Do you have a week or two – and are planning on a trip in Denmark – from the east to the west across the islands?
The islands in southern Denmark are numerous: Fejø, Femø, Askø, Vejrø, Møn, Langeland, Ærø, Enehøje, Strynø, Drejø, Avernakø… you will just have to pick!
We have decided on throwing ourselves into a road trip to explore some of the southern islands in Denmark. Actually, it is a perfect region to go island hopping, and with one or two weeks you can easily cover 8-10 Danish islands (plus a lot more you will just be passing by)! Although distances are relatively short, you may be surprised how the landscape and the seascape change across the country.
The islands are connected via an intricate network of small ferries and bridges.
Starting as far to the east as you can get in Denmark (Bornholm excluded), we drive to the island Møn, linked to Sealand by a bridge.
Where to stay in Ærø: Hotel På Torvet charming aparthotel in Ærøskøbing main square, Rømø: Danhostel Rømø a former farmhouse, with an excellent location in Rømø, Lolland: PilgrimsHuset Maribo top location at Maribo Cathedral, Møn: Hotel Residens Møen aparthotel with a terrace.
Møn is a beautiful part of Denmark with small local villages and towns, inviting fields of ripe wheat and wild flowers in the countryside, as well as a fascinating unpolished seashore with stretches of beach – and not least the spectacular and famous cliffs, Møns Klint.
The white cliffs of Møn cover more than 6 kilometres of the shoreline on the eastern side of the island.
We depart on foot from the car park located roughly in the middle of the chalky coastline. From here we follow the path, boardwalk and stairways leading south. The first part of the hike takes place in the lush forest, Klinteskoven, above the cliffs.
We know that there is a chance of spotting peregrine falcons (the fastest animal in the World – reaching a speed up to 300 km/hour) here, Møns Klint probably being the only place in Denmark where they breed. Surprisingly, Klinteskoven also boasts exotic orchids due to the very special and mild climate in Møn!
Descending all the way down to the beach, we now get the opportunity to view the amazing chalk cliffs from a worm’s eye view. They can be traced back to the time of algae and aquatic animals living in the sea here millions of years ago. With time enormous limestone plates were created out of this organic material, and these were gradually converted into the cliffs as we know them today. There is much more information about the fascinating geology in Geocenter Møns Klint situated right above the cliffs at the car park.
The white cliffs are really a treasure trove of fossils, and therefore the coast is also a sheer paradise for fossil hunters!
Hiking along the beach we need to take off our shoes and socks to pass through a seaweed swamp to reach the northerly steps taking us back through the stunning beech tree forest.
We stay in the old seaside village Klintholm Havn which is today a popular holiday site for locals and visitors alike. From Klintholm Havn there is on a daily basis a boat tour (Discovery) taking you past the white cliffs surrounded by the turquoise Baltic. In this way you can get a different panoramic view of the famous Møns Klint.
Close to the white cliffs we explore Liselund baroque garden with the picture-postcard pond and green rolling lawns. It is an example of 18th-century garden architecture, designed for Antoine de la Calmette’s wife, Lise.
Møn has more unique features than the cliffs. Majestic burial mounds across the island, Nyord (in fact a separate small island) with a great diversity of birdlife and an octagonal church, as well as the popular ice cream producer Møn Is, producing the most delicious ice cream on-site from their fresh dairy produce.
Finally, we visit Stege, Møn’s main town and one of the oldest market towns in Denmark. During the Middle Ages Stege played a vital role in the herring fishery in Øresund. There are still remains from the Middle Ages here: the town ramparts, the town gate Mølleporten, a medieval castle and various old warehouses. We arrive precisely on the weekly ‘Tuesday market day’ which takes place in summer.
Sct Hans Church (from the 13th century) in Stege is also the largest town church in Denmark of its kind. We discover the most lovely monastery garden just behind it – full of medicinal and other useful herbs.
Continuing our southern Denmark road trip now takes us across the islands of Bogø and Falster (just as extra islands) with a glimpse of the 18th-century town Stubbekøbing in the distance when passing the long bridge. Falster features the southernmost point in Denmark, Gedser, as well as one of the three Nykøbings in the country.
Soon we are in Maribo with the beautiful Maribo Lakes and an outstanding birdlife, sea engles included! There are in fact four interconnected lakes in the nature park around Maribo, and you will find great bicycle routes and trails for walkers along the lakeshores. Between the main lake Søndersø and Hejrede Lake we stop at the viewing platform which is supposed to be a good place to watch the birdlife – and maybe even sea eagles! However, there is no sight of any sea eagles today, but we see lots of other interesting birds and even a snake swimming and crawling up onto a waterlily.
There is also a tour boat, Anemonen, that takes you on a ride on the Maribo Lakes – with a good chance of spotting a sea eagle!
The name Maribo means ‘Mary’s home’, referring to Virgin Mary to whom the former convent here was dedicated. Maribo is today a lovely cathedral town dating from the 15th century with an old market square and medieval alleys with half-timbered houses. The original village here was a village called Skimminge, and there is still a street named after it. Maribo’s spectacular cathedral is idyllically situated at Søndersø.
A small place to visit south of Maribo is the charming Nysted, a gem of an old market town with winding alleys and a delightful little harbour, as well as the castle Aalholm Slot. It is also on Lolland’s south coast you will find Rødbyhavn – the gateway to Germany, these years the focal point of the construction of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link which is a giant tunnel connecting Lolland with the German island of Fehmarn.
Knuthenborg Safaripark is located north of Maribo at Bandholm. It is an amazing nature park with exotic wild animals, including tigers, and even a dinosaur forest!
On our way to Nakskov we visit Dodekalitten (The Dodecalith). It is a gigantic stone monument, a modern Stongehenge mixed with mythic Easter Island moai statues, erected on a field where you can enjoy panoramic views of the natural landscape and the calm sea! It consists of 12 (hence the name ‘dodecalith’, meaning twelve in Greek) carved granite sculptures, each 7-9 metres tall and each weighing between 25 tons and 45 tons, completed to varying degrees.
The stones are all facing inwards and placed in a circle with a diameter of 40 metres. It is an ongoing project, initiated in 2010 by the sculptor Thomas Kadziola, which is only expected to be completed by 2025! While taking in the impressive artwork, we enjoy the scenic landscape and listen to the accompanying music all the time changing based on the current position of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun.
Right behind the monument Glentehøj burial mound from the Bronze Age can be found (and in the ‘Lolland Alps’ region many more burial mounds still exist!).
We have planned to stay a few days in Lolland to explore the Danish ‘sugar land’.
Lolland (as well as Falster) is traditionally known for growing sugar beets. It is here you will find the old sugar factories (De Danske Sukkerfabrikker) built in the 1870s and 1880s. They were constructed in many towns (Sakskøbing, Nykøbing, Maribo, Nakskov). To bring the sugar beet harvest to the factories a simple rail network was established across the islands. New stations popped up to where the fresh produce was transported. In the beginning the wagons were horse-drawn, later steam trains took over to transport the ‘white gold’ – and with time the trains became more modern.
In Nakskov we pass the only still operating sugar factory in Lolland, Nakskov Sukkerfabrik, founded in the 1880s. Actually, Nakskov now features a unique sugar museum where visitors are introduced to the history of sugar production!
Last stop in Lolland is Langø which used to be an island (hence the name). Centuries ago there was in this part of Denmark a whole archipelago with over 10 islands in the area that is now land occupied by sugar beets and other crops. It is the old seabed.
Langø used to be one of these islands – today just a small harbour town in ‘mainland’ Lolland with quite a few smaller fishing boats and sale of fresh fish. Albuen is another of the original islands that still exists, although now connected to Lolland by a narrow piece of land. We hike along the beach all the way out to the northern tip of Albuen (which is 7 km long). This experience is only for hikers – no car traffic is allowed on the narrow path!
In the beginning of the 15th century a herring market developed here at Albuen since large schools of herring passed the island. A trading station for the Danish herring catch was established and Danish, as well as Heseatic, merchants traded here in houses built for that purpose. Traces of these houses can still be seen at Albuen.
Anyway, you can also take the post boat Vesta out to some of the current islands in Nakskov Fjord – for instance to explore Enehøje!
The next morning we drive aboard the small ferry in Tårs taking us to Spodsbjerg in Langeland – and from there we cross over to Rudkøbing, the main town of the island. It is a charming old market town with merchant houses and cosy cobbled streets.
As Rudkøbing developed as a maritime town and trading site, the Old Harbour was constructed (1821-1826) at the location of the original pier.
Going for a stroll to explore the harbour area, we pass a beautiful schooner. Today several interesting buildings are preserved along the harbour front, among others a number of old warehouses, a kiosk and the old customs house from 1891.
Langeland is also known for its flocks of wild horses, the Cold War museum Langelandsfortet, as well as the castle Tranekær Slot.
From Langeland you can continue to Tåsinge (the island where the dramatic love story of Elvira Madigan and Count Sixten Sparre played out and ended with their deaths. Their graves can be found at Landet Cemetery), and maybe even to Odense in Funen. Odense is in particular known as the birthplace of the Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen and features a great museum introducing the visitors to his world-famous stories and universes.
Nevertheless, we opt to take the ferry from Rudkøbing to another enchanting island in the South Funen Archipelago: Ærø.
One of the top islands to visit in Denmark is Ærø in the South Funen Archipelago.
In Marstal we drive out to see the 19 idyllic and iconic beach huts at Eriks Hale.
Marstal is brimming with old maritime history and the town has played a significant role in Denmark becoming a seafaring nation. Shipping has for many years been the main industry here.
Marstal Maritime Academy is still the navigator school that young men attend to learn how to operate the ships at sea.
Eriksen’s Square is named after Eriksen’s Shipyard. It was here that impressive wooden sailing ships were built before being launched to the world. Also today dockyards and shipping companies continue their business in Marstal, and you may well see restoration works going on around Eriksen’s Square. An ongoing project takes place on the schooner BONAVISTA.
A must-see is Marstal Maritime Museum, telling the story of Marstal’s maritime heyday. With around 250 ship models, navigation equipment, bottle ships and many more quaint items, it gives valuable insight into the exciting past.
From Marstal we continue to the picturesque town Ærøskøbing which is both fairy-tale like and at the same time one of the best preserved small towns in Denmark. Founded in the Middle Ages and further developed during the following centuries, it has still today a 17th-19th-century look with its cobbled alleys, half-timbered houses, carved doors and hollyhocks climbing up the facades.
Usually there are a lot of things going on in summer in Ærøskøbing: concerts, a jazz festival and other cultural events. You will come across small intriguing art galleries and craft shops offering local and homemade products (baskets, soap, liquorice, beer…).
Strolling around we explore the market square, the Old Merchant’s House, Ærøskøbing Church, the fish smokehouse Ærøskøbing Røgeri selling a wide variety of smoked fish specialities, and Flaske-Peters Samling (Bottle-Peter’s Collection). Flaske-Peter (born 1873) was renowned in Ærø for building bottle ships, and a large number of these are on display in this small museum in Ærøskøbing.
Afterwards we walk out to the 71 characteristic beach huts at Vesterstrand that Ærøskøbing is so famous for. The oldest hut dates back to the 1920’s. They are today all privately owned and the owners have to comply with strict rules about the building style.
Our next destination is Als, linked to Ærø by another ferry boat.
One of the must-sees is Sønderborg, known as a cultural town and for the impressive Sønderborg Castle which was founded in 1170. It was in the olden days used as a prison because of its solidity, and later during the Schleswig War it served as a field hospital. Today, it hosts a museum for South Jutland’s history.
Sønderborg is also famous for its annual tilting-at-the-ring tournament, which is the largest tournament of its kind in Denmark. It is a tradition of South Jutland which is still maintained in many towns here.
Another great site in Als is Nørreskoven which is one of the longest coastal forests in Denmark with beautiful beech trees and full of burial mounds. It is definitely an option for a hike in the scenic nature.
Universe Science Park, formerly Danfoss Universe, is a scientific adventure park created in the landscape around Nordborg. Here you can gain insight into exciting technology, physics and various natural phenomena, and try it out on your own.
We now continue across Jutland to the western islands in Denmark. Rømø is first. It is indeed very different from the islands we visited in the beginning of our southern Denmark trip.
Rømø is part of the Wadden Sea area in Denmark and full of outstanding nature experiences. Famed for its large flocks of migratory birds, this part of southern Denmark attracts nature lovers and birdwatchers every year in the migratory seasons. Others come to pick oysters right from the seabed at low tide.
The tide has created the perfect surroundings in the marshes for shorebirds and aquatic life. Already when crossing Rømø Dam (the dyke or causeway built in 1948 to enable car access to Rømø), we notice the special marshy grounds which change character with the tide.
Rømø’s marshes are primarily located on the eastern side of the island, whereas the western side is characterised by vast sandy beaches. This is the playground for all kinds of wind and water sports, as well as driving on the beach. You can engage in kitesurfing, windsurfing, blokarting and many more outdoor activities at Lakolk Beach or Sønderstrand.
Driving around to see a couple of old ‘kommandørgårde’ (farmhouses built by the whaling captains back in the whaling days in Rømø), we gain some insight into this era in this part of Denmark.
Rømø used to be a base in Denmark for whaling expeditions to the polar oceans (1660 – 1860) and people here joined Dutch and German ships to participate in whaling, some as commanders or whaling captains. Back home they built ‘kommandørgårde’, and sometimes they used whalebones instead of timber to construct fences around their properties.
At Juvre we find the only whale fence which is still left from that time!
Today, Kommandørgården at Toftum has been turned into a museum which is now part of the National Museum in Denmark. Another commander’s farmhouse is Naturcenter Tønnisgård which now serves as a nature centre.
The next island we will pass in the Wadden Sea is Mandø.
Leaving Rømø, we continue north to arrive at the peculiar Mandø road, a ‘road’ stretching out into the sea, which at low tide is used by the Mandø bus (a tractor-drawn bus that navigates on the seabed between poles marking the route). Even if not taking the Mandø bus, it is fun to watch it when it departs!
The last one of the islands on our southern Denmark road trip is Fanø, a bit further north. You reach Fanø by taking the ferry boat from Esbjerg. It is a very short ride – and you arrive at Nordby, Fanø’s cultural 19th-century town full of narrow alleys and maritime history. There are a couple of museums providing insight into everyday life on the island during the last centuries, Fanø’s shipping culture, the special Fanø dresses, the Fanø painters and much more.
During the ferry crossing you may also get the opportunity to spot a seal in the sea, or even a whole flock on the sand flat when approaching Nordby! And if not, you will have great chances later on the beach southwest of Sønderho. Often there are hundreds of seals to observe there!
Sønderho at the southern end of Fanø is said to be Denmark’s most beautiful village with many well-preserved houses dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. At that time it was one of the most significant coastal towns on Jutland’s West Coast. A visit to Fanø Kunstmuseum, Hannes Hus (a skipper’s house), Kåveren (Sønderho’s sea mark) and Sønderho Mill is a must!
Share ‘Road trip in Denmark – Southern Islands’!
‘Road trip Denmark Islands’
Have you considered what you will do in the (unlikely) event of something unforeseen happening? Do you need a travel insurance? Click here to get a quote and buy your travel insurance.
Have you checked if you need a visa for your trip? Click here to check and apply for a visa.