Sylt: the dream island between dunes, trails, good food and the protected Wadden sea

Sylt measures only 99 square kilometers in area. But if its beauty could be measured in numbers, perhaps an exact figure would not be enough to describe how beautiful there is on this German island surrounded by the UNESCO-protected Wadden Sea. Sand dunes, imposing cliffs, a railway line that travels on a dam built between the mainland and Sylt (the Hindenburgdamm), colorful flowers in spring and the North Sea that inspires a thousand different sensations and moods.

Sylt is also sport, with hundreds of walking and cycling routes, golf courses, surfing opportunities, but also restaurants with all kinds of offers, ranging from sophisticated restaurants to beach restaurants for those who want something simpler.

The beauty of nature and the risk of erosion
Image by Marc Rickertsen from Pixabay

Since 1923 Sylt has been placed under protection due to the great importance it represents at a naturalistic level. 50% of its small territory is protected: since 1985 the area between the north of Sylt and the mouth of the Elbe river (north of Hamburg) is part of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden National Park and since 2009 the Wadden Sea off Sylt is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Everything is not that simple, however, because Sylt loses a million cubic meters of sand every year due to the wind. The force of the westerly winds moves the sand north or south. For this reason, a process of “recovery” and “conservation” of the beaches began in 1972: from the beginning of the 1970s to 2019 approximately 52 million cubic meters of sand were collected and then reintroduced in the western and northern parts of the island. . A ship about ten kilometers from the coast picks up sand at a depth of 15 meters which is pumped onto the beaches where the buldozers rearrange everything between the dunes and the beach.
The project is financed by federal and European Union funds although since 2007 the inhabitants of Sylt have created the Sylt Coastal Protection Foundation which aims to protect the island with fundraising and other initiatives.

Wooden pathway through a heather landscape near Braderup on the island Sylt
By Lightbox from Shutterstock

The moorland between Bruderup and Kampen is definitely a must-see. Traditional or wooden hiking trails pass through purple fields of heather (not to be picked up!) With truly spectacular sea views.
And speaking of the sea …
In 1999 the Wadden Sea also became a Sanctuary for the passage of whales! It is estimated that around 6000 whales pass through Sylt each year on their migratory journey. In 2016, with the help of the State Office for the National Park, Marine and Coastal Protection and the Wadden Sea Protection Station, an information path was created on the passage of whales on Sylt, which consists of 22 information units located on the west coast between List and Hörnum.

The railway, the dam and the train
Image by Peter Toporowski from Pixabay

It may seem trivial, but the first thing you will see when arriving on Sylt is the sea. The island is connected to the mainland by a dam surmounted by a railway which creeps into Sylt carrying cars and passengers.
The Hinderburgdamm was opened on 1 June 1927 and is 11 km long. The average travel time between the car loading terminal in Niebüll in Germany and the capital of Sylt, Westerland, is approximately 40 minutes. From Hamburg it will take about 3 hours. If you prefer train to plane and ship, you can consult the timetables on the website of the Deutsche Bahn.

Sylt: between good taste, restaurants and…vineyards
Frische Austern by Karepa from Adobe Photo Stock

It is no coincidence that Sylt can count as many as 200 restaurants. Whether you prefer a light meal by the sea or you decide to sit down to eat a refined typical dish of the place, on Sylt you will find what is right for you. There is no shortage of starred restaurants suitable for every type of refined palate. On Sylt it is the fish dishes that convey the freshness of the place where you are. From the sea comes a fresh and excellent product that is transformed into simple or elaborate dishes. Mackerel, herring and salmon can become simple but delicious “fillings” for a sandwich that remains one of the most consumed quick meals on the island while Oyster is a decidedly more chic but popular dish among restaurants.

Friesentorte im Café
by Brigit Puck from Adobe Stock

If you want to satisfy yourself with a sin of gluttony, perhaps after a beautiful day spent walking along the paths of Sylt or on the beaches of the island, friesentorte is the kind of pleasure for you. Many cafes on Sylt serve this delicious cake that goes well with any season. Forget about calories for a moment and enjoy a coffee and the taste of a sublime cake.

If you think that Sylt is too far north for the cultivation of vines and to be able to boast its own wine then you should know that there are two vineyards on the island that produce Söl’ring and Sölviin. The two wines, to obtain the name of the island, are “pounded” and fermented on Sylt but once the optimal fermentation is reached, they reach the mainland for bottling.

The “sporting” island
Image by Karsten Bergmann from Pixabay

Sylt is a paradise for water sports lovers, but even those who prefer “land” sports will find space to have fun with hiking trails and golf courses. If you love wind surfing, consider that Sylt hosts a stage of the world championship but this does not exclude beginners from the possibility of learning to surf in these seas. There can be stormy days but also times when the calm and flat sea gives peace and the possibility of trying to those who are not experts by learning from the best masters.

The “land” sports, on the other hand, are divided between the island’s paths, the 4 18-hole golf courses and tennis courts. If you take into account the breathtaking views of Sylt, it will not be difficult for you to imagine what images you will find before your eyes walking around the island or challenging your friends on the golf course.

Young woman on bicycle while traveling along the coast of the island of Sylt near the village of List, Germany.
Photo by Pkazmierzak from Adobe stock

An optimal solution to play sports and admire Sylt can be to take a bike and travel the 200 km of dedicated routes. You can rent it or bring it from home but the important thing is that you have an ecological and economical vehicle with you that allows you to cross the wonders of this unique island.
You can brave the wind, admire the sea, pedal for miles.
You and nature.
What’s more beautiful?

When to go to Sylt?
Sylt: Kampen lighthouse in winter
Image by Inselopa from Pixabay

Some say that Sylt has as many faces as there are seasons of the year and, for this reason, it is worth visiting at any time of the year.
Summer is a turbulent season, one that tries to stay in the foreground with the warm evenings on the beach, the colors of sunrise and sunset over the sea. Autumn is the time when the big holidays end, the island becomes calmer and the typical colors of this intermediate season appear.
Spring all explodes. winter hibernates and the flowers begin to color Sylt. The yellow of the rapeseed appears on the fields and the sun begins to warm the dunes of the island.
Finally, many argue that winter is the season in which you can get to know the true soul of Sylt: the winter light and silence flood Sylt with a unique atmosphere. The fireplaces are lit. More time is spent in cafes and tea rooms. It is the perfect time to get to know better the inhabitants of the island.

The Biikebrennen
Biikebrennen: a Frisian tradition celebrated on Sylt
Photo by Murat Yelkenli from Shutterstock

On the evening of February 21, a traditional “torchlight procession” is repeated in Sylt with a large final bonfire to greet the end of winter.
This custom is an intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO and usually ends with large meals between the houses of Sylt or around the restaurants. Before the big bonfire is lit, the best-known characters of the island give various speeches then, when the fire is lit and all the torches have been thrown into the big bonfire, people sing the popular song “Üüs Söl’ring Lön ‘” (our land of Sylt). Subsequently, all the families gather at home or in restaurants to consume the typical dishes and specialties of Northern Germany, where boiled sausage, smoked pork and pork belly reign in addition to potatoes and other vegetable side dishes such as savoy cabbage and cabbage.

Sylt in numbers
  • The surface of Sylt measures 99 square kilometers, of which 33% is covered by dunes;
  • The native language of the island is the Söl’ring;
  • Sytl is made up of 5 municipalities and 12 island towns;
  • The sea of Sylt in summer reaches 21 ° C;
  • Sylt is protected by 22 km of dams;
  • About 20,000 inhabitants live here;
  • …but there are more than 62,000 tourist beds;
  • Millions of migratory birds come to the Wadden Sea and Sylt;
  • The Uwe Dune of Kampen, measuring 52.5 m, is the highest natural dune on Sylt;
The Uwe dune
Image by Wheely248 from Pixabay
  • At List 1 million oysters are harvested a year:
  • There are 4 lighthouses on Sylt;
  • Sylt separated from the mainland about 8000 years ago;

Sources: Sylt.de e insel-sylt.de
Photos: Adobe Stock, Shutterstock e Pixabay

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