Sylt. The island of the rich and the famous. Also the northernmost German and the largest of the North Frisian islands group in Wadden sea. An island which, if we look at its geographical position, is almost in Denmark. An island with a very distinguished shape, which is often seen as a sticker on German cars. An island which people visit to be seen and show off their cars. Especially if they own a Porsche. Or a Defender. We have honestly never seen so many Defenders in such a small place. So, despite not being rich, we kind of felt we are in a good place. A place where in the end, there is something for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet. As always, our priorities are in untouched nature and lonesome places. In peaceful beaches and tasty food. Watching sunsets with a glass of wine, barefoot and with wind in our hair. And yes, we found lots of such places on Sylt. And we fell in love with it. It´s definitely my favourite German island and in my humble opinion also one of the best in Europe. It just has something special. It might be difficult to understand until you actually visit it, but maybe I can inspire some of you with this post.
Places: Hörnum, Rantum, Morsum, Kampen, Keitum, Westerland, Kampen, List, Ellenbogen
How: najin LR Defender
Stayed in: Camping Rantum
We visited Sylt during a longer road trip on the German Baltic and northern coast, with pur LR Defender. In 4 days we got to know the island pretty good and we drove to pretty much all the parts of it – with our car as well as with rented bicycles. We absolutely loved Sylt. Read more about what you can see and do there, including practical information about travelling to Sylt in this post.
HOW TO GET TO SYLT
- WITH A PLANE (from Hamburg and other German cities you can fly into Westerland on Sylt, Lufthansa has the most connections)
- WITH A FERRY (SyltFähre ferries run more times a day between the Danish Havneby on island Romo and List on island Sylt)
- WITH A CAR TRAIN (there are 2 companies: Sylt Shuttle car train from DEutsche Bahn and RDC Autozug Sylt, both running between Niebüll on the mainland and Westerland on Sylt).
- WITH A REGIONAL TRAIN (if you are not travelling with your own vehicle, you can hop on a DB Regional train and also take your bicycle with)
We chose the car train and PAID 100€ FOR A RETURN TICKET, one way tickets are sold for 60€ otherwise. You can book the ticket online or buy it on spot, but you might have to wait a few hours to get on the train if you don´t have a booking – especially on the weekends and in the high summer season.
HOW TO GET AROUND SYLT
The island is only 38km long and 13km wide (on some locations only a few kilometres though) and the easiest and most effective way to get around is with your OWN VEHICLE, although I really recommend taking a few walks /hikes and RENTING BICYCLES. Landscape wise Sylt is pretty much flat so it is easy to pedal, but most of the shops offer e-bikes for rent as well. We´ve done an around 20km loop from List to Ellenbogen in the north and absolutely loved it. You can also RENT A CAR, and we saw just a couple of places which rented SCOOTERS. As I already mentioned, Sylt is perfect for LONGER WALKS too and there are nummerous MARKED HIKING / WALKING PATHS.
ACCOMMODATION ON SYLT
Depending on how much you are prepared to spend, you can choose from different types of accommodation. If you are a camping person, I suggest you forget about wild camping here and only enter the island if you have a booking in one of the official CAMP SITES (there are around 10). They are pretty strict with the rules so I wouldn´t risk it. We stayed at CAMPING RANTUM and paid only 103€ FOR 3 NIGHTS which seemed do be an awesome deal. High end HOTEL ROOMS can be anything from 600-800€ a night for a double room, but you an find “cheaper” rooms or apartments for around 150€. There are also some HOSTELS if you are still in that age. And if you don´t wish to spend the night, you can of course also visit as a DAY VISITOR. I suggest you bring or RENT A BICYCLE or, if you want to see more of the island, RENT A CAR for a day.
FOOD AND TOP RESTAURANTS ON SYLT
Many say that a visit to Sylt without a visit to a few of its lovely restaurants isn´t a real visit at all. I can easily agree on this one. Here are MANY TOP NOTCH RESTAURANTS, amongst them one with 2 Michelin stars and a few with one. Altogether you can dine in around 200 RESTAURANTS which is a pretty impressive number for a relatively small island. Some of them are offering more exotic menus, but we proffered to stick to more local / traditional ones, serving MUSSELS, OYSTERS (SYLTER ROYAL oysters are grown here and are the only German oysters), PICKLED VEGETABLES, which reminded us of Scandinavian cuisine and we´ve also tries some meat specialities. I admit, we were a bit lazy to cook over here, so we ate out every day actually.
THE MOST FAMOUS RESTAURANT ON SYLT is probably GOSCH SYLT. Its story began about 50 years ago, with a simple stand selling smoked eel and has grown into a much larger enterprise over the years, now having around 40 restaurants thrughout the country, all of them selling seafood specialities. Then we have SANSIBAR, set in a beautiful beach location, known for being the place where it is not unlikely to meet someone famous. I can´t name them all, but here are some other very good ones: SÖL’RING HOF (probbaly the most exclusive restaurant on the island, with 2 Michelin stars), BODENDORF´S and KAI3 (each with 1 Michelin), ALTE FRIESENSTUBE (authentic local cuisine set in the oldest, traditional, Frisian house on the island), TELLERRAND, ALTES ZOLLHAUS, SIEBZEHN84 and SAMOA SEEPFERDCHEN, to name just a few.
FESTIVALS, EVENTS AND SPECIAL EXPERIENCES ON SYLT
There is always something going on on Sylt, especially in the summer months. From music, sports, culinary and other festivals and events. To name a few of the most known ones: GOURMET FESTIVAL SYLT, SYLT OPEN AIR, SYLT SAILING WEEK, LONGBOARD FESTIVAL, KITESURF WORLD CUP, WINDSURF WORLD CUP, KAMMERMUSIKFEST SYLT, RANTUMBECKEN RUN, HARLEY TREFFEN and many other. Besides these, there are also a few other INTERESTING THINGS you can do here. For example the so-called STRANDSAUNA – a sauna on a FKK beach, so you can go swimming naked directly after or in between sauna time. Even if you are not a FKK person, you might want to try this, it seems to be a unique experience. Check out BUHNE 16, SAMOA FKK, STRANDSAUNA RANTUM and STRANDSAUNA LISTLAND for this. Then there is also the so-called AUSTERWANDERUNG, an “oyster walk” in the Wadden sea, where you can pick your own oysters. Also, in the south of the island, in Hörnum, you can take a boat tour out to the sand banks where seals are very likely to be seen lounging around in the sun.
RANTUM | laid back smaller town with a wonderful beach
During our visit we were staying in a camp site on the edge of a smaller town called RANTUM, which was really lovely with lots of traditional old houses, dotted on the sand dunes close to the wonderful long sandy beach. I´d say Rantum is a nice place to stay if you like peace and quiet, but still enjoy having all the necessary infrastructure like bakeries, good restaurants, hotel, apartments to rent, bicycle rent shops and such. On the eastern side, oposite of the sandy beach, there is a smaller marina just at the start of an area called RANTUMBECKEN. This is a great place for any nature lover and especially those who are into BIRD WATCHING.
But the star of Rantum must be its BEACH. We don´t really see it from the road or the cycling path as it is hidden behind a higher sand dune, so you have to walk on one of the wooden walkways to the top of the dune to get the best view of the beach and the sea. We loved it especially at sunset and I went for morning walks which was magical as well.
HORNÜM | the most southern town and tip of the island
Hörnum is the SOUTHERN MOST TOWN on Sylt, with a nice pedestrian zone, quite lively harbour place and a lighthouse, some restaurants and of course the BEACH. Here you can embark on a BOAT TOUR to see the SEALS which rest on sand banks in the middle of the sea and you can also take a tour to one of the islands in the so-called HALLIGEN ISLANDS GROUP. There are also connections to FÖHR island and the beautiful HELGOLAND island.
Totally in the south od the island you can walk around a larger sand dune called HÖRNUM-ODDE DÜNE, while you are there you can stay the night in CAMPINGPLATZ HÖRNUM (it looked like a perfect place if you are tent camping, because they allow you to put the tent between the sand dunes), you will also find a GOLF COURSE here and one of the good restaurants mentioned above, KAI3. You might feel you are far away from all the action here, but therefore you will get a good dose of peace and quiet to relax and charge your batteries.
WESTERLAND | the largest and the main town
THE LARGEST AND THE MAIN TOWN on Sylt is located in the middle of the island and it will be the place you will disembark either from a train of airplane. Here, we find loads of BIGGER HOTELS, which don´t exactly suit my taste, but they have to be somewhere I guess, SHOPS (there is a larger shopping street as a pedestrian zone), LIVELY PROMENADE, POOLS, SPAS, an AQUARIUM and other points of interest. There is also a CITY BEACH where you can rent one of those typical „beach baskets“ called a STRANDKORB on German. In Westerland there are also the most events, concerts, festivals and similar (including the two world cup events in windsurfing and kitesurfing) so if you are looking for a bit more action this is the place to be.
KEITUM | picturesque village with “Captain´s houses
ONE OF THE MOST PICTURESQUE VILLAGES on the island used to be one of the main and most important towns on Sylt. Most of the senior captains retired in houses around here and you can still see these beautiful homes with traditional stone walls called “FRIESENWALL”. There is also a museum in one f the houses, called ALTFRIESISCHES HAUS.
KAMPEN | elegant town, surrounded by stunning nature
North of Westerland we find KAMPEN, a smaller town with a nice beach and many other wonderful sights, for example the beautiful sand dunes landscape DÜNENLANDSCHAFT AUF DEN ROTEN KLIFF, the highest point on the island – a sand dune called UWE DÜNE, LANGER CHRISTIAN and QUERMARKENFEUER lighthouses, might red cliffs ROTES KLIFF, nature reserve BRADERUPER HEIDE (all described below).
Then there re of course many restaurants, check out VOGELKOJE and BÜHNE16, shops, a GOLF COURSE and a whole bunch of HIKING PATHS. There er also lots of rooms/houses to rent and 2 camp sites around here. Considering there are lots of things to see and do around the town I think it is a nice place to stay at on Sylt.
QUERMARKENFEUER ROTES KLIFF | lighthouse
The OCTAGONAL LIGHTHOUSE, built in 1913, close to Kampen town is not in operation anymore, but it is an interesting place to see while walking on sand dunes hiking paths close to the RED CLIFF BEACH AREA.
ROTE KLIFF DÜNENLANDSCHAFT | cliffs and sand dunes around Kampen
Visiting KAMPEN would not be complete if you do not walk on the top of around 30m HIGH RED CLIFF, which stretched between Kampen and Wenningstedt. Stick to marked paths and wooden walkways though and do make a descent don to the beach at one point. The cliff is amazing to see from down there as well and if you can, go there at sunset when the red tones are even more intensive.
If you are in need of a break, the beach here is perfect for a quick rest in one of the STRANDKORB baskets. The views are great and if you are brave enough you can swim as well.
UWE DÜNE | a large sand dune and the highest point on the island
THE HIGHEST POINT ON SYLT is only 52m above sea level, but still it offers amazing views on the surrounding landscape. Near Kampen you will find an area called DÜNENLANDSCHAFT AUF DEM ROTEN KLIFF, with lots of walking / hiking paths, some of which lead you on top of the cliff I mentioned above, others lead to the top of Uwe Düne and some just take you up and down on the grassy sand dunes.
Close by there are 2 CAMP SITES, CAMPINGPLATZ KAMPEN and WENNINGSTEDT, a children´s playground and a few larger parking lots. From the top of Uwe Düne you can also see the LANGER CHRISTIAN LIGHTHOUSE, but I definitely recommend walking around the area for a couple of hours and visiting all these spots mentioned above as well.
BRADERUPER HEIDE | heathland nature reserve
Between KAMPEN and BRADERUP there is another interesting NATURE RESERVE, which is known to be a wonderful HEATHLAND area. In German „Heide“ means „heath“ and you might have heard about the most famous heathland in Germany – the Lüneburger Heide south of Hamburg. This one on Sylt is not as large of course, but it is amazing as well. There are some HIKING PATHS and you can spot the SHEEP chewing the so-called HEIDEKRAUT.
WADDEN SEA | guided walks & hikes in protected Wattenmeer area
Wadden sea, in German WATTENMEER, is an important protected area which is also on UNESCO´s World Heritage list. Here, we find a large number of mussels, clams, crabs, sea worms, but also birds and seals. As well as on many other East- and North Frisian islands, you can attend the so-called WATTWANDERUNG hike here on Sylt as well. I suggest you go on an organised tour since you will find out so many interesting things, but if you don´t have time you can walk around on your own close to the shore as well.
LIST | the most northern town on the island
THE MOST NORTHERN TOWN ON SYLT might seem small on first sight but there is actually lots to do and despite being totally up north it is a good starting point for discovering the rest of the island. A bite in GOSCH SYLT here is a must, you can also check out some of the shops in ALTE TONNENHALLE and around, stay in one of the lovely smaller HOTELS and hang out at the MARINA & HARBOUR area during the day. The ferries from Denmark land here, so if you are coming from that direction, List will be your first stop.
Around here there are lots of CYCLING AND WALKING PATHS, the most known ones lead to the Ellenbogen area (more about it below). You can also go on a DAY BOAT TOUR or spend your time in a smaller AMUSEMENT PARK close to the marina. Besides, you can check out how the famous SYLTER OYSTERS are grown and try them in the authentic AUSTERNSTUBE restaurant.
ELLENBOGEN | paradise for nature lovers and cycling enthusiasts
We chose LIST town as our base, where we RENTED BICYCLES and did a long trip to the very end tip of Ellenbogen anad back, which was around 20km. This part of Sylt is mostly UNINHABITED and therefore really peacefull and even more special. „Ellenbogen“ on German means „ellbow“ and this area got its name after its ellbow-like shape.
Ellenbogen is actually PRIVATELY OWNED, that is why you need to PAY AN ENTRY FEE if you wish to enter it with your vehicle, while pedestrian and cyclist can visit free of charge. We loved cycling here, although it was quite windy and we were really really tired on the way back because the strong wind was holding us back. Despite this, it was all worth it and it´s a trip you should not miss while on Sylt.
All along the way on Ellenbogen we were accompanied by sheep which were clearly not disturbed by humans passing by.
Towards the end of the island there are a couple of PARKING LOTS where you can leave your car ob bicycles and walk over the sand dunes to the beach. The landscape around here is really lovey, with so many shades of green seen in the high grass, mixed with soft white sand and clear blue sky. I just couldn´t get enough of these views as they are really different to the Adriatic coast and the Mediterranean where I´m more „at home“.
Here, there are also 2 LIGHTHOUSES, one is named LIST WEST (this one is the most northenr one in Germany) and the other one LIST EAST. And because I was equally impressed by these red-white lighthouses as by the wonderful sand dunes, I just have to bomb you with a couple more pics.
The beaches around GERMANY´S MOST NORTHERN POINT are fascinating too, just take care and obay the signs which prohibit swimming around here as the currents are really strong and you can easily drift away. For swimming, pick some other beach on Sylt, there are enough to schoose from. Otherwise, here we are just around 3km away from the Danish island of Romo, you can see a flat stretch of sand on the picture. We spent a night close to this point on Romo just last year, it is also a wonderufl place to visit.
And because we liked it here so much, we came back the next day, this time with our Landy (we had to pay 6€ to enter) and enjoyed a relaxed lunch and afternoon rest between these gorgeous grassy sand dunes, in pure peace and quiet. OFFROAD and DRIVING OUTSIDE MARKED WAYS is not allowed on Sylt, so this felt like the best alternative as the roads on Ellenbogen are less maintained.
MORSUM KLIFF | nature reserve and beautiful red cliffs on the eastern part of the island
In the eastern part of Sylt there is another WONDERFUL CLIFF which stretches along the coast for around 3km and is significantly red colour. This whole area is protected as a NATURE RESERVE and the easiest way to see it is to take a walk on the path called PANORAMAWEG. You can also descend down to the coast and see the cliff from there, it is really a great spot with not all that many people around.
So, Sylt yes or no? I say a big YES! We´ve heard some comments from our friends that it is not really all that special and it is more for those who have a lot of money, but we can´t really agree on this one. Surely, the average visitor of Sylt certainly doesn´t have money problems, but there is really something for everyone and the nature is just stunnig. And free of charge of course. The combination of endlessly long sandy beach, red cliffs, green landscapes, flat wadden sea, horses, sheep, lighthouses, beautiful old houses and other things makes Sylt an unique place in Germany and I can definitely list it as one of my favourite islands now.