Clean air, rolling countryside and great big beech trees that rise majestically out of the land, providing shelter from the elements. Denmark seems like it was made for camping.
Thanks to the country’s vast expanse of forests and handsome coastal scenery, there’s no shortage of places to get away from it all and spend a relaxing night or two under canvas. And because most of Denmark is flat, it’s easy to find a decent spot to pitch a tent and start admiring the scenery.
There are literally hundreds of campsites dotted around the country, from primitive, independent hideaways to more advanced campsites that are suitable for campers and caravans. Want to camp in the forest? On the beach? Without any of your clothes on? Whatever kind of camping trip you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it in Denmark.
Unfortunately, Denmark does not have a Swedish-style ‘right to roam’ law that permits wild camping. The country is more densely populated than its Nordic neighbours, and there’s a lot of privately owned land that is strictly off limits to would-be campers.
However, if you’re determined to wake up in the wild on your Danish camping adventure, there are a few different options available:
There a more than a thousand ‘primitive’ campsites strewn throughout Denmark’s public forests. Some of these remote spots have running water and about a third of them are equipped with basic wooden shelters to sleep under.
These shelters are a good option if you want rough it and go without a tent, but we’d only recommend trying that during the summertime, unless you’re very good with the cold and have a really top-notch sleeping bag.
Motorised vehicles of any kind are banned from these camping spots, so you’ll have to arrive on foot or by pushbike. The good news is that you won’t be woken up by the sound of motors ticking over and can enjoy a bit of birdsong instead.
Although they’re sometimes referred to as campsites or camping places, some of these spots are little more than simple forest clearings without toilets or other basic facilities.
Usually there’s space to make a campfire, and the windbreak-style shelter may be big enough for a few people to huddle up in together. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there’s no way to book a place at most of these camping spots – arrive early for the best chance of getting a space, especially on weekends or during the summer holidays.
The Ministry of Environment maintains an online map (in Danish only) showing the locations of these wild camping spots. To get them to appear on the map, just click ‘Overnatning’ on the left-hand menu. Note that whichever of these spots you choose, you can (usually) only camp for one night at a time.
‘Free tenting’ zones
An even more rustic alternative to the primitive campsites mentioned above is to pitch up at one of the ‘free tenting’ (fri teltning) zones that are dotted across Denmark’s public forests. You can turn up to any of these areas without booking or paying any sort of service fee, and simply spend the night in your own tent.
There are certain rules in place (for example, you can’t use large tents or stick around for longer than a single night) but this is as close to wild camping as you’ll get in Denmark. Of course, this means you’ll need to bring all of your own supplies with you, including drinking water.
There’s a handy map showing the forests where camping is permitted on the Naturstyrelsen website.
The golden rules for camping wild in Denmark
Whether you choose to pitch up in the forest or spend the night at one of the primitive camping spots, it’s worth keeping these general rules in mind.
- Only spend one night in the same spot – pack your bags and move on in the morning, even if it’s just a kilometre away from your original camp.
- Don’t pitch more than two tents at a time, or you may get unwanted attention.
- One-, two- and three-person tents are okay, but you anything bigger is forbidden.
- Don’t pitch a tent within sight of any buildings or roads.
- Open fires are only permitted in designated areas (a sign will usually make this clear) and only camping stoves with enclosed gas burners are allowed.
- Take your litter with you.
- If nature calls, do your business away from any walking trails and at least 50 metres away from the nearest water source. Dig a hole for your number twos, or at very least cover them (along with any corresponding paperwork) using sticks, dirt, stones or leaves.
Camping on Danish beaches
Pitching up on the sand might seem like a great idea, but camping on beaches in Denmark is forbidden – and that includes beaches that are connected to the free camping zones. If you’re feeling really brave then you could spend a summer night on the beach or dunes in your sleeping bag (without a tent). If you go down this route, be wary of tides, waves, and changing weather.
Denmark is some way behind Sweden when it comes to the right to roam, so you need to be careful when wandering through the countryside. The rights of private landowners, forest owners and farmers must be respected. Furthermore, some areas may be reserved for military or hunting use. These out-of-bounds areas will always be clearly marked with signs.
Forests can be privately or publically owned, and this will have an effect on what visitors are allowed to do within the forest. In private forests (around two-thirds of forests in Denmark are privately owned), walkers and cyclists must remain on the paths and access is only allowed between 6am and sunset.
In public forests, it’s okay to walk off the paths and possibly also to cycle – if you can convince a Dane to help you, it might be worth checking with the local forest authority before hauling your bike into the forest.
Denmark has around 500 organised campsites – not bad for a country with a total area of only 43,000 sq km. This means that you’ll never be too far away from a comfortable place to put up your tent. What’s more, due to Denmark’s geography (there are lots of small islands) a significant proportion of the campsites are no more than a quick jog or stroll from a dip in the bracing sea.
Danish campsites can be loosely grouped into two types: those affiliated with the Danish Camping Board (Campingrådet), and frie (independent) campsites.
Danish Camping Board sites
The Danish Camping Board rates its affiliated camping sites with a one-to-five star rating based on factors like campsite maintenance and security, the amount of information available for tourists, sanitation standards, reception opening hours and cooking and bathroom facilities.
In order to stay at one these campsites you’ll need a camping permit (campingpas). This means registering with Camping Key Europe, which issues membership cards. The cards can also be bought at all Danish Camping Board campsites as well as many tourist information offices. They cost around 110 DKK. Alternatively, non-members can purchase transit passes at individual campsites for 35 DKK.
Denmark’s independent campsites are not beholden to the same standards as the Danish Camping Board’s sites, but that’s not to say that facilities will any worse – all Danish campsites must be approved by local authorities, so standards are always pretty good.
The advantage of choosing an independent campsite is that you won’t have to worry about purchasing the Camping Key or joining a special club. Independent campsites also tend to be a bit more characterful, with their own way of running things.
Campervans can stop at more or less any of the country’s many official campsites. Any site rated with two stars or more will provide facilities for emptying and refilling with water.
Several other options also exist for those travelling in a campervan. You can normally pull into a roadside layby (rasteplads in Danish; the layby will often have a sign with this word on it). Sleeping in campers is tolerated, as long as you don’t put up a tent or awning. A few laybys are out of bounds for camper sleeping – again, look out for signs warning against overnight parking.
In many coastal and other holiday destinations, parking areas are provided in towns where campers can be parked during the day and in which it is possible to sleep at night, with a small charge payable. Local tourist information offices can provide further information, or you could try searching this Danish map.
Camper drivers can also try staying on local farms – a process known as bondegårdscamping – where farmers allow overnight stops. Farms with camper parking can be found at bondegaardsferie.dk.
Just need somewhere to shut your eyes for a few hours before continuing your journey? Many camping sites reduce prices if you arrive after 8pm and leave before 10am – it’s worth calling ahead to check whether your intended overnight stop offers this.
For the truly hardy camper, it is also possible to switch out the (relatively) warm greens and browns of Denmark’s summer scene for white morning frosts and icy lakes. A number of camping sites stay open all year round, offering rentable cabins with extra insulation to keep Jack Frost out. Prices and standards vary, and it may be necessary to call ahead and request a booking – the camping accommodation may otherwise not be open at all once you arrive.
Camping wild during the winter is possible, but as the temperatures regularly sleep below freezing, even in the middle of the day, you’ll need to make sure you have all the proper gear.
If you’re not big on creature comforts and don’t need to park a car or motorhome, camping in Denmark can be extremely cheap (or totally free, if you’re in the forest).
At organised campsites prices vary a lot and are also affected by whether you go during high or low season. Campsites near Copenhagen tend to be more expensive than those out in the sticks. Generally, you can expect to pay anything between 50-75 DKK per adult per night (for camping only) or from 200-400 DKK for a family of two adults and two children.
It’s also possible to rent cabins and caravans at the majority of Danish Camping Board campsites – prices vary wildly so it’s a good idea to check with the individual campsites. Many of the best Danish campsites have their rooms and cabins listed for rent on Booking.com.
Five special campsites in Denmark
Looking for somewhere special to camp? Try these magnificent Danish hideaways.
Råbjerg Mile Camping, Hulsig
A stone’s throw from some spectacular sand dunes, these wooden holiday cottages make the perfect base for a trip to Skagen, in the far north of Denmark, where you can stand on a sandy peninsular and witness two different seas sploshing into one another. The campsite has plenty of space for tents, too.
Camp Hverringe, Dalby
Right near the beach, this coastal campsite is perfect for a summer holiday in Denmark. Odense is within easy reach, but as the campsite offers bike rental, fishing, hiking routes and a water park, there’s really not much reason to leave.
Lyngholt Family Camping, Allinge, Bornholm
In the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland, the Danish island of Bornholm boasts clifftop castles, windswept rock formations and a happy-sounding dialect that’s heavily influenced by Swedish. This family friendly campsite has its own fishing ponds, plus a sauna and a swimming complex with slides.
Hvidbjerg Holiday Homes, Blåvand
The west coast resort of Blåvand is most famous for Hvidbjerg Strand Feriepark, a high-end campsite that sits just inland from the long white beach. If the idea of mingling with other campers doesn’t appeal, try one of these private cottages, which are more ‘glamping’ than ‘camping’.
Camping Rørvig Strand, Rørvig
Drive along the Sjællands Odde peninsula with waves breaking against the coast on each side to reach the idyllic seaside village of Rørvig, in the north of Zealand, where it’s said that the sun shines more than anywhere else in Denmark. The local campsite has easy access to the beach, plus pitches shaded by tall trees.
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