The Wild Chalk Cliffs Of Møn, Denmark
“Det er det smukkeste jeg nogensinde har set i vort yndigt land” declared the old lady
(this is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in our lovely country)
I had to agree. This area was stunning, and we weren’t even in the most spectacular part of the park. We were standing at the bottom of the wildflower meadow fields of Høvblege, a unique natural environment just a few km away from the massive chalk cliffs that dominate this coast. There were several of us huddled in the shade at the trailhead, including a young couple that had biked all the way from Flensburg in Germany. We were all hot and exhausted from the warm day, but also buzzing from the gorgeous views over the meadows and water. And we were only just starting with our visits here.
Møn is something completely unique in Denmark.
It’s an island I know rather well from my childhood as our summer house was just over an hour drive away, and yet it’s a place I rarely see talked about by travelers. The nature here is astonishing and unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in Denmark. There are 6 km of massive chalk cliffs created from the shells of microscopic creatures that lived over 70 million years ago, the highest of which tower 128 m tall. They’re surrounded by the oldest birch forest in the country, some of the trees over 400 years old, their leaves slightly yellowed by the nutrient-poor chalk soil that dominates the landscape.
This in turn creates a unique natural biome that supports rare species of insects, fungii and flowers which only exist in this very place. Møn claims over 112 mushroom types, 11 of which only grow in these forests. It hosts the fastest animal on earth (the peregrine falcon) and boasts species of rare orchids and butterflies that can’t survive anywhere else. It’s a place to stay, bike, hike and immerse yourself in a natural daydream.
This is the outer-worldly island that will take you breath away.
We Stop At A Special Church Along The Way
It’s a 4-hour trip to Møns Klint from our last camp in Ærøskøbing, a gorgeous drive along lazy back country roads with two short (~45 min) dog-friendly ferry rides thrown in to get across. When we arrive in Møn we take a short detour to a very special church with some of the oldest interior chalk frescos in Denmark.
Fanefjord Kirke is in a goregous location at the top of a hill in the west part of the Island. It’s a short side-trip off the main road and easily accessed by motorhome. It’s pretty on the the outside, but where you’ll really be stopped in your tracks is the colorful interior. It’s covered in brilliant frescos, detailed paintings in hues of scarlet and pastel of stories from the bible, intertwined with illustrations of vines, flowers and trees.
The oldest of these date back to 1300, but the vast majority are thought to have been painted by Elmelundemaleren (the Elmelunde Painter), a nameless master from the 15th century. They were lost for many years, painted over after the reformation of 1536 and hidden until water damage unveiled them again in 1929. They’re stunning and IMO unlike anything you’ll see in any other church in the world.
We spent a good hour here with Polly, walking the outside grounds and contemplating the incredible interior (Polly stayed outside while each of us went in individually). Just such a special place.
*The Elemunde Painter also painted chalk frescos in two other churches on Møn: Elmelunde, and Keldby. Fanefjord is considered the most elaborate of the three, but all three are worth a visit.
We Stay At Camp Møns Klint
For our stay we chose Camp Møns Klint, the closest campground to the cliffs which also happens to be one of the top-rated campgrounds in Denmark. They have a unique property, a huge area of grassy fields, forests, gardens, play areas, star-gazing areas and more, and their motto is “stay wild”. You can book a stay here, but you can’t book a particular site (it’s first-come-first-serve on arrival) nor do you pay anything until you leave. It’s all very hippy and relaxed.
It’s hot and humid the afternoon we get there (yet another windless day) so we prioritize a site with shade just up the road from the main office and it’s near perfect. Good, firm grassy ground with nice views and a short walk to the huge forest which even has it’s very own hundeskov (dog forest). How cool is that!
The whole place is just so darn cute with special touches I’ve not seen anywhere else. There’s the usual swimming pool, playgrounds and such, but there’s also a herb and vegetable garden (free for all), an evening campfire area, a meditation area, a massive full-service kitchen, a pizza restaurant as well as free laundry, mini-golf and dog spa. Plus it’s perfectly located to explore the cliff area. I can see why folks love the place.
That evening I take a quick bike to the cliffs just to scope out the area, but I only catch the end of a very hazy sunset. By the time I get home it’s still hot and the evening mosquitoes have come out, so we close up ship and thank the RV lords yet again for our air conditioning. Maybe the breeze will be back tomorrow?
I Go Hunting For Orchids And Butterflies
“I’m lost, but I think I’ll survive”
I’d texted the message to Paul from deep in the forest with a pic of some berries. It was mostly in jest, but I’d left out the little smidgen that I’d somehow managed to lose the printed map I’d brought along and didn’t have a GPS signal either (ooops!).
Aside from the fact that this happens to me a lot (I literally have zero sense of direction) it’s particularly easy to get lost in Møn, as the forests are huge and thick with trails that are often poorly marked. Once you enter you’re surrounded by a giant, silent world of ancient trees and trolls, so unless you really pay attention it’s super easy to lose track of space and time.
Of course I’d been distracted for about an hour, seduced by the magical way the light was filtering through the birch trees, drawn off-road by mushrooms growing on the forest floor (a few of them edible!) and delighted by a treasure-trove of wild raspberries that had taken me on a sweet side-trip to gastronomic heaven. Where was I again?
Thankfully Møn is an island, so as long as you stay on a straight(ish) trajectory you’ll eventually make it out somewhere. 20 minutes later I’d reached a clearing and my GPS sprung back to life. Even better I’d somehow made it to my destination; the amazing wildflower meadows of Høvblege.
The meadows are a special spot that I’d never actually visited before, even in my youth. They are a unique natural environment of chalk-rich (and thus nutrient sparse) hills that roll down towards the sea. This creates support for thousands of wildflowers including over 18 types of wild orchids, as well as hundreds of insects and butterflies, some of which only exist right here.
The rarest and most interesting example is probably the Sortplettet blåfugl (blackspotted large blue, or Phengaris arion) which requires wild thyme or marjoram to lay its eggs and then relies on a particular type of red Myrmica ant to take the hatched caterpillars down into their dens to mature and feed (on the ants themselves!), before they pass into the chrysalis stage and emerge out of the anthill a full 10 months later. A most exacting and particular life-cycle.
By the time I make it to the meadows it’s mid-afternoon and hot, so I take my time walking the trails with my bike, stopping at multiple spots to rest and cool down. I capture loads of butterflies and flowers and I’m blown away by the spectacular views of the rolling green hills down to the water, but alas I don’t see orchids or the elusive large blue.
A superbly pretty place well worth the visit, even without any special catches.
Meadow Visit Tips: There are two meadow areas known for their extensive wildflowers and butterfly species: Høvblege (#7) and Jydelejet (#2). Best viewing time for orchids is (apparently) early summer, but you can buy guidebooks at the Klint Geocenter (#6) that give you all the deets. Dogs are welcome on all trails, and wildflowers are protected (so look, but don’t pluck).
I Plan A Sunrise Shoot At the Chalk Cliffs
“Sunrise, why is it always sunrise??”
I’d checked every orientation on the cliff face and sunrise was clearly the only way I was going the shot I wanted. Of course it’s summer in Denmark which makes for lovely long days that start as early as 5AM. Darn it! Sunday looked like the best weather-window, so that morning I drag myself up at 4:30AM, chug a liter of coffee, pack my pounds-worth of camera equipment in the backpack and peddle like a snail outta hell (I can only go so fast) to the cliff face.
Everything seems perfect as I approach through the thick forest. Dawn was breaking and the sun just about to crest the horizon. I park my bike, walk over to the 500-step staircase and am faced with…..clouds and mist. Nooooo! Sunrise is a complete bust, the view shrouded by a thick layer of grey, the ultimate photographers downer. Ah well, such is life sometimes.
I climb down the stairs and right above the beach level stop at a bench to wait. Surely the sun will show at some point?
An hour passes, then almost two and still nothing but grey. It’s frustrating, but also gives me to chance to do something I would never have done otherwise. I sit and watch the swallows dive in and out of the clips, listen to the waves crash on the beach, and wonder at the sound of a small waterfall running down behind me on the chalk face. I enjoy the view of the windmill farms in the ocean that burst forth through a line of red, the only color I see that entire morning. And I contemplate the few sailboats anchored in the bay (what a view they must have).
I’m completely alone and have nothing else to do but sit and mediate on all the sounds and the huge, awesome nature that surrounds me. What an incredible gift!
Finally the sun comes out, first as a ray on the far side of the cliff face that lights it up in brilliant white, then as a movement that flows across the rocky beach to me. It’s extraordinarily beautiful and impossible to shoot, yet my camera starts clicking away hoping to capture just a sliver of the awe that I’m feeling. In an ideal world I’d have Paul and Polly here, not only to share the moment but also to give some perspective to the shots. Alas this hike is far too strenuous for our old girl and since we don’t leave her alone anymore, I’ll just have to handle this one on my own.
I spend the next two hours just lost in my own world on the beach, the huge cliffs towering above me, impressive and dangerous (large chunks have fallen down in the past) which only adds to the feeling of how special it is to be here. The walk is brutal too, with teeny rocks that twist and hammer your ankles, my legs already Jell-O from the steep hike down the staircase. I touch the cliffs and am surprised at how clammy and cold they feel, like a dense white clay. I scan the beach and search for fossils, apparently quite common here, but my amateur eyes see none. At one point a man walks by, startling me out of my daydream. We nod to each other, neither of us wanting to break the sacred nature of this place with human talk. He speeds ahead and I click a few pics with him in the frame, trying (yet again) to capture the sheer size of this place. I don’t really succeed.
After what seems like an eternity I reach the next staircase up the cliff face. It’s an awesome task, another 400-500 steps leading into the birch forest and up onto the ridge. I plod, and huff, and sweat my way up, stopping every now and then to admire the view and despair at the seemingly endless number of steps still remaining.
“just keep swimming, just keep swimming”
At the top the shade of the thick forest provides a welcome relief and I walk the hilly trails back to the visitor center, stopping at the few clearings along the way to admire the long drop down to the beach. People look like ants down there and the sea looks like an abstract painting of greens and blue. It’s quite a trip to see.
When I finally make it back home, Paul has bought morning bread from the local camp store, some small buns and a franskbrød (literally translated “French bread”) which is basically our version of a white, fluffy white loaf. I eat hungrily and go to bed, exhausted and full from the experiences and my morning at the cliffs. Sunrise may have been a bust, but the meditation and hike was everything I’d hoped for.
Møns Klint Visit Tips: The best views of Møns Klint are from the beach and the overlooks on the rim trail near (my fav trail is a ~2.7km loop between the staircase by the Geocenter and the next staircase north). Motorhomes can park directly at the Geocenter, which opens from 10AM-5PM in summer (lots of cool stuff to see). Trails are free, and dogs are allowed on leash both on the rim and at the beach.
The Last Day I Veg (While Paul Sees A Castle)
The last day at camp I just veg with Polly at our site, while Paul makes a final push on his bike over to see the local castle Liselund Slot, a fairytale place with a romantic garden that’s renowned for its beauty. It was originally built by Antoine de la Calmette in 1790 as a gift of love to his wife Lisa, and has a small thatched castle, a Chinese teahouse and a Norwegian log cabin. I’ve seen it before, but for Paul it’s a great little visit.
That night we enjoy a long walk in the forest with Polly and a pizza from the camp restaurant. The perfect end to our stay. There’s so much more we could have seen here. The many artists (especially potters) that live and create on the Island are well worth the visit. Also, the old town of Nyord on the northern tip is a wonderful little village frozen in time. And of course there are so many more hikes through the forests and along the cliffs that we didn’t manage to do.
We’ll get one more stop on our way out (which I’ll detail in the next blog post) but for now I’ll just have to leave you here; lost amongst the wildflowers, deep in the forest or perhaps perched on an overlook with white chalk cliffs that plunge to the rocky beach below you. Either way, I hope I took you on a daydream and that it lingers with you for many hours more.
- Møns Klint Information: Denmarks Nature Agency HERE
- Møns Klint Geocenter: All the deets on the Geocenter and cliffs HERE
- Destination Møn: Good website (but in Danish, so use Google to translate) HERE
- Mønguide: 50 things to do in Møn HERE
- Møn Hiking: Check out the Camøno, the ~173km Danish mini-version of the Camino…link HERE
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