Hiiumaa: A hidden paradise in the Baltic sea
January 1, 1970
by Maarja-Liis Loo
When talking about Estonia then most people instantly think of Tallinn the capital city with its medieval old town and funky vibes. But Estonia is known to have more than 1500 islands. Yes, that’s right! And even though most of these islands are small and no one lives there, we can find ones which are in fact inhabited but still offer peace, quiet and wilderness.
One paradise island amongst the others is Hiiumaa with its 11000 habitants. Most of them live in the capital Kärdla which has schools, small shopping centres and supermarkets, as well as libraries and cinema that airs movies 3 days a week. A land which was not allowed to be visited even by fellow Estonians during the Soviet times because of the Russian military base was situated there welcomes its guests warmly these days. Today at least six ferries a day take people from Western Estonia’s ferry station to Hiiumaa (more info about the timetables and ticket prices is shown here: www.praamid.ee , it is also possible to fly there with the smallest plane on Earth from the capital city Tallinn and during cold winters you can actually drive your car from mainland to the island on an ice road. I mean how cool is that?
Where to go and what to do in Hiiumaa?
First of all, this is a paradise for nature lovers! It has beautiful uncrowded beaches, many national parks where you are probably the only one walking around, a lot of forests which are safe to visit since no bears live there, bird watching towers, tall lighthouses which kids adore to visit and some authentic Estonian pubs, cosy small restaurants in different harbours and even a nightclub!
Best beaches to visit in Hiiumaa
A beautiful long beach only 10 kilometres away from the capital Kärdla that you can visit for free like all the rest of the beaches. So why not rent a bike from the city and go there without a car? And the best part is, in Hiiumaa you do not even have to lock up your bike, no one steals it anyway since everyone knows everyone on the island. Tõrvanina beach is perfect for a privacy seeking backpacker or for a group that wants to be loud and not disturb others with it. The area is clean and the sand is singing. If you have a good imagination you could feel that you are in the Northern Maldives, instead of the palm trees though, Hiiumaa has pine trees.
Located on the western side of the island, this beach is called a surf paradise. It is a little windier so water sports lovers will definitely enjoy it even though Estonia is not known for the best surfing conditions. Still worth a try! A short drive or a long walk from the surfers’ beach will introduce you another beautiful and peaceful beach called Kalana which is rocky and offers a completely different scenery. Every summer at the end of July a festival called Kalana Saund takes place there. The festival introduces mostly Estonian electronic music with some foreign additions. 3-day festival passes are usually around 40€.
Luidja beach is not far from Ristna, it is a little more to the north though. It is known for its singing sands as well as beach volleyball courts, a playground and swings for kids. Every summer takes place the Luidja triathlon and beach volleyball tournament. In addition, usually you only have to take a few steps into the water to go swimming. It gets deep quite fast!
For nature lovers
Is located on an island called Kassari which is connected to Hiiumaa through a road and if it’s your first time there, there is no way you could say that you just went from one island to another. Kassari itself has beautiful nature, hiking trails and beaches but the most wonderful thing to do there is to take at least an hour walk on Sääre tirp. A long rocky road that slowly fades into the sea. Surrounded by wild plants, probably some bugs and mosquitoes as well as at least 30 horses running around freely. The most magical place in Hiiumaa that makes you feel like you are starring in some National Geographic documentary but is yet quite easily accessible.
Leemeti-Õngu hiking trail
This is just one of the many trails you can take in Hiiumaa. It is situated in the western part of the island in between Mardihansu gulf and Tihu lakes. A beautiful scenery throughout the 11 kilometres takes you on a journey through magical forests to the sea. If you feel the need to take some time off to figure out things then this is the best meditation there is. Plus hiking is always good for your body and mind!
Bird watching and lighthouses
Since Hiiumaa is a clean, quiet and safe place, a lot of birds live there. There are many towers where you can watch and listen to the birds. Better known amongst the others is the one in Orjaku. It is also part of Kassari and has a dreamy small harbour just 3 kilometres from the tower.
But bird watching towers are not the only high constructions on the island that the locals are proud of. It has many old lighthouses and the most famous is in Kõpu. It is 36 meters high and was finished probably on year 1531. The children aged 6 and younger can visit it for free, students and retired people pay 2€, the ticket for adults is 3€.
Where to stay?
Hiiumaa does not have 5-star hotels. Most of the accommodation is simple yet clean and affordable. If you are traveling really on a budget you should consider camping which is mostly free in designated areas. There are also little huts free to use for everyone in the forests and hiking trails.
Find more information from www.hiiumaa.ee
So this is just a little glimpse of Hiiumaa. To get a real feeling, to taste their home made food and freshly caught fish, you have to actually go there and experience it yourself. This is a place of which most of the world has not even heard of, something completely different.
The most convenient way to get around there is to have a car. There is no car rental on the island so that has to be done in Tallinn. If you are not afraid to bike a little more then you do not have to worry about having a car. Bike can be rented on the island itself. There are also 3 taxis on the island: no kidding! Hitchhiking is not really an option since you won’t be seeing too many cars on the road but if you are into a real adventure then why not give it a try.
The best advice I can give you though is not to plan too much in advance. There are no traffic jams or even traffic lights nor too crowded places or fully booked restaurants. You just have to give yourself enough time to really feel the magic.