Hiiumaa, Estonia’s second-biggest island (1000 sq km), is a peaceful and sparsely populated place with some agreeable stretches of coast and a forest-covered interior. The island has less tourist development than Saaremaa, with considerably fewer options for lodging and dining. There’s also less to do and see, but most visitors that come here are content simply to breathe in the fresh sea air and relax.
Scattered about Hiiumaa you’ll find picturesque lighthouses, eerie old Soviet bunkers, empty beaches and a nature reserve with over 100 different bird species. Those seeking a bit more activity can hike, horse ride or indulge in various water sports. And the good news is that, thanks to the island’s microclimate, the weather here is considerably warmer than on the mainland, 22km away.
Given their relative isolation from mainland Estonia, it’s not surprising that the islanders have a unique take on things, and a rich folklore full of legendary heroes, such as Leiger, who had nothing to do with Kalevipoeg (the hero over on the mainland). People who move onto the island must carry the name isehakanud hiidlane (would-be islanders) for 10 years before being considered true residents. Hiiumaa is also said to be a haven for fairies and elves, ancestors of those born on the island. Modern-day Hiiumites rarely discuss this unique aspect of their family tree, however, as this can anger their elusive relatives.
For further information about the island, see www.hiiumaa.ee.