Here are the top picks of Danish national parks to explore over summer.
Photographs: Erin Gustafson / Jonas Togo
Text: Erin Gustafson
With five Danish national parks to choose from across the country, there are plenty of gorgeous natural areas for everyone to explore this summer. While a relatively new concept in this country, each of these protected national parks afford ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the outdoors and even pick up some ancient history and culture along the way. Plan a day out or dedicate a week to camping or hiking, touring and exploring one of these wild and beautiful natural parks.
Thy National Park
Set along the sweeping northwest coast of Jutland, Nationalpark Thy was the first designated Danish national park, opened in 2008. Here the wild North Sea plays a significant role in shaping the unique character of this landscape. Home to Denmark's own surfing paradise – the village of Klitmøller is known locally as "Cold Hawaii," where you can hang ten with the locals or just enjoy the view from offshore. Look out for the large herds of native red deer in the woods and floppy seals on the shore. With 244 square kilometres of wide sandy beaches, rolling grassy dunes and wind-snarled forests to explore – Thy has a diversity of landscape to inspire everyone.
Wadden Sea National Park
Slip a little further south along the west Jutland shores to find Nationalpark Vadehavet, part of the greater Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning this section of protected coast between Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands. Birdwatchers will rejoice at the seasonal opportunities to see migrating birds swoop and glide over the marshy landscape. Famous for impressive swarms of starling murmurations come spring and autumn – it's called "Sort Sol" or "Black Sun" by the locals. Next, pluck oysters fresh from the sea and wander through heather laden hillocks on the islands of Rømø, Fanø, and Mandø. The Vadehavecentret nature center near the darling medieval village of Ribe is a perfect place to start. https://eng.nationalparkvadehavet.dk/
Mols Bjerge National Park
Pop to the eastern side of Jutland to walk the diverse natural paths of Nationalpark Mols. Make your base near the cobblestoned cuteness of Ebeltoft, especially come summer when the hollyhocks (stokroser) blossom in front of every colourful half-timbered house. Over here, you'll find hills and valleys formed by the last ice age and evidence of Viking times. Meander the ruins of the Kalø Slot (Castle) and find bronze age burial mounds. Ancient history fans shouldn't miss the Poskær Stenhus, a preserved Neolithic grave from 3300 B.C.E., impressive for the enormous 11-tonne capstone still in place. Or just wander the serene beach at Ahl Hage.
Skjoldungernes Land National Park
Spanning the marshy and forested fjords around Roskilde, Nationalpark Skjoldungernes Land might be the most difficult to say but gives visitors a chance to connect with the regional culture and outdoors. Hike through deciduous forests, canoe across lakes or ride through the lush landscape astride a horse or your bike. Sidle up to your Viking past at the Ship Museum in Roskilde or at the Gl. Lejre Museum. Come summer, take a historical walk with a museum volunteer and learn more about the first mythical Viking kings that made their homes here.
Royal North Zealand National Park
Roam the lands of historic Danish kings - the Kongernes Nordsjælland Nationalpark includes two more of Denmark's UNESCO Heritage Sites – the Par Force Hunting Landscape of North Zealand and Hamlet's own Elsinore Castle. North of Copenhagen, explore the 260 square kilometres spanning from Hillerød to Helsingør and west to the historic settlements surrounding Arresø (lake.) Next, walk through the country's largest old-growth forest at Gribskov - home to a vast wild herd of fallow deer. Finally, plan a day out walking a section of the Tisvildevejen Pilgrimage Route from Esrum Kloster (Abbey) all the way out to the north coast and the brilliant blue sea at Tisvildeleje.