Well-known for its cosmopolitan capital, cutting edge contemporary design and the timeless fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s stunning coastlines and rolling countryside must be equally revered.
With mile upon mile of pristine coastline complemented by an unspoiled interior of forests, heaths and rolling farmland, the Danes love nothing more than getting out into the heart of their beautiful countryside. Visitors can also easily follow suit by making a leisurely exploration along one of the many designated, long-distance touring trails - ideal for exploring on foot, by bike or on an unhurried drive along picturesque country lanes.
Spoiled for choice when it comes to touring itineraries, visitors looking to travel under their own steam, for example, can walk or cycle sections of the Hærvej, or 'Army Way', which traces what was for centuries the main transportation route through the Jutland peninsular. Linking a whole network of paths, it forms a 250km trail along the backbone of the country, from the town of Viborg in north-central Jutland all the way south to the German border and beyond. With well-maintained walking and cycling trails established along this historic route, it follows a ridge that affords some of the most spectacular views in Denmark.
Dotted with interesting sights - including breathtaking natural scenery, historic fortifications, ancient burial mounds and plenty of Viking history - visitors can put their best foot forward discovering these at their own pace. Marking a start to the Hærvej, the imposing Viborg Cathedral, one of the largest granite churches in northern Europe whose two towers dominate the skyline, is a definite highlight. From here, the path continues south across the wild, open heaths of Kongenshus Hede and on through the outstanding natural beauty of Egtved, known for its windmills, watermills and Bronze Age relics from the grave of the Egtved Girl - which include some incredibly well-preserved burial objects dating from around 1370BC. Another unmissable historic attraction is Jelling, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's home to two eighth-century runic stones erected by the Viking Kings Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth. The one erected in AD983 by Viking King Harald Bluetooth holds special significance for Danes as it is known as the ’birth certificate of Denmark’. More recent history can be found at the Frøslev Camp Museum, a well-preserved World War II prison camp that once interred political prisoners and members of the Danish Resistance. There are also a good number of interesting detours to be made from the Hærvej, such as a visit to the sources of Denmark's longest (the Gudenå) and its largest (Skjernå) rivers, which rise just a few hundred metres apart but then flow in opposite directions towards the east and west coasts respectively, creating their own attractions.
Visitors preferring a less energetic means of travel can instead opt for one of the driving tours such as the Marguerite Route, a scenic route that passes through spectacular countryside on its way past more than 200 of Denmark's most popular attractions. Marked by characteristic marguerite (daisy) road-signs, this winding 3,600km route takes in the cities of Copenhagen, Odense and Aalborg as it wends its way through Sealand, Funen and on through central and northern Jutland, exploring some of the country's most remote corners. Cleverly following an extremely well-planned network of roads, the trail ensures drivers never see the same view twice. Although designated as a driving route, following such quiet roads makes it equally well suited to touring by bike.
The Marguerite Route also takes full advantage of Denmark's stunning coastline passing along the west coast and providing visitors with an opportunity to discover the Wadden Sea, one of Denmark's most ecologically important areas. Depending on the time of year, visitors to this vast intertidal area can encounter some incredible wildlife spectacles. In the spring and autumn, the mudflats provide an important stopover site over ten million migrating shorebirds, which pause on the food-rich alluvium to refuel before continuing their epic journeys. The transitional months are also the time to witness the phenomenon of the Black Sun, when huge flocks of starlings swirl across the dusk sky with their amazing aerobatic displays presenting a truly mesmerising sight. In summer, seal safaris operate from Esbjerg Harbour, with sightings of spotted seals being virtually guaranteed. Then from October to April, guided walks across the tidal flats give visitors the chance to forage for fresh oysters, which can be harvested in large numbers all across the area. Last year in December the world's largest oyster where caught in the Wadden Sea and can now bee seen at the Wadden Sea Centre.
Another interesting spot along West Jutland's coast is Ringkøbing Fjord, an area of outstanding natural beauty that's known in particular for its watersports. Windsurfers are especially well catered for here, but there are also plenty of opportunities for other activities like canoeing, angling or simply taking a refreshing dip. Nearby Nymindegab Kro offers an interesting place to stay; this traditional Danish inn is perched high on the dunes overlooking the North Sea and is the perfect place for exploring the surrounds or tucking into delicious local dishes. Further north, the route passes through Thy National Park, allowing visitors a chance to discover nature in the raw in this extensive area of dunes, forests and heaths including the wetland reserve of Vejlerne - the largest bird sanctuary in northern Europe and home to all kinds of rare and unusual flora and fauna.
Away from the coast, other highlights along the Marguerite Route include the fairytale forest of Rold Skov. At 80 km², this is Denmark's largest forest and home to ancient trees, crystal-clear lakes and rare wild orchids. More natural beauty can be found at Rebild Bakker, a famously picturesque area of woods, gorges and valleys, and Mols Bjerge National Park, which occupies an area of rolling hills and wildflower-rich meadows on the Djursland peninsula. Closer to Aalborg, Denmark’s third largest city, lies Lindholm Høje, home to Scandinavia’s largest Viking burial ground with more than 700 well-preserved graves. Also of historical interest is Koldinghus Castle, Jutland's oldest royal castle and home to an extensive art collection. Another interesting place to visit is the pretty town of Vejle, which is so well-loved by the Danes that it's been labelled 'Denmark's cosiest town'. Just outside Vejle lies the recently-created Kongens Kær wetland park, complete with nature trails and picnic areas – another perfect place for visitors to pause on their journey and reflect on the pleasures of day touring, Danish-style.
Whether walking, riding or driving, Denmark’s numerous touring routes and trails offer the perfect path to a relaxing holiday.
Under two hours flying time, Denmark has an excellent selection of flights from the UK to all its major airports. With Billund and Aarhus airports served from the UK by Ryanair, Aalborg and Copenhagen by Norwegian and Copenhagen by easyJet this means it's both easy and affordable to plan a route.
DFDS Seaways provides a overnight ferry crossings 2 to 5 times a week (depending on the time of year) between Harwich and Esbjerg in West Jutland, with prices starting from £117 per person, based on two people and one car travelling one way with a sea view cabin
When exploring Denmark by car, bike or foot, there is no better way to get a real taste for the country’s history, delicious cuisine and genuine Danish hospitality than by staying at one of Small Danish Hotels' beautiful inns, modern hotels and fairy tale castles dotted along the Marguerite Route.