What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about Denmark?
Copenhagen? The Little Mermaid? Great design?
But Denmark has so much more to offer. For instance, did you know that Denmark is also the oldest kingdom of the world?
Old castles, Bronze Age mounds, medieval towns all over the country tell the long and dramatic story of the kingdom. And many trails pass right through and near the historical traces.
Here are a few trails you should check out when you are there:
1. Follow in the footsteps of the Bronze Age People in the Mols Bjerge National Park
Whenever I need to energize myself I go hiking in the Mols Bjerge National Park.
The park has an amazing atmosphere.
180 km2 of ice age landscape with large forests, moors, coastal areas and spectacular views.
And everywhere you go you feel the presence of history.
In the park you find a large concentration of 3,000–4,000-year-old Bronze Age mounds, in which the Bronze Age people buried their dead. The most famous are the Trehøje mounds (Three Hills) that rise 127 meter above the sea. If you climb to the top of the mounds, you can enjoy the awesome panoramic view of the sea and the beautiful landscape.
When you are in the park you should also visit the kettle hole area. The kettle holes were formed by the ice during the Ice Age. After the ice had retreated people would use the holes for important cultural functions. Tinghulen, the largest kettle hole in Mols Bjerge, was formerly used as an open air court where people from the local communities would meet and make important decisions.
2. Explore The Ancient Road Hærvejen
If you are a sucker for history and like to combine hiking with awesome historic experiences you should explore The Ancient Road Hærvejen.
Hærvejen is approx. 475 km long and stretches from the town of Hirtshals in Northern Jutland to the border with Germany in the southern part of the country.
Ever since the first Stone Age people settled in Denmark people have travelled along the north-south bound route. Therefore, the route offers excellent opportunities to explore prehistoric as well as historic monuments of modern Denmark.
You may hike the entire trail from Hirtshals to the border or pick specific stages that you find interesting.
Hirtshals to Lønstrup
One of my favourite stages stretches from Hirtshals to Lønstrup. This hiking stage lets you enjoy the beautiful Danish West Coast with high dunes and wide beaches that offer excellent bathing opportunities in the summer time.
Here you may also experience parts of the Atlantic Wall built by the Germans along the European coast line during World War II. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I recommend you to visit the Bunker Museum in Hirtshals, which is a complete German defence-installation with 54 bunkers.
The stage ends in the charming coastal village of Lønstrup where you can enjoy a meal in one of the nice restaurants. You should also visit the handicraft shops. Lønstrup is known as the village of crafts since it has a large concentration of glass blowers, potteries, galleries and sculptors.
Viborg to Thorning
If you prefer medieval atmosphere you should definitely hike the stage from Viborg to Thorning.
During the Middle Ages the town of Viborg was the main center of power in Jylland. Right here in this beautiful town the Danish kings were acclaimed. One of these kings was Erik Klipping, who was later murdered just outside the town (1286) and subsequently buried in the Viborg Cathedral.
Many buildings, churches and monuments in Viborg date back to the Middle Ages and are still in a good state of conservation.
From Viborg the trail continues south and runs through a very nice area with moors and forests.
Jelling to Bindeballe
When in Denmark please do not miss the opportunity to visit the iconic town of Jelling, hometown of the viking kings Gorm the Old Gamle, Harald Bluetooth and Svend Forkbeard.
(Yes, you guessed it right. The Bluetooth technology was named after the Danish viking king Harald Bluetooth).
It was Harald Bluetooth who introduced Christianity in Denmark in the year 965. To proclaim the new state religion he erected a runic stone with the message that he made the Danes Christian. Today the Danes consider the stone Denmark’s baptism certificate.
The trail from Jelling to Bindeballe passes right through the monument area with Harald Bluetooth’s original runic stone, the runic stone that his farther Gorm the Old erected, the Jelling mounds and a church. If you want to study the Viking Age and the viking kings in detail there is a museum in the immediate vicinity of the monument area.
From Jelling the trail takes you through nice forests and rural areas. However, please note that some stretches to Bindeballe are replaced by asphalt roads.
3. Meet the gendarmes and smugglers on the Gendarme Path
If you follow the Ancient Road Hærvejen all the way down to the German border you will eventually meet another legendary Danish trail: The Gendarme Path. The west-east bound trail follows the German border from the village of Padborg to Høruphav (84 km).
The Gendarme Path has an interesting history. It was named after the gendarmes who patrolled the border from 1839–1958 to catch smugglers who would bring goods into the country without paying duties. This was an important task since the duties were an essential source of income for the country.
In 1958, the gendarmerie was closed down. However, a path was later laid down in the footsteps of the gendarmes to let hikers explore the historic border area.
The Gendarme path has been certified as a leading quality trail by the European Ramblers Association. And the path does indeed deserve the certification. First of all due to the variety and uniqueness of the landscapes. But also because it is marked very well and is therefore easy to follow. Finally, it offers a cornucopia of historical traces that adds an interesting dimension to your hiking experience.
Ready to go?
Denmark has many amazing sights to see and places to visit.
Sure, you want to see Copenhagen and the Little Mermaid, but you want something more than that, right?
You want to bask in the history of the oldest kingdom in the world, explore the many ruins and medieval towns.
These three historic trails will get you started off right.
So don’t forget to pack your hiking boots.