's caught it for you, or in my case buy a jumper and meet the person who's knitted it!
Like many fishing-based cultures, the Kihnu men spend weeks at sea. Over the years this has left the women at home to run the island and guard Kihnu cultural heritage. Nowadays, it seems that this Matriarchal society draws as much attention as the folk traditions themselves. For an insight into the history of Kihnu Culture, I’d recommend dropping into the museum. It’s exceptionally well kept and informative, and if you’re lucky you might be able to pick up some freshly knitted knit-wear.
How to get there?
Ferry from either Munalaiu (1 hour) or Pärnu (3 hours).
Pärnu ferry runs every Wednesday afternoon and the Munalaiu ferry runs twice a day. Check sailing times here.
Plane from Parnu (approx. 15 minutes)
Private chartered plane needs to be organised, but I'd recommend getting in touch with Visit Estonia to enquire.
When the sea freezes over the ferries obviously don't sail. Locals mentioned that you can drive if the ice is thick enough, but I’d check with Visit Estonia and people on Kihnu Island before doing that. Apparently in recent years the sea hasn't been freezing so ferries may still run during Winter months. The other alternative is of course a plane!
Where to stay?
There aren’t any hotels on Kihnu so you’ve got to stay with local families in their guesthouses. That is absolutely part of the charm, and given the prices (€20-50/night) it's a pretty good deal. I stayed with the Kastani family and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. They even include a free sauna with the price of a nights stay so that's a bonus! You can contact them via Facebook or their own website, Kastani Majutus. Drop them a message and one of the daughters will respond!
Other useful tips?
If you play a musical instrument, take it with you! Music is a huge part of Kihnu tradition (especially the accordion) so your host family will no doubt love it. The island still doesn’t have an ATM, but bizarrely you can pay for almost everything with contactless card payments or chip and pin! I’d definitely still recommended that you take some cash though. Make sure you’ve taken out cash before you get to Munalaiu harbour as there isn’t an ATM there! To find out more about Kihnu Island, or if you're keen on booking some tours, check out Visit Estonia.
Enjoy the gallery below and if you have any questions, get in touch!