Kihnu Islanders play traditional musicSource: Priidu Saart

Kihnu Island

Striped skirts, clicking knitting needles, fishermen bustling about the harbor, village parties — this is everyday life on Kihnu.

Kihnu is home to a close-knit community of about 700 people who have kept their culture alive for centuries.

Traditional dress, complex handicrafts, ancient songs, lively music and dance are part of everyday life on Kihnu, Estonia's seventh-largest island. Islanders stand firmly in the twenty-first century, with access to modern amenities. Their traditions are not remnants of the past but rather daily practices that set Kihnu Islanders proudly apart from mainland Estonians.  

Known for their sailing prowess, the men of Kihnu typically spend months at sea or working off the island. Out of necessity, the women have become keepers and carriers of the island's cultural heritage, seeing to the day-to-day needs of their families. 

Source: Priidu Saart

Where time is measured by the tides

Kihnu Island invites slow travel.

A quick spin around the island will leave you wanting more, so unplug, take a deep breath, and immerse yourself in its beauty. 

Visit Kihnu during folk or church calendar holidays, such as Midsummer Day, St. Catherine's Day, or Christmas. These celebrations are a testament to the islanders' resilience and show how heritage is valued and passed down over generations.

Discover the colors of Kihnu

Start your visit with a trip to the Kihnu Museum, open to visitors all year. Before you even step inside, you'll notice the colorful paintings adorning the building. Kihnu sailors, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, used art to tell stories of their seafaring adventures and island happenings. Their lack of technical training didn't keep them from recording their history in paint.

At the museum, you will get an overview of the island's history and unique UNESCO-listed cultural practices, such as ancient wedding songs, intricate knitting patterns, and colorful woven skirts. Next, stop by Metsamaa traditional farm, where you can learn more about daily life on Kihnu and watch various films about the island. 

Islanders welcome the chance to share their culture.

You can book a handicraft workshop or attend a local concert. You can also take advantage of the wealth of local knowledge by organizing guided home visits, truck tours, and fishing trips. (Tip: always book in advance!) 

Colorful facade decorated with folk art of Kihnu Museum

Source: Priidu Saart

What to see on Kihnu Island

The best way to learn about Kihnu's fascinating culture is by spending time with a local guide.

How to get to Kihnu Island

A ferry runs from Munalaid, about 30 minutes outside of Pärnu. You can reach the port by bus from the Pärnu bus station.

The ferry has all the amenities you could possibly need: WC, a cafe counter selling coffee and snacks, seats indoors or outside on the deck, a children's play area, and a changing table. The trip takes about one hour, and the boat runs in all seasons, including the winter, when it can break through the ice. Book your tickets ahead of time, especially if you plan to go during a special event.

Ferry traveling to Kihnu Island

Source: Priidu Saart

Savor flavors from the land and sea

If you're staying overnight and need to cook for yourself, you can find mainland staples at the island shops. However, a trip to Kihnu would not be complete without trying local dishes. Fish, of course, is a must, especially freshly smoked fish — caught fresh in the morning, smoked during the day, and enjoyed in the evening with a slice of hearty black bread. 

Traditionally, this bread is made from rye grown right on the island and baked according to each family's own particular recipe. Sometimes pork fat, small pieces of herring, or potatoes are added to the mix to keep the bread fresh and moist overnight. 

Enjoy meals made with mere steps between field and table.

Other dishes are prepared with produce grown in backyard gardens. Remember that while some island restaurants may be open daily during the summer, it's always best to call ahead to book a meal. The food may be simple, but its preparation takes time and care!

Older man smokes fish in a brick smoker on Kihnu Island

Source: Priidu Saart

Where to rent a bike on Kihnu Island

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