As part of our trip to Europe, we spent a week in Sylt with my mother and her partner. Chances are, most OMAAT readers have no idea what Sylt is. And frankly, I didn’t either, except my mom really loves it there and for years she was pestering us on the verge of visiting. 😉 I’m so glad she did, because we loved Sylt and can’t wait to go back!
For context, Sylt is a 22 mile long island in northern Germany, directly on the North Sea, a few miles from Denmark. It’s only accessible by train or plane, so there’s no way to get there by car (without putting your car on a train).
My Mom’s Sylt Sales Pitch
I’ve been blessed to take so many amazing trips with my mom over the past few years since she was diagnosed with cancer. We’ve been everywhere from Hawaii to Greece, and since she’s still able to travel (against all odds), we asked her where she wants to go this summer.
Here’s roughly how that conversation went (or at least what I took away from it):
Me: “Where should we go this summer? Maybe other islands in Greece, or Turkey, or whatever seems best to you? »
Mom: “Baby, I want to show you and Ford Sylt. This is my favorite place.
Me: “But what is there to do?”
Mom: “Well, you can sit on the beach. Just be sure to bring ski underwear.
Me: “Ski underwear? Sitting on the beach in the summer? How cold is it? »
Mom: “Well, it can be very windy.”
Me: “What wind?”
Mom: “You know, maybe 30 mph winds, and temperatures are sometimes in the 50s. But it’s so beautiful.” The air is so fresh.
Me: “You understand that we could go to Greece or somewhere with good weather, but you want to go and sit on the North Sea beach in your ski underwear?”
Mom: “Yes, it’s my dream that you visit because you will love it.”
Me: “Okay, if that’s what you want…”
Shortly after that conversation, Ford found a great Airbnb in Sylt, and the next thing you know our trip was booked. While I don’t think my mom had the most compelling sales pitch for Sylt, I’m glad we listened to her, because we had an unforgettable time.
Our experience of visiting Sylt
Sylt reminds me of a mix between the Hamptons and Fogo Island. The island has half a dozen small towns, each with its own charm and highlights. Getting around the island is easy, as there is a main road running from north to south, and you can also rent e-bikes to get around easily. The island has incredible topography, with everything from beaches to sand dunes to rugged and rocky coastline.
Although Sylt has only about 20,000 inhabitants, it is an extremely popular destination in summer and attracts many (German) tourists. It is therefore by no means an undiscovered hidden gem, although it is a national destination for travelers.
It’s hard to put into words what makes Sylt special, and in some ways my mum wasn’t too far off from how she described it. It’s not your traditional summer destination – the air is really crisp, it’s windy and you’ll want to bring a jacket.
Yes there is the beach, although we never sat on it, but rather enjoyed walking on the promenade.
There are countless hiking trails on Sylt, whether you want to pass farms or along the water.
Sylt has the most consistent style of housing I have seen in the world, as virtually all the houses are in the style of old Frisian houses.
There are bike paths all over the island, so you can cycle anywhere.
I was shocked at how upscale Sylt was, for better or worse. I saw more G-Wagons per capita than anywhere, which I didn’t expect. And my jaw dropped when I saw the real estate prices, because it makes New York real estate look like a bargain by comparison.
I was a little apprehensive about having dinner on Sylt as I thought it would be very North Sea centric. I’m not a big fan of herring, or pickled this or that. So I was pleasantly surprised with the food, as there were plenty of international dining options. There were also plenty of fun outdoor restaurants and bars where you could have a drink and relax.
Our Airbnb experience in Sylt
Although I have stayed in some Airbnbs booked by others, I have never booked Airbnbs with my family so this was a first. Sylt seemed like the right place to do it. Hotels here are outrageously expensive and not particularly luxurious. You will pay $500 per night in high season for something that could be a Holiday Inn.
A gorgeous new resort named Lanserhof has just opened on Sylt, but go figure it’s a ‘wellness resort’ and stays include urinalysis. Difficult pass. Why couldn’t it be a Six Senses, or something like that?
Since we were traveling as a group, we spent around $400 per night on a nice four bedroom house, which was less than what even mediocre hotels charged for a single bedroom. Our experience was positive – it was so nice to have lots of space, back yard, fridge, washing machine etc.
I missed some aspects of hotels, like easier and more flexible check-in and check-out, easier communication in advance, services, etc. But for a destination like Sylt it was the perfect option, and I would rent the same house again in a heartbeat.
We can’t wait to go back to Sylt
We couldn’t have had a better time on Sylt. Certainly, I think our impressions of places are largely influenced by the people we travel with and the general circumstances of the trip:
- We are incredibly grateful to still have the chance to travel with my mother, and I would love to spend time with her anywhere
- Ford started learning German two years ago and loves anything that allows him to practice his German and experience German culture. Sylt is really German, so that made Ford super happy, and in turn made me happy
- We arrived with low expectations and these were far exceeded, and I think that always makes for a disproportionately fun trip
- Ford and I like to walk and enjoy nature in a pleasant climate, and that’s exactly what we have in Sylt
- I think we were really lucky with the weather, as it can be hit or miss in June; there was only rain for one day, and otherwise we had near perfect weather, with a breeze and temperatures in the 60s
Am I suggesting that everyone from all over the world should visit Sylt? No, probably not. But it is a one-of-a-kind destination, one we thoroughly enjoyed and one we plan to return to in the future. We had so many amazing times with my mum, but our time with her on Sylt was one of the most special.
At the end of the line
I can’t say I was initially excited to travel to a summer destination where ski underwear is recommended on the beach to stay warm. Luckily Sylt exceeded all of my expectations and we had an unforgettable time that I will cherish forever. Ford and I are grateful to my mother for introducing us to Sylt, and this will not be the last visit.