Updated: Jul 14
Ditch the crowds around Esbjerg, and discover some local outdoor gems.
Photograph: Ulrik Pedersen - Destination Sydvestjylland
Text: Catriona Turner
Last month I made the case for including the area around Esbjerg in your Danish staycation. By now the border with Germany is open (since June 15) for stays of 6 days minimum. But stays in Copenhagen are not allowed, and summerhouse rentals are now booked up for most of the summer. It’s going to be busy at those coastal resorts! Anyone who envisaged a quiet summer away from the crowds will have to look a bit harder.
With Denmark’s ‘new normal’ feeling unusually relaxed, it’s still important to travel responsibly and not be complacent. According to Pia de Place of VisitRibeEsbjerg, hotel and resort staff are receiving specialised training and all attractions have posters and signs from the health ministry (www.sst.dk/en/English) to help make sure everyone stays aware of those essential but very effective hygiene rules: frequent handwashing, cough into your elbow, stay home if you’re symptomatic. Keep an eye on the Danish police website at politi.dk/en/coronavirus-in-denmark for their list of hotspots where loitering is discouraged. (At the time of writing there are none in West Jutland, but once school holidays start that may change.)
Easy outdoor living
But the more time I spend in Denmark, the more I realise how easy it can be to spend time in less populated areas. Outdoor life is more than just encouraged here, it’s organised, convenient, and inviting. Forests are laid out with suggested hiking or mountain biking routes, there are communal picnic and barbecue areas everywhere – often with covered shelters – and outdoor education is valued for all, with Naturskolerne (nature schools) and open-air museums, such as Ribe Viking Center (see June 2019 issue) and Guldager Jernalderlandsby (Iron Age Village).
Go to udinaturen.dk for details of campgrounds and shelters locations, and suggested hiking routes. To get you started, here are a couple of my favourite recent outdoor finds:
"With Denmark's 'new normal' feeling unusually relaxed, it's still important to travel responsibly and not be complacent."
If you’re curious enough as you drive along the Vestkystvej between Tarp and Esbjerg Airport, you might have wondered about the sizeable grass-covered mound, dotted with white circles, that lies next to the road. In fact, it’s an art installation, created in 1995 by Danish artist Eva Koch, along with architect Steen Høyer. After dark, the white circles are illuminated by passing traffic. There’s space for one car to park on Landemærket. Close the gate behind you and make your way through a flock of sheep up to the top, for a rare elevated viewpoint of the city and harbour of Esbjerg. Although it’s surrounded by busy roads, you can lie on the grass, look at the sky, and listen: the bleats of the sheep and skylark song evoke an escape to nature.
Forest World Gørding
Head twenty minutes out of Esbjerg to the small town of Gørding, near Bramming. There you’ll find Verdensskoven (World Forest), a nature park of forest and meadow, with a particular focus on trees from around the world. It’s an ideal day out for small children: take them there on a ‘bear hunt’, and see how long it takes to find the exotic animals (just sculptures, in reality) hidden among the foliage, before letting them loose in the fun playground nestled in a clearing.
Enghave Dyre - og Naturpark
Next on my list for a summer holiday day out will be this nature and animal park just half an hour from Esbjerg, with a petting zoo, horse riding, fishing lakes, a maze, and playgrounds.
As you read this, I’ll be exploring more of Jutland and beyond with my family – I’d love to know your recommendations! Comment at the-intl.com or on social media @theinternationaldenmark.