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Bliss on a Baltic Island

by Debra Bokur

Aug 25, 2019

© Lightboxx | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

Germany’s small collection of sea islands includes the popular resort island of Sylt, located off the northwest coast of Germany at the border with Denmark. The island is home to 25 miles of wide, sandy beaches and a diverse landscape that includes tall sand dunes, soaring cliffs and thick, heathered meadows. During the summer season, the beaches are made colorful with 12,000 Strandkörbe, hooded basket chairs with brilliantly striped cushions that are so popular, they’re even exported to Nantucket in the United States.


The island’s narrow, sinuous shape is often compared to a ballerina forever suspended en pointe. Sylt also has its own distinctive dialect, known as Söl’ring. Spoken (and understood) by few people around the world, the language is rooted in Danish and is still taught in some of the island’s schools.


There are 12 separate villages, including the famous vacation village of Kampen. It’s here European vacationers flock for golf, cycling and wandering along streets lined with art and jewelry galleries, and historic thatched-roof houses and buildings.

The lighthouse List Ost on the Ellenbogen of the island Sylt at the German northern sea coast.

The lighthouse List Ost on the Ellenbogen of the island Sylt at the German northern sea coast. Photo: Rphstock | Dreamstime.com

Westerland is the largest town, with world-class restaurants specializing in fresh seafood, surfing and a beautiful 3.7-mile promenade perfect for strolling. In summer, live music can be enjoyed at the Musikmuschel pavilion; year-round, there’s a permanent collection of sculptures displayed in and around the pedestrian area. Westerland is also the location of the train station, with service available from the mainland via a sea bridge.


For hiking and biking, the centrally located village of Tinnum can’t be beat. Well-maintained paths meander through meadows and gently rolling land. If you prefer to be a passenger, carriages drawn by horses can be hired for tours. Tinnum Castle — one of three castles on the island — includes a nicely preserved circular rampart, and can be explored free of charge. Tinnum is also the location of a zoo with a feeding area that allows children to interact with animals, plus a playground and multiple ponds with pedal boats for hire.


The location of a harbor with boats making daytrips to the Föhr, Amrum and the Halligen islands, the village of Hörnum has a historic lighthouse that served 1914–1933 as Germany’s tiniest schoolhouse.


If you want to add a little history to your visit, be sure to visit Wenningstedt, where the ancient Neolithic burial passage chamber known as Denghoog can be found beneath a manmade hill. Rubble at the base of the hill led researchers to speculate a stone circle once sat on top of the hill. Estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, it was constructed from giant Scandinavian stones from the Ice Age. Other family-friendly pursuits include a community pond, the soaring Red Cliff facing the beach, windsurfing, tennis and hiking.


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