The Gendarmstien (or Gendarme Path) is so called because it was a popular smuggling path in the past, patrolled by police. Nowadays, this 84km coastal gem of a trail is patrolled only by outdoor adventurers, enjoying the wild seascapes that take you from Padborg on the Danish-German border to Jutland’s Als island. Staying in a mix of small, locally-owned hotels and campsites (in private rooms) this is a week of immersion in nature, following an easy, coastal path through meadows and ancient woodland, traditional fishing villages such as Vemmingbund and an array of tranquil beaches. With luggage transfers.
- Flensburg Fjord
- Art Nouveau buildings
- Dybbøl Bank Museum
- Vibæk Water Mill
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Day 1: Arrival in Padborg
Your hiking holiday starts in the border town of Padborg, where, if you have time, sights of interest include the Bov Museum (Oldemorstoft), Kruså Watermill and Frøslev Camp’s Museum. You can also take a short trip across the border to Germany and visit the historic town of Kupfermühle, where a copper mill was opened by Denmark’s King Christian IV in the 1600s. The mill was in use until 1962.
- Accommodation: Bov Kro or similar in Padborg
Day 2: Padborg to Stranderød | 18km
The first stage of the Gendarmstien is called the Mountain Stage, as it has the most hills. Which are minimal, given that Denmark is so flat. Continue towards Kruså and the Kruså Tunnel Valley, then along the border towards Kollund, across a hilly landscape of coastal woodland. If you didn’t have a chance on day 1, you can take a short detour over the border to visit Kupfermühle. Continuing toward Kollund, take a break at Hotel Fakkelgården, with a restaurant and outdoor terrace. From Kollund, walk towards Sønderhav, where the Ox Islands rise out of the fjord’s blue waters. From Sønderhav, continue towards Stranderød, passing several small houses that were once used as homes for the border police.
- Walking for the day: 18km, 4-5h, ↑215m ↓228m
- Accommodation: Benniksgaard Hotel or similar in Gråsten
Day 3: Stranderød to Iller | 16.5km
This section is known as the Brick stage, named after the area’s previously thriving brickwork industry. For over 1,000 years, local people collected clay from below the soil and used it to build homes, churches and castles. Sometimes you find bricks of all shapes and colours scattered on the beaches. Walk towards Egernsund on the outskirts of Gråsten. Until reunification in 1920, people and artists from Germany flocked to stay at health resorts or the artists’ colony in Egernsund. The Egernsund art scene is still renowned today in Germany and Museumsberg Flensburg has a permanent collection of about 50 paintings by Egernsund artists. Egernsund also boasts a fine church built from local stone. On the last stretch towards Iller, the Gendarmstien follows the 3km-long Brickworks Path. There were eight different brickworks along Iller Strand, but only Cathrinesminde, in operation from 1732-1968, has been preserved as a museum.
- Walking for the day: 16.5km, 4h, ↑109m ↓132m
- Accommodation: Iller Slot B&B or similar in Iller (shared facilities – two rooms share a bathroom)
Day 4: Iller to Skelde/Gammelmark | 18/20.5km
This is the Crow stage, passing through Kragesand on the southern tip of Broagerland. The trail is mainly along the coast with beech forests and steep slopes, as well as a few smaller villages. This stretch of coast was once roamed by pirates and Skrækkeshøj was home to a pirates’ lair. Several place names can be traced to a pirate named Alf, who was captured and hanged in 1298. Just east of Kragesand, the trees on the slope form a tunnel known as the Liebestunnel (Tunnel of Love). Follow a stretch along the beach before reaching Skelde Kobbelskov, a forest with many well-preserved burial mounds where skeletal remains, flint axes, amber jewellery and clay vessels have been found. In the cliffs at Stensigmose, you may be lucky enough to find fossil deposits of clams, snails and sea urchins.
Day 5: Skelde/Gammelmark to Sønderborg | 13.5/11km
Today is the Beach Stage, heading past some of the best beaches along the trail – from the child-friendly Vemmingbund Strand to Sønderborg’s popular Sorte Strand, both Blue Flag beaches. Head for Sønderborg, the largest town along the Gendarmstien. After a few kilometres of walking, sometimes directly on the beach, you reach the old fishing village of Vemmingbund, with a perfect refreshment stop at Vemmingbund cafe and restaurant. After another 3-4km, the path passes Dybbøl Bank and its iconic windmill. This was the site of the Siege of Dybbøl where, in 1864, Denmark lost the war against the Germans and with it the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. All well documented at the Historiecenter on the top of Dybbøl Bank.
Continue along Sønderborg Bay and cross the bridge to Sønderborg on the island of Als. You should have time to explore the town’s historic centre, Art Nouveau buildings with beautifully decorated façades and Sønderborg Castle. In the summer, many of the Southern Jutland towns hold jousting tournaments, which you can get an insight into by visiting Sønderborg Ringridermuseum.
- Walking for the day: 13.5/11km, 3h, ↑91m ↓90m
- Accommodation: Hotel Sønderborg Strand or similar in Sønderborg
Day 6: Sønderborg to Skovby | 20km
Known as the Mill Stage, this takes you past the recently restored Vibæk Water Mill. Built in 1756, it is the only one of ten original Als-style water mills still remaining. The final leg of the Gendarmstien takes you to Skovby on Als. Walk along Sønderborg Bay to Høruphav, passing through the Trillen wetland nature reserve, with rich bird life. On the outskirts of Høruphav, you pass the bunkers at Hørup Klint, remnants of when German occupation troops took over the old torpedo station during WWII . After another 4km you reach the end of the Gendarmstien at Skovby. Don’t miss the coffee or ice cream at Migges bakery or a celebratory beer at Skovby Kro before your prearranged transfer takes you back to your accommodation in Sønderborg.
- Walking for the day: 20km, 5h, ↑155m ↓146m
- Accommodation: Hotel Sønderborg Strand or similar in Sønderborg
Day 7: Departure
Your tour ends after breakfast.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels, B&Bs, campsites (in private rooms) and traditional guesthouses. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. Some accommodations on this tour have shared facilities.
Click to view default hotels
- Bov Kro (Padborg)
- Benniksgaard Hotel (Gråsten)
- Iller Slot B&B (Iller)
- Broager Strand Camping / Gammelmark Strand Camping (Skelde/Gammelmark)
- Hotel Sønderborg Strand (Sønderborg)
Hotels are subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should be bought from local shops. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or restaurants in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty and terrain
This holiday is appropriate for moderately experienced walkers (no high mountain experience required and there are no steep ascents or descents) and requires a basic fitness level. Walks have a relaxed pace with time to take in the views and surroundings (read more about difficulty grades). The Gendarmstien is marked by a blue gendarme figures and the route is very well-marked and easy to follow. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available on any day from the beginning of April until the end of October. Denmark’s weather is mild in the summer and cold in the winter, with western winds blowing warm air across most of the country. The warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 17-18C.
Please note that the accommodations along this route have limited capacity and fill up quickly in the summer months. Therefore, we advise to book well in advance.
Click to view travel options
By train or bus
Arrival in Padborg
- From Hamburg Airport, take a direct train or bus to Padborg (3-4h journey time)
- From Billund Airport, take bus no. 166 to Kolding Station and then train from Kolding to Padborg (journey time approximately 3h)
- From Padborg station, it’s 3km to your first accommodation. You can either walk or call Bov Taxi on +45 74 67 30 38
- If you are travelling by car, park at either your first or last accommodation for the duration of your trip
Departure from Sønderborg
- From Sønderborg, take a train to Hamburg Airport via Tinglev Station (journey time approximately 4.5h)
- You can reach Billund Airport by taking a train to Kolding and then bus no. 166 to Billund Airport
Plan your trip in Denmark here: Rejseplanen.
- 6 nights accommodation in private rooms
- 6 breakfasts
- Private transfer from Skovby to Sønderborg on day 6
- Pre-departure pack and detailed road notes and maps and GPS tracks
- Luggage transfers from one accommodation to the next on all walking days (one piece up to 20kg per person)
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Other public transport
- Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on the spot)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights