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Slow travel in the Netherlands: Discover the Wadden Island of Schiermonnikoog

Seen from the west, Schiermonnikoog is the fifth and last inhabited Dutch Wadden Island. With less than a thousand inhabitants and only one village, it is also the smallest inhabited island in the Wadden Sea.

The fact that it has been designated a national park makes it a very attractive place for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With the wide beaches that the Netherlands is so famous for and the characteristic dunes with kilometres of walking and cycling paths, it is the ultimate slow travel destination.

What does the name Schiermonnikoog mean?

Schiermonnikoog, come on, it demands an explanation. You can still imagine something with Vlieland and Ameland, but which monk’s eye is ‘Schier’?! As you might expect, this name has a bit of history.

In the Middle Ages, Schiermonnikoog was a monastery retreat near Dokkum. The monks of this monastery, who reclaimed land, wore grey robes. That is how the name came about: schier meaning “grey”, oog meaning island. It is etymologically the same as ‘Is’ in island and so it happened.

In memory of these monks, a statue of a monk, “De Schiere Monnik”, made by Martin van Waning, was placed in 1961 in the only village of Schiermonnikoog.

The history of Schiermonnikoog

The name Schiermonnikoog is first mentioned in 1440 in a deed from Philips of Burgundy. In 1580 Friesland became Protestant. The monastery lost all its possessions, and Schiermonnikoog became part of the province of Friesland. The island would remain without a monastery until the beginning of the 21st century. Since 2019, monks have been living on the island again, but do they still wear grey hoods?

What is there to see on Schiermonnikoog?

During your slow travel on Schiermonnikoog, there are a number of sights that you should not miss!

Monument De Schiere monnik on Schiermonnikoog

Already mentioned above, the monk of Schiermonnikoog! This monument stands in the middle of the village. Made by Martin van Waning, who went to live on the island himself in 1937 and saw his studio bombed in the Second World War. According to many, he was the right artist for the job.

The Whale jaws in the village of Schiermonnikoog

After the Second World War, the Nederlandsche Maatschappij voor de Walvisvaart (NMW) was founded. At that time, there was a shortage of oils and fats, especially for the margarine industry. Many people from Schiermonnikoog went along on these expeditions.

What is still a reminder of this period today are these whale jaws. It is the gateway next to Hotel Graaf Bernstorff in the heart of the village of Schiermonnikoog.

Hotel van der Werff on Schiermonnikoog

It may not be a place you really want to spend the night during your slow travel trip, but it is definitely worth a visit. In this hotel, time stood still somewhere in the middle of the last century. As soon as you enter, you feel as if you have stepped back in time.

You can see that when you look at the menu, they don’t serve cappuccino and lunch consists of the classic: white bread with a croquette! With a lovely terrace and very friendly staff, Hotel van der Werff is the place to be for a bit of unique nostalgia.

Bunkers Museum Schlei on Schiermonnikoog

The Second World War has left deep traces on Schiermonnikoog. Some visible, some hidden behind a special story. From the large bunkers that belonged to the Atlantic Wall to foxholes and bomb craters that remind us of heavy fighting. There are also hiding places and crashed planes that remind us of a black time in history.

Recently, you can make a walking or cycling tour along the above mentioned places. Together with the VVV Schiermonnikoog, Bunkermuseum Schlei has made a route.

Bunkers Museum Schlei on Schiermonnikoog

Along this route you will get an impression of what was there during the war years, what the story is from the lore and what is left of it today. It is a route based on stories of islanders. Made with the help of documents and reports that have been preserved and can be seen in the Bunkermuseum.

Night hike on Schiermonnikoog

This 2-kilometre walk takes you through the rugged nature of Schiermonnikoog. With a bit of luck, you will walk under a beautiful starry sky, which can always be seen well here without light pollution. Even without stars, this walk is worthwhile. In the dunes, beautiful and wonderfully fragrant night plants grow and with a bit of luck you may come across some special nocturnal animals. You can download the route here

Lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog during a night walk

What is there to do on Schiermonnikoog?

Apart from walking and cycling, this island is perfect for many other activities. Retreats, festivals and other activities are organised regularly.

Annual yoga festival on Schiermonnikoog

A small and intimate festival full of Yoga, in all shapes and sizes, that is what Yoga Festival Schiermonnikoog is. Every year on the first weekend in September, beginners and experienced yogis come together in the middle of nature to practise various forms of yoga.

Massage teepee during the annual Yoga Festival on Schiermonnikoog

The Art Route on Schiermonnikoog

In September there is also the Art Route, a whole week long in which you can enjoy works of art, installations and exhibitions all over the island. Some were made in or with the nature of Schiermonnikoog.

Sand painting on one of the beaches of Schiermonnikoog

Festival Young Talent Schiermonnikoog

In March, dozens of top-class classical music talents from all over the world come to Schiermonnikoog to perform on this small Wadden Island. During this weekend, in addition to live concerts and intimate performances, you can also enjoy a variety of other activities. Everything revolves around classical music and the annually changing theme of the Young talent festival.

Celliste Maria Gomez during the Young talent festival on Schiermonnikoog

Out and about on Schiermonnikoog

Apart from yoga and meditation, walking and cycling, can you also just hang out on Schiermonnikoog? Sure! If you want to spend an evening at a bar or on a terrace, the village is the place to be.

Do you come with teenagers who roll their eyes at the word slow travel? No problem, on the main road of the village you will find the Tox bar, send them there and you are guaranteed a quiet evening and they will have the time of their lives.

The special nature on Schiermonnikoog

It is obvious that they take good care of their nature on Schiermonnikoog! Cars are not allowed and the whole island has been declared a national nature park. It should be. The widest beaches in Europe are on this island. Rare birds and other animals breed in the rugged dunes and green forests of Schiermonnikoog.

So whether you come to become one with nature during a wonderful slow travel experience, on a sailing trip or want to spend a summer holiday in the Netherlands with your children. Schiermonnikoog’s nature is beautiful and accessible to everyone. Do you want to explore nature yourself? Then download a trail walk that takes you along all the special places on Schiermonnikoog!

Where to sleep on Schiermonnikoog

If you want to take the time to get to know this island during your slow travel, then of course you will have to find a place to stay to match this philosophy. Of course, you can choose one of the larger hotels in the bustling heart of Schiermonnikoog or visit Schiermonnikoog aboard a sailing ship. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the nature and tranquillity of Schiermonnikoog, you can also stay in special cottages or a private villa.

Rent a holiday home with ‘Op Schiermonnikoog

At Op Schiermonnikoog you will find holiday homes of all sizes. They all suffice as slow travel locations. Most of them are equipped with a spacious kitchen. Here you can prepare your own cockles, or if you don’t like that, just chill the bubbles. Most of the holiday homes have a terrace or garden with a lot of privacy and are within walking distance of the beach. From old-fashioned farmhouses with bedsteads to detached villas in the dunes.

A villa in the dunes on Schiermonnikoog

How to get to Schiermonnikoog

Enthusiastic about Slow Travel to Schiermonnikoog? Then the next question is, how do you get to this beautiful island? The fastest way is by ferry but there are other ways, which fit very well into the Slow travel experience!

Ferry service from Lauwersoog to Schiermonnikoog

From Lauwersoog, the ferries MS Monnik and MS Rottum go to Schiermonnikoog. A crossing takes about 45 minutes. For the shipping schedule, click here.

The ferry arrives about five kilometres from the village. Upon arrival, a bus is already waiting. Walking, cycling or taking a taxi are also ways to reach the village and the rest of the island.

Tidal flat walk to Schiermonnikoog.

Tidal flat walk from the mainland to Schiermonnikoog. It is not the easiest of trips. It is about 17 kilometres and takes about five hours with a guide. But it is a very intense experience. On the way, you feel alone in the world. You will come across oyster and mussel beds and see birds and other animals that you will never see up close from a sailing ship or ferry.

Wadden Sea Walk to Schiermonnikoog

Sailing on a historical sailing ship to Schiermonnikoog

During a sailing holiday from the port of Harlingen, it is possible, with the right wind and current, to sail to the tidal port of Schiermonnikoog. A very nice trip that takes you along all the Wadden Islands. Schiermonnikoog’s harbour is completely dry during the ebb tide. Arriving and departing is therefore entirely to the rhythm of the Wadden Sea.

Sailing ship Waterwolf underway in the Wadden Sea

This post is also available in: Dutch German