Kihnu Island: Estonia’s Matriarchal Island

If you have ever wondered what life would be like if women were in charge, a visit to the Estonian island of Kihnu will help you envision a matriarchal world. Women are the keepers of culture and do virtually every job on Kihnu because the men of the island have historically spent the bulk of their time out at sea fishing or sailing ships.

Kihnu shore

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The women of Kihnu wear brightly-colored woven skirts, sing songs that celebrate the history of their island, and perform merry dances which unite the community. The island of Kihnu hosts several festivals including the Kihnu Sea Festival, Kihnu Dance Day, and the Kihnu Violin Festival. Kihnu is also home to countless home cafes, where the inhabitants of the island prepare freshly caught seafood in their homes and serve meals to visitors.

Kihnu island

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One of the most popular ways to explore Kihnu is by bicycle. Visitors can rent a bike and pedal along Kihnu’s coast. Don’t be surprised if you pass a traditional wooden Estonian sauna, or a lady in a brightly-colored head scarf fixing a Soviet-era motorbike by the side of the road. Kihnu has become an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years because it is charmingly Old World.

Kihnu women

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In the absence of men, the island of Kihnu has fostered a vital culture centered around singing, dancing, oral storytelling, weaving, and cooking. Sadly, the population of Kihnu is rapidly shrinking due to elders passing away and young people leaving the island for mainland Estonia. Those who remain are dedicated to keeping Kihnu’s vibrant culture alive.

The island of Kihnu is accessible by ferry during the warmer months and by car during the colder months when the water around Kihnu freezes solid. If a unique, living culture captivates you like nothing else, a trip to Kihnu is a must.

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