Vormsi Island

The jewel in the crown of the area that was once home to the Coastal Swedes is just a 45-minute ferry ride from Rohuküla harbour, close to Haapsalu.

Vormsi, known in Swedish as Ormsö, is the fourth largest island in Estonia. Legend has it that it was originally named after the Icelandic Viking Orm, whose name means ‘snake’; another legend, attributed to St. Olaf, claims that it refers to an infamous pirate of the same name. In any case, the island was first mentioned in writing in 1391.

Until 1944, Vormsi was home to the Coastal Swedes, whose forefathers are thought to have come to the island from areas in southern Finland and Sweden in the 13th and 14th centuries. The majority fled the island for their ancestral homeland during World War II.

The diverse and species-rich natural environment of Vormsi makes the island highly attractive to nature-lovers.

You can get around on Vormsi by car or bus, but the best way to see it is on a bike.

The symbols of Vormsi are the 14th century St. Olaf’s church; the adjacent graveyard (which has the world’s largest collection of limestone and sandstone circular crosses – more than 330 in total); the romantic, juniper-studded Rumpo peninsula; and the Swedish place names it still bears. Exploring its village roads you’ll come across traditional farm architecture, the pebbly beach in Saxby and a number of mysterious lakes and springs.