Useful information
1. Contract stones and Otimäe stone burial place
2. Pühalepa church
3. Suuremõisa castle
4. Suursadam
5. Soera Farm Museum
6. Kärdla
7. Hill of Crosses
8. Tahkuna lighthouse
9. Reigi church
10. Kõrgessaare-Viskoosa
11. Kõpu lighthouse
12. Vanajõe Valley
13. Sõru harbour
14. Orjaku bird observation tower
15. Exhibits building of Hiiumaa museum in Kassari
16. Sääretirp
17. Kassari chapel and graveyard
18. Vaemla wool factory

Supported by European Union


From Kärdla drive towards Kõrgessaare. The drive out of the city via Aia Street is recommended, nice examples of artesian wells decorate almost every garden. It is about 4 km from the city limits sign to Ristimägi.

Photo: Hanno Luukas
Photo: Hanno Luukas

First piece of advice: don't look for the hill, but follow the signs. You will notice a little parking lot at the left side of the road - leave your car, bicycle or bus there. The real Ristimägi is only a few steps away.

The Ristimägi that we know today is an area with sandy hillocks covered with crosses on both sides of the old main road, but especially on the left side. There are many different versions of the story of how the hill of crosses came to be, but its connection to the deportation of the Swedes of Reigi in August 1781 is the one most often cited. Despite everything that this small national community of about 1,000 did to protect their rights, they ended up stripped of their land by Stenbock. Catherine the Great of Russia signed a decree allowing the Swedes to resettle in a new area in southern Ukraine. Quite a few high officials were connected with this unconventional story, like Catherine’s protégé, duke Potemkin. The Swedes had no other choice but to follow the orders and bid farewell to the place they had called home for four or five centuries. Deportees from nearby villages gathered together for a final church service at what is now Ristimägi on August 20, 1781. They made a cross, under which Reigi’s pastor Forsmann spoke. People made many smaller crosses as well. In May 1782, only a little bit more than half of the travellers reached the “promised land”. At first, the hill of crosses was a place where anyone leaving the island went to make and place their cross. Nowadays things have changed: it is newcomers and first-time visitors to the island who make and leave crosses.

Legends and stories

For years quite a different story was told in connection with the hill of crosses, about two wedding parties. This story originates from the times when brides were "stolen" from the neighbouring parish and swordfights were quite common at weddings. Once two wedding parties, one Swedish and the other Estonian, met on the way back from church. The road was narrow and so a fight broke out. During the fight, the groom from one wedding party and the bride from the other were killed. The surviving groom and bride then married each other and lived happily ever after. It is considered appropriate to make a cross out of local material - use only down wood, please - at this place to remember people, or just for good luck.

Tip: An interesting memorial has been erected at Ristimägi, made of two millstones by the people of Hiiumaa and the descendants of Hiiumaa Swedes on the 210th anniversary of the deportation of the Swedes - August 20, 1991. The date has added significance, Estonia declared independence on that day after 50 years of Soviet occupation.

Surroundings or on the way to the lighthouse

One km from the crossroads you will notice the sign for "Mihkli muuseum" (Mihkli Museum). In about 200 m, you will see an old house in the woods that is quite different from the one in Soera. This one here is part of an intact farm complex with 8 houses. Although most of them originate from the same era as Soera, from the mid-19th century, the architecture is quite typical of northern Hiiumaa.

This is an old Swedish farm where Estonians moved in after the Swedes were deported in 1781. The farm is stylistically consistent; the old chimneyless sauna or the smoke sauna looks especially old. In 2001 a popular TV reality show, "Farm", was filmed in this farm house. More detailed information is available on site.

Continue your journey towards Tahkuna. In several kilometres you will notice several buildings from different eras by the side of the road, the central one being Malvaste Schoolhouse, completed in 1930, and today converted into a lodge for tourists.

Very soon afterwards, the road turns to gravel. Relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings.

A few kilometres before the lighthouse, you will see different wartime structures in the woods, which increase in number as you near the tip of the peninsula. An additional day would be useful to tour the fortifications, especially with a professional guide (inquire at the tourist information centre).

If you are pressed for time, then just read the information boards and signs and look around by yourself. The lighthouse is also only a few steps away. Driving towards the tower, you’ll see a big wind turbine on the left side of the road. This windmill was built in cooperation with Estonia and Denmark in 1995, and its task is to help research ways of harnessing wind energy in Hiiumaa.

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