Kihnu is home to the unique traditional Kihnu culture, which has been living on the islands along Pärnu’s coast for more than 600 years. The Kihnu Cultural Space, which was added to the UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity List in 2003, is of interest to all visitors who are interested in cultural heritage, unique nature and friendly people.
Kihnu is the largest island in the Gulf of Riga, and seventh largest in Estonia. The island covers an area of 16.9 km², being 7 km long and up to 3.3 km wide. The closest point on the mainland is the cape of Lao, on the Tõstamaa Peninsula, which is 10.2 km from Kihnu, and the nearest inhabited area is Manija Island, or Manilaid, at a distance of 7.5 km.
There are four villages on Kihnu Island:
Located in the east, Lemsi is home to the port, through which movement between the mainland and the island primarily takes place during the navigation season. Located in Linaküla, in the western portion of the island, is a hospital, school house, local history museum, a church, and a new community centre, which is home to a library and the rural municipality government. Sääre Village, located in the middle and northern portion of the island, is home to a post office, shops, and the Kurase Centre. Rootsiküla, located in the southern portion of Kihnu, is home to a memorial stone dedicated to the legendary seafarer Kihnu Jõnn, a weather station, and a lighthouse.
Kihnu Island was first mentioned under the name Kyne in 1386, and its residents were first mentioned in 1518. Historical evidence suggests that fishermen and seal hunters had already visited Kihnu as far back as 3000 years ago.
Kihnu has been an island of seafarers, fishermen, and seal hunters since ancient times. Over the course of many years, the men of Kihnu have spent much of their time at sea, having thus left the women in charge of the island’s affairs. As a result, the women of Kihnu have become the guardians and bearers of the island’s cultural traditions, such as handicrafts, dances, games, and music. The homemade Kihnu folk costume skirt, known as a ‘kört’ in the local dialect, remains a part of their daily attire.
Due to the island’s seclusion, Kihnu’s culture and centuries-old traditions remain alive to this day, and the wisdom of their ancestors is still followed in everyday life. The most ancient and unchanged of these traditions include the ceremonies related to marriage, such as the three-day wedding celebration, but also many other traditions and rituals that are followed on Midsummer Day, St. Martin’s Day, St. Catherine’s Day, and other calendar holidays. This makes the island an especially interesting place to visit during folk or church calendar celebrations.