Scattered in the North Sea 6km off Schleswig-Holstein are the North Frisian islands. For centuries these storm-battered, separate worlds eked out a living from farming and fishing, their thatched villages hunkered down behind sand dunes in defence against waves that occasionally washed away whole communities. Tourism replaced agriculture as the premier source of income decades ago, yet even on Sylt the scenery is overwhelmingly bucolic-seaside. There are the same dune seas of marrum grass and vast skies – blue and brooding by turns – that captivated artists in the early 1900s; the same thatched villages, even if many house boutiques and restaurants rather than fisherfolk; and there are the same colonies of sea birds and seals in the coastal Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer (literally “shallow sea”), added to Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2009. This may be Germany’s coastal playground, but it is more Martha’s Vineyard than St Tropez. Sylt is the most popular and developed of the islands, centred on main town Westerland and chic village-resort Kampen. Föhr and especially Amrum are peaceful rural islands of homespun charm with little to do except stroll or cycle – not just good options to get around but sometimes your only ones.

Just bear in mind the weather. The islands are on the same latitude as Newcastle in northeast England or the southern tip of Alaska. Statistics tell their own story of changeable conditions as weather fronts barrel across the North Sea: although only fifteen days a year are free of prevailing westerly winds that can blow gale-force even in summer, the islands bask in 1750 hours of sunshine a year.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

There's been a lot of hype about Leipzig lately, with many dubbing Saxony's capital "the new Berlin". But can little Leipzig honestly compete with Germany's la…

11 Jul 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig, more markedly than most cities in eastern Germany, has experienced an upswing in recent years. It's now a dynamic university city with a colourful, wel…

05 Jul 2018 • Stuart Forster local_activity Special feature
The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

European beach holidays haven’t always been just about the Mediterranean. A century ago, the resorts along the Baltic Sea were just as likely to attract the E…

16 Mar 2018 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs